The major determining factor of the cost to tint your windows is whether you’re going to do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it. DIY window tinters can tint all a car’s windows for well under $100, even when buying the highest quality film, whereas those seeking professional work should expect to pay at least that much per window. Many professional window tinting jobs end up costing over $1,000, especially when you invest in higher quality materials or if you have a larger car.
Given how summers keep getting hotter, adding window tint to vehicles has become increasinly enticing over the past few years. Window tinting is an excellent way to not only make your car look cooler but potentially help it feel cooler too.
Tinting your windows can cost you less than a dinner at Chili’s or more than a bad night at the casino, depending on the quality of materials used and whether you’re willing to do the work yourself (and if you’re competent enough to do it well).
If you’re in the market for car window tinting, read on for a complete guide on estimated costs and best practices.
Why should I tint my windows?
Certain window tint films add UV protection and heat rejection to your vehicle, which can help you cut back on running the air conditioning and prevent you from feeling like a turkey in an oven every time you get in your car during the summer.
Sure, owning a car can be expensive, but window tinting costs can be relatively affordable. Costs vary depending on the type of window film used, what kind of car you drive (i.e., the size and number of windows), and whether you hire a window tinting professional or do the work yourself.
Know the laws of window tinting
As with basically any other matter that involves potential safety concerns, the legal tint level of car windows depends on where you live. Local laws dictate the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) allowed by the window tint on your vehicle. VLT is the percentage that indicates how much actual light gets through your tinted windows: the lower the percentage, the darker the tint.
Here’s a map that illustrates the legal VLT percentage by state:
|State||Front Side||Back Side||Rear|
As you can see, the degree of window tinting allowed varies wildly from state to state. In Pennsylvania and Rhode Island (the most restrictive states), cars are required to meet 70% VLT in all windows. Montana, on the other hand, allows a VLT as low as 14% in all windows.
As illustrated in the image below, lower VLT tints can make it difficult to see while you’re driving, hence the state laws restricting tint levels.
Some state laws are a little more complex in that window tints can be heavier on certain windows than on others. Ohio, for example, requires 50% VLT on front side windows but has no restrictions for rear passenger windows. Here’s a comprehensive table detailing the level of tint car windows can have depending on which state you’re in:
What about windshields?
Laws surrounding windshield tinting can be even more varied and complex than those that dictate VLT in the rest of your vehicle’s windows. Most states won’t allow you to tint windshields at all except for a sliver of space at the top to act as a sun visor, known as the AS-1 line.
Certain states, however, permit you to tint a certain number of inches below the AS-1 line. Illinois, for example, allows tinting six inches below the AS-1 line.
Few states restrict the VLT allowed on windshield tints, so long as the tint does not extend beyond the space allowed by law. No state allows you to tint your entire windshield indiscriminately, however, so make sure you understand your state laws if you plan on tinting your windshield yourself.
Assessing window tint costs
Now that you know how much you can tint your windows based on the local laws you need to follow, let’s take a look at how much you can expect to pay to get the job done.
There are different factors that can impact the exact pricing of tinting your car’s windows. The largest determining factor in the cost to tint car windows will be how much work you’re prepared to do yourself, but the quality of the tint will also influence the price.
Professional vs. DIY route
Naturally, the best way to save money on window tinting is to do it yourself. If you’re handy and already have tinting kit tools, you could tint all the windows in your vehicle for about $60 (or even less if you own a smaller car model like a Corolla). You can find inexpensive window tint film through online marketplaces like Amazon for as little as $15.
If you’re not prepared to do all your own precise measuring and cutting, however, you can purchase precut window film pieces for between $60 and $120 depending on the size of your vehicle and the shape of your windows (you’ll also want a squeegee to make sure you don’t get air bubbles in the film).
Getting your windows tinted professionally is, as you might expect, the most expensive option. However, if putting a screen protector on your phone without air bubbles is beyond you, it may be worth spending the extra money to take your car to a tint shop.
Much of what you’ll pay for at a tint shop are labor costs, but unless you’ve had practice tinting windows yourself, the old adage “you get what you pay for” usually applies to window tinting. Paying a professional to tint your windows will guarantee you don’t end up with tint bubbling, and they will also be able to recommend products to suit your specific needs.
Cost based on number of windows tinted
If you’re having all your car’s windows tinted, professional window tinting could cost you up to $1,000 depending on the type of vehicle you own. If you’re simply looking for some front-seat privacy or want to add a sun visor strip to your windshield, you could have professional tinting done for under $100 per window.
Quality of tint
Whether done professionally or as a DIY project, much of the cost to tint car windows is determined by the type of tint you choose for your vehicle.
Dyed window tint
The most basic and affordable type of window tinting available is dyed film, which is exactly what it sounds like: a dyed adhesive that gets stuck to your car windows like a giant sticker.
Dyed window tint can help reduce the amount of light coming into your car. However, it won’t offer much in the way of UV protection. As a result, solar heat is still going to turn your car into a sauna in the middle of summer. What’s more, over time, the tint’s dye will fade, meaning you’ll eventually need to reapply the film.
You can buy rolls of dyed window tint online for as little as $7 (though you may want to invest in a higher quality film if you’re going to tint your windows yourself).
Metalized window tint
Metalized window tints add metallic flakes to the mix, which help block UVA and UVB rays from entering your vehicle. This will help protect not only the interior of your car from sun damage but your skin too. What’s more, the metal in the film will also increase the strength of the window, helping to prevent shattering.
