When you think of California, what comes to mind? Hot summers, tinted car shades, slow drives along the beach…
Thanks to its sunny weather, window tints are a prevalent part of California motorist culture. Many people like to add shades or tints to their car windows and windshields to help keep the sun’s harsh rays at bay.
Every American state has a knack for making its own rules that are often strikingly different from neighboring states. As a result, the California window tint law is unique and isn’t found anywhere else.
Therefore, when purchasing a vehicle with tinted windows or adding new window film to an old car, it’s essential to consider local rules and regulations first. You don’t want to accidentally end up with windows tinted darker than what’s legally allowed.
This article can help you make the right decision when selecting a new window tint. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about California state tint laws below.
If you’re looking for tint laws for somewhere else, take a look at our article on tint laws by state.
- Understanding Tint Law Lingo
- Types of Windshield Tints
- How Dark Can You Tint Your Windows in California?
- Window Film Certificate
- Window Film Sticker
- What the California Tint Law Prohibits
- Penalties for Non-Compliance of Floridian Tint Laws
Understanding Tint Law Lingo
To better understand California’s tint laws, you’ll need first to decode its unique lingo. Here are some key terms you should know about:
- VLT Percentage (%): VLT is short for ‘visible light transmission.’ It is measured in percentages. For example, a tinted window’s VLT explains how much light the tint allows in. Darker tints have low VLT values because they reduce the amount of visible light transmission within the tinted window.
- Front-Side and Rear-Side Window Tint Level: ‘Front-side window tint level’ indicates a vehicle’s front window VLT %. ‘Rear-side window tint level’ implies the same for the car’s back windows.
- Rear Window Tint Level: This is different from the ‘rear-side window tint level,’ referring to the VLT% of the single window at a car’s rear end.
- AS-1 Line: This line lies 5 to 6 inches below your windshield’s top edge. It is visibly drawn on windshields and is manually measurable on others.
Types of Windshield Tints
The market is brimming with all kinds of windshield tints. However, before selecting a windshield tint, be sure to check with local laws to see if it’s allowed. Some states, for example, have laws against colored tints.
Don’t forget to consider your wallet and affordability before investing in new car window tints. Window darkness tints aren’t something you replace regularly. Hence, it’s better to invest in a slightly pricey version, if you can, to gain a better long-term return.
How Dark Can You Tint Your Windows in California?
California is a sunny state, making tinted windows a common phenomenon. However, tinting your windows too dark can lead to trouble with the police.
Below is a collection of California tint laws for both passenger and multi-purpose vehicles:
California Tint Laws for Passenger Vehicles
Passenger vehicles, also known as sedans, must subscribe to the following tint darkness limits:
- Minimum VLT for front side windows: 70%
- Minimum VLT for the backside and rear windows: Any %, as long as both side mirrors and dual side mirrors are present
- Windshield tint: 4 inches below the windshield’s top edge. Hence, the tint will likely lay above the AS-1 line in most cars
California Tint Laws for Multipurpose Vehicles
Rulings for multi-purpose vehicles are identical to those for passenger sedans:
- Minimum VLT for front side windows: 70%
- Minimum VLT for the backside and rear windows: Any %, as long as both side mirrors are present
- Windshield tint: 4 inches below the windshield’s top edge.
Please note: Up to 88% VLT is allowed when using aftermarket film. This rule applies to both multi-purpose and passenger vehicles. However, this value is only limited to 70% when factory-tinted windows are added to the mix.
Tint Reflection Limits for California Vehicles
Tinting laws state that reflectivity cannot exceed that of a standard window. This law is in place to help protect drivers from experiencing solar glare, which can cause roadside accidents. Excessively reflective surfaces are the culprit behind solar glare and can momentarily blind motorists. Therefore, a non-reflective tint is what you should be opting for.
Window Film Certificate
All window tints applied within California must have a window film certificate of authenticity. So, if you’re planning on installing new window tints, check to see if your mechanic can provide you with this certificate. If they can’t, consider opting for a different mechanic.
An authenticity certificate must state the tint film’s VLT% and bear the manufacturer’s name and address. Motorists driving tinted cars must have this certificate on them at all times.
Window Film Sticker
Expect to receive a window film sticker along with the window film certificate. Paste this only on your windshield to let local authorities know that you are installing the best window tint and that it is genuine and within the VLT% limit.
What the California Tint Law Prohibits
California window tint laws concern VLT%, reflectivity, and the following prohibitions:
- Color-altering tint film is not allowed
- Red, blue, and amber tints are prohibited
- Rear-end windows cannot be tinted if side mirrors are absent
Individuals with unique medical conditions worsened by sunlight exposure may apply for a special window tint exemption. Informing the state of California about your condition will grant you access to a customized window tint VLT%. Even if the VLT% required by your condition is lower than the legally allowed limit, you will be allowed to adopt it.
Tint darkness exceptions can be made for the following conditions:
- Xeroderma pigmentosum
- Lupus and related light-sensitive auto-immune diseases
Remember, medical excuses only apply to motorists with chronic conditions. If you are experiencing temporary light sensitivity caused by an impermanent condition, like pink-eye, you won’t be granted medical excuse.
Penalties for Non-Compliance of Floridian Tint Laws
Suppose you’ve been pulled over for having an illegal window tint on your vehicle. If this is your first time caught, the officer will hand you a ‘fix-it’ ticket. This is your first (and last) warning ticket. After receiving a fix-it ticket, you must get your illegal tint removed. After that, you can choose to replace it with a legal alternative if you like.
However, if you fail to do so and get pulled over again, you’ll be charged a $25 fine. In addition, the officers will once more inform you to remove your tint. A third-time violation can land you a hefty $197 fine. The police will also charge you with an infraction.
Californian laws are relatively lenient and allow fully darkened rear-side windows, unlike most states. However, before installing new tint film to darken your back windows, don’t forget to ask your mechanic for a certificate of authenticity. Doing so will help prove the legal validity of your new car window tints.