Who Pays for the $1,500 Headlight?

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Your next fender-bender could cost you thousands – and not because of the cost of unbending the fenders.

The price of headlights is skyrocketing – because they are no longer just headlights. They are headlight systems, many of them with dozens of individual LED lights – each of them costing more than a single sealed beam halogen headlight – all of them mounted in an ornate, fragile and rapidly yellowing plastic housing.

They are not merely plugged in. They are tied-in. To sensors and computers.

Some of them to GPS.

The latest systems – such as those found in higher-end cars like Audis, Porsches and BMWs – can set you back $1,500 or more for the pair.


And it’s not just Porsches, BMWs and Audis. Fords and Chevys are getting similar systems. You can’t get a new car without one of these systems, more or less elaborate.

What do you get for your money?

Well, you no longer have to remember to pull back on a steering wheel stalk to dim your high beams – that onerous chore of the medieval era. Like having to apply the brakes in an emergency – or keep the car in its lane.

The headlight system will dim the brights automatically. But often more clumsily – and not as quickly as quickly as an attentive human driver.

Who has “sensors” superior in range, nuance and interpretive powers to those built into a headlight. A thinking brain that can assess, process and respond correctly to the almost infinitely variable conditions one finds out in the world – as opposed to programmed software that mindlessly reacts according to limited parameters.

It’s why the brights sometimes blind before they finally dim. Or they don’t come on when they should. Or they toggle spastically in between.

Very much of a piece with emergency brake “assistance” that comes on when there is no emergency – and Lane Keep “assist” that tries to force you back into your lane when you’re trying to make a turn.


Another thing you get is “selective” and “dynamic” illumination. Some of the LEDs go bright; others do not. The computer deciding which – and when. In some of the very latest systems, the light can be sliced. Some of the LEDs individually focus on a specific part of the road – or to spotlight something in the road, such as a deer.

GPS-enabled headlight systems don’t just turn with the car, they anticipate the turn. The headlights know where you’re headed before you get there.

It’s all very elaborate.

Which is why it’s all so expensive.

It’s also why cars have become so disposable.

And so soon.

A $30,000 new car with $1,500 headlights eventually becomes a $10,000 used car   . . . with $1,500 headlights. After another few years, it will be a $3,500 used car  . . . with $1,500 headlights.

It makes perfect sense to spend $25 on a replacement sealed beam headlight (which never yellow) for a $1,500 used car. You throw away the $3,000 car that needs $1,500 headlights.

It’s true, of course, that the price of headlights – of the electronics – and of the plastics – will come down over time. Kind of like the cost of electric car batteries. The problem – assuming you dislike being broke or in debt all the time – is that they will probably never come down enough.

In the case of these headlight systems, it’s not just the electronics. It’s also the specificity. A given system – not just the parts you see – is increasingly specific to that specific make/model and even year of car. Which may only be made for three or four years before a new car replaces it. And its headlight system is superseded by a new system. With different electronics as well as plastics.

Once the supply of new replacement plastics and electronics is exhausted, your options are reduced to finding used plastics and electronics – or a new car.

This accelerated disposability is reflected in the cost of insurance – and not just for new cars with $1,500 headlight systems.

Everyone else is paying more.

You may have already noticed this.

Your bill went up – even though you haven’t filed a claim – or even received a traffic ticket. It is because the cost of repairing – and replacing – new cars is increasing. And that cost is being spread out. You may not own a new car, but you’re helping to pay for one – even if you haven’t damaged one.

Because more and more people are driving haltingly expensive-to-fix new cars  . . . and not-worth-fixing not-so-new cars.

It’s interesting to note that cars with $1,500 headlights – and eight air bags, while we’re at it – probably couldn’t be sold if the people buying them had to bear the full potential cost of repairing – and prematurely replacing – them.

But because the car insurance business is a loathsome mafia whose “services” one cannot refuse, the escalating cost-to-fix and cost-to-throw away of new cars is distributed to everyone, very much in the manner of health insurance you’re also not allowed to refuse. The young and healthy – who incur few if any costs themselves – are forced to pay the costs imposed by the old and not-healthy.

What ought to happen is that people who buy cars with GPS-enabled “dynamic” headlight systems – and eight air bags and emergency braking “assist,” et al – pay full freight for their car. Both to buy it and to replace when it’s no longer worth fixing.

This might re-instill some common sense in a business that seems to believe cost is no object. Which, of course, it isn’t.

So long as others can be forced to “help” pay the bill.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. My main beef with modern automobiles is the impossibility to customize it. Want heated mirrors? Buy them and install them but they do not work because the BCM (Body Control Module) doesn’t know they are there, they will not work. Want DVD players in the front headrest to entertain children. No installed seat heater system, no 12 volts under the seat. The wiring is there and you can buy the switches for the high off low settings but since the BCM isn’t configured for heated seats they will not work. Automatic headlights that come on at dusk and turn off after the engine is killed? Install the sensors for it but again, it will not work unless the BCM is programmed to acknowledge their existence. Of course, this is all to drive Stealership profits. My son had a key fob for his 2005 Dodge Challenger SRT 8 go bad. He can still run the car but has to remove the “Push To Start” cover so he can insert the fob and crank it. He was told by the Stealership the dash module was bad. So what did he do? He ordered new key fobs and a dash control module directly from MOPAR. The Stealership refused to install and program them not because they weren’t OEM MOPAR but merely because he did NOT buy them from them! My son now has parts that cost him a few bills but is being held hostage to the Stealership. My personal opinion is if the dash module was bad he could not crank and run his car. The Stealership is blowing smoke up his ass to sell super marked up Dealer parts.

    I have a 2017 Nissan Quest Van. It has a Proximity Key “Push To Start” system. The SV unit does not come with heated mirrors. This is an option that my 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab came with in the SLT trim. The mirrors even from an after market supplier is around 300 bucks but they are useless unless the dealer programs the BCM to test their presence. Suffice to say that I will not be buying heated mirrors. I did buy DVD headrest for the van but found out I’d have to remove the seats and floor carpet and run a 12v positive feed wire from the engine compartment to the seating area. Now I am stuck with a 200 dollar entertainment system I can’t use all because Nissan decided to use the BCM to control every F’n thing in the van! I need the van to transport my two Great Grandsons. But I will never buy another newer vehicle again. I will use my 2005 Dodge Ram until the body rusts out. Since I am 67 that should last me until I die! LOL!

