Headlights are improving, but most vehicles still perform poorly

Headlights are improving in new cars, but we’re still not there yet, according the IIHS. When tests were run on headlights in the 2016 model year, only two vehicles came out the other side with “Good” ratings from the IIHS. For 2018, that number has skyrocketed to 32 vehicles getting the top honor — for reference, “Good” is the IIHS’s highest rating for headlights. Another 58 models earned an “Acceptable” rating.

What the IIHS found, and what we also know to be true from driving them, is that the best headlights are only put on more expensive, higher trim level vehicles. For example, the Hyundai Kona uses LED projectors on its most expensive models, while the cheaper vehicles get your classic halogen lights. The IIHS found that the LED projectors allow drivers to see over twice as far as the halogens did. That’s a big deal when you’re driving 55 mph on a country road late at night. Deer don’t look before jumping in front of your car, but being able to see them earlier could save your car, and maybe even you too. We don’t mean to pick on the Kona specifically for this fault, because the IIHS says there are 17 other vehicles it tested with the same difference in test results between the standard and upgraded headlights. A further 43 models didn’t even offer a trim with headlights rated above “Poor.”