Aftermarket Headlight Styles

If the headlight assemblies on your car or truck have become damaged, weather-worn, or simply dull and uninteresting to look at, there’s a wealth of aftermarket headlights replacement choices that will add a great deal of visual wow and stance to the front of your vehicle – at a lower cost than you might think. Aftermarket headlamp assemblies on the market today tend to be grouped into five main designations: “Projector” style, “Halo” style, “LED” style, “Euro” style, and “Factory” style. This can lead to confusion, because “Halo” style headlamp assemblies may also be equipped with projector lights and LED bulbs. Or, “Euro” style headlight assemblies may be equipped with halo rings, projector lights, and LEDs… or they may not be. To try to help you make a more efficient and productive search through the variety of styles offered, we’ve attempted to explain what each of the styles is best known for below. It’s important to remember that when features that define different styles overlap, the feature that’s most noticeable to the eye is the one that consistently wins out. We’ve left off xenon headlight assemblies because what makes them different is more than just stylistic. Xenon headlights operate using high voltage electrical arcs, and require the addition of separate igniters, wiring, and computer controls to function.


Projector Style Headlight Assembly

Shortly after the turn of the millennium, automakers began to breathe new styling life into plain-looking composite headlight assemblies that had become the norm since the 1980s. Instead of one solid-looking piece of frosted glass across the entire headlight assembly, clear outer lens covers were used along with multi-faceted projector beam style bulbs behind them.
Glancing at a projector headlight assembly, you’ll typically find stylish round cutouts for headlights, bright lights, turn signals, daytime running lights, and more - all of which are highly visible and styled to look like lenses that a laser beam might radiate from.

Because projector bulbs don't require bulky parabolic reflectors that traditional composite housings do, extra space is freed up for stylists to create futuristic headlamp designs that wouldn’t have been possible decades ago.


Halo Headlight Assembly

A halo headlight assembly features rings of light encircling round headlamp bulb openings inside the headlight assembly fascia. Pioneered by BMW on their 2001 5-series model, the “halo rings” themselves can use traditional incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs, or CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lighting tubes) as a source of illumination.

While halo headlight assemblies almost always feature projector-style headlights in them as well, the presence of the halo rings usually supercedes the projectors – leading to them being described as “halo” headlights by users instead of “projector” headlights.


Led Style Headlight Assembly

LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlight assemblies were pioneered by Audi for the 2008 model year. While this style of headlight assembly typically features multiple LED bulbs as a decorative addition, the main headlight bulbs themselves are usually not LEDs. Whether the headlight bulbs that provide the main source of illumination at night are traditional incandescent bulbs or other, a headlight assembly with a strip of LEDs below or around the main headlight is referred to as an LED style headlight assembly.

While LED bulbs are starting to become available as headlight bulbs, they’re still not prevalent at this time – serving primarily as decorative daytime running lights, and as front turn signal indicators due to their ability to display an array of colors.


Euro Style Headlights

European style headlight assemblies may contain conventional parabolic type headlight reflectors with original style bulbs or projector headlights with Halogen, HID or even LED bulbs. The “Euro” designation that sets them apart is the fact that the piece surrounding the various lights and reflectors inside the assembly is finished in a more stylish black or chrome instead of clear or plain-looking silver. The lens cover on Euro headlight assemblies may be smoked and appear darker, or it may be clear.

Whether Euro style headlamp assemblies feature additional styling touches such as halo rings or LEDs doesn’t matter – the difference lies in the background piece standing out, not blending in.


Factory Style Headlight Assembly

As the title suggests, factory style headlight assemblies are built to look exactly like original equipment ones and are usually always the most practical cost replacement option should one become damaged or worn out. Factory style headlamp assemblies built by the same manufacturer that supplied them to the automaker to install on the assembly line are known as “OEM”, short for original equipment (manufacturer). For example, a General Motors dealership will typically sell only OEM parts that they get directly through General Motors channels, and no other.
Factory style headlamp assemblies manufactured by other aftermarket headlights manufacturers are known as “OE”, short for original equipment. While they were not actually authorized to be installed as original equipment on the assembly line, they are designed to match manufacturer specifications when it comes to looks, dimensions, and function. Well-made aftermarket factory style headlight assemblies are a great way to bypass manufacturer and dealership markups, and save money.

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Ever since BMW introduced "halo" headlights to serve as daytime running lights on their 2001 5-series, rings of light encircling round headlamp bulb...