Custom headlamp assemblies on the market today tend to be grouped into four main designations: "Projector" style, "Halo" style, "LED" style, and "Euro" 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. You may be asking yourself which style is the best choice for me? See our Custom and Factory Headlight Glossary for definitions and more details about each style.
What you prefer most for your vehicle is an extremely personal decision - because beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Often, one single favorite choice may not exist. We understand. Because we do offer a lot of stylish, head-turning custom headlamp assemblies, we know after talking to our customers on the phone that the odds are good you'll be agonizing over at least two or three final choices before picking one.
In this article, we can't tell you what to pick for looks. But we can discuss factors our customers have told us helped them make decisions. For example, the overall shape of your vehicle may play a significant role in headlight choice satisfaction. Are the lines angular, or does it feature more voluptuous curves? We've noticed those with squared-off vehicle lines tended to prefer "plank light" headlight assemblies with a horizontal, flat lighting element along the bottom. Why? It creates a straight-edged look of solidity. Those with curvy vehicle lines often chose halo headlight assemblies with perfectly round halo rings instead of squared off or angular ones. Many of them also opted for projector beam lights with the halos.
Many owners with vibrant vehicle colors, decals, or custom paint work preferred headlamp assemblies with chrome background bezels, while those with matte finishes had the highest likelihood of being satisfied with "smoke" (tinted) headlight assembly colors. And those with solid colors (especially black) often preferred the look of clear headlight lenses with black background bezels.
Is your vehicle's stance enhanced with a lowered suspension or aero kit? Perhaps you might prefer projector beam headlight assemblies with two, even three light pods. And if you like the specific looks of BMW and Audi headlamps which pioneered halo lights and LED light strips, we've got choices that pay tribute to them further below.
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 the different styles overlap, the feature that's most noticeable to the eye is the one that consistently wins out.
Euro Style Headlight Assemblies
A "Euro headlight" assembly is a term for a custom headlamp assembly that features a flush, aerodynamic glass surface instead of fixed-shape sealed beam lamps. This style of headlamp had been in use in Europe since the 1950s, but was not allowed on U.S. market vehicles until the 1984 model year.
Interestingly, the first U.S.-model production vehicle to feature them was the new-for-'84 Lincoln Mark VII, followed by other early adopters such as the 1985 Toyota Camry & Cressida, Nissan Maxima, and all Audis. By 1986, they began to appear almost everywhere and soon became an automotive styling norm. Through the 1990s, Euro headlamp assemblies did not feature a great deal of distinctive styling other than a smooth, one-piece glass outer surface.
Years later as projector beam headlights began to grow in popularity (see further below), original equipment Euro style headlights began to imitate their high-tech look. Frosted glass lens covers were replaced with clear plastic ones which allowed a look in at multi-faceted mirror pieces shaped in a variety of oval and squared-off patterns. In more recent years, Euro light designs tend to feature circular cutouts that look the part of projector beam lenses.
While this may cause confusion as to what a Euro style headlamp assembly actually is, it's important to remember the one thing they have in common is a flush outer lens cover. And because Euro lights do not actually have extra features such as LEDs, halo rings, or projector beam lenses, they offer best value for those looking to step up the look of their vehicle - without higher cost.
Projector Beam Headlamp Assemblies
Shortly after the turn of this millennium, automakers began to breathe new styling life into composite Euro headlight assemblies that had begun to seem plain-looking after being around since the 1980s. Instead of a single piece of frosted glass across the entire headlight assembly, clear outer lens covers were used along with multi-faceted projector beam bulbs behind them. These are known as Projector Beam headlamp assemblies.
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.
Inside each assembly, one glass ball serves as the projector for the main headlight, and similar-looking round cutouts surround it. Turn signals, parking lights, and DRLs typically use traditional bulbs and some (if not all) round cutouts will be framed by halo lights. If you've got an older car with run-of-the-mill frosted lenses or clear lenses that have become cloudy, custom projector lamps go a long way toward making your vehicle look updated and years newer.
