The 10 Best Off Road Lights
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in June of 2016. If you are planning on doing some rallying or trail riding in the near future, make sure you equip your car, truck or ATV with a set of these off-road lights, so you can see the way ahead clearly. Of course, these kits are also ideal for anyone who wants to illuminate the great outdoors from any type of vehicle, including boaters, campers and even farmers on tractors. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 12, 2020:
It was a fairly smooth round of updates, with all of our previous picks proving to still be solid selections. We did, however, switch out the Nilight 60002S-B in favor of the Audexen 9 Inch 300WWL200102 — a powerful model that caught our eye with its 12,000-lumen output and 60,000-hour life expectancy. And, for a bit of fun if nothing else, we replaced the Auxbeam Heavy Equipment with the Auxbeam V Series — a color changing light bar that boasts slick, Bluetooth app connectivity. As a 12-inch option, the Heavy Equipment held up pretty well against the V Series, when comparing their brightness on a lumens-per-inch basis, but with the V Series sporting some fancy features, and also being available in 22-, 32- and 42-inch sizes, it struck us as the more versatile option to offer our users.
Gear in this category tends to stick to a fairly uniform aesthetic, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding fixtures you like, so long as you’re into said look (if you’re not, you might be in trouble). With that in mind, keep a close eye on the ratings each company offers, to help get a sense of how each light's price stacks up against its performance. Lumen output it one simple, comparable metric that can give you an idea of how bright a light will be, but to get a clue as to how wide or narrow of a beam it’ll cast, you might need to take a look at the illumination angle of the LEDs they contain.
Some spotlight options, like the KC Hilites Apollo Pro, are designed to cast a concentrated beam of light, deep down the path before you. Others, like the KC Hilites 645, are floodlights, intended to illuminate a much wider area. Serious users looking to sink some cash into this project could even think about getting some of both – and controlling each set with separate rocker switches, or different buttons on the same switch panel – but combination units, which are quite common in the category, are likely to be the most pragmatic choice for many users. The Turbo SII Flood Combo, for example, puts 15-degree spotlights together with 170-degree floodlights, giving you the best brightness up ahead, but still shedding some light on your periphery.
While we’ve got you here, perhaps we can interest you in some of our rankings for related categories, such as off road jacks, tonneau covers for Ford F-250s, lift kits for Dodge Ram 2500s and bull bars for Chevrolet Silverados.
November 15, 2019:
During this round of updates, we removed the SLDX 300W 52” – due to availability issues, as well as the MicTuning 3B139C Work – which was eliminated due to a few too many reports of the unit not living up to the promises of its IP dust and waterproof rating. In their place, we incorporated the KC Hilites 645 and the KC Hilites 91308, which caught our eye with their sharp design and impressive lumen rating.
A friendly reminder for anybody thinking of installing any of these accessories as supplementary lighting on their daily driver:
As these are off-road lights, many options in this category were designed strictly with that purpose in mind, and may emit beams of light that are too bright/concentrated to qualify as street legal. Regulations in this manner will vary depending on your location, so do your due diligence and check with local authorities before making a purchase and mistakenly breaking the law. Further to this point, both new additions from KC Hilites aren’t likely to be well received by traffic enforcement, so make sure your use is restricted to off-roading, if you plan on purchasing them.
The History Of Off-Road Vehicles
There are dirt bikes and small all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, which are used widely for recreational purposes and exploring difficult-to-access areas.
Before we begin to understand off-road lights, let's first take a look at that piece of equipment for which they're intended: the off-road vehicle. At its most basic, an off-road vehicle is any type of vehicle that is built to drive off paved or graveled surfaces, and is generally characterized by having large tires with deep treads, flexible shocks and suspension, and other elements that help make traveling over rough and rugged terrain easier.
