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How much does it costs to change a lightbulb?

Headlight warning sign

A blown headlight bulb can cost up to £846 to replace on some of Britain’s best-selling small cars, claims new research.

The study into 13 popular models on sale today by What Car? found headlight repair bills vary by several hundred pounds depending on whether the models have halogen, LED or HID (High Intensity Discharge) bulbs.

Of the vehicles examined, four came with High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs on some or all trim levels and three had LED bulbs.

HID and LED bulbs are far brighter than halogen lights and can last up to 10 times as long, but replacements can cost close to £1,000.

The complexity of HID and LED bulbs is partly to blame for the higher costs but in many instances manufacturers have also switched to sealed headlight designs, which cannot be opened up like a normal unit to allow for bulb replacement. As a result, customers have to buy a complete headlight unit to fix a blown bulb.

The cost of replacing a traditional halogen bulb on a Volkswagen Polo costs owners just £18. However, buyers who choose the high-spec GTI model face a £846 repair bill for the car’s LED sealed headlight unit.

Similarly, Suzuki Swift owners with SZ3 or SZT trim levels only have to pay £4 to replace a blown bulb, while those with a high-spec Swift SZ5 will have to pay £684 for a replacement HID unit.

Even if the headlight unit isn’t sealed, HID bulbs are still far more expensive to replace than normal halogen items.

The HID bulb for a Vauxhall Corsa Elite costs £317, while a halogen bulb for a lower spec version is just £17. Audi A1 SE trim owners will pay £18 for a new halogen bulb, but those with S-Line Nav models have to pay £211 for a new HID bulb and control unit.

What Car? reckons some second-hand models with damaged HID and LED headlights risk being written-off by insurers due to the cost of replacing blown bulb

“The longevity of HID bulbs makes them a viable option on a new car,” said Claire Evans, What Car? consumer editor.

“However, if you are buying a used car as a second household vehicle or as a first car for a son or daughter, you – and they – could be landed with a massive repair bill for a blown bulb that could even render the car a write-off due to it being uneconomical to repair.”

Cost comparison: New headlight bulbs for small cars

Make and model Trim level Headlight type Headlight bulb / headlight unit
Audi A1 SE Halogen £18
S line Nav HID £211 (bulb and control unit)
Citroen C3 All trim levels Halogen £20
Dacia Sandero All trim levels Halogen £11
Honda Jazz ES, SE Halogen £8
EX, Sport LED £714 (sealed headlight unit)
Kia Rio All trim levels Halogen £9 to £11
Mini All trim levels HID £11
Renault Clio All trim levels Halogen £9
Seat Ibiza SE, SE Technology Halogen £17
FR, FR Sport, Xcellence, Xcellence Lux LED £827 (sealed headlight unit)
Skoda Fabia All trim levels Halogen £9
Suzuki Swift SZ3, SZT Halogen £4
SZ5 HID £684 (sealed headlight unit)
Toyota Yaris All trim levels Halogen £26
Vauxhall Corsa Sting, Energy, Limited Edition, White, Black, Red Edition, Design, Sri,
Sri VX-Line, SE
Halogen £17
Elite HID £317
Volkswagen Polo All except GTI Halogen £18
GTI LED £846 (sealed headlight unit)

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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