Projector vs Reflector Headlights

projector vs reflector headlights

All the early generation vehicles contained similar headlights housing until recently when manufacturers began to explore their creativity in producing different designs and styles of headlights.

Some of the most common recent headlights designs and styles are projector and reflector headlights. However, reflector headlights were common to vehicles manufactured around the early 2000s.

Projector headlights happen to be more recent than reflector headlights; hence, car enthusiasts are beginning to contemplate projector vs reflector headlights. This is the whole discussion in this article.

Projector Vs Reflector Headlight – Comparison

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Reflector Headlights

Reflector headlights came into the automobile space before projector headlights. This light pattern was common to cars manufactured in the early 2000s.

It came in at the time of vehicle manufacturers making electric headlights.

A reflector headlight contains a bulb that is encased within a steel bowl. It also has mirrors fitted within the reflector bowl that enhance light output on the road during driving.

The lens in the reflector headlight’s front determined the shape of the beam of the light output in older reflector headlights.

The challenge of the old reflector headlight was the inability to remove and replace the burn-out bulb because of the sealed beam.

After that time, around the 1980s, the reflector headlamps technology advanced to the point whereby the headlights could have mirrors within the headlight housing.

This type of headlight housing was designed in a way that guided the light beams.

This advancement ensured that the headlight housing and the lens were no longer sealed so that a burnt-out bulb could be easily removed and replaced.

The reflector headlights come with a couple of advantages and some slight disadvantages.


  • Smaller size compared to projector headlight, taking less space.
  • Less manufacturing cost for automakers.
  • Cheaper than projector headlights.


  • Reflector headlights cannot accommodate Xenon HID bulbs due to extremely too much brightness.
  • The brightness of reflector headlights illuminates below that of projector headlights.

Projector Headlights

Projector headlights came in more recently after reflector headlights in the 1980s. The headlights are more popular than reflector headlights, and they feature in most luxury cars.

Projector headlamps are not entirely different from reflector headlamps. They also have their bulb within a steel bowl and mirrors, which help to illuminate the light beam on the road through reflection.

However, irrespective of the similarity, projector headlights come with a lens (magnifying glass) that extremely magnifies the brightness of the light output.

The headlight features a cutoff shield that helps angle the light beam properly to be directed towards the road. They also have a number of pros and cons that you may have to look at to make an informed choice.


  • Projector headlamps shine brighter than reflector headlights because of the presence of the lens that is responsible for magnifying the brightness of the light. 
  • The headlights produce a more even light output than reflector headlights.
  • They are not likely to blind oncoming drivers and other road users.
  • Accommodates the use of Xenon HID bulbs with negative impacts.


  • Projector headlights cost more for manufacturers.
  • They are more expensive than reflector headlights; hence, they are used in luxury cars.

Projector Vs. Reflector Headlights; Which is Best?

Projector headlights and reflector headlights are slightly similar because of the steel bowl and mirror that enhance the light output through reflection.

However, projector headlights come with more sophisticated features.

The presence of the magnifying glass (lens) in the projector headlights enables the light beam to shine brighter than reflector headlights.

Projector headlights also feature a cutoff shield that directs the light beam straight to the road.

Unlike reflector headlights that produce dark spots, projector headlights deliver a more even light output when driving.

Also, projector headlights last as much as around 1,500 – 5,000 hours. Their lifespan appears to be more than that of reflector headlights.


Are projector headlights bad?

Hell No! Projector headlights are some of the best vehicle headlights you can opt for if you need to replace your current car headlights. They are highly energy-efficient, with a capacity to last way longer than HID or halogen headlights. It is a fact that projector headlights can possibly outlive the entire lifespan of whatever vehicle you decide to install them on. However, this fact is based on how well you maintain and protect them from being damaged easily and early enough. So, projector headlights aren’t a bad idea if you are already considering opting for them the next time you go out to get a replacement for your car’s headlights from a car parts dealer or a mechanic.

Are projector headlights legal?

Extremely bright lights are often illegal because of their negative impacts on other drivers or road users. Although driving with brighter headlights can be of great advantage, the preferred choice of light must be legally acceptable within your region. Projector headlights are bright lights, and irrespective of their brightness, they are legal. So, if you look forward to changing your car’s headlights with upgraded and brighter headlights, projector headlights can be a perfect choice for you.

Are projector headlights better than reflectors?

Projector headlights are brighter and better than reflector headlights. They are not likely to blind oncoming drivers or pedestrians. Projector headlights give off an even light output, and they can accommodate Xenon HID bulbs. Although, reflector headlights are cheaper to produce, which means they are less expensive compared to projector headlights. However, the features of reflector headlights cannot contest those of projector headlights, as projector headlights are far better than reflector headlights.

Can you put LED bulbs in reflector headlights?

Sure, you can put LED bulbs in reflector headlights, and they will still work fine. However, the challenge is that when there is a need to upgrade the bulb, the reflector bowl must also be upgraded alongside; otherwise, there would be a misalignment. Upgrading the bulbs without upgrading the reflector bowl can dazzle or blind other oncoming drivers. LED bulbs may not also illuminate the surface of the reflector evenly as halogen bulbs would. In order to avoid unnecessary worries about your car’s headlights, it would be best not to use LED bulbs on the reflector headlights.

How long do projector headlights last?

Projector headlights lamps can last up to 1,500 – 2,000 hours after installation. Some can even last between 2,000 and 5,000 hours. However, the bulbs may require one to two swaps of bulbs within this time frame. The high pressure of the mercury and xenon used in manufacturing projector lamps can cause the bulbs to dim as time goes on. So, they would need to be replaced as you look forward to the extended lifespan of the projector headlights. Meanwhile, endeavor to observe maximum caution when replacing the projector lamps because of the mercury gas content. If the bulb gets damaged in the replacement process, the mercury can escape and cause severe health problems.

Final Thoughts

Critical details about projector vs reflector headlights have been unveiled above in this article to enable car owners to make informed choices.

Their pros and cons have also been outlined to consider all factors before a final decision on replacing a car’s headlights.

It would be best to choose the headlights that align with your values about your car. While some people value quality, others value a budget-friendly purchase.

However, it is best to choose a product that can deliver quality, reliability, and durability.