Expensive Jewels - 2014 Acura MDX AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Acura MDX AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Acura MDX: Expensive Jewels

March 6, 2014

2014 Acura MDX

A number of editors have commented on the form and function of the "Jewel Eye" headlights on our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. But here is something that isn't often considered: repair costs. After making a phone call to a friend who works at an Acura dealer, I can see why they call them jewel lights.

If the headlight breaks, it will cost about $1,400 to replace. This figure includes labor, which admittedly, is higher in California. If one of the individual jewels burns out over normal usage, you have to replace the entire headlight assembly. The only individual bulb you can replace is the turn signal.

It's important to note that these are LED headlights, which have a significantly longer lifespan than halogen or Xenon, but it could be an issue if you're looking to pick one up used, years from now.

On the 2014 MDX, there's no alternative. Jewel eye headlights are standard on every trim level.

Just for giggles, I asked what the replacement cost on an Acura RLX headlight was. It has a second row of jewels, so I assumed it would be pricier. The headlight assembly cost an eyebrow-raising $2,500 (labor not included). I'm thinking leasing might be the way to go on these cars with expensive features.

Would expensive headlights, deter you from buying the vehicle?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor


  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    The whole point (aside from reduced power consumption and more consistent light) is that they shouldn't ever need to be replaced. A quick googling reveals the life expectancy of the Jewel Eye headlights is 10,000 hours. At a wild (and probably too high) guesstimate of 1hr/day worth of headlight time, that's 27+ years. Doesn't sound like much to worry about, if you ask me.

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    Additionally-is that headlight assembly significantly more expensive than a similar HID or halogen assembly from a similar Lexus or Mercedes? I'd bet they're pretty equivalent, so any non bulb-related failure (wiring, cracking, etc.) would be equivalent in terms of repair costs.

  • seppoboy seppoboy Posts:

    Absolutely. To some extent there is an early adopter premium here, later iterations of LED based headlights will likely come down in cost significantly. There always is a cost/benefit decision to make with a lot of the newer and more technologically complex features. But jeweled headlights, active suspensions, series hybrids, and lots of other features are highly expensive to create and maintain, and with big questions over their longevity. The market will be limited to those who eat the high depreciation costs of buying or leasing the latest and greatest, and replacing their vehicles every couple of years.

  • sharp_cai sharp_cai Posts:

    These headlights are pure ugly. Acura just don't know how to make Luxury cars. People buying them just because they are cheaper than others. I like Honda but not Acura.

  • Good grief, that price is ridiculous. I get it that if you have to replace the entire assembly, but if a single bulb goes out? Do those tests on light longevity take into account the continual bouncing of the car, speed bumps, minor bumper collisions, bumps into parking space curbs, etc.? The bulbs should be replacable individually if you ask me.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I probably wouldn't have really considered it before because this style of light is very rare. It is certainly something I would think about going forward. Nice post!

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    @markinapples What effect do physical bumps, vibrations, etc. have on an LED? They're solid-state semiconductors, with no filament or glass involved. There is a lens placed in front of the LED, sure, but there's no bulb in the traditional sense. I'v

  • yutach_ yutach_ Posts:

    I'm sure the insurance companies knew about this, that's for sure. Also, regarding the burning-out time - the way that those numbers are supplied is more or less an average time to burn out. So sure, it may take 27 years for the average '14 MDX headlight to burn out, but you can expect *one* of them to burn out sooner. And replacing two of those is not something I'd want to do. Also, out of 1000 buyers of this, some poor guy's headlight is only gonna last till the 4 year warranty runs out.

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    Just did a little research. MSRP for a Lexus RX350 headlamp assembly is $1568.63 at lexuspartsnow.com, and for an ML350 is a whopping $1760 from getmercedesparts.com. Given that data, I'm even more impressed that Acura's LED headlight is no more expensive...

  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    Wow, that's crazy. I wonder if an extended warranty from Acura would cover those or if that'd be considered a "wear" item. My guess is that you'll start seeing many olded, used vehicles with many LEDs out where the owner isn't willing (or able) to pay that.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Now this I don't understand - the concern over the cost of something that will probably never fail in use, and if it's damaged would be covered under collision/comprehensive (minus deductible), but the lack of concern over something like a $70 (!) tire rotation, which if it's done every 6,000 miles like the first one was, will definitely (not maybe) over 100,000 miles cost $1,050 - and that's right out of pocket. Now granted you don't have to have tires rotated at the dealer, but you guys seemed to think $70 at the dealer was pretty good and said you'd be back again, based upon that price. So you're concerned over the cost of something that probably won't happen, and not at all concerned over the cost of something that absolutely will happen.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @cobryson: The LEDs themselves may not fail until the distant future, but the lenses won't. The UV resistant coating on the polycarbonate lenses will be long gone by the ten year mark. Pitting, scratches, and discoloration will have robbed the headlamp of

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    *The LEDs themselves may not fail until the distant future, but the lenses "WILL". Sorry.

