Best CREE LED Light Bars – Unbiased User Reviews
- The Best Cree LED Light Bar Series
- Autofeel 7D
- Rigidhorse 5D
- Kansmart 7D
- CREE LEDs
- What to look for when buying a LED light bar
- Go with the best
- Autofeel 7D – The Best 52 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
- Rigidhorse – The Best 42 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
- Autofeel 7D – The Best 32 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
- Rough Country x5 – The Best 20 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
- Comparing the competition
- Putting LED light bars to good use
- Frequently Asked Questions
One of your best options for increasing driving visibility is adding a Cree LED light bar. Whether it’s a car, truck, boat, or off-road vehicle, these devices create a wide field of bright illumination that provide extra safety when you’re out in the dark. This website explains how truck light bars operate, examines how they stack up against other lighting methods, describes various ways they can be used, and shows you how to distinguish the good ones from the poorly manufactured ones. It also presents LED light bar reviews. With the knowledge offered here, you’ll be able to effectively pair the best LED light bar with your needs.
At the heart of these devices are LED bulbs. Like other diodes, LEDs allow current to flow in just one direction. but they generate light in the process. For a better understanding, an advance degree in solid state physics is helpful. Keep in mind that LED bulbs are limited in their size. Beyond a certain mass, the heat retention quickly eats into the light’s efficiency. LED light bars consist of individual bulbs arranged in one or more strips of varying length. They are designed to remain lit even if one or more bulbs cease working.
The Best Cree LED Light Bar Series
Cree LEDs are so efficient that they outshine most other LED lighting products while drawing less power. Cree is the first choice in vehicle-mounted light bars for motorists, boaters, and off-roaders who need a good field of bright light, without excessive drain on the battery. While Cree distributes their lights to many manufacturers, here are top 3 light bar series now available.
Autofeel’s triple-row 7D is the newest generation over the former 5D. While the 5D projector lens was bright and reliable – Autofeel claimed it was two times brighter than the old 4D designs – a quick comparison reveals some 7D benefits.
For the 42″ LED light bar, the 7D puts out up to 64,800 lumens of brightness, while the 5D produced 40,000LM. At 648 watts and 400 watts respectively, they are both still putting out the same near-100 percent efficiency. The 7D uses 3-watt LEDs where the 5D uses fewer 5-watt chips. Both series are engineered to provide the same 30/60 spot flood combo angles.
The 7D weighs 10.4 pounds with dimensions of 44.1 x 6.1 x 5.8, while the 5D weighs 12.1 pounds and was an inch or two smaller on every dimension. Both promise a 50,000 hour lifespan, anticorrosive material, and a shockproof, waterproof, dustproof design. Both series feature an aluminum housing, aluminum brackets, and a polycarbonate lens.
In short, the triple-row 7D design provides much more light and relatively lower power demands, but still has all the best features of the 5D series. And it only costs a little more.
The die-cast aluminum construction feels solid, and the hex mounting screws stay tight even after some rough off-roading. It even comes with two different sets of brackets for mounting easily to a wider range of vehicles. Although installation isn’t difficult, it would still be comforting if it came with a decent user manual to provide some guidance.
When you first light up a 7D lens, the illumination is crisp and clean across the light spread without visible spotting, and only minimal yellowing at the very edges of the flood lights. All the Cree chips seem to have a consistent color and brightness. Down-road illumination is far better than any stock headlights and at a wider field of vision.
No matter which 7D model you opt for, you’ll find the Autofeel products provide excellent performance and value.
Rigidhorse’s new 5D series light bars are claiming 85 percent efficiency compared to the 60 percent of previous products. The 5D 42″ light bar, for instance, produces 40,000 lumens at 400 watts of input, and the other new models have comparable high-efficiency. However, that’s not a significant improvement over the 4D series. The main difference seems to be that the new Rigidhorse light bars will be using 5-watt Cree chips instead of 3-watt Philips LEDs – and producing more light with fewer LEDs. For only a slight jump in price, Rigidhorse is now including a wiring harness as part of the package.
The Rigidhorse brand sells exclusively on Amazon, but their light bars more than live up to the competition. Slickly designed heat-sink fins and a one-way pressure release valve contribute to the upper-end 50,000 hour lifetime. These lights have a visually appealing, metallic-finish aluminum housing, die-cast mounting brackets, and unbreakable polycarbonate lenses. Rigidhorse light bars also have the IP67 waterproof rating, and a 30/60 degree spot/flood combo. The new 5D reflector lenses provide visible improvement in the light distribution over the wider angles, while the spot provides very bright illumination for more than 100 yards ahead.
