Low Beam vs High Beam Headlights: Complete Comparison

This low beam vs high beam headlights comparison article will help you know their differences and how to correctly apply each beam. For most people, both settings on most vehicle headlights only differ in their level of brightness, which is not completely the case.

Low Beam vs High Beam Headlights

There are other key differences between the two, and we’ll highlight these differences below to help you know when to use each headlight.

Features Low Beam High Beam
Application Normal nighttime Foggy nighttime
Intensity Low High
Visibility 40 meters 100 meters
Brightness Moderate High
Illumination Asymmetrical Symmetrical
Direction Downwards Straight


What Are the Differences Between Low Beam and High Beam?

The main difference between low beam and high beam is their brightness, with the former having lower brightness due to lower space of projection and the latter offering higher brightness since it is projected over a larger area and offers a more enhanced level of visibility.

There are different terminologies used in describing low beams and high beams. Low beams are also known as meeting beams, dims, dipped beams, or passing beams. On the other hand, high beams are also referred to as driving beams, brights, full beams, or main beams.

Apart from brightness, both beam lights have other features that distinguish them, and these features include the following:

– Distance

In addition to their brightness, the two beam headlights differ in the distance they cover. The distance covered by low-beam rays is around 40 meters, while the distance covered by high beam rays is up to 100 meters.


For full beams, this distance can be extended by installing more intense and powerful headlights, which is not the case with low-beam headlights. Additionally, the distance between the two headlight bulbs can vary depending on their angle of projection.

– Field of View

This describes the width of the angle of illumination, and it’s a feature that distinguishes the two beams. In general, the best option to use for seeing far roads is a beam with a wider field of view. You might want to think the driving beam has a wider field of view, but that’s not the case, as their field of view is narrow.

However, dims offer a wider field of view, which makes them the ideal option to use when you want to see your front and the sides of the road. In general, high beams provide a lower peripheral illumination than low beams.

– Symmetrical Illumination

Low beam offers asymmetrical illumination, while a full beam provides symmetrical illumination. The symmetrical illumination provided makes it easier to see what’s ahead, especially with respect to side space and straight distance space. Low beam is generally diffused in nature, and because of this, its sides are not as illuminated as the front.

These are the main features that distinguish the two types of beams. In addition to these differences, it’s important that you know how to use each beam correctly on the road. The main determining factor of which beam you use on the road is road conditions and circumstances. Safety is also a factor to consider when choosing which beam to use, and this includes safety for road users and yourself.

– Working Mechanism

Another difference between the two beam lights is how they work. Basically, low beam reduces the intensity of the light and directs the light to a lower angle. This also causes the beam to be asymmetrical while illuminating the drive lane.

On the other hand, full beam setting lifts the light bulbs and projects the light to a further distance. The beam produced illuminates the entire road, as well as the lane for oncoming traffic, and this is due to the higher light intensity.

What Is Low Beam in a Vehicle?

Low beam in a vehicle is a setting for headlights that are designed for limited areas, particularly areas just in front of the car. Basically, it’s not suitable for larger distances because it can only cover up to 40 meters, which is only ideal for some driving conditions and situations.

Features of Low Beam

Cars come with high and low beam settings, and they both have an indicator on the dashboard. The symbol of the low beam is characterized by rays in a downward possible, which is an indication that the light is directly falling on the road ahead and not pointing forward.

Basically, the low beam is a dipped, asymmetrical, low-intensity headlight setting. It’s important to know the light setting of your car for optimum visibility and road safety. Low beams are great for city driving, especially on roads with functioning streetlights. It’s also advisable to use them when you notice an oncoming vehicle or you’re driving behind a car. Other suitable driving conditions for low beams include dust, snow, smoke, rain, and fog.

– City Streets

Most city streets have well-lit streetlights, which provide sufficient lighting on the road. This implies that you won’t need much lighting from your vehicle when driving, which makes the low beam the best option to use.

This provides more visibility for the driver and road users. In cases where the city street is dimly lit, the low beam is also a great option to use for safe driving because there’s usually sufficient light on the street.