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    Doesn't this car have daytime headlights? So that would blow your 27 year life span out of the water leaving with probably no more than 10 years if your lucky. $1400 is outrageous for a headlight and $2500 more so, and I can't see a justifiable reason why this tech has to be so obscenely expensive.

  • ed341 ed341 Posts:

    HID headlights were supposed to last the life of a vehicle when they were introduced. For some reason the only vehicles I have seem with failed HIDs are the Toyota Prius and Acura TL.

  • My 2004 A-spec was one of my most beloved cars ever. It was a near perfect balance, and had great styling. Acura direction in the past 5 years hasn't been clear between the TL and ZDX, it makes one wonder what the guys in the design studio are smoking. These headlights are the perfect example. They are trendy, while not innovative, and hence are truly polarizing. I have high hopes of the new TLX... but when I heard that only the 'small' engine is mated to the dual clutch tranny, I shook my head. Would like to see the reviews though.

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    @quadricycle the individual LED lenses are glass, and are protected by a standard polycarbonate shroud like every other headlight assembly. I don't know how glass lenses inside a sealed assembly could pit or be scratched.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    As the first poster mentioned, I think these prices are par for the course... just remember the replacement costs the next time you buy LED equipped headlights from any OEM. And as Quad pointed out, get protective film over those headlights... What I don't understand is how Ron can mention leasing a car to avoid these kind of down the road costs when he made excuses for the Tesla Model S after the battery and two motors were changed in under 20K miles.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @cobryson again: I think you missed my point. I wasn't talking about the inner lenses on the LEDs, but the outer polycarbonate one that, as you mentioned, lasts as long as every other headlight assembly (not very long). Here's where we put two and two tog

  • diigii diigii Posts:

    Thank you Ron for that financial advice. I'll keep my $1,400 or $2,500, spend that upgrading the house that helps with the resale value. The same thing cannot be said in sinking those amounts in a money pit such as cars. I am happy spending $40 on halogen lamps and not spending whole nights on the road just so I can get value out of those $1400 headlights. LOL

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    duck87 is right - you're nuts if you don't get Lamin-X on the headlights for any car. $60-$75 for both headlights and fogs, and then in 75,000 miles when the Lamin-X is pitted and cloudy...you peel them off and get another set.

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    @quadricycle Fair enough, I see what you mean. Since the headlight assembly cost seems to be similar for competitive cars with xenons, then it sounds like there's still no extra knock on Acura's LED lights being prohibitively expensive.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @fordson1: I've always had mixed feelings about getting my headlights covered in a film like that. On one hand, it does take out a lot of the damage caused by rocks and weather. On the other, its not as optically clear as claimed, so it takes out some lig

  • ryster ryster Posts:

    It will not be long before the Chinese built aftermarket equivalent hits eBay for $600. :P

  • darex darex Posts:

    On a VW, yes. On an Acura, no.

  • darex darex Posts:

    How much on the 2014 Toyota Corolla?

  • Yeah, many headlight assemblies these days can be absurdly expensive. Mine (with auto leveling xenons) was about $1,200 to replace after someone backed into my car. But, I can replace just the bulb, of course.

  • The replacement cost is for the entire unit since this is the only way to replace a failed LED. HIDs have replaceable bulbs that usually costs around 75.00. The LEDs themselves will probably last the life of the car but I don't think the circuit board that powers and controls them will. Years of heat and cold combined with the normal vibrations of driving will probably cause some of the circuit board welds to break. We have all seen cars with a LED CHMSL that doesn't work. Also the LED bulbs do not produce heat (always wondered how it handled ice buildup) but the circuit board gets very hot. They usually use a fan (like your computer or gaming system) to keep cool. Do you think this fan is going to last 10 years without failing?

  • cx7lover cx7lover Posts:

    27 years is highly optimistic and yes, you're just talking about headlamp should one LED die. That's crazy expensive vs a Xenon bulb replacement. I just saw a new 2013 Q5 with one of the LED accent lights out so it can happen prematurely...

  • maisy_sj maisy_sj Posts:

    A lot of people are making comments that you should not worry about lights failing. I am about to replace my second headlight on my 2003 TL. Proof that you should worry very much indeed.

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