Maybe that’s why LED lightbars are so popular…

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a full review of pickup truck headlight, finding that all but one model failed the rigorous standards. It was the 2017 Honda Ridgeline’s optional LED projector beam low beams that passed testing with a rating of “Good.”

The pickup segment is now the third category to undergo the IIHS’ headlight evaluation. Mid-sized cars were evaluated first, followed by crossovers. Like the pickups, most cars and crossovers ranked poorly.

"These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups," says Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer. "As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked."

Testing includes measuring the distance the light travels in on-road driving. Low beams and high beams are evaluated, both straight roads and around curves. Also a big factor is the glare produced by the headlights. Excessive amounts of glare hinder oncoming traffic’s visibility.

The IIHS evaluated 11 trucks with 23 headlight combinations. Many trucks offer different headlight options between base trim levels and high-end trims. Of the 23 lights tested, 14 had excessive glare. Glare factors into the scores, keeping even good headlights from ranking above “Marginal” should they have too much glare.

Opposite the Ridgeline’s “Good” LED headlights, all versions of the Ford F-150 ranked “Poor.” This includes both the halogen lights from the base trims and the optional LED units in upper trims. It was the Chevrolet Colorado that scored the worst, however. The IISH said the halogen reflector low beams only illuminate 123 feet ahead of the truck. For scale, the Ridgeline’s LED low beams shoot an impressive 358 feet ahead.

These scores all factor into the IIHS’ safety rankings for new trucks for the 2017 model year. Headlights must be scored as “Good” before the IIHS will give a vehicle its highest award, the Top Safety Pick+.

Continue reading for more information

Why It Matters

Nobody wants a new vehicle with headlights that don’t do their job. Obviously it’s also a huge safety factor, as being able to see on a dark road is important. Just as important, oncoming traffic should not be blinded by glare. That’s why the IIHS has begun testing headlights.

I can attest from personal experience in my weekly vehicle evaluations that not all headlights are created equal. Some modern projector beam headlights do a good job of lighting the immediate area at the vehicles’ front, but dramatically drop off further off into a black abyss. This makes it incredibly easy to “over drive” the headlights, even at legal highway speeds.

Truck Headlight Rankings

Large pickups


2017 Honda Ridgeline

2017 - 2018 Honda Ridgeline High Resolution Exterior
- image 661839

Read our full review on the Honda Ridgeline here.


2016-17 GMC Sierra*

2017 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD
- image 678259

Read our full review on the GMC Sierra here.


2017 Nissan Titan

2017 Nissan Titan
- image 665249

Read our full review on the Nissan Titan here.

2016 Ram 1500

2013 - 2014 Ram 1500 High Resolution Exterior
- image 447832
2013 Ram 1500

Read our full review on the Ram 1500 here.


2016-17 Chevrolet Silverado

2016 Chevrolet Silverado High Resolution Exterior
- image 648480

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Silverado here.

2016-17 Ford F-150

2017 Ford F-150
- image 682155

Read our full review on the Ford F-150 here.

2016-17 Toyota Tundra

2014 Toyota Tundra High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 491985

Read our full review on the Toyota Tundra here.

Small pickups


2016 Chevrolet Colorado

2015 Chevrolet Colorado High Resolution Exterior
- image 532907

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Colorado here.

2016 GMC Canyon

2015 GMC Canyon High Resolution Exterior
- image 537885

Read our full review on the GMC Canyon here.

2016 Nissan Frontier

2016 - 2020 Nissan Frontier
- image 649423

Read our full review on the Nissan Frontier here.

2016-17 Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma - First Drive Exterior Test drive
- image 639347

Read our full review on the Toyota Tacoma here.

* Certain models of GMC Sierras come with headlights that ranked better than other trim levels and better than its sister truck, the Chevrolet Silverado.

Source: IIHS

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read More
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