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Shedding Light on the Confusion: Fog Light vs. Headlight

Fog Light vs. Headlight

Picture this: you’re driving along in some thick fog or harsh weather like heavy rain, and suddenly, you’re faced with a decision: should you turn on your fog lights or stick with your car’s headlights?

For many drivers, fog lights and headlights are the same, and they will probably use the wrong one in this scenario.

However, Don’t sweat it, readers – this mix-up happens to drivers always. Lucky for you, we’re here to clear the air (or fog, if you will) on the dissimilarities between fog lights and headlights.

Fog light vs. Headlight: What’s the Difference?

It’s a no-brainer that having the fog light and headlights in your vehicle’s lighting system is super important.

But do you know  these two lighting components serve different purposes and are designed in divergent manners? 

HeadlightsFog lights
PurposeHeadlights are generally there for use in normal driving conditions to see the road ahead, like when you are driving on the road at night.Fog lights are specifically designed to improve the visibility of the driver in adverse weather conditions, such as thick fog, snow, or rain.
Placement Headlights are usually mounted on the front of the car, a bit higher than Fog lights. Fog lights are also mounted on the front of your vehicle in a lower position than the headlights.
Beam patternHeadlights provide a more targeted beam to light up the road in front of youFog lights offer a broad, flat beam that spreads out horizontally. 
Light colorThe headlight emits a white or blue beam, giving you long-range illumination.Fog lights give off a yellow or amber light, which is better for cutting through the fog and improving visibility
Use conditionsused during the night or in regular driving conditions, signals other drivers that you are on the road.essential in foggy, snowy, or rainy weather conditions, shouldn’t be used in clear weather conditions, and automatically turns off when the car is turned off
Mandatory statusYesNo
BrightnessUsually between 80 to 140 lumensUsually between 700 to 1200 lumens
Shape Circular or rectangular Often round, rectangular, or oval
Pros1) Long range for more area coverage and visibility.
2) They are required by the law in most countries, and using them prevents accidents and risks.
3) Don’t cause any kind of blinding or dazzle oncoming drivers.
4) Can be used as a single indication for other drivers.
1) Fog lights are better for driving on windy or narrow roads.
2) Low beams of fog lights can easily help see obstacles and road hazards.
3) It can be really good for driving through construction sites or dirt roads.
4) Using fog lights with headlights works as both, giving you a high field of view and visibility in fog.
Cons1) If aimed incorrectly can cause glare and reflect back.
2) Some halogen headlights are less durable and have a shorter lifespan than HID and LED.
3)In some cases, like fog or heavy rain, headlights cannot provide enough visibility.
1) In clear conditions, fog light can be distracting and dangerous for other drivers as it can dazzle and reduce visibility.
2) Incorrectly mounted or aimed fog lights can light up the road signs that can cause binding for other drivers.

Are fog lights and headlights the same? 

The majority of drivers confuse headlights and fog lights, but they are diametrically opposed. They also may look similar but are used for different situations and purposes.

They both also have their own assembly that they are fitted in. 

car using its fog lights- Fog light vs. headlight

You’ll find headlights in every single car on the road but fog lights are not included in every car and are offered as an add-on or upgrade in many car models.

Fog light vs. Headlight: How They Work

The working principle of fog light vs. headlight is completely 360 degrees. As we previously mentioned, basic headlights light the front of your car, and the area or point of light fog cover is slightly different. 

Fog lights are usually at the bottom area of your vehicle, making it close to the road, and the reason for this placement is that the fog light illuminates the road like a layer or curtain rather than absorbing the road itself. 

For this reason, fog lights don’t get blocked by the fog as they travel toward the road and send light to it. Thus giving you full vision even in the fog.


Basic headlights have a bit more range than fog lights so that on the road and in normal conditions, they can illuminate the front of the car. 

Therefore, fog lights have a lower field of view of 1.1 to 2.2 meters, and headlights have like above 10 meters. This range is quite effective even though it’s low, as it gives lights at an angle of 65 to 75 degrees.

When not to use Fog lights

Fog lights aren’t forbidden for use during the day, and you can use them during the day in specific weather conditions when you can’t see clearly. However you 

  • You cannot use a fog light for a headlight and vice versa. 
  • You cannot use your fog lights after the fog disappears because if you do, you can risk dazzling other drivers on the road. 
  • When your vehicle is parked, you cannot use fog lights because they can blind oncoming drivers.
car using there headlights in clear weather

Keep in mind that, Fog lights also turn off automatically if you turn off your car, meaning when you switch your car’s ignition on, they will automatically turn on again.

So make sure to check it before turning on the ignition!

Choosing Between Different Types of Fog Lights and Headlights

As with everything, headlights and fog lights also come in different types, all having different levels of illumination. The three main types you’ll come across are Halogen, Xenon or HID, and LED lights. 

showing LED vs Halogen bulb difference

Halogen lights

Halogen lights are pretty standard because they’re cheap and easy to use, but they’re not the most energy-efficient option out there. Plus, they tend to get pretty hot in the light housing.

Xenon or HID and LED lights

On the other hand, Xenon or HID and LED lights don’t need a metal filament to create the light. LED lights are pretty popular in modern cars, and they are very energy efficient in the long run. Similarly, HID headlights are also more efficient and brighter with a relatively long lifespan. You may choose between 6000K and 8000K HID headlights depending on your preference and driving needs.