The Rigidhorse light bars are well-made even in comparison to some expensive brands, and the oblong spot pattern at the center is noticeably brighter. The wiring harness for the larger light sizes comes with a 40 A relay, but they rarely seem to draw that much amperage. You may not even need the longish wiring harness; in some larger vehicles you can wire it easily into the dash with an inexpensive switch. The wiring harness comes with a push-button switch which may not be as easy to find in the dark, but it does make connecting the light bar easier. However, one known problem is that you have to make certain that the gaskets holding the connection pins in place remain tight.
These light bars come well-packed in sturdy boxes, and feel solid despite being significantly lighter than most other brands at the same size. The mounting brackets seem a little flimsy for the bigger sizes, but the latest Rigidhorse light bars also get high marks for durability. Some drivers have reported logging thousands of cross-country miles through rain, ice, and drifting sand without any light bar issues whatsoever.
With the new tri-row design, Kansmart has made a radical departure from the traditional 30/60 degree spot/flood angles on the older version to a 10/20-180 degree spot/flood pattern. That provides for a much brighter spot illumination and adjustable flood lighting that vary in intensity from the 20-degree range to a dimmer, but much broader field of view at 180 degrees. This also helps reduce eye fatigue. That’s an option that could provide some panoramic views when you need them.
The Tri-row series looks and feels solid enough, with a black-painted aluminum housing, and sliding aluminum mounting brackets that make mounting to different makes of vehicle much simpler. Each light bar comes with a 3-meter wiring harness and three brackets, but nothing else. It’s easy to install but can’t accept side mounts. The Kansmart products have the usual polycarbonate lenses and IP67 moisture-resistant rating. They will run off any 12 V to 30 V power source for a 30,000 hour lifetime of use.
The new Kansmart is brighter than the old version, but that’s relative to size. You don’t want a small light bar on a big truck. But where the Kansmart seems to really shine is in the quality of the build. The seals, gaskets, and mounting brackets are tight enough so you won’t see vibration or any condensation inside the lens in even the wettest conditions.
You may want to get thread repair kit for the aluminum mounting bolts, however, as they can strip out when over-tightened, which often happens with the larger light bar sizes, or when trying to install to odd-shaped contours on some vehicles. That’s a small investment considering that the Kansmart tri-row lights deliver more light and can endure rougher conditions than even some much more expensive light bars.
When you’re ready to install a light bar on your car or truck, you want to get the most impact from your new product. Numerous manufacturers offer light bars, but that doesn’t mean that these products are all the same. When it comes to performance, the type of LEDs used the the light bar make a huge difference. Cree LEDs are some of the most popular for a good reason! The latest Cree LEDS in the 5D series have more power and output than ever. These LEDs are built to withstand the test of time, and they offer up to 50,000 hours of incredible illumination.
Cree LEDS provide a great value for your purchasing dollars since they can last up to 23 years! In addition, these lights use significantly less energy than traditional incandescents or CFLs. These lights do not use any mercury or other toxic materials, so they are also better for the environment. When you choose a Cree LED light bar, you’ll enjoy exceptional performance, impressive output and reduced energy consumption.
What to look for when buying a LED light bar
The LED lights in these arrays can be arranged in everything from a square pattern of four lights to a circular formation to the recognizable elongated bar that’s either straight or curved. These arrays can span just a few inches to over 4 feet in width with one or two rows of lights. LED light bars can operate as either spotlights or floodlights. Spotlights project beams between 10 and 30 degrees while floodlights span from 40 to 120 degrees. The positioning of reflectors, lenses, and the shape of the bar determine which of these two patterns is produced. It’s possible to have both types created by a single unit by either having separate divisions of a single row perform one or the other of these two functions or by using two unique rows.
The LEDs also have an incredible range of color options that run from infrared to the visible spectrum from red to violet to ultraviolet on the high end. Within the visible light range, higher frequencies that move towards the violet end provide better illumination, but the trade-off is they cause greater eye strain. The ideal color matches typical daylight with a color temperature of 5,500K. a light bar relies on a driver to keep current constant inside the voltage range it’s rated for. Some light bars offer pulse width modulation or PWM drivers that conserve power by pulsing the light at hundreds of cycles per second. At this speed, the light appears continuous. LED light bars also have dust and water resistance capacity designated by an international protection or IP code. The first number goes from 0 to 6 and specifies dust resistance. The second one goes from 0 to 8 and specifies water resistance with a 9K rating for high-temperature, high-pressure water exposure.
