Projector Vs. Reflector Headlights: Which Is Best?

Projector Vs. Reflector Headlights: Which Is Best?

Until recently, all vehicles contained the same style of headlight housing. Today, there are two types of headlights - projector and reflector. Reflector headlights are the old style found on cars made in the early 2000s or before. Projector headlights are newer, but not every new car has projector headlights.

In this article, we'll examine the differences between these two types of headlights and discuss which is better.

Reflector headlights

Reflector headlights have featured as standard on vehicles since the invention of electric headlights. A reflector headlight consists of a bulb encased in a steel bowl. Mirrors are place within the bowl to reflect light out onto the road.

In older reflector headlights, the shape of the light beam was determined by the lens in the front of the headlight. With this type, known as a sealed-beam headlight, the casing cannot be removed to replace a burnt-out bulb.

In the 1980s, improvements in technology led to reflector headlights that used mirrors inside the headlight housing itself to guide the beams. This meant it was no longer necessary for the lens and the headlight housing to be sealed, and bulbs could be easily removed or replaced.

Many new vehicles continue to be made with reflector headlights. There are a few advantages to this style that make them popular even today:

  • They're cheaper to make. Manufacturers often use reflector headlights simply because they're less expensive.
  • They're smaller. Projector headlights are deeper, taking up more space within the vehicle.



Projector headlights

Projector headlights are a newer invention in the world of headlight technology. They were first used on a large scale in the 1980s in some luxury vehicles. Since then, projector headlights have become popular on all types of vehicles.

Projector headlights are similar to reflector headlights. They contain a bulb in a steel bowl with mirrors to act as reflectors. However, a projector headlight also has a lens that acts as a magnifying glass, increasing the brightness of the light beam.

To ensure that the light produced by these types of headlights is angled properly, there is also a cutoff shield. This helps to direct the light down towards the road. Thanks to the shield, projector headlights have a very sharp cutoff.

Projector headlights are growing in popularity, and for good reasons. They have many advantages:

  • They're brighter. Projector headlights are significantly brighter than reflector headlights.
  • They're less likely to blind other drivers. Because projector headlights are directed downwards towards the road, they don't shine in other drivers' eyes.
  • Projector headlights give off a more even light. Reflector headlights can have darker spots.
  • Xenon HID bulbs can only be used with projector headlights. HID bulbs are too bright when used in reflector headlights, where the light they emit can blind other drivers.

Which is best?

When searching for the best headlights, most drivers want the brightest headlights possible without creating problems for other drivers. Projector headlights are brighter than reflector headlights, and they are less likely to blind oncoming traffic.

It's also worth mentioning that projector headlights allow drivers to use xenon HID bulbs instead of the older halogen bulbs. Considering all of this, it's clear that projector headlights are better than reflector headlights.


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About the Author

John Conboy is the founder of, a UK based automotive lighting specialist, which ships bulbs worldwide. John has 20+ years experience in the industry and in that time has become an approved partner of Philips and OSRAM.