Study reveals most pickup trucks receive poor headlight rating

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 10/25/2016

The old adage of you can have too much of a good thing is proving true once again. Recently released headlight ratings for passenger vehicles are critical of many car and pickup truck headlights. Top of the list of negative aspects – excessive glare.

Most recently, pickup trucks have been added to the list of vehicles with poor headlights, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Midsize cars and SUVs received poor headlight ratings earlier this year.

IIHS evaluated headlights on 11 pickup trucks, seven large trucks and four small trucks. All four of the small pickups earned a poor headlight rating. Large pickups fared better with only three of the seven receiving a poor headlight rating. The Honda Ridgeline was the only pickup to receive a good headlight rating.

There were 23 possible headlight combinations within the 11 trucks evaluated by IIHS. Of those possible combinations, 14 had an excessive glare, contributing to their poor rating.

Tested pickups earned the following rating:


  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline


  • 2016-2017 GMC Sierra


  • 2017 Nissan Titan
  • 2016 Ram 1500


  • 2016-2017 Chevrolet Silverado
  • 2016-2017 Ford F-150
  • 2016-2017 Toyota Tundra
  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado
  • 2016 GMC Canyon
  • 2016 Nissan Frontier
  • 2016-2017 Toyota Tacoma

It is worth noting that some pickups that earned a rating better than “poor” only received that rating for certain trim levels. For example, the GMC Sierra received an overall rating of “acceptable,” but those headlights are only available on certain trim levels. Other versions earned a marginal or poor rating. The same applied to the Ram 1500’s marginal rating.

Included in the “poor” section is the Ford F-150, the highest-selling vehicle in the United States, including midsize passenger vehicles, according to Car Fax. IIHS reports that the Ford F-150 was one of the poorest performers in the headlight evaluation. The standard halogen and optional LED low beams both provide inadequate visibility. High beams yielded similar results for both light designs. The LEDs provided an unacceptable glare.

Ford F-150s have been the best-selling pickup for 39 straight years and the best-selling vehicle for 34 straight years. For the first half of 2016, The Chevrolet Silverado was the second best-selling vehicle, according to Car Fax.

Headlights are measured after dark on a track using a device that measures the light from low beams and high beams on a vehicle driving straight and in various curve situations. IIHS also measures the glare from low beams for oncoming vehicles. Excessive glare earns a vehicle a rating no better than marginal. Headlights are kept at the same adjustment received from the dealer as most people do not alter the configuration.

IIHS’s headlight rating was installed as a response to government standards that allow for a wide variation in the amount of illumination provided by headlights, according to an IIHS press release. New to IIHS’s Top Safety Pick+, its highest safety award, vehicles must receive a good or acceptable headlight rating in order to qualify for the 2017 award.

In July, IIHS conducted a similar test on SUVs. The evaluation revealed that out of the 21 SUVs evaluated, not a single one earned a good rating and only four received an acceptable rating. More than two-thirds of the 47 possible headlight combinations received a poor rating.

Here’s a breakdown of the SUV tests (all 2016 models unless specified):


  • 2017 Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Mazda CX-3


  • BMW X1
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Volkswagen Tiguan


  • Audi Q3
  • Buick Encore
  • Chevrolet Trax
  • Fiat 500X
  • Honda HR-V
  • Jeep Patriot
  • Jeep Renegade
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • 2017 Kia Sportage
  • Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Subaru Forester

In March, IIHS discovered that of the 31 midsize cars tested, the Toyota Prius was the only car to receive a good rating for its headlights. Accounting for various headlight combinations, 11 cars earned an acceptable rating for best available headlights, nine received a marginal rating and 10 cars are only equipped with headlights with a poor rating. Click here for the full list of midsize car headlight ratings.

Related story: Blinded by the light

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