Go with the best
Reputable companies normally offer a wide assortment of light bars that are built with durable housing and include corrosion-proof mounting parts. An extra-large heat dissipation feature usually made of aluminum is a necessity. At the very least, both the housing and the wiring of the unit should have an IP rank of 65. An IP68 mark is preferred, and IP69K is ideal but rare. The light bar must have quality drivers that hold light output steady at any voltage within the operating ranges of either 9-30 DC volts or 10-70 DC volts. The better light bars use Cree LEDs that include specially-designed reflectors and lenses for the highest efficiency levels of 150 lumens per watt. They’re also estimated to operate up to 100,000 hours. Finally, if the device isn’t backed by a solid warranty, it’s best to look elsewhere.
Autofeel 7D – The Best 52 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
Autofeel 7D series uses the brand new triple row Cree lenses and delivers unparalleled light performance. The light bars have excellent build quality, smooth edges, and respectable heft, in an all-aluminum case. The LED chips give out 6000K bright white light without the bluish color of LED headlights. The light is thrown higher, wider, and farther down the road than the headlight high beams, and without any hot spots. The 7D technology lenses and reflectors deliver 93% lighting efficiency where old products deliver only 30-60% efficiency. The polycarbonate cover material is well sealed so that condensation does not occur inside the unit. Furthermore, the improved aluminum alloy heat sink increases heat dissipation so that the lifespan is lengthened to over 50,000 hours of operation. The light bars come with heavy duty wiring and a direct plug and play relay and light control switch. Although there are no instructions included, installation is simple with the included harness; simply connect power to vehicle power, ground to vehicle ground and attach the switch. An anti-theft wrench assures that the light bar cannot be easily dismounted.
Rigidhorse – The Best 42 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
The Rigidhorse 42 inch curved LED light bar offers uncompromising quality with unparalleled performance. This LED light bar is easy to install and is virtually indestructible. It includes everything you need to get started right out of the box. The housing is made from durable, high-quality aluminum. The stainless steel brackets will resist rust and corrosion. The polycarbonate lens is virtually indestructible. The genuine CREE LED light bulbs output 40,000 Lumens and have a lifespan of 50,000 hours. The light from the LED bulbs is always crisp and clear. This light bar is dustproof, quakeproof, waterproof, and even explosion resistant. It’s truly built to last a lifetime no matter what you throw at it. The lens and reflector combination offers the best of both worlds. You get a wide beam of light to cover a large area, as well as focused beams of light like you may expect from a traditional spotlight. The curved design enables you to see the sides of the road much easier at night. This light bar will easily outshine your headlights and provide you with an unparalleled view for driving.
Autofeel 7D – The Best 32 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
The Autofeel 7D 32 Inch Curved LED Light Bar features ultra bright, tri-row, CREE LED bulbs, polycarbonate lenses, shock and impact resistance, IP67 waterproofing, and professional grade stainless steel hardware. It’s perfect for any automotive or marine application and installation is a breeze. The polycarbonate lenses pinpoint light while the reflector creates a wide beam. You get the best of both worlds with excellent overall illumination and impressive accuracy. The Autofeel can really take a beating. It’s both shock and impact resistant, making it ideal for extreme motorsports. This light bar is so strong that driving a truck over it will barely leave a scratch. These next generation 7D CREE bulbs are up to 50% brighter than the competition and offer a full 1-year manufacturer’s warranty. The LEDs provide a bright, white light that’s more natural looking that traditional bulbs. This LED light bar will truly light up your night. The mounting brackets, nuts, bolts, and washers are all made from 100% stainless steel. You won’t have to worry about your mounting brackets rusting off or nuts that rust into place. With everything being made out of stainless steel or high-grade plastic, you won’t actually have to worry about rust at all.
Rough Country x5 – The Best 20 Inch CREE LED Light Bar
Rough Country’s 20-inch X5 Series LED Light Bar provides some of the most powerful illumination currently on the market. The bar’s 10,800 Lumen 120 Watt output is bright enough to light even the darkest evenings. Much of the impressive brightness comes from the product’s unique X-pattern design. This gives customers an extra half-row of Cree LEDs compared to similar dual-row bars from other manufacturers. In fact, the 20-inch X5 Series LED light bar offers more LED lights per square inch than any other light bar. This makes off-roading more safe and enjoyable at any time of night.
