Testing Cheap vs Expensive LED Light Pods – Here are the Results

LED light pods are a great way to improve visibility while driving at night. They can be mounted on all types of 4×4 vehicles and their compact designs mean they can almost always be positioned to meet the vehicle owner’s exact lighting needs.

led-lights-on-jeep

Unlike bulky light bars, light pods are discreetly sized and usually range between 2 and 9 inches in width, which allows users to have a more customizable lighting setup. For example, those that are concerned about wildlife running out on the road can choose to position their light pods outwards on a 45o angle, which helps improve peripheral vision. While others that spend time on uneven and rocky off-road trails might prefer to install light pods on their front bumper, as the added illumination would help them spot upcoming obstacles on the ground ahead.

If you are looking to improve visibility while driving your 4×4 vehicle and LED light pods sound appealing to you, we can help. We have tested a variety of cheap and expensive LED light pods to determine the differences. We will go over our findings, which will help you determine if it is worth spending a little bit extra on a more expensive set, or if you should just stick to the cheaper options. From there, we will go over some of our top recommendations for the best LED light pods.

Cheap vs. Expensive LED Light Pods

LED light pods range in price quite significantly. The cheaper options are usually imported from overseas and are available for as little as $20. While more expensive options are offered from domestic brands and can cost hundreds of dollars. We tested light pods from either end of the price spectrum and the findings were fairly conclusive. Although the price disparity seems somewhat extreme, we found that it was not without reason.

fj-cruiser-off-road

We examined cheap and expensive lights in the following categories:

Light Output

When we tested the cheaper LED light pods, we found that the light output was really lacking. Despite the fact that some of the cheaper brands claim their light pods are “extra bright”, we found that they barely outperform factory headlights.

On the other hand, light output with the expensive LED pod lights was really impressive. Following installation, they immediately improved visibility while driving at night. It is clear that the more expensive brands make use of more powerful and responsive LEDs in their light pods.

Build Quality

Build quality is where the difference between the light pods really stood out the most. While some of the cheaper light pods look great, you can really notice the quality disparity when you inspect them closely.

Many of these cheaper light pods are not weather sealed and the components actually feel somewhat loose. While this would probably not be an issue if you strictly drove on smoothly paved roads, it is unlikely that they would be able to withstand the shock and vibration of off-road driving.

On the other hand, the more expensive LED lights have a really solid feel. The superior electrical circuits and wiring is noticeable right away. The LEDs were also housed in more durable materials, which means they are far more protected than the LEDs in the cheaper pods. The fact that the more expensive brands are usually accompanied by a US-based warranty is also reassuring.

Installation

We found that some of the cheaper light pods were lacking some of the required brackets and wiring harnesses for installation. This makes everything far more difficult than it needs to be. With the more expensive options, you get everything you need in one convenient package, which makes installation much quicker and far less frustrating.

The brackets and installation hardware also felt far more secure with the more expensive light pods, which is important for any piece of off-road equipment.

Extras

Almost all of the expensive LED light pods featured useful extras, like scratch-resistant coatings and clearly-stated waterproof ratings. While the cheaper brands work, they are far less suited for the rugged nature of off-road driving.

We also found that the more expensive brands featured a more desirable beam pattern and the light they produced was much better in terms of color quality. When you are looking to improve your vehicle’s lighting options, you need to pay attention to more than just the brightness of the lights. Some LED pod lights create more of a spotlight effect, rather than casting a dispersed and wide light pattern, which means they are less practical for tackling off-road trails at night.

Overall Findings and Recommendations

In simple terms, when it comes to LED light pods, you get what you pay for. The more expensive options outperformed the cheaper lights and certainly felt more durable. You should always be skeptical if a brand promises incredible performance, but their products have discount prices.

With that being said, there are some issues relating to over-pricing with off-road lights. In some cases, you are paying extra just for brand recognition. Ideally, you would find a LED light pod manufacturer that offers a high-quality product at a reasonable price.

You need to find that perfect balance between performance and affordability. You want to pay for quality, rather than branding and false promises. Luckily, we have done the tests and found that the following LED light pods offer outstanding performance, without being overly expensive:

1. Baja Designs – LED Squadron Sport Light Pod Pair

baja designs 557805 led squadron sport light pod pair

The Squadron Sport LED light pods each use four Cree XP-G2 LEDs, which means, despite their compact size, they product an incredible amount of light. They have a solid construction and are backed by a lifetime warranty from Baja Designs, so you know you are purchasing a set of light pods that will actually last.

Top Pick
Baja Designs LED Squadron Sport POD Light Pair
  • Exceeds MIL-STD810G (Mil-Spec Testing)
  • uService - Replaceable Lenses And Optics
  • Lumens: 1,800 Utilizing 4 LEDs (Per Light) at 20W / 1.4A
  • Fit type: Universal
Learn More

2. Auxbeam – 3″ LED Off-Road Light Pod Kit

auxbeam 3 inch led off road light pod kit

In terms of price, these Auxbeam light pods are considered a mid-range product, but they still have many of the same features you would expect from the more expensive options. They have a waterproof rating of IP67, a dustproof seal, dual reflectors for adaptable lighting, built-in cooling fins, a high-grade aluminum casing, and each pod contains four high-energy LEDs for outstanding brightness.

Top Budget Pick
Auxbeam 3 Inch LED Pod Light
  • Includes DT Wiring Harness Kit
  • Self molding rubber seal, perfectly matching the rigid PC frame & PC cover
  • 5W*4pcs LED high-energy chips
  • Compact design with cooling fin for efficient heat dissipation. aluminum alloy heat sink maximizes surface area for optimal cooling
  • 1-year replacement warranty
Learn More

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for high-end pod light or are in budget mode, you’ll get good use of both options. If you can afford it I would recommend going with a high quality set of lights like the Baja Designs. Not everyone is going to be in that position and in that case go with the mid-rage Auxbeam LED Pods. You won’t go wrong and you can upgrade when you’re ready.

Either way you have the lighting you need when you traveling more technical terrain in low light situations and your rig will look awesome as well.


James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.