/ Money, Motoring

How many pounds does it take to change a car light bulb?

Have you noticed that the number of cars on our roads with a blown or misaligned headlight has increased over the past few years? I have, and I have theory about the cause.

OK, so we’re all cutting back and trying to save money everywhere we can, so perhaps some people are ignoring a blown car light for longer than they usually would. But there’s more to this motoring black-out than just people being stingy.

Over the past decade, carmakers have made it much more difficult to change the bulbs on some car models. Trust me I know – I own a Renault Modus

Don’t be in the dark on  headlights

Top reasons for MOT failure tableWhen we called franchised dealers for our snapshot investigation, we were told that the whole front bumper of our Modus would have to be removed just to get at the headlight bulb. This resulted in a quote of £150.

That made the Modus the most expensive car for this particular piece of maintenance that we found. Some dealers did acknowledge the high cost of replacing bulbs when we called them, with a few offering to waive the labour fee for the work.

However, when lights are the most common cause for MOT failures (see the pic above for other top causes), you may have to cough up the cost more than once during the lifetime of your car.

I can attest to that. After living with my Modus for six years, I’ve had to pay for two sets of replacement bulbs.

Shining a light on car maintenance

So, knowing how expensive this particular job could be, when a headlight blew for the third time, I resolved to find a cheaper way around the problem. I took the car to my local Halfords and asked them to fit a new headlight under their £5 fitting service.

Three hours (and a lot of blue air) later, I drove home with what I thought were two working headlights. However, as soon as it got dark I realised they’d fitted the bulb upside down. It was pointing up at the sky rather than on the road ahead.

Back I went, and another few hours later I drove home with a new light that mostly points in the right direction. It’s not perfect, but I got the job done for a lot cheaper than going to a mainstream dealer.

The only problem is that the Modus has now been blacklisted along with several other cars by my local Halfords, due to how difficult it is to fit new headlight bulbs. So I’m not sure what I’ll do when the next bulb blows. I guess the only answer will be to get a set of tools and have a go myself.

Do you have any horror stories about car headlight fitting or prices? Do you feel you’ve been charged over the odds for bulbs or the fitting?

ferkemall says:
25 December 2015

If your considering buying a new or second car your best clues as to what is going to cost to maintain and what problems you are going to get can be found on YouTube for the problems and eBay for the price of the parts .
I bought a modus without doing the research I wish I had but that said the car is in good shape , after looking on YouTube I got my tablet and got every video into a database by just using the movie screen record function ,I also found that other models used the same parts along with other makes making it handy if you have to go to a breakers yard , most of the information you will need can be got from YouTube ,then there are the car forums and review sites , learn from other peoples experience and store the information in a car file I do because I have always worked on my own cars , why pay a renault dealer £800 plus to replace 2 emv valves in an auto box when you can do it your self and thenget the software updated at a transmission shop for £40 ,total cost of parts /fluid and update = appx £150 .

Hi Ferkemall,
Just reading your post on the Modus , I too own one and Bulbs and lights are a constant problem- with thanks to the cheaper mechanic I WAS using I now have to replace the full headlight unit- as Bulb was incorrectly placed and has burned the receptor– WOW the cost of a unit is crazy- and very few Modui in breakers– So If you have the info do you know what other cars have the same sized headlight unit that would be compatible as I am drawing a blank here, I only need the clear bit with the headlight and side light not the orange bit at the top. Be great if you could help as you have done all the hard work- Thanks in advance, Edel : NCT Fail over stupid lights

It is not simply Renaults, my Audi A3 (2012) has to have the inner wheel arch removed, taking the wheel off etc, in order to get straight access to the bulb, then you still cannot see what you are doing, having to feel the way!!

it’s mad car manufacturers co. so complicated car headlights bulb change. some car headlights bulb can’t change without garage. any elder & physical weak people can’t change. my car vauxhall zafira ecoflex problem bulb change. I don’t understand it’s most important common job, why manufacturer co make complicated for. any time any where any person very quickly change. because headlights bulb important road safety reasons.

Halfords charged me £18 to change the two head light bulbs in my seat mpv that only took 5-10 mins. I feel I’ve been taken for a ride

You are paying for know-how and availability as much as for time.

Halfords currently advertise headlamp bulb replacement from £8, subject to inspection. If it took 5 or 10 minutes, £18 seems a bit expensive. Maybe the best approach is to do the job yourself.

The Halfords website says fitting bulbs is priced “from £5”. I couldn’t find a specific price for headlamp bulbs. If fitting headlamp bulbs is actually “from £8” then fitting two for £18 is possibly the going rate depending on the make and model – or maybe each branch has its own pricing depending on local competition. I regard jobs like this as a bit like having a haircut; I couldn’t possibly do it myself so have to pay someone else to do it for me. And like a haircut, there are overheads.

I have cut my own hair for years ! If I can I do everything myself but sometimes leave it to an expert but might give it a try first or weigh up the costs or options I must have saved a fortune seeing the cost of a simple haircut today

Yes, that’s right Wavechange. I thought the website was a bit of a mess and I could only find what I did by putting “headlamp bulb fitting” in the search box.

I thought the bulb selector application requiring just the vehicle registration mark was a good facility, and it meant you were only presented with bulbs that were suitable for your car. I presume such a system is widespread throughout the motor servicing trade which helps avoid incorrect bub replacement; our car is serviced by the manufacturer’s main dealership and they don’t have to worry about any other makes.

The system has been used by dealers for years and Halfords was an early adopter. It’s not perfect and when I ordered a tyre online recently I had to check which size was fitted to my car.

My carneedsa are quoting £57 so thats a bargain!

The morale of the OP is don’t buy a French car, any fool should know they are rubbish!

Cristian says:
6 March 2018

Who know how much pay for change bulbs for q7?

Ausiee says:
3 April 2018

probably GBP17 through kwickfit

Linda Jameson says:
20 November 2018

My Renault Modus has just had an MOT and has a Pass with defects notice. Headlamp lens in both nearside and offside need replacing, so have been advised that it is not just the bulb and have been given a quote of £450 to repair. Although the car is quite old now 55 reg it has done less than 31000 miles and has, for the past 8 years hardly been driven at times that require headlamps to be on! Maybe it’s Renault thing or like most things now that have obsolescence built in perpetuate the car industry.

Yearly MOTs on cars under 8 years old is not necessary. Once every 2 years would not compromise safety. I am in the industry.