    • For Pete’s sake bring back the sealed beam already, or maybe graft some gorilla glass in the center of those plastic travesties, why in hell do I have to pay to be able to see my headlights on.I am alright with plastic fenders( because of the tons of salt spread on the road when it clouds up around freezing, not the freakin headlights)

  2. Hi Eric,

    To be fair, these expensive headlights have their uses. I recently totaled my Avalon when I was driving at night and a wild pig ran in front of my car. Another tenth of a second in reaction time, I’d have missed it as I swerved. Happened just after I dimmed my high beams, which weren’t that bright to begin with, for an oncoming car, leaving the landscape even more poorly illuminated.

    Got my wife a used Lexus RX as a replacement. Sucker has self “dimming” headlights that light up huge swathes of both the road and the shoulder. Great for pig and deer country like the part of Texas I live in. And the rear collision safety thing this morning beeped at me for a car I didn’t see coming at all.

    The only “safety” feature on this car I loathe is the fn Lane Keep thing, also known as the “drunks and people falling asleep Assist” feature. Fortunately, you can turn it off and it stays off when you restart the car.

    I totally agree with you about compulsory insurance of any sort. But, unlike health insurance, car insurance doesn’t result in someone driving a Honda Civic having to subsidize my Lexus RX, because the car insurance actuaries rate my individual risk. They’re not planning on statistically losing money on average for my risk because someone else was forced to buy insurance they didn’t want. Everyone pays.

    • Well, someone driving a Civic does actually subsidize the other person driving a Lexus RX… to a degree. If everyone driving a civic gets in an accident, the cost to fix the civic might be $2000. If you bang up in a Lexus RX, it costs $5000, all hypothetical of course. The more people driving those expensive to repair cars are driving up the liability costs for everyone. Everyone still pays. Anytime the new safety equipment breaks it’s a big cost to fix, whereas the old cars, it was just a bit of bent metal. In addition, accident and fatality rates in 2014-18 actually rose. Accidents have risen far faster than fatalities. Some of that has to do with phone use, but no one has categorized the level of driver distraction that touchscreens and limited outward visibility has cost drivers. It’s a mess.

      • My understanding is that a large car insurance company will have a big enough customer base that their actuaries will rate Civic versus Lexus drivers separately, based on the actual average claims cost and frequency for each car and age cohort. They will try to make the roughly the same percentage profit on each car insured — unless the government steps in and tells them how to do their rating, as has happened with health insurance.

  3. There is a new NHTSA “rule” about to be promulgated, that headlights are on “high beams” all of the time, and only automatically revert to “low beams” when oncoming traffic is noted.
    Not a good idea.
    Where do they get these ideas from?

    • It’s a terrible idea. I remember talking with some transportation engineer from the FHWA at a “Dark Sky” conference about high beams. They stated that they felt people weren’t using their high beams enough. So, instead of educating drivers on when and how to dim lights, NHTSA comes up wit this nonsense. In the meantime, the requirements for upward beam scatter on DOT headlights causes people to look away from traffic. NHTSA has become a putrid mess. I wish that Trump or someone would just defang and drop that agency in the mud.

      • My best friend was bad about not using his brights. Seemed like everywhere we went was replete with deer and hogs and livestock but he’d drive along on dim till I said “Brights”. Drove me crazy and I had better vision than he did.

        • Back in the Day the DOT wouldn’t even let us put “cibies” in our empty sockets, these new blue lights should be toned down a bit.

      • Disband and drop would be my vote. Not sure where the Feds are granted the privilege to regulating highway “safety”, whatever that is.

  4. Quick question, why are the headlight enclosures always made of plastic now days instead of glass? To me, the glass makes so much more sense as it won’t react to sunlight and get foggy and it is more easily cleanable when it comes to getting the bugs off. I just don’t see any upside to the plastic at all. Both are cheap form a manufacturing perspective and both can be made into all sorts of shapes and both can be sealed quite easily to be water-tight- where necessary.

  5. While we’re talking headlights, I wanted to vent on current headlight designs. What is up with the new F-250 (& up) headlights that look like low & high beams all the time? I ride in an actual car, so those things shine right in your eyes & look like the truck driver has his high beams on. It used to be easy to tell which idiot had his high beams on at any time so you could light him up to shame him. Not so any more – so many cars have such weird headlight layouts (looking at you, current Jeep Cherokee) that it’s hard to tell if they’re running DRL or actual headlights.


    • As long as I can remember I could tell a Ford pickup a couple miles away because of the driver’s side headlamp and not just the F 250 but all of them. I’m sure they could have been adjusted but the owners didn’t care(I have a brand new pickup, go fuck yourself)seemed to be their attitude. It’s one of the reasons I detest a single headlight too. Break either light and the other still works. Beats hell out of a one-eyed vehicle.

      I prefer the plastic for not being broken so easily. I was working at a plant with a mile plus long entrance when they retopped it. Gravel over tar. That shit stayed so sticky I ended up breaking all 4 headlamps and both mirrors. It was a 4WD with oversize tires and wheels. Sling that gravel out in front and then catch it with the pickup. I even had that happen on that same type asphalt(hate it)with the wife’s car. I’d have a Lexan windshield if I could afford one. I had a thick Lexan racing fairing and it absorbed some huge hits and it didn’t scratch unless you laid it over.

  6. I recently had to replace a headlamp bulb in my 2010 Kia Forte. $20, which apparently was a bargain price. But the moron who designed the vehicle placed the filler pipe for the windshield washer fluid in the way of the bulb socket housing. A local mechanic wouldn’t touch it. My nimble fingered brother managed to squeeze his fingers around the tube and slip the bulb in. Beat having to follow the instructions on youtube and take the fender off. I used to own a 1985 Nova (Toyota). It would burn a headlamp every time I signaled to an oncoming driver the presence of a police speed trap. A virtuous habit I had to give up. Those lamps cost about $5 each. One screwdriver and a few minutes and even I could replace them. As I recall there were only about 6 stock numbers for headlamps in the whole store and they were sold by position on the car, rather than make, model or year. My old 1967 Rambler American got only 10 miles per gallon. But I could replace five of the six spark plugs. My brother with a fancy socket had to get the other one.

