Tint is a great way to increase the level of privacy, protect the insides, and add to the cool factor of your car, but there are limitations. Each state has very precise limits on the level of tint, where it can go, and how reflective it can be.
In most states, it is completely legal to tint most of the windows of your car. But there are a lot of nuances amongst window tinting laws that need to be taken into account. To understand that, we will break down what tint is, the terms you’ll need to understand, and where issues arise with tint laws
What Is Window Tinting?
Kelly Blue Book created a write-up on the seven things you need to know about tinting. They describe window tint as a material made to disrupt the penetration of UV rays moving through the window into the car. The percentage commonly associated with the level of the tint is the amount of light the tint allows through. So, 70% means that 70% of the light is allowed passage, whereas 15% is extremely dark because it only allows 15% of the light the penetrate.
Some other benefits include
- Preventing damage to the interior from prolonged sunlight exposure
- Preventing damage to windows via the elements
- Increasing security within the car
- Increasing resale value
- Reduced glare
Some drawbacks include
- Limited visibility, especially at night
- Safety issues, windows are difficult to break
Types of Window Tint
The material that is allowed to be used on automobiles consists of a pretty short list. The most well-known kinds are listed below.
Ceramic Window Tint
Considered by most to be the highest quality tint available, which also means the most expensive, ceramic window tint serves a lot of purposes. It blocks more than 99% of UV rays, which are the more harmful parts of sunlight (which consists of three total parts) that cause skin damage, sunburn, eye diseases, and cancer over time. Ceramic tint is made with ceramic particles that don’t conduct heat, so it can help with increased insulation, keeping the car cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It’s the most effective against sunlight and can cut the inside temperature almost in half. Also, it can help make the window more shatterproof. Ceramic tints fade less over time and can assist in reducing glare even without choosing a darker tint.
Carbon Window Tint
While not as high in quality as ceramic, carbon window tint is still a highly recommended option for tint. Carbon will not fade, has a matte finish that many car owners enjoy, and is a decent insulator. The only downside documented is the cost.
Hybrid (Dyed and Metalized) Window Tint
As a combination of the two lesser types (dyed and metalized), hybrid tints consist of several layers of dyed material with a layer of metal in between. This kind was made to diminish the negatives of dyed and metalized tints alone. The metalized can mess with your radio signal and look almost like a mirror. Dyed tints have the least amount of UV protection and tend to fade. Also, hybrid tints are less expensive than metalized ones and more expensive than dyed ones.
Terms to Know
While learning about or looking up tint laws, you’ll see a lot of terms thrown around like VTL%, front side window, rear side window, windshield, color, and AS-1 line. You can find the definitions of each term below.
- Film VTL% - also known as visible light transmission, this term is the metric used to determine how much light gets from one side of the film to the other.
- Net VTL% - this is the amount of light that can penetrate the glass and the film because glass also reduces some amount of light from penetration.
- Front Side Window Tint - this is the figure that regulates tint on windows used to view/display the driver and passenger seats, especially to law enforcement. These tend to be the most strict.
- Rear Side Window Tint - this is the figure relating to tint allowed on the windows on the side of the back of the vehicle. The amount of tint allowed on the rear side windows is often much darker than the front.
- Windshield - the windshield is the window that the driver looks out of while operating the vehicle. There is not one state that allows tinting on the windshield.
- Color - the laws that relate to the color of tint vary from only allowing the use of certain colors and reflective/mirrored to having no restrictions at all.
- AS-1 Line - a marking left by the manufacturers to indicate the start of the clearest form of glass, which is the only kind that can be used in a windshield. Above that line, most states allow some level of tint to help with visibility and glare.
Issues With Tint Laws
The two issues that tend to arise with tint laws are the exceptions that exist and interpretation. The issue of possible interpretations of these laws means that it’s not uncommon for states to use ambiguous terms like “non-reflective” or “non-excessive,” which are difficult to define or measure. Also, it’s important to be aware that most vehicles come with some level of tint out of the factory. Check what your stock tint is before choosing which tint to add because you could be adding too much, which moves you into an illegal level of VTL%.
Despite each state’s law regarding tints, there is one main reason why someone is allowed to have tint on their windows: for medical purposes. Some of the medical conditions that entitle individuals to add tint to their cars include
- Bloom Syndrome
- Solar Urticaria
And while there are quite a few diseases and disorders that create extreme sensitivity to light, there are provisions in most states allowing for a much darker tint when these conditions apply. If you need these kinds of tints, discuss the topic with your doctor, as they can help you go through the proper channels.
Sadly, despite the need, many states still do not allow tint on cars for medical reasons. There are a total of 3 states that enforce this law:
Other states do not allow tint for medical purposes either. Still, they have a certain percentage that individuals can have their tint set to and always be within the legal limit. Three states adopted this law:
Tint Laws By State
Each state has a specific set of laws around what degree and type of tint they allow vehicles to have. Other rules may apply to multi-purpose vehicles, and the same goes for commercial vehicles. If you are looking to add tint to either one of those types of vehicles, please research your state, county, city, and municipality rules to avoid legal issues or tickets in the future.
Tint laws are rarely uniform, meaning that the VTL% on the front side windows rarely match the VTL% on the rear side or back. Because of this, each state reports the minimum VTL% allowed by simply attaching one VTL% to whichever window is relevant.
- Front and backside windows
- Rear window
- Side mirrors
There is only one state that allows people to tint their windows to any tint percentage: Michigan. On the contrary, there are seven states and one district that only allow a lighter tint on car windows (California, Iowa, Alaska, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Washington D.C.). Three other states do not allow tint on cars at all (New Jersey, Vermont, and New Hampshire).
The remaining states vary their tint laws based on a tint percentage between 10% and 60%. To see the rates in each state, check out the chart that goes into more detail about tinting.
As with tinted windows, the color of the tint depends on the state that a person resides in currently. Nonetheless, some states are more lenient when it comes to colored shades, and some are more strict.
The states that are more lenient on tinted colors, meaning that they will allow some colored tints, include, but are not limited to:
Other states, on the other hand, are more strict with this rule and will only allow lighter colors on car tints. Some of these states won’t allow any color at all. These are some of the states that carry this law: