Angie's LIST Guide to
Window Tinting

People tend to install window film on their cars and trucks mostly for improved appearance and reduced heat absorption. Window film is available in different types and degrees of shading, but remember there are different auto window tint laws depending on where you live. Learn more about car window tinting options in this guide.
 

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Take your car to a trusted window tinting shop with a history of jobs that show no visible bubbles, scratches or blemishes. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Matthew D. of Tabernacle, N.J.)
Take your car to a trusted window tinting shop with a history of jobs that show no visible bubbles, scratches or blemishes. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Matthew D. of Tabernacle, N.J.)
 
 

Car window tinting benefits

Adding window film creates a custom look for your vehicle. Tinted windows reduce the car's interior temperature by 60 percent or more, which decreases interior fading or cracking. Tinted glass blocks UV-A, UV-B and infrared rays that heat up a vehicle. By blocking 99 percent of ultraviolet rays, window tinting helps limit dangerous sun exposure to the vehicle's occupants. And, when the interior is cooler, you won't need to crank the car's air conditioning, resulting in better gas mileage.

Safety and privacy are also factors that determine the decision to tint a vehicle's windows. In the case of an accident, a tint film acts as a net to hold any shattered glass from hitting occupants. Dark shading limits what potential theives can see inside the vehicle. Tint reduces glare from many sources, including the sun and reflections during the day and glare from street lights and oncoming headlights at night.

Professional installation usually takes about two hours for a car and longer for trucks, vans or larger vehicles. The installer cleans the window surface, applies window tint to the inside of the window, positions the tint and presses the film to remove any bubbles or wrinkles.

The tint might look hazy or cloudy for up to three days after application, but this clears up when the water under the film evaporates.

RELATED: Learn More about Auto Windshields and Glass

Types of window tint

Tint begins as a layer of clear film made of polyester. Depending on the type of tint, dyes or metals are added. Choosing the appropriate type of tint will depend on your budget and your needs:

Dyed film is created by adding dye to the polyester film. This type of tint absorbs heat and has the darkest appearance. It's typically used for appearance more than heat reduction and is great for reducing glare and to prevent fading of the interior. Carbon tint is a popular option in this category.

Metalized film has a variety of different metals adhered to it in the manufacturing process. This type of tint reduces heat and reflects UV rays. Metalized tint may cause interference with electronic devices like your cell phone, radio, and GPS.

Hybrid tint combines dyed and metalized types. This premium type of tint reflects and absorbs making it a popular choice.

Ceramic tint, the newest technology, uses nano-ceramics to absorb twice as much heat as dyed or hybrid while maintaining lighter shades. Ceramic provides the best clarity with high durability.

Crystalline tint offers heat and infrared blockage, without really darkening the windows. Comprised of 200 layers of film (yet thinner than a Post-It), crystalline tint is several shades lighter than your average tint (almost clear), and blocks up to 97 percent of the sun's infrared light and 60 percent of the heat coming through the windows. However, this top-of-the-line tint comes at a cost, with the average price ranging between $500 and $800.

There are several different types of car window tints to choose from. (Photo contributed by Angie's List member Tracy G. of Fontana, California)

Hiring a window tinter

You can install window tinting yourself by purchasing a window film guide, but to ensure a quality result, avoid a DIY tint job and hire a professional.

Start by consulting Angie's List, where you can read through the experiences of other car owners with pros in your area. Before selecting a company, contact several installers for estimates, visit their shops to see the product and ask questions such as the following:

1. How long have you been in business?

2. What's the warranty on your products and workmanship?

3. Is the warranty transferable if I sell my vehicle?

4. Are you an approved product installer?

When visiting the shop, confirm that the workroom is indoors and neat and clean for a dust-free work environment. Observe the employees for professionalism and friendliness.

Ask to see samples of their tint jobs. Check their work closely for any gaps or bubbles. Find out if the tint is applied in one piece or several pieces. Instead of cutting the tint by hand, some installers use a computer laser cutter for a more precise fit.

Discover whether the installer understands the local tinting laws. The degree of tinting is regulated by local law enforcement and varies from state to state. Oftentimes, the state requires more stringent regulations on tinting the front window as opposed to those located in the rear of the vehicle. The International Window Film Association released in May 2014 an updated list of state laws.

In some areas the installer must place a sticker on the car to prove the tint is legal. The amount of light visible through the tint is rated by Visible Light Transmittance (VLTs). Film VLT percent is the film alone and Net VLT percent is for the film and glass together.