  7. I think it all boils down to the corporate mindset today. Henry Ford wanted his employees to be able to afford his cars, so he made them as cheaply as he could. He was most interested in expanding his market. In contrast, today automakers want to maximize their profit (return to shareholders). The best way to do that is to design their cars to last just long enough to not require a warranty repair and then become worthless so that the customer has to buy another.

    The only fix would be free competition, but the existing companies make sure that won’t happen because of the regulations they help create. Even better competition than allowing upstart foreign companies to make cheaper cars would be to enable people to make their own cars without all the red tape. Corporate-government collusion is the enemy of mankind.

  8. A depressing thought occurs as I read your article on headlights. Cars are getting just like computers. Pre- loaded with useless, expensive software you don’t really want. Or understand. All added into the original price. And if your computer crashes (they will do that) then you often must re-purchase it (or the latest upgrade sine the older stuff isn’t for sale or replacement any longer) at a hefty cost. You have to look high and low to find a plain vanilla computer with minimal “included” stuff designed to make you upgrade constantly. Just like finding that replacement headlight for $75. Not to be found.

    This is the world we now live in. For the kids, this is normal. For older adults, this is a ripoff. Guess who’s become the New Target Market?

    • “Pre- loaded with useless, expensive software you don’t really want.” To avoid, as I just did, find a good independent computer tech who custom builds computers, problem solved – no bloatware.

      • Turned my laptop off one day and it was fine. The next morning it had lost enough software in the OS to not work. I’m considering one of those “New PC” thumb drives that starts it in Linux.

      • “To avoid, as I just did, find a good independent computer tech who custom builds computers, problem solved – no bloatware.”

        Or better yet, do like I did and learn how to build one yourself and cut out the middle-man altogether. It’s actually easier than you may think. The best part is you only need to purchase and upgrade the necessary components as opposed to replacing the entire unit. No warranties to void, either (unless you attempt “modding” the individual components, of course). Oh, and you can customize it with accessories such as graphics, LED strips, etc.

        Now if only late-model cars were like that…

      • ha! I build computers. Unless you can find a clean version of Windows 7 ultimate, you’re still screwed because there is no way to keep windows 10 from upgrading as they put hundreds of little trojans in the software to phone home to microsoft if you haven’t updated in a while, thus forcing an update. Windows 10 updates will eventually fry your ability to get anything done on your machine, whether you own an $8000 alienware or a $300 hp. In many ways, I think the computer market is more corrupt than the car market. At least I can build my computer, and if I’m really dedicated, I can build a hackintosh or put linux on it. The problem is the gaming. If you’re a gamer, you’re still screwed because you need windows 10 now days for most of the latest games and – beyond that – you now have to use steam and you cannot own physical copies of your games anymore because they don’t make them anymore. I would gladly pay three times the going rate for physical copies of my games (a real market demand) instead of buying them on steam, but for some reason that is never an option anymore unless your idea of a game is some useless mcafee antivirus disc. The computer stores ALWAYS seem to have physical copies of those still in the geriatric software section.

          • One possible option as long as you’re not dependent on anything that absolutely requires Windows:


            However as a practical matter, as long as up-to-date web browsers and antivirus are available for Windows 7 you should be OK. If you’ve been using Microsoft’s free antivirus you’ll need to find a replacement for that, and avoid using Internet Explorer which is what the majority of security updates are for in the first place.

            • LINUX is a better choice, does not get viruses and is available for FREE. For first-time LINUX users, I recommend LINUX Mint. It is easy to install, updates are painless, and the interface is very windows-like without the “fluff”. If you have an older slow machine laying around, LINUX is the perfect operating system as it will work on just about anything and will give you decent performance.

              • I have LXLE, which is an Lubuntu based distro, on an ancient Dell; it’s an Inspiron E1705 that came with XP, okay? As long as I don’t run too many tabs and overload its memory, it is usable with LXLE; I can even watch a bit of YouTube on it. I ran a few different distros on that old Dell of mine, and LXLE was the best.

                I am familiar with Mint, and I thought about installing it on here. Then the problem becomes: how do I use MS Office? Whenever I have to touch base with the outside world, docs HAVE to be in MS Office, because that’s what everyone uses.

                I know, I know; you’ll tell me that Mint comes with LibreOffice. I have that on this Win 7 machine, and I do use it some. However, when you save to an MS Office format, even an older one, it doesn’t always come out right.

                I just wish MS would keep supporting the OSes; I wish that M$ wouldn’t force us to buy a new machine. Oh, and don’t get me started about how they change the UI all the time, either; I HATE THAT! It would be like Ford or Toyota changing the location of the various controls with every generation; the clutch would be where the brake is, and so on. Okay, end of rant.

                • There are other free office suites that can be explored. I don’t know if they are any more compatible with MS office.


                  One possible solution although a bit of a PITA would be to use Virtualbox or similar virtualization software to run your copy of Windows 7 in a virtual machine for the purpose of running Microsoft Office.

                  • Don’t know why everyone wouldn’t want an OS with a built-in spy hardware. Sure if I don’t use Linux and continue to use Wendurs 7 they’ll destroy it just like they have with everything else.

                    • I have read that Microsoft has backported some of the Win10-style spyware into Windows 7 (and 8). I don’t think it is nearly as deep as in Windows 10 though, which seems to have been specifically designed as spyware.

                    • Jason it started with 8. There was a big shitty when HP shipped out a big load without the spyware. They brought it back and installed it.

                      After 8.0 it was standard and had hardware built in not relying on software.

                      I detest trying to use 10 anyway. Not real thrilled with 7.

                • My experience: Windows 7 computer died. Seemed like a good time to upgrade to Win 10. New machine has a 1 terabyte solid state drive and 8 GB memory. I’ve had a computer since the beginning and this is the first one I’m impressed with. Its speed is instant and no bloatware. I’m using MS Office 2007 with it – recommendation was to not use anything newer than MS Office 2007.

