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What Are The Differences Between Euro And LED Tail Lights?

A "Euro" style tail light assembly creates a custom look with round cutouts and many nuances in the bezel surface. We examine the different and exciting styles available.
What Are The Differences Between Euro And LED Tail Lights?
Euro And LED Tail Lights

What Is A Euro Tail Light?

To define a "Euro tail light", it's important to first define a modern "Euro" headlight assembly. Dating back to the 1950s, headlights on European cars were distinctive for their flush, aerodynamic glass surfaces, a design not permitted in the U.S. until 1984. At first, these Euro style headlamp assemblies did not feature a great deal of distinctive styling other than a smooth, one-piece glass outer surface. By the end of the last century, as high-tech xenon headlight assemblies grew in popularity on luxury vehicles, OEM Euro style headlights began to imitate their technical projector-beam look. Frosted glass lens covers were replaced with clear plastic ones, allowing a look at multi-faceted mirror pieces shaped in a variety of patterns. Today, Euro headlights have become associated with those complex shapes as well as circular cutouts that look the part of projector beam lenses. Euro tail lights (sometimes called "Altezza lights" or "clear tail lights") pay tribute to this look with designs modeled after modern Euro headlights.

Where "Euro" signifies a certain design style, "LED" tail lights earn their designation because of the type of light source they use - Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). Unlike LED tail lights, Euro tail lights are commonly equipped with traditional incandescent bulbs. And unlike Euro headlight assemblies, extra-cost features such as halo rings are usually left off. As a result, a set of Euro tail lights can offer a best value for those looking to spice up the rear of their vehicle at a reasonable cost.

Most Modern Euro Headlight Design
Euro tail lights are modeled after the complex shapes and circular cutouts found on most modern "Euro headlight" designs, such as these shown here.
Typical Euro Style Tail Lights
A typical "Euro" style tail light assembly features round cutouts for lights as well as many nuances in the bezel piece surface.

LED Tail Lights

LED tail lights have become popular for automotive lighting use because they have many advantages over incandescent bulbs. LEDs last much longer and consume less power. They're also extremely vibration-resistant, a plus for vehicles traveling over today's pothole-strewn roads. But most importantly, LEDs become illuminated to full intensity approximately 200 milliseconds faster than incandescent bulbs do. At higher speeds and/or close distances, this allows more time for drivers following you to react and avoid a rear-end collision. More information about LED tail lights can be found here.

Since LED bulbs are physically smaller than incandescent ones, they can be grouped tightly together in great numbers - a factor that allows styling freedom as well as proper brightness. It's not common, but some lighting manufacturers even use the term "Euro LED" when describing LED tail lights they sell.

Euro Tail Lights: Clear vs. Black vs. Smoke

Looking through our selection of Euro tail lights, you'll frequently run across terms such as "clear", "black", or "smoke" in Product Options fields. These terms describe two different characteristics of the tail lamp assembly - lens cover color and background bezel piece color. It's possible for a product to be one or both.

Background bezel piece color

A "black" Euro tail light is one that has a black background bezel piece visible through a lens cover that's clear, without any tint or red coloration. Similarly, a "chrome" Euro tail light is one with a chrome background bezel piece.

Anzo Euro Tail Lights
These Anzo Euro Tail Lights are an example of "black" Euro tail lights. The lens cover is clear, but the background bezel piece is colored black.
Euro Tail Lights by IPCW
This design of IPCW's Euro Tail Lights is an example of a "Chrome" Euro tail light. It features a clear lens cover with a chrome bezel background piece.

Lens cover color

When it comes to coloration of the plastic lens cover itself, you'll see product choices such as "clear", "smoke", and "dark smoke". "Clear" means the lens cover has no coloration or tint at all to ensure the eye falls fully upon the design of the bezel piece behind it. "Smoke" refers to a tail light assembly with a tinted lens cover that can range from slight to heavy tint. Most often, smoke tail lights are equipped with chrome background bezels because the greater reflective ability of chrome offsets brightness lost through the tinted cover piece. In some cases, "dark smoke" is used to describe tail lights with a black background bezel and a layer of tint on the lens cover. Dark smoke tail lights appear virtually black until tail light bulbs are illuminated. Because dark smoke tail lights may not be legal in all areas, we recommend checking local laws before installing them on your vehicle.

Less common on Euro tail light designs are "red" covers with a heavy degree of red tint on the lens cover for a more traditional look. Unlike smoke lens covers, red ones will produce a red light (needed for tail and brake lights) whether the bulb behind the lens is a clear bulb or a red bulb.

Lightly Tinted Smoke Euro Tail lights By IPCW
These IPCW Euro Tail lights for a Ford Mustang are a good example of a lightly-tinted "smoke" lens cover. These may sometimes be described as "platinum smoke".
Dark Smoke Winjet Tail Lights
Tail lights that feature tinted lens covers and black background bezels such as these from Winjet are often described as "black/smoke" or "dark smoke" Euro tail lights.
Euro Tail Lights Section

In the Euro Tail Lights section of our website, we recommend that you take your time and browse through all the listed choices. While each one has a single lead picture visible on the main page, those lead pictures are only one of many selections which can be found upon further exploration. Variations in bezel piece color and tinting degrees exist, and other designs will look totally different from the lead picture.

Chrome LED Tail Lights By Winjet
If you've got an American- or Japanese-brand 4x4, Winjet offers a good selection of chrome, black, and smoke Euro tail lights.
Black LED Tail Lights By Winjet
Black Euro Tail Lights By Winjet
Euro Tail Lights With Halo Rings By Winjet
For owners of older Honda Accords, Winjet offers Euro tail lights with halo rings as seen here.

If you've got an older Honda Accord, Winjet offers a Euro style tail light with a halo ring that encircles a single round red reflector - quite stylish during the day or at nighttime. Older Honda owners should also check out the great selection of Euro tail lights that IPCW has created for older Civics, CRXs, Del Sols, Accords, and more. Own a Ford or Chevy 4x4? Anzo has a great selection of smoke, black, and chrome lights for most Ford and Chevy trucks, and Winjet specializes in American and Asian pickups and SUVs. For those who prefer smoke tail lights, you'll find many to choose from on CG's Euro Tail Lights page.

While we started off asking, "what's the difference between LED and Euro-style tail lamps?" we ended up spending most of our time reviewing the wonderful choices there are among the Euro ones. And that's OK! While Euro lamps may not use the same cutting-edge technology, there are those who actually prefer their looks over the LED tail lamps.

As always, the choice is yours, driven by selection, looks, function, and affordability. In almost all cases, these tail lamps are "plug-n-play", and removing the tail lamp assembly should be easier than the headlight assembly on most modern rides. Whichever choice you make, you will be adding style and swagger to the back end of your car or truck.

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All manufacturer names, symbols, and descriptions, used in our images and text are used solely for identification purposes only. It is neither inferred nor implied that any item sold by CARiD.com is a product authorized by or in any way connected with any vehicle manufacturers displayed on this page.