Headlights Are Too Damn Expensive But I Have A Solution

If you own a fairly new car, chances are you’ve got an absurd amount of liability hanging right on the very front of your car: your headlights. Modern headlights, as beautiful and amazing as they are, are incredibly expensive parts, with many light units costing $2,000 or more. Each. That’s insane.

I certainly understand that modern headlamps, with their LEDs and DRLs and BFDs are marvels of modern engineering, but there’s a real price to pay for all of that advancement, and that price is the price.


Take this lovely, Thor’s-hammer-design Volvo headlight, featured in a little guess-the-cost post on Oppositelock. That headlight costs over $2,200 to replace. This Audi headlamp unit, without bulbs, is $925. A Ford Fusion headlight assembly is $1,300 for the active one, and $844 for the base one.

A cheap car like a Sentra has a somewhat more reasonable $300 headlamp, but even so, headlights are no longer cheap replacement items. This is an issue, because they’re fairly vulnerable, and likely to be damaged in many types of small-to-medium accidents. They’re also necessary to keep your car legal, and, on top of all that, the nature of their design is such that they tend to age and wear quicker than many other parts of a car.


This is really going to be an issue in a few years, when cars with $2,000 headlights start becoming used cars. It’s not hard to imagine that, in the year 2027, a 2017 Volvo S90 could be nearly totaled because of a small accident that cracks both its headlights.

The upshot is that modern headlights are amazing and lovely, but there’s going to be a point where nobody gives a shit and just wants to see at night without dropping $4,000 on their old car.


That’s why there needs to be an aftermarket niche dedicated to making replacement headlight units that use cheap, buy-at-a-Walmart sealed beams.

It’s basically an adapter, from modern headlamps to old-school, good-enough headlight bulbs that are still common and cheap. Sure, the lights won’t be as good as the originals, they won’t look as good or likely perform as well, but they’d be good enough, meet all the legal standards, and not cost $2,000 each.


I’ve taken the liberty of mocking up what such a replacement unit would look like on this same Volvo here:


Cheap, rugged, textured plastic housing, standard $10 rectangular sealed-beam lights, parts-bin indicators. Plugs into the existing expensive-light plugs the same way, but the whole thing costs, like, $50 with the bulbs and everything.

It would be targeted at the second and third owners of these modern cars, to people who just need to use these cars every day, and for whom the idea of paying two grand for DRLs shaped like a Norse god’s favorite tool is just absurd.


Ideally, there’d be cheap-ass replacement light units for nearly every modern car with headlights that cost more than, say, $300 each. Many of these cars should age pretty well, and should be viable vehicles for decades to come – provided that parts cost for such necessary and vulnerable items like headlights don’t stay insane.

I know the idea of cut-rate replacement parts isn’t new, but I think headlights especially deserve a cheap, easy solution. Who wants to go into business with me? I’m pretty terrible at it, so I hope you know what you’re doing!


We’ll be rich!

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)