Best Window Tints: Block the Sun & Make Your Car More Stylish
The best automotive window tints for privacy and to keep the heat away.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON May 12, 2021
Harsh sunlight can destroy your car – it’ll fade pristine paint, leave your leather interior and plastic dash cracked and colorless, and break down even the toughest parts inside and out. And you can’t forget how hot it makes your car during the summer. But there’s an easy way to limit the discomfort and damage of the sun: just tint your windows. Tinting your side and back windows is not only a great way to block out sunlight, but it also offers you a bit more privacy.
Tinted windows can make a world of difference for any vehicle. Whether you’re looking for increased comfort, fewer prying eyes, or simply like the look of tinted windows, applying even a slight tint can be a smart idea. Tint can be applied easily, and it can give you a customized level of darkness that keeps your belongings and gear inside obscured from prying eyes. No matter how light or dark you want to go, a single layer of window tint delivers plenty of benefits. Wondering where to start your search for quality tint products? Check out our picks for the best window tint right here.
This tint is scratch-resistant, blocks 99 percent of UV rays, and doesn't interfere with radio signals. It offers heat rejection and color stability and is available in five shades.
- Film is of high quality and easy to cut, heat shrink, and manipulate to fit the glass
- Produces a super clean look, with no hazing of any kind
- May be hard to work with and install
- Creases very easily
- Will peel or start to bubble if you don't thoroughly clean your glass before application
This window tint provides good heat reduction and has a 99 percent anti-UV rate. You can choose a shade up to percent.
- This product is good quality, maintains its dark color, and is resistant to fading after years of use
- Adheres very strongly to glass surfaces
- Blocks out the heat
- Tint may wrinkle or crease during shipping
- Beginners may have trouble with installation
- Can be particularly difficult to shrink it to fit on a curved window
This scratch-resistant tint blocks 99 percent of UV rays and is non-reflective. It includes five tint shades, and the company provides thousands of tint patterns for 1990-2018 vehicles.
- Pre-cut tint makes it easier to install than rolled tints
- Tint is a nice color and is durable
- Once applied, it provides crystal-clear visibility without blurring
- Tint is very thin, creases easily, and may fade over time
- You may need to trim the pre-cut pieces to make them fit more accurately
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Benefits of Window Tints
- Cooler car interior. Tinting your side and back windows will help keep you from scorching temperatures inside the interior of your car. The added bit of darkness will limit the amount of UV light getting inside, and that helps your car’s interior stay a few degrees cooler than it would otherwise. This is particularly helpful if you live in a warm region or frequently park in bright sunlight all day long.
- UV-light blocking. A window tint will lessen the number of UV rays getting inside your car. Not only does a tint keep the sun from heating up your car, but it also reduces the damage UV light can cause. You won’t have to worry as much about sun-caused issues like fading, cracking, and interior damage thanks to the increased protection — and shade — you’ll get from a tint.
- Less glare. Bright, harsh sunlight can make it challenging to see clearly. As illuminating as it is, that light can also create glare. Fortunately, window tint can cut down on glare thanks to its increased darkness. While tint that’s too dark can obscure your visibility, a nice light-to-medium tint will help cut down on glare.
- Increased privacy. One of the biggest benefits you’ll get from window tint is an extra layer of privacy. Window tint makes it more difficult for passersby to peek into your car; by darkening them, you’ll obscure gear, passengers, and more. It can help prevent wannabe thieves from catching something appealing sitting in your SUV’s cargo space or your sedan’s backseat.
- Improved fuel efficiency. Who knew changing your car’s windows could help you get more miles out of every gallon of fuel? Because window tint helps keep the interior of your car cooler, you won’t have to run the AC as high or even potentially as often as you normally would. As a result, you can drive with slightly improved fuel efficiency.
- Cool exterior style. Applying window tint can make your car stand out on the road and when it’s parked. Tinted windows look great, and they can be applied in different thicknesses or levels of darkness to suit your own personal style. If you’re looking to really make your car turn heads, you can go as dark as the legal limits allow.