One caveat to metalized tints is that they may reduce your cell phone and radio reception: wireless signals are on the infrared light spectrum, which is what these tints are designed to block.
Metalized films aren’t as readily available in the DIY market, but you can buy rolls of this type of tint online for as little as $19.
Crystalline window tint
If your primary concern is more about blocking the sun’s UV rays than privacy, a crystalline tint may be the way to go. These films tend to have a higher VLT, but they’re incredibly effective at blocking nearly all IR and UV waves.
If you want your car to remain cool in the summertime, crystalline tint is a good option. Dyed and metalized films won’t be nearly as effective.
On the downside, crystalline window tint film is only available through authorized dealers, so you won’t be able to install this tint yourself.
Carbon window tint
Carbon window tint uses carbon particles instead of metal to block UV rays, which means this film will give your windows a dark tint that will last. It also won’t block your phone and radio reception as much as metalized window tints will.
You can purchase carbon window tint film online for as little as $22.
Ceramic window tint
Arguably the highest quality window film type, ceramic tint uses nano-ceramic particles in layers to block out nearly all of the sun’s UV rays. And because these particles are not metallic, they won’t harm your cell phone reception in the same way metallic films will.
Again, as with most investments, you get what you pay for. This means if you want the best window tint available, you have to be willing to pay more money. You can find ceramic window tint film online for as low as $25; however, most of these products are in the range of $50 to $100.
Unless you’re the kind of person who lives for the thrill of DIY projects, it probably makes more sense to hire a professional to tint your windows. The work will be guaranteed, and you’ll save hours of frustration without wasting money on materials you’ll accidentally ruin by applying incorrectly.
Is window tinting worth the money?
It certainly can be. If you have a small car and are willing and able to do the work yourself, tinting your own windows can be extremely affordable. Even a ceramic precut tinting kit for a sedan (the highest quality and most expensive DIY option) will only run you around $125 through an online marketplace like Amazon.
On the other hand, paying a professional to install ceramic window tint on a large vehicle could cost up to $1,000. It may be worth the investment, though; if you’re looking to run your air conditioning less in the summer, a ceramic window tint could definitely help you achieve that.
Can you see at night with a 20% tint?
The short answer is yes. How well you can see is another matter, as that depends on how well the area you’re driving in is lit and how bright your headlights are. This video demonstrates the difference between 20% and 35% VLT at night.
Why shouldn’t I get my windows tinted?
There are a few reasons you may not want to get your windows tinted:
- You have trouble seeing at night. Even high-VLT tints can make it more difficult to see at night. For most people, it’s safe to drive with tinted windows; however, if you have trouble seeing, it may not be a good idea to tint your windows (unless, of course, you go for a ceramic tint, which will not darken your windows).
- State laws don’t align with your needs. Maybe you only want to tint your windows for privacy, but you live in a state that does not permit low-VLT tinting. You definitely don’t want to tint your windows illegally; the fine plus the cost to undo the work will not be worth the hassle.
- You can’t afford the work. Maybe you’re unwilling or unable to tint your windows yourself, but you don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars on a professional tinting job if you can’t afford it.
How hard is it to tint your own windows?
If you’re patient and have clear instructions to follow, you should be able to tint your own windows without any major problems. That said, this video admittedly makes the work look like a little more than the average person may want to deal with. However, considering that doing the work yourself is the best way to cut down on window tint costs, it may be worth a shot.
You’ll want to make sure you work carefully and follow the instructions exactly, or you may end up with a window that looks like this:
How long do tinted windows last?
The cheapest DIY dyed window tint job may start bubbling in as little as a few months. A professionally installed window tinting, however, should last about five years; most tint
shops will even give you a five-year warranty on the window tinting.
Tint material matters as well. If you shell out for a ceramic window tint, for example, you’re likely to get even more life out of the work. This fun little infographic provides more detailed information on how long window tinting lasts.
Can you see through tinted windows at night?
In most cases, yes, you can. Most states won’t permit you to tint your windows so dark that you couldn’t see through them at night, but there are a few (looking at you, Montana) that will basically let you do whatever you want. Low-VLT tints can definitely make it harder to see at night.
Always check your local laws before tinting your windows yourself. If you’re going to a professional, ask them about night vision if this is a concern for you. The last thing you want is to end up in a ditch you didn’t even know was there.
- To have your vehicle’s windows tinted professionally, expect to pay between $100 and $200 per window depending on the quality of tint film you choose.
- You can tint car windows yourself fairly inexpensively, but it’s a tricky process that could be frustrating if you don’t have the experience.
- Most professionals recommend ceramic tint — it lasts the longest, blocks nearly 100% of all UV rays, and won’t interfere with your cell phone reception the way metalized films can.
- Carbon particle tint is a good option as well, especially if you’re looking for darker windows than ceramic tints will offer.
- If you don’t have cash on hand to pay a professional to tint your windows, you can finance the work at an affordable price with a personal loan.
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Ben Coleman is a veteran English teacher with a knack for translating complex concepts into bite-sized chunks. Having recently dug himself out of crippling credit card debt, he’s passionate about providing excellent financial resources to folks who need them so they don’t end up in the same position. Ben writes for SuperMoney from Rochester, NY where he lives with his wife and dogs (Yoshi and Pig).