So which type is better?

There is no definitive answer to this, and it depends on your vehicle and the situation you want to use it in. 

However, LED lights are pretty energy efficient and are increasingly being pre-included in the modern models of automobiles, which makes them preferable.

Moreover, LEDs are also a bit more expensive than Halogen bulbs, but the energy efficiency makes it worth it!

Choose as per your priorities and system availabilities. Whatever type you pick if kept with good care and maintenance, it’s definitively gonna give you efficient output. Better cover it with headlight protective films to shield it from damage.

Additionally, if you’re looking to upgrade your car headlights, give one glance to VLAND headlights which are in today’s markets’ limelight. VLANDs are typically made with high-quality materials and feature modern styling, such as projector lenses. Thus, they provide better lighting performance compared to the factory headlights that come with a vehicle.

Legal Regulations about Fog lights and headlights You Need to Know

officer stopping a car- Fog light vs. headlight

Headlight regulations

Driving in most countries requires you to have two working headlights that give yellow or white light.

Also, some areas need headlights that are also adjustable for certain light situations, but you cannot use lights that are too bright or too low. 

Fog lights regulations

On the other hand, fog light rules are stricter than headlights. Fog lights are not mandatory and you can only use fog lights in situations where it’s hard to see, like fog, snow, or rain. 

It’s illegal to use your fog lights in clear weather as it’s a risk of dazzling fellow drivers on the road. Moreover, the color of fog lights also varies depending on what area you are in. 

You also need to make sure that they are mounted at the correct height and angle to avoid blinding other drivers.

Penalties for Not Following the Rules

If you go against these regulations, you’re gonna have a bad time with the police. You might end up with some serious fines and penalties or even get your license revoked in extreme cases. 

Take California, for instance – using fog lights when it’s not necessary could land you a $70 fine

In the UK, if your headlights are blindingly bright, you could be slapped with a £100 fine. And if you’re caught using fog lights in the wrong conditions, it could cost you anywhere from 40 to 50 quid. 

And It’s definitely not worth it, so make sure to follow the rules of the road.

Are Fog Lights Mandatory?

Fog lights, especially the rear ones, are not mandatory in countries like the United States, but they are mandatory in countries of Europe. 

Moreover, in the United States fog lights both front and rear are considered as the type of auxiliary or supplementary lights making them not mandatory for use.

Also, Cars that are cheap and affordable do not come standard with fog lights, but dealers offer them as an add-on option to buyers.

Which Is Best for Your Driving Needs?

Both headlights and fog lights are crucial for your vehicles as they both serve different purposes and cannot be used interchangeably in the context of the Fog light vs. Headlight debate. 

Fogs and rain can appear anywhere at any time, so having fog light in your arsenal is important. Similarly, you cannot see on a clear road with a fog light as it’s a safety hazard for both you and other drivers, so headlights are also a must.


Q. Can we use fog lights as headlights for our cars?

The clear-cut answer is No. Fog light can be used as a headlight is a fallacy that can lead to severe accidents. 

In actuality, fog lights are basically designed to provide optimal vision during low-visibility scenarios, such as in extreme weather conditions like fog, snow, or hard rain. 

Unlike your standard headlights, fog lights have a different beam pattern which gives drivers an enhanced field of view in situations like fog and offers a reduced reflection of the fog. And using fog lights as headlights can be a safety hazard as they do not provide enough illumination to see properly in normal driving conditions.

Q. Would a high-beam headlight work as a fog light?

It’s a misconception that a high beam will work as a fog light in the context of the Fog light vs. Headlight debate. 

High-beam headlights are optimized to offer an extensive, wider, and higher beam of light that can cover a greater distance than low-beam headlights. However, in conditions like fog, it gets blocked by it and cannot travel much further than it does in normal conditions. 

Moreover, high beams can also pose an enormous danger to other drivers on the road, as their brilliance can easily bling and disorient drivers coming from the opposite direction.

Q. Can I use fog lights during the day?

Yes, you can use fog lights during the day if it’s foggy or heavily raining. But keep in mind that it can only be used in fog when there is low visibility, like below 100 meters which are roughly equal to a sprint race track. 

Also, if you use fog lights during the day without any fog, it can impact the safety of yourself and other drivers on the road. So, it’s best to use these fog lights in suitable conditions and turn them off when they are no longer needed.

Q. Can I install fog lights on my car if I haven’t had one before?

Yes, you can. If you want to add fog lights to your car that was not originally equipped with them, you have to do a hell lot of tinkering in it. It requires mechanical and electrical knowledge of the car you want to install it in. 

Therefore, if you lack mechanical and electrical knowledge, we highly recommend hiring some professional hands to do this job for you!

Q. Why does my modern car don’t have a fog light? 

This is because most modern cars nowadays come with highly advanced LED beams which work both as a headlight and fog light in low-visibility conditions. 

And for using these headlights, these cars have controls on your steering wheel or on the dashboard!


  • Michael Alexander

    Hi, My name is Michael. I am an automotive lights enthusiast expert. I created Cooltechguide to provide authentic knowledge about car headlight problems. If you interested in knowing more about me. Feel free to contact me

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