– Driving Behind Another Vehicle

This is a situation that most drivers overlook. Approaching a vehicle with a high beam can alter the visibility of the driver in that vehicle due to reflection in the rearview mirror. Therefore, whenever you’re approaching another vehicle, it’s advisable to change the setting to a low beam.

– Ongoing Traffic

Another scenario is in an ongoing tracking with vehicles in the opposite lane. Using a full beam in this driving condition can make it difficult for others to see clearly. Therefore, whenever you’re in this condition, the best thing is to switch to dims.

– Low Visibility Conditions

Apart from the conditions above, there are low visibility conditions where low beams are the best option to use. Examples include snow, dust, smoke, fog, and rain. Low beams are the best option to use for these driving conditions because they illuminate the road without causing reflections that can alter visibility.

– Benefits of Using Low Beam

Using low beam setting correctly offers different benefits, including increased safety. With low beam, you can drive safely without altering the visibility of other road users. The light will also make it easier for you to identify uneven spots and see potholes clearly.

Basically, with low beams, you can be sure that oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, and motorists will see your vehicle clearly.

What Is High Beam in a Vehicle?

High beam in a vehicle is a light setting that produces light that can cover farther distances. The light ray they produce is projected parallel to the road rather than the nearby road. This makes it easier for drivers to see far distances. The light produced can cover 100 meters.

High Beam in a Vehicle

You can check your dashboard to know what setting it’s on. The full beam symbol is characterized by a bulb pointing straight with straight light rays. Like low beams, there are also cases where the main beam setting is the best option to use.

– When To Use High Beam

As mentioned earlier, this is a symmetrical, bright, and high-intensity setting, and it’s important to know when to use the setting so you don’t cause safety and visibility issues for other road users. The best conditions to use the setting include country roads driving and in rural areas. It’s also a great option to use on highway stretches with poor lighting.

When using the full beam setting, it’s advisable to always be considerate of other road users. You can use the setting when driving on roads without streetlights or no lighting from dwellings and other surrounding structures. Basically, you get a better view of highways and dark roads when using this setting.

– When Not To Use High Beam

In addition to knowing when to use full beams, it’s important to also know cases when you shouldn’t use the setting.

Here’s an overview of cases when you shouldn’t use this setting:

  • Don’t use full beams when driving behind a vehicle or when oncoming vehicles are coming in the opposite lane.
  • Full beams shouldn’t be used when driving in conditions that cause reduced visibility, like smoke, dust, snow, rain, or fog.
  • Don’t use full beams when driving on dark roads so you don’t blind oncoming vehicles with the full beam.

– How To Use High Beam

Using high beams should always be done responsibly and with safety in mind.

Here are some basic things to have in mind when using a full beam:

  • Always switch to the low beam setting when approaching a hill or the crest of a rise so you don’t dazzle drivers of oncoming vehicles.
  • Switch to a low beam when approaching a sharp bend so that you don’t temporarily blind other drivers.
  • Always switch to low beams when you approach drivers in your lane to avoid creating a reflection in their rearview mirror.

– Benefits of Using High Beam

Using full beam also offers different benefits, including more light intensity and brightness. With this beam setting, you can see far distances clearly, especially in poorly lit environments. Also, full beam can serve as a signal to pedestrians or front vehicles. Basically, you can flash the full beam instead of using the horn.

Which Headlight Beam Type is Better for Visibility?

Determining the best headlights lighting options for optimal visibility is a crucial decision. Halogen headlights are widely used due to their affordability, but they fall short in terms of brightness. On the other hand, xenon headlights provide a more intense light output, enhancing visibility significantly. However, LED headlights have become increasingly popular, as they offer improved brightness, energy efficiency, and longer lifespan compared to other beam types. Ultimately, the best choice depends on personal preferences and specific driving conditions.


We have highlighted the differences between the two headlights in this comparison guide so you can know when to use each beam. For emphasis, low beam headlights are the best option to use when driving in an urban area with streetlights or in cases where visibility is altered by snow, dust, fog, rain, or smoke. You can also use low beam for daylight driving in some regions.

On the other hand, high beams are the best option to use when driving through dark roads like the country or highways with poor illumination. However, it’s not a suitable option for every driving condition because of the potential to alter the visibility of other road users.

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