Black vs. Chrome vs. Smoke Lamps
When you're shopping around and comparing headlights, you may run across terms such as "black", "chrome", or "smoke" in the Product Options fields. Depending on what's available for each design, our website may ask you to select a color from among those choices. A "black" headlight is one that has a black background (bezel piece) visible through a lens cover that's clear - not tinted. The size and quantity of lighting elements within the assembly determines how much "black" shows. Similarly, a "chrome" headlight is one with a chrome background bezel piece.
The phrase "smoke" headlight refers to a custom headlamp assembly that has a dark tinted lens cover and a chrome background bezel piece. The amount of tinting determines the how much light is blocked, and it affects how bright the chrome background appears. Against a black vehicle with or without metallic paint, smoke headlights blend in to create a uniform look of solidity - almost to the point where the lights seem like an extension of the painted metal when not illuminated.
Also consider that smoke headlight assemblies make a nice match with matte finish black wheels. Likewise, black headlight assemblies are often chosen to set off gloss black wheels, and chrome headlights add sparkle to cars with lots of chrome trim or rims.
A "halo" headlight assembly features rings of light encircling 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 supersedes the projectors - leading to them being described as "halo" headlights by users instead of "projector" headlights.
Headlights with LEDs and halo rings allow the owner to customize when they will illuminate. Depending on where wiring is spliced to, one or both of those lights can illuminate automatically when headlights, daytime running lights, turn signals, or even parking lights are activated.
Often, conventional halo rings used by many vehicle manufacturers on older OEM headlight assemblies are illuminated by the same kind of incandescent bulbs found in turn signals or reverse lights. Because each conventional halo may be illuminated inside by only one or two bulbs, bright spots and dark spots develop inside the enclosed ring. Many feel the visual effect of a halo ring that's lit by underpowered bulbs is no more exciting than looking at a parking light that's been left on all night.
A strong upgrade to the underwhelming effect of dimly lit halo rings are custom headlamp assemblies equipped with LED halo rings. Their light is brighter than incandescent bulbs, and a choice of colors allows wild customization opportunities. LED halo rings also burn cooler than conventional incandescent halo bulbs, so hotspots and discoloration on headlamp assembly lens covers is avoided.
We offer individual halo rings that can be added to many factory headlight assemblies. In some cases, they can be installed around the outside of round sealed beam headlights found on older vehicles.
Custom Sealed Beam Headlights
If you’ve got a classic vehicle with round or square sealed beam headlight units, you may feel like you’re missing out on the chance to customize your headlights. Fear not – because we’ve got custom sealed beam headlight units with built-in halo rings, projector lenses, LEDs, and other custom designs. These “plug-n-play” units install in place of your original headlights quickly and easily without modification.
"U-Bar" Style Halo Lights
"U-bar" is a term used to describe the shape of a halo ring mounted in a custom headlight assembly, regardless if it's a CCFL, LED, or other construction. Instead of being shaped like a circular ring, U-bar halo rings feature straight lines with square edges or extremely sharp angles. The "U" in U-bar refers to the fact that these halos are open on one side, forming a visual U on designs where the open edge faces the top. Other U-bar headlights feature open edges that face down or to the side.
LED Headlamp Assemblies
LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlight assemblies were pioneered by Audi for the 2008 model year. Early “LED headlights” such as those typically featured LED bulbs serving only in a decorative role of daytime running lights, with traditional incandescent bulbs used for headlights.
Thanks to the march of technology, LED bulbs have been perfected for use as headlight bulbs. As a result, most newer LED headlight assemblies are available with LED bulbs for all lights – including headlamps. To be certain of what you’re about to order, individual product pages for headlamp assemblies equipped with LED headlight bulbs will list light output in lumens.
To help guide you through the selection of our custom and factory headlight assemblies, we have set up that section of our website with categories that guide you directly to specific styles of projector, LED, U-bar, Halo, Euro, and Factory headlamp assemblies. You'll find all these choices in our "Shop by Category" area.
Additionally, always check Product Option fields for variations that may not be visible otherwise. We understand you may still have questions about custom headlights and what's right for you, so we encourage you to contact us seven days a week with any questions you may have before purchasing.