The first off-road vehicle — or, at least, the first vehicle specifically designed for driving off-road — was the Kégresse track, a modified Packard Twin-6 equipped with special caterpillar tracks built by a Russian inventor in the early 1900s. Versions of the machine were soon adopted by the French military, but also used in overland expeditions in places like Africa and Antarctica. In fact, the earliest off-road vehicles, which eventually also included the Jeep and the heavy lorry, were primarily used for military purposes — it wasn't until after WWII, when large surpluses of army equipment were released to the public, that they found a consumer market.
Today, off-road vehicles take as many forms as there are functions for them. There are off-road utility vehicles, also known as UTVs, which are used in work environments like farms and ranches to tow equipment and carry materials. There are dirt bikes and small all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, which are used widely for recreational purposes and exploring difficult-to-access areas. And then there are full-size, off-road-ready cars and trucks — think brands like Jeep, Land Rover, and Humvee — that are specially designed and factory-made to be more rugged and powerful then other vehicles, and can also be easily customized with aftermarket parts to further achieve that end.
Off-road vehicles have also given rise to several different types of motorsports, among the most popular being rallying, desert racing, and rock crawling.
Why Off-Road Lights?
Because off-road vehicles are used in a variety of situations and environments, it's common for owners to customize their rigs for better performance. If you're riding often through arid, sandy desert, for example, you can improve your vehicle's handling by setting it up with wider, more heavily treaded tires. Similarly, if you're traversing rocky, uneven ground in the mountains, you may want to upgrade its suspension to give you a smoother ride.
LEDs, meanwhile, are often used in light bars, which are long and narrow and can illuminate wide swaths of area at the flip of a switch.
But one thing you'll likely need regardless of where you take your machine are lights — and not just your standard, stock variety. While most off-road vehicles will come equipped with some sort of basic headlight system, it's usually not very powerful, which means it may leave you straining your eyes in the dark to see the path ahead. That's not only inconvenient, but also dangerous, since driving off-road even in the daylight can be a treacherous affair.
Off-road lights, then, are an important accessory to invest in both for performance and safety reasons. But they can they can also serve as aesthetic enhancements to your personalized car or truck — depending on your own particular tastes, a sprawling, 52-inch light bar on the roof or grill of your pick-up could look pretty cool.
Since off-road lights can come in as many shapes and sizes as the vehicles they're attached to, there are a few factors to consider before buying one. Because of their increased efficiency and durability, LEDs are the most commonly used sources in off-road lights today; they're also usually the most affordable. Other lights use halogen or xenon bulbs, which are less efficient and durable, but are often available in higher wattages, making them brighter per unit. High Intensity Discharge lights offer the highest levels of output per watt of power when compared to LEDs and halogens, but are also the most expensive.
In terms of design, halogen bulbs are often found in spotlight-style lights, which can produce powerful, focused beams for penetrating through serious darkness. LEDs, meanwhile, are often used in light bars, which are long and narrow and can illuminate wide swaths of area at the flip of a switch. Other general light categories include fog lights, which emit a low, shallow beam that is ideal for hazy and rainy conditions, and work lights that project a long rectangular beam best for agricultural applications.
Power — measured in watts — is another variable to keep in mind, and can range from as high as 300-watts per unit to as low as 18-watts per unit.
Other Uses For Off-Road Lights
Despite the name, off-road lights aren't exclusively for lighting your truck's way in the woods. Many products are also marketed for use on a variety of other machines, including boats and marine equipment, tractors and lawnmowers, RVs and campers — anything that might be operated more safely and efficiently with a little extra illumination.
Some off-road lights, for example, are made for specific make and model vehicles, while others are more multi-functional.
And, as previously noted, they're not only for utilitarian purposes: many car and truck drivers simply appreciate the look of off-road lights on their vehicle, even if it never leaves the paved comfort of the highway.
Of course, whichever kind of off-road lights you choose, and whatever you decide to use them on, it's essential to first determine their compatibility. Some off-road lights, for example, are made for specific make and model vehicles, while others are more multi-functional. They should also come with all the hardware needed for proper mounting and installation.