It seems like every time someone upgrades their car, they throw a window tint on every window. Why? Surely, there must be some huge benefit to this tint besides just looking really cool.
There are a lot of benefits when it comes to tinting the windows in your car. With a good tint, you’ll feel more comfortable in your car, have more privacy, have less glare on your windows, be protected from UV rays, and reduce eye strain. At the same time, it makes it a little harder to see out of your windows and might be illegal in your state.
There are actually a lot of benefits (and a few drawbacks) of tinting your car’s windows. But, is tinting your car’s windows worth it? Let me answer that question and many more in this ultimate guide to window tint.
What is Car Window Tint?
The name is a little spoiler. The car window tint is a tint added to your car window. A tint is when something is added to the glass that changes how it appears.
A tintless piece of glass is completely transparent — you can see everything without a distortion or color change. Once you add tint to that glass, things change.
The tint is a physical material added to the window. You might see tints used around the house:
- On mirrors
- On glass windows
- On computer screens/ TVs
More importantly, you’ll find tints used on car windows. You might pass someone whose windows are especially dark and start asking yourself what’s going on. Their windows are tinted.
Types of Window Tint
When it comes to the physical tint, you’ll find 5 different options. Here they are:
The most affordable and common style is dyed window tint. Manufacturers will take an adhesive-backed film and add a die to the material. This die makes it darker so it will darken your windows when applied.
It doesn’t block any UV and does a poor job of blocking external heat, but it will darken your windows.
The dye might fade over time, so you’ll replace this style more frequently.
Instead of absorbing sunlight, metalized tints actually reflect it. How? Little pieces of metal are integrated into the tint.
In the world of science, reflection is a better way to keep heat away over absorption.
Since metal is embedded, these tints make your windows more shatter and scratch-resistant. On top of that, they add a shiny flare which is just an aesthetic upgrade but it looks great.
Carbon fiber is the hottest material in the car world today. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s used in some window tints.
In a carbon tint, sunrays are blocked more efficiently than dyed tints. It insulates really well and has a smooth, matte finish.
This style is one of the more expensive options on the market. Still, it works really well and lasts long so it’s worth it.
If you combine dyed and metalized film, you’re left with a hybrid tint. They usually have multiple dyed layers and some sort of metallic layer in between. They’re the best of both worlds if you’re on the fence between these two styles.
Finally, there’s ceramic. This is the best style when it comes to blocking UV rays and keeping out external heat.
As a material, ceramic is scratch-proof and shatter-resistant. Adding a ceramic tint to your windows boosts these two properties more than a metalized option.
A ceramic tint will prevent glare at a more transparent level, meaning you’ll get better visibility with the same benefits. More on this concept later.
This style is the most expensive out of all the options.
Levels of Window Tint
In the world of window tint, there’s a sliding scale of visibility. The percentage that accompanies your window tint tells you how much outside light is allowed into your vehicle.
For example, a tintless window is a 100% tint. It allows through 100% of outside light.
An 80% window tint allows through around 78% of external light. It goes by a “VLT” scale which stands for visible light transmission — basically, what percent of light can come through your windows.
Tint can technically go down to 0%, but then you’d have an undrivable vehicle since no light can come through. The lowest option you’ll see offered by most car tinters is 5%, which allows 5% of light through.
Benefits of Tinting Your Car’s Windows
As you might assume, there are plenty of pros and cons of tinting your car’s windows. In an effort to find out if tinting is worth it, let me start by reviewing some of the benefits.
Protect Car’s Interior
If you look around your interior, you’ll find plenty of materials that don’t interact well with sunlight. Leathers and plastics will quickly fade when they’re exposed to the sun.
By adding tint, sunrays are either absorbed or reflected before they can do lasting damage to your car’s interior. This is great news because wearing and fading will hurt the resale value of your car.
Block UV Rays
The other issue with sunlight is the pesky UV rays that tag along. These rays are known for causing sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging.
The benefit of “window tint” is that a lot of them block UV rays. They reflect the rays away so they don’t sneak in through your window and affect you. Ever wondered why someone looks so much younger than they really are? It’s got to be the window tint.
Less Eye Strain
Another side effect of UV ray exposure is eye strain and pain. Since tint removes UV rays and also darkens everything around you, your eyes will thank you.
This is especially useful for people with sensitivity to sunlight. A lot of eye doctors will “prescribe” window tint as a proven way to reduce this eye pain.
Looks Really Cool
Now it’s time, to be honest about window tint — it looks really cool. Every time I see a car with tinted windows, I get immediately jealous.
I know it’s not the purpose, but there’s something about dark windows that just looks awesome. Pair with a black matte car wrap and you just “murdered out” your car.
Whenever your window is tinted, you’ll enjoy a certain level of glare reduction. Glare is especially dangerous for people who have easterly daily commutes. Driving into the rising sun in the morning and the setting sun in the evening every day is just too much to handle.
A little tint goes a long way. A tint as light as 70% can almost completely eliminate glare (depending on the type of tint).
More Temperate Cabin
The other thing that sucks about the sun is how hot it makes things. Just sitting in a car in Arizona feels like you’re in an Easy-Bake Oven.
These tints also provide some protection to outside temperatures. Adding different materials to your window will boost the insulation of the glass, which naturally keeps out temperatures. On top of that, you’re reducing how much sunlight gets into your car, also lowering the interior temperature.
At the end of the day, you’ll have a more temperate cabin. It means you won’t have to blast your AC as much, which is great for people who have issues with their car’s air conditioning. Find out how to fix it here.