Plenty of companies offer smaller bars, but you don’t have to settle for less! Although this light bar is powerful, it is also designed for usability. The product’s noise-reducing design minimizes annoying vibration sounds. All Rough Country light bars in the X5 LED series also feature IP67 waterproof housing made of top quality aluminum for protection against the elements.
Rough Country products are designed for toughness and durability, and this product is no exception. The light bar withstands everything from heavy force to water immersion easily, so customers can enjoy years of illumination from their investment.
This product has an average installation time of 2-3 hours, and it is designed only for off-road usage. Other exciting features include:
- Moisture Breather technology to reduce annoying moisture build-up behind each lens
- 8 degree spot and 90 degree flood combo pattern
- A total of 40, 3-watt high-intensity CREE LED lights
- Durable, flat-wound wiring harness
- 8-millimeter bolt diameter
- 3 year manufacturer’s warranty
Take your off-road vehicle to the next level and enjoy an illuminated driving experience at any time with the Rough Country 20-inch X5 Series LED Light Bar.
Comparing the competition
There are several ways to create light for vehicles and other settings. Here’s a list of the most popular methods.
- High-pressure Sodium or HPS
- High-intensity Discharge or HID
- Light-emitting Diode or LED
This is most familiar as the old-fashioned incandescent light bulb. Their well-deserved reputation includes lots of excess heat, low efficiency, and short lifespans of around 2,000 hours. These bulbs are noted for developing a haze inside the glass as the tungsten filament is vaporized.
This is an improved version of the incandescent bulb that’s much smaller. It’s filled with iodine or bromine, collectively called halogens, that, at very high temperatures, redeposit vaporized tungsten on the filament so it lasts longer.
HIGH-PRESSURE SODIUM VAPOR LIGHTING
HPS lighting is recognized as the bluish street lights that have existed for decades. They’re highly efficient and last up to 10,000 hours, but their color is a bit on the harsh side. They also require a ballast to activate them. Low-pressure sodium lights are an alternative that generates 50-100% more light per watt and can last up to 18,000 hours, but it’s light is confined to an amber hue that distorts the colors of illuminated objects.
HIGH-INTENSITY DISCHARGE LIGHTING
HID lights are also known as xenon lights. These are the headlights used in luxury sports cars. To confuse things, the xenon gas is used to get the reaction started, but metal halides produce most of the light once they kick in after a few minutes. They’re not quite as efficient as HPS lights, but their light roughly matches the spectrum of sunlight. Like HPS lights, they require a ballast.
LIGHT-EMITTING DIODE LIGHTING
A high initial cost is the only real drawback of LEDs, but over time, they pay for themselves through their very long lifespans and energy savings. They don’t need a ballast, and there’s no excess heat. They also don’t require a warm-up period. By adding chemicals to their composition, they can produce light anywhere along the spectrum.
Putting LED light bars to good use
LED light bars are meant to supply ample illumination beyond what standard headlights can achieve in circumstances where visibility is impaired due to darkness, bad weather, or obscured terrain. Of course, as the following examples show, they’re adaptable to a variety of uses.
OFF THE ROAD
Off-roading is what LED light bars are most closely associated with. They have huge advantages in this venue. Because they come in assorted sizes, there’s a light bar to fit anything from a small ATV to a massive 4WD pickup. Since the lights are solid pieces, they won’t get shaken apart on rough trails. There’s also little power consumption, so they’re perfect for ATVs that can’t afford the weight of more batteries. If overnight camping awaits at the end of an off-road adventure, they provide superb illumination when getting things established, and their low electricity usage means you can shut off the engine.
There are times when an LED light bar can come in handy on the road. You’ll need to determine what your state’s laws say about this, though. While a small light bar might be permitted, there are legal limits on how much brightness a vehicle on the road can produce due to safety concerns involving blinding oncoming drivers.
While you might not be able to employ an LED light bar on a moving vehicle, there’s rarely restrictions against having one available to make the vehicle noticeable when it’s stationary. A detachable one is also helpful for putting plenty of light on the auto for emergency repairs like tire changes.
Red LED light bars can greatly boost visibility of vehicles from behind when used to augment standard tail lights. Standard lights often burn out without notice. They’re also not easily seen in daylight. Since they last much longer, LEDs should prove to be more reliable while also being easier to spot.
