Pickups fail IIHS headlight tests

IIHS headlight tests
The most popular vehicle in the country has poor headlights according to the IIHS

IIHS headlight tests reveal the vast majority of pickup trucks have poor headlights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says each of the small pickups it has tested, is only available with headlights with a “poor” rating, regardless of price or trim level. This also applies to three of the seven large pickups tested.

IIHS headlight tests began in 2016 and the results included in its overall safety ratings since the 2017 model year. The first group of vehicles to be tested were mid-size cars. The results were pretty disparaging. The second group was 2017 small SUVs and the results are equally discouraging. Pickups are the third and once again, the news is not good for consumers who drive at night.

Click here to see the ratings for mid-size cars

Click here to see ratings for small SUVs

IIHS headlight tests
The IIHS says the Chevrolet Silverado is among the majority of pickups – large and small – with poor headlights.

The IIHS safety ratings are widely respected by both industry and consumers. They are based on Passive Safety – how well a vehicle protects occupants in a crash and Active Safety – features that help prevent a crash or lessen its severity.

IIHS headlight tests are conducted under five situations

IIHS headlight tests are conducted as the vehicle travels straight ahead and on curves. Sensors measure how far the light travels “with an intensity of at least 5 lux”. Lux is a unit that measures how much light falls on a surface. IIHS says for comparison purposes, a full moon on clear night illuminates the ground to about one lux.

Both high and low beams are measured under five situations – straight, full left and right and sharp full left and right turns. Glare to oncoming vehicles from low beams is also measured and factored into the rating.

The majority of headlights use one of three different light sources: halogen, high-intensity discharge (HID) or LED. Each system is paired with either reflectors or projector lenses. Reflectors bounce the light forward from multiple surfaces. Projectors use a single lens to broadcast the light forward. Most of the good- and acceptable-rated headlight systems have HID -sourced light and projector lenses. The IIHS points out “having LEDs, HIDs and/or projector lenses doesn’t guarantee good or acceptable performance”.

Adding further confusion and difficulty for consumers, is the fact headlight systems for the same vehicle can vary according to trim level. For example, within the 11 small pickups evaluated, there were 23 possible headlight configurations! Fourteen of them were found to have excessive glare, resulting in a “poor” rating.

IIHS headlight tests
One trim level of the Honda Ridgeline was the only pickup with headlights given a “good” rating by the IIHS

The only bright spot (pun intended) among pickups of all sizes, was the Honda Ridgeline in RTL-E and Black Edition trims. Among the worst performers is the most popular of al types and sizes on the market – the Ford F150. But the worst rating goes to the Chevrolet Colorado.

The F-150 is available in a myriad of trim and equipment levels. But whether equipped with the base halogen or available LED units, both low and high beams provide inadequate visibility in all tests and the LEDs produce excessive glare.

Colorado headlights come up short 

The Chevrolet Colorado’s halogen low beams illuminate to only 37 metres down the right side of the road, compared to the Honda Ridgeline at 110-metres!

The GMC Sierra is available with a variety of headlight systems depending on trim and equipment level. The ratings range from “acceptable”, to “marginal” and poor. There are two systems on the Nissan Titan. Both receive a “poor” rating. The Ram has “marginal” or “poor” ratings depending on trim level.


IIHS headlight tests the best available headlight system for each model

Ratings apply to crew cab and extended cab models where available.

Small pickups


2016 Chevrolet Colorado

2016 GMC Canyon

2016 Nissan Frontier

2016-17 Toyota Tacoma


Full-size pickups


2017 Honda Ridgeline


2016-17 GMC Sierra


2017 Nissan Titan

2016 Ram 1500


2016-17 Chevrolet Silverado

2016-17 Ford F-150

2016-17 Toyota Tundra

About Richard 166 Articles
At the age of five I was already obsessed with all things automotive being able to identify the make and model of car by just the sound of its engine going down the street in front of our house in the small town on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although I have been covering and writing about the automotive scene for more than 40 years and the light still grows brightly.