                • Mark, you can use Microsoft office online to create or save your documents as word docs. It’s free if you have an account. Works right in the browser.

                  • Yeah, right! I forgot about MS Office Online. I haven’t used it yet. I always liked the idea of having a copy of the software on MY machine.

                    • I’ve read the office with Linux is dandy.

                      Think I’m ready to change to Linux. Many years ago I tried it and it sucked but generations ago OS wise.

                      I’m leary of any of the big company stuff since they can incorporate their spyware into anything they want.

                      Of course, if you use Windurs 10, it’s built right in…..yeehaw.

  9. I don’t advocate laws in place of choice, being a libertarian, but if the insurance companies can’t figure out that the price of insurance should go up as the price of the covered automobile does, then it may come down to some anti-collectivistic politician to sponsor and push through a law mandating such pricing.
    Closer to home, the price of insurance is driven up by the inexorable rise in the cost of fixing or replacing vehicles that those who can afford to buy upscale to keep up with the neighbors in the same economic class.
    I have never purchased comprehensive automobile insurance because I have never had a loan on a car that required that I do so, just in case it got totalled before it got paid for, as most cars do. The other more-common option is the car that gets traded in before the loan is retired.
    All else being the same, nothing demonstrates ignorance so glaringly as those who complain about problems that they caused and/or exacerbate.
    If you don’t want to pay a lot of money for something, don’t. If you decide to ignore common sense, quit your bitching.

    • Yeah, I think that someone driving a new car should pay the extra cost of insuring it’s “systems” We shouldn’t have to pay the cost of that. Better yet, how about getting rid of mandatory insurance? When I was in Texas years ago, there was no real enforcement mechanism for insurance or financial responsibility. Although the law wasn’t there, I purchased insurance because I wanted to protect myself. It was expensive because I was under 25, but afterwards, the price dropped and I could afford it. Insurance costs escalated once Ann Richards tied insurance to registration and car inspections. Bottom line: insurance was lower when it wasn’t effectively mandatory

      • I’m pretty sure most “economy” cars already have LED’s as standard equipment. Just like “smart” keys/push-button ignition, “infotainment” systems, turbochargers, etc. Because apparently everyone wants their Corolla to be an AMG-spec’d Benz.

        • Hi Bluegrey!

          I submit two reasons account for most of this Gadget Mania: One, cars – all cars – are essentially luxury cars now in that even the most entry-level car has AC, power windows and locks, a good stereo, probably even an LCD touchscreen. How to make them more interesting to a bored audience? Cars – all of them – are “mature” systems – with little more to do in terms of engineering meaningful (functional) improvement.

          So the lily must be gilded – with gadgets.

          Which is sad, because cars – having been perfected in their essentials – could be made much cheaper and far more efficient now. There should be $8,000 brand-new cars with AC and most power options that get 50-plus MPG. But instead we get cars that transact for $35k-plus with $500 a piece headlight systems, DI and so on.

          Which brings me to the second reason: Access to seemingly limitless credit and the general indifference to living in debt. If car loans were restricted to three or four years, as in the past, my bet is none of this insanity would exist because it wouldn’t be possible.

          But it is common because people can get a loan on a car that costs half or more their annual take-home pay (not counting insurance and so on).

          • If loans were still 3-4 years, how would that help? Aren’t prices being driven up by the increasing MANDATORY gadgets like 6-8 airbags, backup cameras, the nanny assists, and the engine tech designed to overcome the added weight that this puts in to the car? Wouldn’t prices till be too high? Wouldn’t that end the car business as we know it? Wouldn’t that eventually make it impossible to buy a car at all?

          • eric, every bad thing in the world and wrong with products can be traced back to govt. via bankers. Wonder what they could make a sell a 76 3/4 4WD Chevy for with a good profit? $7K?

    • There’s a place listed on ebay that rebuilds them for $550 each and that’s probably entirely profit driven by the prices of used/new units.

      The thing is these lamps would be rather cheap for GM to produce. Likely less than $20 each (not including tooling costs that are paid for by selling cars as a whole) easily in volume based on what I see. I am seeing a housing, a lens, reflectors, LED and the not pictured circuit board. I am rather surprised there aren’t aftermarket made-in-China replacements on ebay. I doubt there is anything fancy about the circuit and the molds are cheap enough to make over there for low volume.

      • It depends on whether they pay the rebuilders a fair wage or not.
        Such things are not rebuilt by those who just learned to flip hamburgers on their first job after getting their GED.

        • Usually these things you see online are often one man shops. The owner of the business is likely personally rebuilding your parts.

      • Hi Brent,

        I’d bet one of the reasons driving the expense is model specificity. The old sealed beam headlights were much more generic (the headlights that fit my ’76 TA fit probably two-thirds of GM’s cars from the ’70s as well as Fords and Chryslers and so on…) and the cars they were installed in weren’t fully redesigned (along with their headlight system) every 3-4 years as is common now.

        GM made millions of cars over decades that used the same headlights. That Buick is built in relatively small numbers – and gets redesigned after 3-4 years. It’s not worth building lots of headlight assemblies for these kinds of cars, so the suppy is less and the price is higher.

        • I had a Firebird 400 briefly and it used the same bulb as my K2500 did…..only it’s were mounted vertically. Same alternator and a/c compressor. The PS pump was different since the pickup was a diesel. I don’t think it was really different, just a different pulley.

        • Sealed beams were government mandated starting in the 1930s. They are mediocre at best. The USDOT wouldn’t even allow european lamps that were bolt in replacements with superior performance. US headlamps continue to be poor because of the government regulations.

          The plastic headlamp assemblies are not expensive to make. The car manufacturers wouldn’t use them if they were. The chinese knockoffs are much cheaper and still probably have a few to serveral hundred percent profit. Automakers simply gouge at the parts counter. I know how much plastic parts and plastic welding costs. These things are not expensive to make. Maybe HID had some expense but that’s about it.