Another category of off-road vehicles that can benefit from extra lighting are construction vehicles like backhoes or excavators. These circumstances almost guarantee uneven surfaces with lots of shadows.
LED light bars with high water resistance ratings make excellent additions for any size boat. Fog is a common problem off-shore that these fixtures can deal with effectively. Small light bars can supply interior illumination in the various sections of larger craft.
LED light bars don’t have to be limited to vehicles. They can also serve as stand-alone warning beacons at construction sites, factories, and similar locations. These are the situations where light bars equipped with strobe capacity make the most sense.
Coupled with a portable power source, LED light bars, flood lights in particular, are a boon for both indoor and outdoor needs. They can supply more than enough lighting for backyard events, and smaller ones can accommodate interior spots where the wiring doesn’t reach. With an independent electricity source, they’re also useful when the public grid has been knocked out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between spot, flood and combo beam?
Light bars come in three beam patterns: spot, flood, or combo.
Think of a spot beam as a spot light. It creates a focused light straight ahead with a cone-shaped beam angled at about 10 to 20 degrees, depending on the design of the light bar.
The flood beam produces a wider cone of light at 60 to 90 degrees. This provides some visibility to either side, important for safety when your driving down a trail, or providing the ability to illuminate a wider area such as a camp or worksite.
In a combo beam, spot and flood LEDs are arranged within the light bar to provide both types of light. This gives the advantages of each – bright light to see clearly what’s up ahead and flood lights for a wider field of vision.
What tells me the power of the light: watts or lumens?
Watts is the measure of the electrical energy flowing through a device; specifically the strength of the current input from the power source. Lumens is a measurement of the intensity of the light that’s produced. In general, the more watts that go into a light, the more lumens you get coming out. With traditional incandescent lights, a 100-watt bulb is much brighter than a 60-watt bulb because it’s designed to use more energy.
However, incandescent bulbs are far less efficient than LEDs, so a lot of that energy is wasted as heat. The more efficient the light source, the more lumens you get per watt. An LED provides brighter light while using less energy, but even among LED products, this efficiency can vary.
What makes a Cree light so special?
Cree is a leading LED manufacturer that’s been providing innovative products since 1987. Cree’s engineers are constantly looking for new ways to get more efficiency from the LED chips that provide the light source for their bulbs. Apart from great design, one of Cree’s advantages is in the materials they use. Cree lights are manufactured using high quality InGaN (indium gallium nitride) materials, along with special substrates uniquely made for their products.
Cree LEDs deliver superior light and performance to comparable LEDs from other manufacturers. Cree is also known for its commitment to eco-friendly practices.
Are Cree LEDs really more efficient?
LEDs are always more efficient than conventional lighting. LED stands for “light emitting diode”, which is a special compound that emits light when an electric current passes through it. Because there is little heat involved and the LED itself is a solid, stable material, LEDs are more efficient and last much longer.
To give you some idea, a traditional incandescent bulb of 60 watts provides about 800 lumens of light, for an efficiency rating of only 13 percent. Most common LEDs have an 80 percent efficiency, for instance 2900 lumens of light at 36 watts. However, a Cree light bar may provide 7,200 lumens of light at 72 watts, for a perfect efficiency of 100 percent.
What does a statement like “Lifetime of 50,000 hours” mean?
That is the estimate of the useful lifespan of an LED light bar. L70 is the industry standard established by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). It expresses how many hours you can get from a light before it drops to 70 percent of its original output. The L-rating in new products comes from LM-80 testing, which measures light output at three different temperatures to test lights under different environments.
The longer you keep an LED illuminated at one use, the hotter it gets and the more its useful life is diminished. Light bars have to be very well-designed to even get an L70 rating of 50,000 hours. TM-21 is the new IES standard by which “claimed” L70 ratings become “calculated” ratings with sufficient LM-80 testing.
What does IP67 mean?
This is the standard rating for defining the resistance of a light bar product to solid and liquid particles. IP stands for International Protection Code. The first number refers to the particle size that’s blocked, and six is considered dust-free. A water-resistant level of seven is the second highest available, which means the product has been tested to be leak-free when submerged at a depth of one meter for at least 30 minutes. That’s more than enough for the wet conditions you find off-roading or even driving in rainstorms.
IP68 means resistance at depths over one meter for a longer period.