Add Some Privacy
Do you know how many celebrities you’ve driven by on the road? Probably not because they value their privacy and most celebrities ride in the back of a vehicle with blacked-out windows. “Limo tint” is a phrase for a reason.
Tinted windows will keep prying eyes away. If you love to dance and sing along to the radio like no one’s watching, it probably helps if no one can see you. Tint can achieve that.
Drawbacks of Tinting Your Car’s Windows
However, “window tint” isn’t completely perfect. There are some drawbacks to tinting your car’s windows which I’ll talk about now.
Hurts Your Visibility
Having good visibility in your vehicle is always a great thing. That’s why I love SUVs and trucks so much. Since tinting reduces how much light comes through your windows, it also reduces how well you can see things around you.
If you have bad night vision or have to turn your phone’s brightness way up, I have some bad news for you: tinting probably isn’t the right choice.
Actually, I shouldn’t say that. You can still opt for a more modest tint (like 70% or 80%) and enjoy the benefits of tinted windows without ruining your visibility.
Could Be Illegal
Actually, 49 of the 50 states have a legal limit to how tinted your windows can be. Some places like New Mexico will let your front windows be tinted all the way down to 20%. Other states like New Jersey have a complete ban on front window tint.
The only limitless state when it comes to tinting? Michigan. They know how to do it up there.
Regardless, you need to be careful. In my experience, window tint is a dangerous game in states that frown upon it. A police officer can use it as a reason to pull you over, can tack it on to any ticket you were going to get anyway, and they might not let you get away with a warning.
If you’re commonly doing other illegal things, you don’t want to wave a “pull me over” sign in front of officers.
Why Is it Illegal?
It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. If your windows are all tinted to the point where no one can see in, people have no idea what you’re doing. You could be pointing a gun at people.
For police officers, this is especially dangerous. If they pull over a blacked-out car, they have no idea what’s happening inside. They also don’t have a description of any individuals to tell dispatch.
Night Driving Is a Nightmare
There’s a running joke in the mod community about how blind you become trying to back up through a tinted rear window at night.
Going with a 5% tint means nighttime maneuvering is much more difficult. It blocks whatever added light you’re using to get around.
Still, it’s something that you get used to. Windows look a lot darker from the outside, so don’t freak out when you can’t see the inside of a car from the outside (you can still see out of it).
DIY Tint Could Be a Disaster
Finally, there’s a huge issue with people trying to tint their own cars. You can get a roll of tint and free up a Saturday morning, but I’d highly suggest against it.
If you get the wrong tint brand or material, or you make any small issues during the installation, the whole project could be a waste.
Bubbling, peeling, and cracking are very common amongst DIY tint jobs. I’d say to leave it to the pros for this project.
How Much Does It Cost to Tint Your Car’s Windows?
How are you supposed to know if the tint is worth it if I don’t even mention the price?
Like a lot of car modifications, the cost varies a lot. If you want to ignore my tip to avoid DIYing this, then the project can be done for less than 20 bucks. If you take it to a shop, the price can range anywhere from $100 to $600.
The more expensive options are found in more expensive areas using a high-end ceramic-based tint. If you go for a cheaper tint, it might turn out pretty junky-looking. It’s always a gamble.
Who Can Tint Car Windows?
That probably leads you to a question of who can tint car windows. I wouldn’t go to your auto shop or local dealership for this. There are companies that specialize specifically in tinting your car’s windows.
Sometimes, they offer other services like brake caliper painting or car wrapping, but they all exist in the same niche of aftermarket aesthetics.
There’s some equipment that goes into doing car tinting in a large-scale operation, but they make their money back pretty quickly.
How Long Does a Tint Job Take?
The job itself can take about 30 minutes per window (in general). If the shop has a long backlog, you could be on a waitlist for a while.
Still, any decent shop should have your car in and out within the day as long as you had an appointment.
The Life of a Car’s Window Tint
If you get a high-quality tint installed by a team of pros, you can enjoy it for up to a decade. Some places even offer a warranty for 10 years, that’s how much confidence they have in the product and their workmanship.
It makes the price a lot easier to stomach. 600 bucks over the span of 10 years, is probably less than I spend on batteries.
Can Window Tint Be Removed?
If you’re not crazy about the tint, you went way too dark, or you’re tired of cops harassing you, then you can remove the tint. It’s actually so easy to do that I did it when I was just a kid.
It takes a razor blade, brush, nail polish, heat gun, window cleaner, and soapy water. Basically, you just peel away as much of the tint as you can. Whatever’s left, just scratch it with your fingernails or a razor blade until you peel it all away.
A heat gun will help get rid of the adhesive along the way. The soapy water is there to scrub away the leftover glue residue, and the window cleaner is to finish the job.
Want to get a lot of the benefits of tint without splurging for tint? You should consider a sunshade. These are the metallic, reflective sheets that people put on their dash to keep sunlight out of their windshield while the car is parked.
You’ll see them all the time in the South whenever cars are parked outside.
Is Tinting Your Car’s Windows Worth It?
If you’re asking for my personal opinion, I’d say it’s 100% worth it to tint your car’s windows. For just a few hundred bucks, you can reduce glare, block UV rays, look cooler, get some privacy, protect the interior of your car, and help your eyes. It’s a no-brainer!
If you have terrible night vision or live in a state where window tinting is illegal, maybe you should think twice. It gives cops a reason to justifiably pull you over and write a ticket, which is always a bummer.
You just learned everything there is to know about tint on a car’s windows. I discussed whether or not it’s worth it to tint the windows, and I addressed the pros and cons of a high-quality tint. For more guides and car information, check out my blog. Grab car accessories and tools that every car person needs.