          • To follow up, the taillamp lenses in my Maverick are a two shot part. For the red and clear in one lens. Metal housing/reflector, metal trim bezel. gasket. Way more expensive than modern stuff not including the circuit boards. Even tooling wise it’s pushing it. Circuit boards are going to be pretty cheap so even granting that, nahh… these things are not costly to make. People are just being gouged at the parts counter because automakers count on nobody investing in the tooling to make aftermarket parts.

            • 3D printing is a really good solution for this. If you have the old one, a cheap 3D scanner and a printer taillights and headlight housings are not hard to make. Lenses are harder. Circuit boards are easy. My 2 cents- with margins that high there is definitely incentive to compete.

              • A temporary replacement at best a fire hazard at worst. The sort of materials and machines that will make even remotely suitable housings and lenses will run you six figures.

  10. I remember the good old days when I had a front end accident with my 67 Valiant. I bought a new bulb, removed the bezel that held it in and adjusted two screws to make it level and straight. The problem though was the adjustment mechanism was bent. No problem with some shims made from scrap wire I got it to align correctly. I wouldn’t even think of trying this with the light assemblies now a days. And to think our government approved these new assemblies because they’d be more aerodynamic. The savings in fuel won’t even come close to compensating for the initial cost let alone replacement.

  11. Yep. My 2018 Buick Encore headlamp replacement was $2,050 for the pair. Broken mounting tabs required full replacement even though they both still worked. Dealer insisted as it was a lease and could not be returned with glued / repaired mounting tabs. insurance (we all) paid. Molded as a system per your article. Not happy at all. Keep up the good writing. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Ray!

      I should have added something about the cost of these things in relation to the increase in illumination they provide. Like so many aspects of modern car design, the gain is slight in meaningful terms, but the cost is enormous. Other examples include direct vs. port fuel injection and 8/9/10-speed automatic transmissions vs. four and five-speed transmissions.

      The world has gone bizarro…

  12. I want to buy a new car that cost twice what my first house cost and is worth less than half of what I paid for it within two years. I want to buy a new car that is too complicated for me to do the most basic maintenance. I want to buy a new car loaded down with “safety” items I do not want. I want to buy a new car with a $1,500.00 headlamp assembly because a $15.00 sealed beam is no longer useful. Said no one ever!

    • I loved XP and the media player included was great, this windows 10 machine seems like it loses something or screws things up everytime it “updates”.
      You have to remember people make a living creating and selling what is basically information.
      I wish to ‘%$k you could buy a new vehicle with every delete you could of if you would be soley responsible and guaranteed it would be scrapped after you choose not to register it anymore( crusher only no parting out of illegal parts) I would try to hang unto said vehicle to the end of my life( no ABS,Facebombs, traction desist or any of that basically useless stuff that people who have an idea about deriving do not really need)

      • I toasted my HP XP last year, the best laptop I ever had including a $1500 HP Vista(sucked) back in 07 that wouldn’t fit in a 19″ bag, had to get a larger bag even though it was called a 19″. The XP had a great sound system and would rock out. I spilled a glass of water in the keyboard and watched it die. A tear ran down my cheek, especially since my finger was in the bottle of ice cold water with the worst burn I’ve had in my life.

        • Replacement keyboards are available for many laptops, even older ones. It can be tricky taking apart a laptop (many tiny screws) but it can be done. As a matter of fact, I am waiting on a replacement keyboard for my computer having spilled a soda on the keyboard.

          • I have tried to fix keyboards to no good results. Bought one last year for $20, a Logitech wireless for $20. Couldn’t be happier and I didn’t waste two days trying to fix it. Sorry to say that’s the way it is. Just plastic everything and when it fucks up, chunk it and get another. I recycle everything even though Trump fucked with China to the point they aren’t taking plastic or glass nor anything else(what goes around you know). I just throw it it in the burn barrel. Back to where it belongs. I’ll have a new oil well someday(ha ha). I might have a new knee or hip if Medicare makes it another month. Yeoww, that hurt.

            • “I have tried to fix keyboards to no good results. Bought one last year for $20, a Logitech wireless for $20.”

              Many years ago I worked at a company with lots of identical little office cubicles with identical computer stations. Sitting in the mangers office on a staff off, Friday afternoon drinking scotch with the manger (I LOVED the 90’s), three polo shirt dudes came in and started cleaning the keyboards and mice.

              I had never seen this before and was curious so I asked the manager about it. He said they had a cleaning contract with this company. Bit more digging and I found out he was paying about $20/month/workstation for a cleaning service. They vacuumed the KB and wiped down the mouse.

              Laughed and handed him the London Drugs flyer I had been browsing when he was in the John. -Keyboard and mouse combo, $14.99

              • I bought this keyboard because of it’s size and features and the keys have a good feel. I keep it put up because of cats but last night I watched some YT’s I wanted to see on the tv and didn’t put the keyboard up till I went to bed. Some cat had shit in it but a wet rag and all’s well.

                I had a Logitech cordless/rechargeable mouse that lasted 7 years. Quit a feat in this house. It had so many buttons I was spoiled without it. Got used to moving my thumb forward and backward on the side key for forward and backward page. A lot of things I could do with it with a click of a button. It took a long time to get used to not having it. I haven’t checked in years but they got read proud of those mice for a long time. I can’t see paying over $100 for a mouse.

  13. It is highly likely that in about 15 years this country will be broken up into different areas. The US of today will cease to exist. I will simply move to the caveman section and live a simple life. I want no part of the idiots running the current freak show. Smash your entire front end, even just a little and your silly safe car will be toast. Never mind, the Marxist government will buy you a new one, just as the politicians have promised. In my state, Michigan, I am hearing of some new changes to auto insurance coming in 2020. I wonder what these bozos are going to fix this time?

    • This country is already broken up into 50 different pieces.
      If We the People hadn’t been so uninvolved and complacent, Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t appear as precient as he was when he wrote that “(t)he spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may become persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right, on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest, ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will be heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”

  14. As usual, people just can’t get enough of this techno-crap. Their eyes spin and the propeller on their beanies turn furiously whenever they see more and more gadgets.

    This is the glory and the dark side of capitalism: great material production and wealth while the person who wants something other than the mainstream gets crushed like a bug under hobnail boots.

