Did you know that tinted windows are one of the most popular upgrades among automotive enthusiasts?
It is easy to see why this dark film gives the car an elegant and sleek appearance. However, you may have also noticed that cars with tinted windshields are not that common. Sure, some will argue obstructed visibility as the primary reason for this, although most of them are not that dark. Tinted windshields are not that common because of the laws that regulate their application. This differs between the states, which is why you may find conflicting information on the Internet. You could end up with tinted windows that are unacceptable in your state.
To help you avoid this from happening, we will explore how each state regulates windows tinting and find out what else you should know.
- Understanding Window Tint Percentages
- Available Window Tint Percentages
- Choosing Your Window Tint
- What Are The Benefits of Window Tinting?
- What Do These Different Terms Mean?
- Removing Tint
Understanding Window Tint Percentages
Part of the window tinting process is to choose the percentages that you want to use. The percentages determine how light or dark your tint will be. We will talk about the laws regarding tint shortly but we also want to point out that you should be familiar with your state laws to know if there is a maximum tint allowance.
For now, let’s talk about what the percentages mean and how you can choose the best tint for your vehicle.
Available Window Tint Percentages
Window tint percentages range from 5-90%.
The basic way to understand what the percentage means is to think the higher the number, the higher the visibility. For example, 90% tint is the lightest shade of tint available. On the other hand, 5% is the darkest and there is little to no visibility with this percentage level. This chart will help make sense of it all.
The tint percentage determines how much light you are letting in, not just the visibility percentage. Think about it this way – It’s really all about the light level.
Tinting Levels Explained
While you can certainly understand the difference in the percentages, it might be helpful to understand what different ranges might mean.
For example, any tint range that falls below 20%, you get a great mix of privacy, light filtration, and great looking tint. 20% is often a sweet spot for car owners that want a reasonably dark tint while still retaining their visibility. In some states, 20% is lower than the law allows so keep that in mind.
The next range is from 20% to 50%. As you move closer to 50%, visibility improves, and more light is allowed to shine in. Up to 50% will help reduce issues with glare but won’t negatively affect your visual in the process.
50% and up get lighter is the next range. While these are significantly lighter in nature, they are still effective at reducing the sun that is shining into the vehicle. Glare and heat from the sun are still reduced. 50% is a good middle marker that gives you just a touch of tint without being super dark.
Probably the most common tint percentage used throughout the United States is around 35%. This level is legal in most states, but there are some states that actually require higher numbers. You will find that this is the common denominator for legal tint percentages in a lot of areas, which is why it’s a common choice.
Choosing Your Window Tint
Now, let’s talk about choosing the right window tint for your needs. While you need to take your state’s legal tint allowances into consideration, there are some other factors that might also affect your decision.
The first thing to do is look up the legal tint ranges in your state. Each state has its own laws and some states are far more lenient than others. We discuss this in more detail later in this guide but we mention it here as it does play a part in your decision.
Tint percentages can vary from window to window. The laws even vary based on the window. The law is often set based on visibility of the person driving. Just be sure to know what is or is not acceptable for your state so you don’t have to lighten the tint later.
What’s Your Goal?
What is your end goal in regards to your tint percentage? Do you simply want to shield yourself and your car a little bit from the sunshine? Maybe you want to add some privacy to your ride. The tint percentage that you choose in the end will most likely be closely related to the goal that you have.
For example, if you just want to reduce glare from the sun, you can easily be satisfied without 50% tint. It’s effective for this and it’s dark enough to give you some privacy. However, if your main goal is privacy, you probably want a slightly lower percentage.
If you have a level of tint in mind that appeals to you, see if you can find examples. Pay attention to cars around you that have tinted windows. Do you like a specific look or aesthetic? If possible, take pictures to show your professional company.
It is very important to work with a professional tinting company. They are trained to make your tint look great and even help you make a suitable decision based on your goals. If you use a local tinting service, they most likely will be familiar with your state laws to advise you on your options. Professional tinting companies are also likely to use high-quality materials that will hold longer. If you’re going to pay for the service, you want it to be worth the money!
Speaking of the money, that is another factor to consider. The variables that affect the price the most are the type of material on the multiple layers of thin films, the size of the vehicle (the smaller the car, the lower the price). You can see some tinting price examples in this article.
What Are The Benefits of Window Tinting?
Before getting into legal questions, we will analyze why you should consider tinting the windows on your car in the first place. An improved appearance is one of the upsides, as tinted windows will give the car a stealthy and sleek look. And with a wide range of available colors and finishes, you will easily find one that matches your vehicle perfectly. But just like with any other visual enhancement, choosing the perfect window tint comes down to personal preferences.
Anyone who lives in more southern states already knows that tinted windows also offer one more upside. By blocking a certain amount of sun rays, they will help cool down the interior of a car. As a result, the temperatures inside it will be less unbearable after being parked in the sun for hours. Not only does this improve ride comfort, but it also prevents premature interior wear. This is because plastic trim becomes brittle when exposed to excessive heat, which causes it to crack with time. Attempting to remove the residue can result in a sticky layer being left behind, which will also need to be removed!
Lastly, purchasing a tint for your car can make it a safer place by increasing the level of privacy it offers. These windows are usually shiny and reflective, which makes seeing through them more difficult. This makes it less of a target for smash-and-run burglaries, as potential thieves cannot see what is inside the vehicle. As a result, the belongings inside your car will be safer when you leave it parked outside.
As a rule, though, most states prefer non-reflective tint on your windows to not distract other drivers.
