LED lights are prevalent now in every form of light available. From fluorescent tube replacements to underhood lights, and even our personal flashlights. Just looking at personal flashlights and work lights, this can be a bit overwhelming. Do you buy the $8.99 special at the checkout counter, the major tool company’s latest, or buy from the latest infomercial? We take a quick look at the LED flashlight total cost of ownership.
Price should not be the only factor in your purchase for personal lighting, hence a flashlight. What do you use the light for? Do you use it all the time, or is it just something for emergencies? Do you need a spotlight (concentrated small area), floodlight (larger dispersion of light), or something to fit on your head or hard hat? How bright do you need it? Is the light color important, so you see colors as in daylight? All these are questions you should be asking yourself before purchasing a new LED flashlight. We won’t dig into all these factors in this article, but we’ll stick to the cost factor at the moment.
What is My LED Flashlight Total Cost of Ownership?
Sure, that $8.99 special may seem much cheaper than spending $100 on a rechargeable LED. However, let us dive a little deeper, so we can see the true cost. Purchasing a rechargeable unit will have a higher cost on the front, but there are no batteries to purchase later. Batteries are not exactly cheap, especially if you have to purchase these on a consistent basis. With the personal LED flashlights all the rave, we use a few of ours in determining the LED flashlight total cost of ownership.
|Make and Model||Max Lumens||Price|
|Cheap LED Flashlight||200||$8.99|
|CAT Dual Beam Tactical – CT3410||275||$17.65|
|CAT Rechargeable Flashlight – CT1105||570||$59.99|
|Milwaukee USB Hard Hat Headlamp||300||$59.99|
|Milwaukee USB Rover Flood Light||445||$59.99|
|Scangrip Rechargeable Headlamp 160||160||$68.00|
|Milwaukee USB Flashlight||700||$69.99|
|Monster MST6173 Foldable Worklight||600||$79.65|
Don’t get caught up in the manufacturers and models here, we just wanted to share the details of our test mules. How much do you use your flashlight or personal LED light? This can be a big determination in the long-term cost of your LED flashlight. In addition to the up-front cost, we also look at runtimes to determine future battery purchases.
Runtimes and Battery Costs
In addition to runtimes, we also need to look at the cost of batteries. The two non-rechargeable LED flashlights in our testing take 3x AAA batteries. This includes the “cheap LED flashlight”, and the CAT CT3410 dual beam tactical light. With a quick Amazon search, AAA batteries can be bought in a 24-pack for $12.61, hence $0.53 for each AAA. There is no rocket science here, just some quick calculations to determine the cost of ownership after 100 hours and 200 hours.
It’s easy to see that after 100 hours of use, the battery powered units drastically change the TCO curve. Furthermore, after 200 hours of use, both battery powered lights far exceed the total cost of all the lights in the test. Isn’t it amazing how quickly $0.53 batteries add up?!
All but one of the rechargeable lights in testing were charged using a USB Micro-B cable. The Scangrip headlamp light includes a USB to round barrel connector (proprietary). It’s great to see so many of the LED light options becoming industrially standard, with the same charging port. No specific chargers are needed, so any standard plug to USB power supply will work. Even a computer or charging block with a USB charging port makes a great fit
From experience with LED lights and testing, this was not all that surprising to us of the outcome. At the same time, we realize that many of you don’t necessarily take time to do tests and calculations before purchasing a light. You have better things to do, things that make you money. Let us handle the mundane and boring. This just proves that even with a simple personal flashlight, there are more items in the equation than just up-front cost.
Different Lights for Different Needs
These lights in the tests are not identical, and some are not even close in comparison. We wanted to have a broad range, at the same time keeping them to more of a “personal” light. We can make an argument to purchase any of these lights, which is very interesting. If you don’t intend to use this light, other than to search the closet 5 times each year, then buy the $8.99 cheap LED. On the flip side, if you’re a mechanic, use a light all the time and need a magnetic base, buy the Monster MST6173.
Do you work in confined spaces but need more of a flood light? The Milwaukee Rover flood LED is a perfect fit. You may be a detailer or painter, so you need to match paint or finishes. Milwaukee Trueview and Scangrip offer LED lighting that mimics the color of natural light, so you get true colors.
We’ll get into more details of these lights as we do individual reviews. More importantly, we wanted to share our LED flashlight total cost of ownership data, so you are more educated when making a purchase. Be sure to take more than just initial cost into your purchase decision. What are you using it for? How often will you use it? Let us know your thoughts and the LED purchase decisions you made.
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