    • Hi Ross,

      Amen. And is it worth it? I mean, in terms of the increase in illumination vs. the increase in price? Maybe it’s just me, but I can see where I am headed perfectly well in my ’70s-era muscle car with the sealed beam halogens on low. These cost $25 or so each and they never yellow.

  15. Everything is getting more expensive. You would be surprised to learn that certain windshields that have the new radar technology are really expensive, Heck the dealerships even try to sell windshield insurance costing thousands of dollars.

  16. “Who Pays for the $1,500 Headlight?”

    Not me, ’cause I don’t plan on purchasing a new car anytime soon, if ever. But then again, like you said, I may be inadvertently paying for someone else’s via increased insurance costs. Ahhh…socialism. Isn’t it wonderful?

  17. I was just thinking about the story of the engineer who said that the best safety device would be a sharp knife mounted to the steering wheel, pointed at the driver’s heart. We’re pretty much there now with all the airbags and non-standard parts. Except the knife is pointed at our wallets.

    • The Blazer I am driving now was $1000 Canadian Pesos. 3″ stack of maintenance receipts from new, good windshield, no rust, strong engine. Driver seat seam split, AC not working were the only defects.

      3 years in and I have had to clean the crud from the EGR valve and do the front brakes. That is it for repairs.

      I know people who spend more per month on their financed 2018 vehicle. Their (uber)truck is exceptionally nice and mine is basically a mom car. But I’ll keep the extra $85k+financing, thanks. God knows what it will cost them to keep it running as long as my 25yo beater.

      • They won’t. No way a new one will ever go that long. I’ll never know for sure but I’m a betting man and I’d bet on it. You might be hard-pressed to collect though.

        • Yeah. They won’t keep it past the warranty anyway. They will shell out another $25k (financed) in 4 years to get the latest new model with he newest techno-do-dads.

          In my 50+ years I think I have spent about $50k on vehicles. I know people who have never had a single vehicle that cost less than that. Usually financed, so 1.5x that amount.

          Guess I should be grateful that someone takes the massive depreciation hit on my future vehicles.

    • I can remember buying a car that ran( or pickup) for $100( stop the World I want to get off) this old “Zorro” knows why people join monasteries and try to avoid being with the(hive mentality-mob).
      Capitol Hill ain’t what she used to be.

      • Mid-1980s I traded $350 worth of logs for a 20 year old Chevy pickup. Drove it for about eight years and sold it for $550 (which was a dumb thing to do – I should have just kept it forever!).

        • You’d take a Chevy forever, you’d want to cross that river, you’d drive it through the night…….me too. I got rid of some Chevy pickups because we got mandatory insurance when my then insurance would have covered all of them. They knew I could drive all of them simultaneously. I did have other drivers at times but very rarely.

          When I left for my first job in one pickup, the least worked but most driven, I didn’t know the wife would replace the water pump on the workhorse and I’d come home to her hauling rocks and the other pickup being used by a friend hauling fines for the driveway. It wasn’t a deal when insurance knew all our vehicles and each one wasn’t mandatorily insured as if it were the only one.

          The US is an oligarchy….period. We are surfs and nothing else. When you or I are billionaires, we can forget about the discrepancies. Till then, we are fodder for TPTB.

          • That 1965 short bed stepside would be worth a small fortune today even in rough shape. Six banger 230 and SM420 four speed, it was tough and would go almost anywhere even only 2wd. No radio or PS or PB; I think the 4 speed was the only option. Oh, plus the cantilever “half-leaf” overload springs.

            I had gotten sick and we were living in town and I was going back to school, so I got this crazy idea that I shouldn’t be keeping up two vehicles. Little Green would have been a great vehicle for our twins to start learning to drive with a few years later.

  18. These $1500 headlamps are assuredly with a HUGE amount of markup at the manufacturer and parts counter. At least 4X maybe even 8X or 10X.

    Most if not all states will not require these headlamps be replaced with OEM. Chinese knockoffs will do just as well and they will be much more reasonable. Also there is nothing to stop the creative person from making up some headlight buckets and putting in a sealed beam system.

  19. All along in my night drive from central Wisconsin to the southeast I bitched to my wife about the oncoming headlamps. I told her about the great strides made in casting the steel molds for headlamp diffusers and Glass city, Ohio and just how terrible her plastic covered lights are. I turned on the brights to illuminate raccoons in the upper branches but dimmed them for oncoming traffic that were not at all so thoughtful.
    The single lights on my ’53-’64 Studebakers were far better than this.
    Even a stock Lucas headlamp is better than the junk of the past years. A replacement JC Whitney bulb mad the TR6 fairly safe from bounding deer that I just missed this past weekend.

      • You all know how it is when driving bored and tired, you come up with something stupid to talk to your wife companion about.
        my deal was to tell her about my good friend that we both went to Florida to find fortune or whatever.
        He had a 427 Corvette that he puked the engine on and my brother replaced it with an ok 350. It was nothing special any more but it di have a feature that was tough to beat.
        The standard lights were standard but he replaced the brights with aircraft landing lights. He even had a switch to shut down everything that could deny the amperage to the brights. You have never seen anything of the sort of good illumination for the next mile or more.
        I got pulled over in North Florida for that but had turned them off and hit the switch to restore the regular running lights. That was somewhat before the days of Hut-Hut, so we went on our less bright way.

        • Speaking of wives, I made a crack about the oldsters that ride in the short bus and now my wife wants one. I don’t know how to shop for a well used nitwit trip thang but the new ones are not cheap.
          May we start a side thread on good deals on short buses?

          • You bastids laugh at me about bus transport. I bought a long bus that held six well secured motorcycles and full seating for all. My wife insisted that i put in seatbelts for my daughters and herself and perhaps myself although I was driving for that leg. The funny thing about that other than the danger from cattails exploding and crippling the eyesight of the driver on the way back was that that 350 went from nasty vibration at 68 and became docile at 72. That pig had a crossbolt main bottom that was the hot setup for short trackers. I let it slip away without giving it a second chance for glory.

            • “You bastids laugh at me about bus transport.”