Cost to tint windows

The cost for window tint varies greatly depending on a number of factors, one of which is the type of car involved. Some car models with steep and curved rear windows, or easily damaged electronics, require panels and speakers to be manually removed from the vehicle, increasing the cost. Also, the bigger the car, the larger the windows and the more film that will be required to cover the windows.

The quality of the film is also a factor in determining price. While they all may look good after the initial installation, the cheaper film tends to bubble and crack over time. Look for a high-quality film with a lifetime warranty.

Costs for window film can range from $150 to $500 or more. Get multiple estimates from several highly rated shops that specialize in window tinting before agreeing to have the work done. Compare apples to apples, and be wary of a price much lower than the other estimates for the same type of work. As with many things, you often get what you pay for.

Leave a Comment - 15

Comments

tintcollege

Subject: Window Tinting

Window tinting is very beneficial for car glass,home windows. It is also good for safety purposes.

Finest Shade PA

Subject: Window Tinting 101

Hi all,
Have seen many comments about auto window tint. Would love to clarify some points. As owner and installer of a leading window tint business for auto, commercial and residential tint.

With auto window tinting. I see many mention price. With both high and low. Prices do depend on area and market. But one of the largest contributors would be the actual product use. I hear mention all the time of $99 tint jobs in the city. But to me they are not my competition. Why. because i know they cut cost somewhere along the line. Most often it is the product itself that is of cheap quality. Where you find film tirning purple or fading dramatically in a short time.
Like many things you get what you pay for. When getting tint installed. find out the warranty. As mentioned lifetime warranty. Which is very common anymore. Almost standard. But only includes warranty against peeling, bubbling and delaminating. Next step up would be a film warrantied against fading and turning purple. or a color stable warranty. Which you will find at a higher price bracket. Up from that would be hybrid or metalized tint. which are designed for heat rejection and style. Coming at again a higher price point. Highest teir film would be ceramic, nano ceramic or spectrally selective films. which are designed for high heat rejection. best performing film. which comes at the highest price point. and with the right product will mever sacrafice clarity. Thats where you can find a job costing in the range of $500-$1,000.
As for quality. Scratches after instal would be unacceptable. I would have no problem personally if a customer came back to shop with that problem or concern. and fix it right away. The bubbles is often a concern. And fact is its an aftermarket product which will not be truely perfect. But many of us strive for it in our work. The small pin head dots are contamination between film and tint. They will not go away. It comes to the shop or installer or maybe customer to decide whats acceptable. And that may once again come to price. Where a $99 job they use a lower teir tint and low quality installs. And fact is you get what you pay for. But if purchasing a high teir tint. You should expect a top quality instal with minimal contamination.

Lee Phillips

Subject: cost of tinting car

I don't care what he said. For the price of almost $1,000 you were either getting your Maserati tinted or a school bus. Metal tint are not, that price was way out of line.

Mike

Subject: Half tint job.

Look I'm feel for you having to have paid soo much for a tint job. We pay 150 in Florida and that's for all 5 pieces and a front strip. But like the law is different in each state, but why so much. I have a BMW 328I 2013 M Sport.

Clint Elliott

Subject: bubbles

i just got my car windows back, and four windows state I live in doesn't allow front window tinted
Anyway I brought car home and noticed small bubbles on edges of all door windows and a few scratches on passenger front window could only see them from inside the car the scratches anyway
Could see bubbles from outside of car
I called the dealer who installed tint and he said wait two or three days cause sometimes it takes that long to dissolve ??

The cost was$995.00 with tax

Just wondering what u thought
Thanks

Neel

Subject: Response to bubbles

Clint- I noticed this was from May, and may have been resolved already as 1. Any shop that does tinting should not be using anything hard that should leave scratches on the tint (there are specialized hard rubber "squeege" type tools that they should use to get the liquid out from under the film after putting it on. 2. Shops that do tinting generally have fine print when you sign for the transaction that the bubble must be visible from a certain distance (i.e. 10ft) etc. If the bubble is still there, that means there is air behind the film and if it's still there, you could take an exacto knice (or breakaway retractable blade) to put a small hole in the center (or small slit) and use your fingers to guide the air out of it. Hope it helps. You should get much better quality especially with that cost!

Joe H.

Subject: Window Tinting

How much would it cost for a 2011 BMW-328 four door to tint all four plus the back.and how long warranty?

andrew cook

Subject: tint

How much to tint back window in a 98 cavalier old one is so messed up cant see out of it barely n its a safety
issue

Tiffany Perez

Subject: Tint

How much would it cost for a 2007 Toyota Yaris four door to tint all four plus the back and a strip on the front windshield and a lifetime warranty?

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