LED Trailer Lights vs. Traditional Lights A Comprehensive Comparison

The choice between LED (Light Emitting Diode) trailer lights and traditional incandescent lights has been a topic of discussion among vehicle owners and manufacturers for years. Both types of lighting have their unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. This article aims to delve into the details of these two types of lights, providing a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision.

Understanding Lighting in Trailers

Lighting in trailers is not just about visibility; it’s about safety, energy efficiency, and durability. The right kind of lighting can make a significant difference in these areas. Over the years, lighting technology has evolved, offering more options for trailer owners. Among these, LED and traditional incandescent lights have been the most popular choices. But what makes them different, and which one is better for your trailer? Let’s find out.

What are LED Trailer Lights?

LED lights are solid-state, semiconductor devices designed to emit light when a small electric current is applied. Unlike traditional incandescent lights that use delicate wire filaments, LED lamps are more robust and resistant to failure. They are becoming increasingly popular due to their longevity, energy efficiency, and safety features1.

The Science Behind LED Lights

LEDs produce light through a process called electroluminescence. When an electric current passes through the semiconductor material, it excites the electrons, causing them to emit light. This process is highly efficient and produces very little heat, making LEDs an excellent choice for applications where heat can be a concern.

The Evolution of LED Lights

LED technology has come a long way since its inception. Early LEDs were low-intensity and only emitted red light. However, modern LEDs come in all colors, including white, and are much brighter. They are now used in various applications, from small electronic devices to large billboards and now, trailer lights.

Benefits of LED Lights

LED lights offer numerous benefits over traditional incandescent lights. They are more energy-efficient, which means they consume less power and can save you money on your energy bills. They also have a longer lifespan, which means you won’t have to replace them as often. Additionally, they are more durable and can withstand harsh conditions better than incandescent lights.

What are Traditional Trailer Lights?

Traditional trailer lights, also known as incandescent lights, have been the standard for many years. They work by passing an electric current through a thin filament, heating it until it glows and produces light. While they are generally cheaper upfront, they have a shorter lifespan and consume more power than LED lights1.

The Science Behind Incandescent Lights

Incandescent lights produce light by heating a wire filament to a temperature that makes it glow. However, this process is not very efficient as most of the energy is wasted as heat. This is why incandescent bulbs get hot during operation.

The Evolution of Incandescent Lights

Incandescent lights have been around for over a century, and their basic design has not changed much. However, they have been gradually phased out in many applications due to their low energy efficiency and short lifespan.

Benefits of Incandescent Lights

Despite their disadvantages, incandescent lights still have some benefits. They produce a warm, inviting light that many people find appealing. They are also easy to install and replace, and they work with dimmer switches, which is not always the case with LED lights.

Detailed Comparison Between LED and Traditional Trailer Lights


LED lights have a life expectancy of 100,000 hours, which is six times that of an average incandescent bulb1. This longevity means less frequent replacements, saving you time and money in the long run.

Energy Efficiency

LED lights consume significantly less power than incandescent lights. The amp draw of an LED can be as low as 1/10th that of an incandescent light1. This lower energy consumption makes LED lights a more environmentally friendly choice.

Safety and Visibility

When it comes to safety, LED lights have a clear advantage. They respond instantaneously and provide a brighter, more focused illumination than incandescent lights1. A study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that LED lamps respond on average 2/10th of a second faster than standard incandescent lamps, improving reaction time and decreasing braking distance by 16 feet1.

Resistance to Vibration and Shock

LED lamps are more resistant to road vibration and shock than incandescent bulbs, making them a more reliable choice for trailers1.

Heat Emission

Unlike traditional incandescent lights that can get hot, LED trailer lights do not produce much heat, reducing the risk of fire hazards1.

The Impact of LED Lights on the Environment

LED lights are not only beneficial for their energy efficiency but also for their environmental impact. They do not contain harmful chemicals like mercury, which is present in many traditional light bulbs. Furthermore, their long lifespan means fewer resources are used in their production and disposal.

The Future of Trailer Lights

With the continuous advancements in LED technology, it’s clear that the future of trailer lighting is leaning towards LEDs. Their superior features in terms of longevity, energy efficiency, safety, and durability make them an ideal choice for trailer owners. Furthermore, as the technology becomes more affordable, it’s likely that more and more people will make the switch to LEDs.


In conclusion, the choice between LED and traditional incandescent trailer lights depends on several factors, including your specific needs, budget, and environmental considerations. While traditional incandescent lights may have a lower upfront cost, they fall short in terms of energy efficiency, lifespan, safety, and durability. On the other hand, LED trailer lights, despite being slightly more expensive initially, offer significant benefits that make them a more cost-effective choice in the long run.

Their superior energy efficiency not only reduces the drain on your vehicle’s electrical system but also contributes to environmental conservation by reducing energy consumption. Their longer lifespan means less frequent replacements, saving you time and money. The enhanced safety features of LED lights, including their instantaneous response and brighter illumination, can potentially prevent accidents, protecting you and other road users.

Furthermore, their resistance to vibration and shock makes them a reliable choice for trailers, which often have to endure rough road conditions. Lastly, the minimal heat emission of LED lights reduces the risk of fire hazards, adding an extra layer of safety.

Therefore, for long-term use and considering the total cost of ownership, which includes not just the purchase price but also the costs of energy consumption and replacement, LED trailer lights emerge as a more cost-effective and reliable choice. As LED technology continues to advance and become more affordable, it’s likely that more and more trailer owners will make the switch to LEDs, making them the lighting choice of the future for trailers.


Pacific Trailers. (2017). LED Lighting Advantages vs Standard Incandescent. Retrieved from https://pacifictrailers.com/blogs/boat-trailer-tips-advice/led-lighting-advantages-vs-standard-incandescent