              No, we’re laughing at the in depth conversation you are having with yourself.

        • I had a truck with airplane landing lights hung from the bottom of the bumper. They were so bright I only used them when there was no traffic in sight. One night traveling S on 36 about 10 miles N or Sealy, Tx. There was a vehicle coming at me with it’s brights on. They were bad too, worse than usual. Being 3 am and I’m not in a mood to be blinded I flashed my brights….nothing. So we’re getting close enough now they’re really eating me up and I flashed my brights for a longer time. Nada, nothing doing. Then I turned on those airplane landing lights and the B&W DPS car appeared to be knocked backward. Damned if he didn’t dim his lights as I turned those bad lights off. He kept on rolling and I did too. I guess he was tired and didn’t want to get the ass-chewing of his life or had a hot date. Either way those lights were great…..when nothing else was on the road. Even with all my headlights off, they sucked on that alternator to the point my external speaker had a squeal going I could never get rid of.

          • That is why the youngsters are getting light bars with high-power LED arrays all the way across, that draw a handful of amps.

  20. Spent around $100 for quality LED replacements (headlights, foglight, interior, etc.) on a new (leased) vehicle.

    Cheap enough they’ll be left on the vehicle when turned in.

    Major improvement for a minor price.

    Don’t miss the old sealed beams, though…I was replacing those every couple of years, versus halogen bulbs which last 10+ years.

    • I’ve still got the same 9 foot CB whip on the current van as was on the last van when it became uneconomic to keep. I’ve been living in the current van for 10 years (it just turned 300,000 on the odometer) and lived in the last van for 14 years. Nothing of endurance gets left in my vehicles because they go to the crusher. I haven’t had to replace a headlight on the current one yet.

  21. Great points.

    From an aesthetic standpoint, bespoke headlight assemblies have not made cars prettier. I prefer the simplicity of the round sealed beams. There’s too much emphasis placed on rim and headlight designs. It’s probably because those are the only areas stylists have the most freedom in.

  22. Eric – the irony of this all – here in the UK, what happens is that if you have a car with all this box ticking safety crap, the insurance company assumes its “safe” and reduces your insurance group, making the person who has its insurance CHEAPER (or in other words everyone else insurance more expensive)!!!! The anomaly was spotted a couple years ago with the golf GTI vs the normal golf. Because the GTI came with all the safety assists as standard- somehow the insurance was LESS than for some of the normal (cheaper and less powerful) golfs… can recall Clarkson even had a bit on it some time back…

    The world has absolutely gone mad….

  23. the second car pictured in your post reminds me of “KITT,” the talking, computerized, nearly indestructible black Firebird in the old TV series, “Knight Rider.”

    That Pontiac may not have sported the Screaming Thunder Chicken decal on its hood……but it was one mean MoFo! 🙂

  24. Headlamps reached their nadir with the European E-Code H4’s. Cibies and Hellas, lead crystal molded glass lenses, stainless steel reflectors, standardized replaceable pre-indexed bulbs. ~$50 per lamp housing, ~$10 per bulb to replace. Available in round (2 and 4 lamp) and rectangular (2 and 4 lamp). Beautiful light patterns, more than sufficient illumination for all but the Carrera Panamericana! What was so terrible about them that we had to have these “aero” plastic monstrosities foisted upon our poor wallets? I despise those idiotic plastic lenses that, as you point out Eric, get cataracts when they hit ~6 years old, and must be either “refinished” every 2-3 years, or replaced. If it was aerodynamics (I know it wasn’t, but to destroy that straw man…), then see the solution Jaguar came up with for the Series I E-Type. Elegant, used standard round lamp holders, and aerydynamic as hell.

  25. “$3,000 car that needs $1,500 headlights”

    You know some redneck is going to graft a couple spotlights onto the fenders with duct tape 🙂

  26. “The young and healthy – who incur few if any costs themselves – are forced to pay the costs imposed by the old and not-healthy.”

    It’s a terrible thing to get old in America. You’re blamed for everything from Climate Change to cost of insurance. (lol) Of course everyone gets to get old so eventually what goes around will come around. So far every accident I have been in has been a under 30 tapping and swiping their Ithingy or driving defective vehicles.

    “A thinking brain that can assess, process and respond correctly to the almost infinitely variable conditions one finds out in the world”

    Watching the news last couple of days makes me think thinking brains in America are a in danger of extinction.

    • Hi Ken,

      I’m not a youf anymore – and my left shoulder constantly aches. But I will not use force (or have others use force on my behalf) to “help” me with my issues. Not necessarily for noble reasons but for selfish ones. If I can use force against others to make them “help” me, then I have no moral right to complain when they use force against me.

      PS: My dad and grandfather were doctors. Medical care is unaffordable because of insurance – not doctors.

      • Eric….
        Went back and re-read the article which I apparently misread the first time. I was thinking Insurance costs while you wrote health costs. Happens when your speed reading. I don’t normally do that but was late for a bike run this am. I agree with you,,, O-care is an abomination and another failed promise from Orange Man to change/eliminate it ————— so I sincerely apologize for the misread.

        The second half of my post was related to the disgusting way our country is acting in the middle east.

        Otherwise your article was dead on as I have now had to replace headlights in my Buick due to yellowing. Not as bad as $1500 but a $100 for each set on Ebay. Still $200 is far worse than $50 for the ‘standard’ halogen headlights of yesteryear.

        • “The second half of my post was related to the disgusting way our country is acting in the middle east.”

          You got that right. I hope trump gets ass cancer.

          • Trump is doing exactly what would be expected of a narcissistic megalomaniac who filled his cabinet with warmonger neo-cons.
            If we are very lucky, he will not start WW3 the same way that WW1 was started.
            I highly recommend the current content of Lew Rockwell’s excellent website for worthwhile education and analysis on Don Donald.

      • eric, why not try a chiropractor? They’re generally not expensive if you won’t go for their x-rays. Personally, I’d buy a TENS unit and they’re cheap these days. I go through batteries like crazy at time(they used to be 9Volt jobs and not rechargeable)but it’s worth it. Not only does it stimulate blood flow, it makes the muscles stronger. I’m considering using mine right now for my shoulder that didn’t get an operation, the only way to fly…….if you have company insurance. I could have afforded to pay for it outright then as opposed to insurance that would cover it now. That probably makes no sense. I can’t help it. My tinnitus is driving me crazy plus there’s some fine smoke in the air and my eyes are screwed.

