Garden lights review

More work is needed before solar garden lights become anything more than decorative.
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10 solar and 14 12V garden lights priced from $3 to $105 per light

When CHOICE tested solar garden lights nearly three years ago, we were disappointed with the outcome; weak battery life with low illumination was the order of the day. We could only recommend most of them for decoration, which didn’t say much for either the battery or solar technology they used. Fortunately, improvements have since been made in battery life, although not a lot has changed in the solar technology in the 10 lights on test, ranging from $3 to $95 each.

We also tested 14 12V garden lights, ranging from $4 to $105 per light. We compared light intensity across all products and tested the battery life of the solar products, giving them a battery life score. Only the light intensity score is directly comparable between the two types of lights in the results table. There is only a light intensity score for 12V lights, as they don't contain a battery.

There is no What to Buy list as solar lights are not effective enough to light a path or garden area so are purely decorative. Style also plays a large part in choosing 12V lights; however, those with a 90% score for light intensity are capable of lighting a driveway if lights are placed on either side, depending on the number of lights used.

Please note: this information was current as of March 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

Brands tested


  • Brilliant Colonial Twin Pack LED Solar Light 60358/06
  • Brilliant LED Motion Sensing Solar Bollard 60368/16
  • Gardman 4 Solar Post Lights 18071
  • Homemaker Lifestyle Set of 10 Plastic Solar Garden Lights 40-417-103
  • Homemaker Lifestyle Set of 10 Stainless Steel Solar Lights 40-417-264
  • HPM Solar Accent Mini Marker Light Set 5-pack RSLSSSB5
  • Nelson Solar LED Light and Bug Zapper MGLSL027
  • Nelson Stainless Steel Solar LED Tier Light MGLSL020 (A)
  • Solar Magic Solar Garden Lights 2-pack GLCSS2
  • Solar Magic Solar Garden Lights Stainless Steel 12-pack GL12


  • Arlec 4 Tier Lights Garden Lighting Kit LV8
  • Arlec Night Glow Garden Light Kit 6 Lights LV67
  • Brilliant Madrid 12V LED Oval Bollard 80983/16
  • Brilliant Vista In-ground Bollard 60106
  • Commercial Electric DIY 12V Outdoor Halogen Light CEHL12SB
  • Commercial Electric DIY 12V Outdoor LED Bollard Light CELED12BLB
  • Horizon Duncan 4 Piece Stainless Steel Garden Light Kit 60336/16
  • Horizon Tierlight 4 Piece Garden Tier Light Kit 60341/06 Black
  • HPM Mackay 2-Tier Pathlight RGLVPL
  • HPM Professional Choice Pathlight Set-Verdigris RGLKV5
  • Magic Garden 12V Extra Low Voltage LED Georgian Pathlight Kit MG3
  • Magic Garden LED Garden Light Kit 10-Pack GLKP10
  • Nelson Broadway Path Light MGLSS07 (A)
  • Nelson Stellar Pathlight MGLSS04 (A)

(A) Discontinued but may still be available in some stores

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