Most Pickup Truck Headlights Great at Creating Glare, but Not Much Else

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The IIHS has just evaluated every model and every trim of the entire U.S. pickup truck fleet, and only one scored Good.


That truck headlights are not pulling their weight is no surprise to their owners. CarComplaints and other respected forums have both logged many owner complaints about weak pickup truck headlights. Drivers of cars blinded by oncoming pickup trucks, and blinded by pickups behind them in traffic, will also not be surprised that 14 of the 23 U.S. pickup models/trim combinations tested had excessive glare.

The Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) began this year to test headlights as part of its on-going quest to move the bar on safety. The group uses its new indoor testing facility and elaborate instrumentation to objectively determine which headlight systems are the best and which fall short. The group also uses real-life drivers picked by a third party to calibrate those instruments.


And the group is not shy about naming names. In its summary video, the group points out that drivers of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline can see three times farther down the road than can drivers of the Chevy Colorado. Our own analysis of the midsize car group that IIHS tested found that pricier models don’t have better headlights, despite the hoopla many fancy brands make about their LED systems.


In its most recent round of testing, the Honda Ridgeline’s RLE and Black Edition trims rose to the top. Honda’s Ridgeline breaks a lot of rules for pickups and many long-time pickup owners don’t consider it a “real truck.” The GMC Sierra is definitely a real truck and the best example in this group of how a trim selection can make a big difference in how well you see the road at night. The top trims of the Sierra scored Acceptable, some trims scored Marginal, and some scored Poor.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Debuts at 2016 North American International Auto Show

IIHS doesn’t do this research and reporting just for the science of it. The group uses its leverage as a desirable ratings group to force changes in vehicle design. The group is planning to require a good headlight rating on future evaluations in order for vehicles to earn the Top Safety Pick Plus designation they so desire for advertising purposes. If you don’t care one whit about pickups you will be pleased to know IIHS has you in mind anyway. IIHS will not rate any headlights with excessive glare higher than Marginal, no matter how good they are at lighting up the road.

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