    • To paraphrase a famous song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel, it’s not every “boomer” that was the problem. In fact, many of us boomers struggled through life, but finally “made it”.

      I am a “boomer” who has worked all my life, starting at 12 years of age. Being one of 8 children, life for my parents and us was not easy, but we all persevered in our own ways and were successful in life.

      Nobody ever gave me anything. What I did was gained “with the sweat of my brow”.

      If there is any “blame” to be placed, it must be placed at those of previous generations, especially the “greatest generation”, that formulated and passed many of the destructive laws and customs that we live under to this day.

      From the enactment of the federal income tax and the creation of the unconstitutional Federal Reserve cartel, previous generations have a lot to answer for.

      The “greatest generation” was duped into fighting a war for European (zionist) interests, destroying much of European culture as a result, and solidifying international zionist power by NOT going after the REAL enemies of human culture, legitimizing the state of Israel, thereby consolidating zionist power, and assuring the zionist hold on the world political process.

      Let’s not forget that the “greatest generation” pushed for the terribly misguided “civil-rights” acts, statutes and laws, which effectively disenfranchised whites (but only whites) with the abolition of “freedom of association” (but only for whites).

      In fact, federal troops were used against law-abiding whites in violation of “posse commitatus” laws which prohibit utilizing the military for domestic law enforcement purposes. Whites have been effectively neutered since these laws were passed.

      Forced integration of schools (cross-district busing and other schemes) was enforced by leftist judges who insisted that blacks needed to sit next to whites in order to learn.

      The “elephant in the room” to which blame can be squarely put on the “greatest generation” was the “Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965. This act successfully cut off the immigration for white Europeans while opening up the floodgates for third-world brown and black immigration.

      Both major political parties were responsible for this travesty. Democrats saw increasing third-world immigration as a source for votes while the Republicans saw it as a source of cheap labor.

      The wages of native-born Americans have not increased in real terms since 1970, that point in time being seen as the “high-water mark” in relation to wage growth. There has not been any “wage growth” since then.

      All of the above can be attributed to those of the “greatest generation”…NOT “boomers”. We were too young to be politically active. We bore the brunt of the decisions and laws enacted by those of the “greatest generation”.

      To those of the greatest generation (who are still alive), thanks for NOTHING…

      • The Worst and Silent Generations passed the nation-destroying legislation in the 60s at the behest of (((them))). We Boomers were too young to vote for the traitorous Congresscritters.

        • They certainly did. Most people in the Silent generation were too busy watching Carson and listening to Elvis to care. And I agree with the characterization about the “worst” as well. I don’t blame it on the generations as much as the 19th amendment. That changed everything, but the Silent and GI generation tend to get a pass for a lot of bad crap. I am from Gen X with Silent and GI parents. They were nothing like their colleagues. In the Mid 1970’s he characterized this a a decadent society. He was right. Mom mainly laughed at crap going on. She probably knew she wouldn’t see a complete collapse. She passed in 1988.

          • Yep swamp, they were real statist after WW11. Their parents fought against that war till 42 with the Roosevelt plan to get the Japs to attack in self-defense.

  27. Eric, do you think that people would buy a simple, cheap to fix car, if it was available today? I know that I would, but I also know that I’m an exception since I’m a gearhead who likes to wrench on older cars. From what I see with my coworkers and friends, these fancy features are what makes them upgrade their perfectly good, older car for the new hotness. Insurance mafia aside, it appears that the auto industry is competing with each other in the same way that cell phone manufacturers compete, not on the underlying car itself. Cars are so amazingly good today, that it’s hard to compete on the basic car itself. Sadly, for people like me, they’re becoming impossible to fix. I’m quite good at breaking into ECU’s, and up to about 2010’s, I can fix anything, but afterwards, the car industry has started encrypting their ECU code so you can’t even diagnose or tweak it without their authorized tools.

    • Modern cars are becoming as disposable as modern electronics. Out-of-warranty repair costs are through the roof. If Uncle would permit basic cars like the VW Bug, Studebaker Scotsman, or Rambler American to be sold again they would probably sell like hotcakes.

      • Jason, you mentioned two cars that I was familiar with and both flathead sixes.
        After Studebaker went under one could go to South Bend and pick up a brand new engine for the Scotsman and several other models for a grand total of $170.00. Even a factory new 289 V8 was under 500. Gearboxes were ultra cheap too.
        As for the rambler American.. there was some JD that picked one up for under fifty dollars and tried to blow it up by overreving the thing in first gear going up and down the street. The neighbors got sorely annoyed with the noise and one older black woman was fit to be tied. She made a persuasive case that the guy was a pig for trying to blow up a good car and she bought it for 25 and used it for two more years at no further cost for maintenance. VW’s were too fragile for that punishment. I recall that the headlamps were cheap and worked better than the junk on my wife’s van.

      • Hi Jason,

        I think affordable cars would sell well again . . . if people weren’t able to “afford” serial debt. Part of the problem we’ve got is that the system encourages people to “buy” things they ca’t afford – via financing extended into perpetuity. This is a fairly recent development. Car loans used to be 3-4 years and that was because it was what people could afford; the banks and finance companies would not write 6-7 year loans on depreciating appliances that cost 50 percent or more of a an average person’s annual income…because it was financial recklessness. But that has become the accepted normal today and it’s why most people buy new cars with all of this over-the-top equipment few of them have any business buying.

          • I will enjoy watching those who relied on it struggle while those who didn’t buy everything they own for pennies on the dollar.

        • I believe that cheap cars would sell well if they were marketed correctly. In addition, low cost sound insulation and ride control (ie dampers and good sway bars) could deliver sound levels and handling demanded by today’s car buyers.

          I would sacrifice pushbutton start, touch screens, and connectivity for a 5-10k reduction in price. In addition, remove FMVSS 208 and 214 and you have a winner.


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