Window Tinting Laws by States
Like many other laws, those which regulate window tint laws on cars differ greatly depending on the state you live in. As a result, something that may be perfectly fine in one place may be completely illegal for road use in another. To clear this out, we have created this handy table, which you can use to determine what is the best kind of window tint you may apply on your very own vehicle. You will probably notice right away that window tint darkness depends on the state you reside in, on the rear window and front doors. There are several reasons for this, with better visibility for the driver being the most obvious one.
|Alabama||32%||32%||32%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|Alaska||70%||40%||30%||Sunshade strip, 5”|
|Arizona||33%||No limitations||No limitations||AS1 line|
|Arkansas||25%||25%||10%||Sunshade strip, 5”|
|California||70%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip, 4”|
|Colorado||27%||27%||27%||Sunshade strip, 4”|
|Connecticut||35%||35%||No limitations||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Delaware||70%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|District of Columbia||70%||50%||50%||Sunshade strip, 5” or AS1 line|
|Florida||28%||15%||15%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Georgia||32%||32%||32%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|Idaho||35%||20%||35%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Illinois||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|Indiana||30%||30%||30%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Iowa||70%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Kansas||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Kentucky||35%||18%||18%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Louisiana||40%||25%||12%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Maine||35%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip, 4”|
|Maryland||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip, 5”|
|Massachusetts||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|Michigan||40%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip, 4”|
|Minnesota||50%||50%||50%||Not allowed at all|
|Mississippi||28%||28%||28%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Missouri||35%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Montana||24%||14%||14%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Nebraska||35%||20%||20%||Sunshade strip, 5” or AS1 line|
|Nevada||35%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|New Hampshire||Not allowed at all||35%||35%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|New Jersey||Not allowed at all||No limitations||No limitations||Not allowed at all|
|New Mexico||20%||20%||20%||Sunshade strip, 5” or AS1 line|
|New York||70%||70%||No limitations||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|North Carolina||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|North Dakota||50%||No limitations||No limitations||70%|
|Ohio||50%||No limitations||No limitations||70%|
|Oklahoma||25%||25%||25%||Sunshade strip, 5” or AS1 line|
|Oregon||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|Pennsylvania||70%||70%||70%||Not allowed at all|
|Rhode Island||70%||70%||70%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|South Carolina||27%||27%||27%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|South Dakota||35%||20%||20%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Tennessee||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Texas||25%||25%||No limitations||Sunshade strip, 5” or AS1 line|
|Utah||43%||No limitations||No limitations||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Vermont||Not allowed at all||No limitations||32%||32%|
|Virginia||50%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Washington||24%||24%||24%||Sunshade strip, 6”|
|West Virginia||35%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip, 5”|
|Wisconsin||50%||35%||35%||Sunshade strip up to AS1 line|
|Wyoming||28%||28%||28%||Sunshade strip, 5” or AS1 line|
What Do These Different Terms Mean?
To express how dark a particular tint may be, automotive professionals use VLT (visible light transmission). This number represents the percentage of outside light that gets into the vehicle through its windows. It is necessary to point out that lower numbers here represent a darker tint. We will explain this with a 70% tint, one of the most popular options for this application. This particular window film will block 30% of outside light from getting into the vehicle. As opposed to it, a limousine tint has a VLT value of 5, meaning it will transfer only 5% of the outside light.
Selecting a tint whose VLT value is within the legal limitations will ensure your car will be road legal. Still, things are not as simple as that, as there is another factor to consider when doing the math. The thing is that most modern vehicles already have tinted windows straight from the factory, transparent as they may be. Such windows will still affect the VLC value and darker the whole combo. And this can be a problem, as police officers determine if tinted windows are within the law using a tint meter. This purpose-built device measures the amount of light going through the foil and glass beneath it.
As our table demonstrates, most States prohibit windshield tinting in any form. Still, some of them will allow owners to install a sunshade strip. This transparent ribbon sits at the top of the windshield and prevents the sun from blinding the driver. The area this strip may take up is another thing that differs depending on the state. Some say it must not be higher than a couple of inches, while others define the AS1 line as a boundary. And that is something most drivers have never heard of, although all car windows on the market have it. This is an imaginary line set by the manufacturer, below which nothing should be installed. You can easily find it on your own car by looking for a marking at the top portion of the windshield, near one of the A-pillars.
Almost every law has certain exceptions from its application, and those regarding car window tinting laws are no different. Among scenarios in which a car owner could tint a windshield on their car, a medical condition is the most likely one. These include various photosensitive illnesses triggered by exposure to UV rays, such as sun allergies. So, if you have such a condition, you might get an appropriate doctor’s notice. This will allow you to tint the windshields on your car. Window tint has evolved and has even transformed to a smart tint, which will change as the weather of the sun changes – as you drive. Still, make sure to always have this notice in the car so that you can show it to a police officer.
Additionally, you should consult your local authorities regarding how dark a windshield tint on your vehicle windows may be.
You may also be considering a Chameleon tint, in which case you should check our article on the legality of Chameleon tint.
Change of heart or some tint issues like bubbling, discoloration? You can (and should) remove your window tint. This is quite easy to do it yourself, find out how here: 3 Easy Ways to Remove a Window Tint.
Most states will not allow owners to tint the windshield on their cars. This is because most of them consider that such modifications may obstruct drivers’ visibility. Still, many states allow a sunshade strip at the top of the windshield, or headlight tinting, or mirror tint. These rules, however, may not apply to people who have sun-related illnesses. So, if you want to tint the windows on your car, make sure they are not darker than the law in your state allows.