The off-road light industry has really exploded in the past few years, largely thanks to advances in LED technology that make them affordable. With that came hundreds of brands flooding the market with near-identical looking light bars and pods in a race to the bottom in price. The overwhelming number of options can make it hard to determine which kind (and brand) of lights you actually need for your off-road rig.
Affiliate disclosure: Automoblog and its partners may be compensated when you purchase the products below.
Based on our experience, three brands stand out in terms of popularity, quality, and innovation: KC HiLites, Baja Designs, and Rigid Industries. Each has their own take and angle on things, and all three make great lights for slightly different needs. In this guide, we introduce each brand and provide an overview of their best offering for these categories:
The links below will take you straight to where you can find more information and place an order. We have personally used everything on this list and they are lights we would spend our own money on. So let’s get into the differences and which brand might be right for your needs and vehicle.
If you need a quick refresher on the importance of auxiliary and off-road lights, check out this comprehensive guide. There we cover some of the basics about cost, installation, and highlight a few brands we trust.
We also have some discount codes for you that’ll save you up to 10 percent! If you spend over $250, use coupon code VIP25 to get $25 off. If you’re spending over $400, coupon code VIP40 will get you $40 off.
Now, let’s begin.
KC HiLites: The Classic Approach
The brand that started it all, dating back to 1970 when the founder nearly missed a turn at night while camping out in rural Arizona. At the time there was no market for auxiliary lights, so he pieced together his own from some aircraft landing bulbs and homemade steel housings. These became the Daylighter series of lights that would take the off-road community and racing world by storm.
The great thing about KC is how they still make the classic Daylighters with the 100-watt halogen bulbs. However, they have also kept up with modern trends and offer them now with LEDs, plus an entire line of LED auxiliary and retrofit lights and light bars.
The standard halogen KC Daylighters are just as effective today as they were decades ago. They still have their patented steel construction and include a wiring harness with switching. Best of all, the KC Daylighters still feature those classic yellow covers.
For a bit more you can grab the Gravity LED versions for lower power consumption with roughly the same light output while still maintaining that classic look. Both versions are available in spot or spread beam patterns, in black steel or chrome finishes.
Price as of this writing: $180 to $400.
Why we like them: Designed and assembled in the USA.
While KC does have a line of traditional rectangular light bars, their specialty is to take the 6″ form factor lights that made them famous and connect them side-to-side to form a light bar ranging from three to nine lights wide, or 20″ to 57.” The photo above shows an eight-light combination.
Each pod features their Gravity LED technology and is designed to be completely modular. This way you are able to add as many light pods and different patterns as you need.
Price as of this writing: $465 to $1,600.
Why we like them: Backed by a 23-year limited warranty.
Baja Designs: Born & Bred For Racing
Baja Designs was born and built for off-road racing with a focus on quality and performance above all else (and they haven’t let up on that for over 25 years). They also lay claim to being the first company to develop a forward projecting LED light bar back in 2005. That heavy emphasis on research and innovation continues as they develop new technologies, such as their infrared and laser lighting systems.
They don’t call themselves the Scientists of Lighting without reason!
You can see their dedication to racing applications by how they offer so many of their lights with amber lenses. Amer lenses are preferred for many types of racing as they help with visibility in bad weather. Every light is still developed and manufactured in San Diego, California.
With four LEDs pumping out up to 4,900 lumens, the Squadron series auxiliary light pods can be had in just about any beam pattern and form factor you could want. They are available with everything from wide cornering beams to fog and spot patterns, as surface or flush mount, and with clear or amber lenses. There are even vehicle specific mounting kits available.
Price as of this writing: $216 to $390 per pair.
Why we like them: Waterproof, rain-proof, and submersible.
For high-speed desert running (as in 110+ mph), things start coming towards you at an incredible rate. Long-distance spotting in situations like this is crucial for giving yourself time to mitigate obstacles. With BD’s Laser series lights, they can throw light 350 percent further than standard LED lights. At 7,760 lumens focused in a tight pencil beam, these aren’t exactly the kind of thing that should be used with people in front of you.
Price as of this writing: $1,485 to $3,690 for 20″ up to 50.”
Why we like them: LED Life Expectancy: 49,930 hours. That’s over 5 years!
Rigid Industries: Innovative & Durable
These guys may be the new kids on the block compared to the other two brands on this list, but they hold no less clout with the off-road community. Their quality speaks for itself. Rigid came on the scene in 2006 and has already made a few contributions to the off-road community in terms of innovation, such as their Adapt system that we’ll get into more below.
The real story with Rigid, though, is their impeccable quality. In the ultimate show of confidence in their work, their high-end lights are covered by a lifetime warranty, while their more mid-range Radiance product line has “only” a 10-year warranty on workmanship.
That’s still better than basically anyone else on the market. You get what you pay for, and with Rigid, the price-tag and your expectations are both on the higher end.
While this isn’t the least expensive light Rigid offers, it does represent a much higher standard of quality than you would typically find for a mid-range light bar, and that 10-year warranty is unbeatable. As for the Radiance name, that comes from how these light bars have separately selectable backlighting for a unique look so others in front of you can spot who exactly is coming up behind them.
Price as of this writing: $441 w/ white backlight (other colors are available).
The Rigid Adapt system blew my mind when it was demonstrated at SEMA a few years back. It’s the first light bar system that can adjust its beam pattern on the fly at the flip of a switch. Depending on the conditions and speed you’re traveling, the lights will automatically adjust between a wide beam pattern and a tighter beam for higher speeds.
It also measures and adapts (get it?) to your power supply, meaning it will sense if the battery is draining too fast. If this happens, the Adapt E-Series compensates by eliminating unneeded lights or dimming altogether through its Active Power Management System. Impressive stuff, eh?
Price as of this writing: $999 to $1,999 for 20″ through 50″ sizes.
Why we like them: Impressive technology but also reliable.
Off-Road Lights: Boiling It All Down
Of course, none of this is to say there aren’t other great brands out there, a line just had to be drawn in the sand somewhere, and all of these are likely to be cross-shopped with each other. However, each has a stellar reputation among the off-road community. You honestly can’t go wrong with anything on this list.