Types of Window Tints
This type of tint includes a layer of dye between an adhesive layer and a polyester top coating. The tint appears flat and opaque from the outside and gives the driver and passenger good visibility. Dyed film is non-reflective, less expensive, and blocks glare. However, it provides the least amount of heat and UV protection. It can also deteriorate in high temperatures. Eventually, UV rays will turn the dye from black to a shade of purple.
Metallic or Metallized Film
Metallic tints have a metallic look and feature an adhesive layer, a layer that blocks UV rays, a metallic layer that reflects light, and a protective outer layer. This type of tint does not fade, is very durable, and is great at reducing heat and UV reduction. However, it can obstruct radio waves and other electronic signals, such as a cell phone signal, GPS, or TPMS.
Carbon tints block UV rays and interior fading. They reflect as much as 40 percent of infrared light with their dark, matte finish. They do not fade over time, and they help reduce overall fuel consumption because they cool your vehicle enough to reduce the amount of air conditioning you need.
The best ceramic tint features ceramic particles that are non-conductive. It performs very well and is the newest type of tint on the market. It blocks up to 99 percent of UV rays, reduces glare more than other types of tint, and does not fade. It keeps your vehicle at the desired temperature and does not interfere with electronic signals; however, it’s more expensive than other types of tint.
Several car manufacturers offer you the option of having a factory tint. Windows are permanently tinted via a process known as "deep dipping." While this darkens the glass, it is not the best car window tint for heat reduction or UV protection. Typically, factory-tinted windows have a VLT index of 15 to 26 percent. This can cool your car's interior but won't offer a lot of privacy or protect you completely from the sun.
SunTek is headquartered in Martinsville, Va., and is under the Eastman umbrella. The parent company has more than 60 years of experience in film production and technology. One top product is the Suntek Window Films Carbon 18 Black 40 Inches by 100 Feet 1.5 Millimeter Non-Fade - CARBON 18 40X100.
MotoShield Pro is based in Commerce, Calif., and focuses on using nano-coating protection for your car inside and out with an easy-to-clean, ultra-smooth surface. One popular product is the MotoShield Pro PreCut Ceramic Tint Film All Windows Any Shade.
3M began as a small-scale mining venture in Northern Minnesota over a century ago in 1902. The company operates in 70 countries and produces more than 60,000 products. One popular auto window tint is the 3M 1080 G12 GLOSS BLACK 5 Feet by 7 feet (35 Square Feet) Car Wrap Vinyl Film.
LEXEN is based in Catonsville, Md., and is a Formula One/LLumar-authorized window tint dealer. One of its top products is the LEXEN 2 Ply Premium Carbon 20 Inches by 100 Feet Roll Window Tint Film.
Gila Window Film is manufactured by CPFilms Inc., a subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company in Martinsville, Va., which has over 60 years of experience in film production. One popular product is the Gila 550001807 Heat Shield 5% VLT Automotive Window Tint DIY Heat Control Glare Control Privacy 2 Feet by 6.5 Feet (24 Inches by 78 Inches).
Window Tint Pricing
- Under $25: There are several window tints on the market in this price range, but they sometimes cover just a couple of windows and not the whole car. A few may be applied with static cling instead of adhesive.
- $25 to 50: Some of the best window tints fall into this category. You can get a decent-quality product for this price, and they typically come in larger square footage.
- $50 and up: Window tints can cost upwards of several hundred dollars. More expensive products tend to be more pliable and easier to use with curved surfaces. They also are more resistant to bubbling and peeling.
Pre-Cut Versus Rolled
Pre-cut films are cut precisely to match the dimensions of your windows. Conversely, you must cut rolled tints yourself to make a proper fit. Pre-cut films are typically more expensive compared to the DIY version. If you are proficient at measuring, consider a rolled tint to save some money.
The shade measures how much light can pass through a tint. The best types of window tint typically come in various shades of black and are rated by the percentage of visible light transmission (VLT) that enters the vehicle. Tints with a lower VLT percentage are darker, while tints with a higher VLT percentage are lighter. For example, a VLT with 50 percent means that 50 percent of the light will come into the vehicle. The best window tint percentage is up to you.
Color stability refers to how well your window tint will hold up over time. Your windows — and the tint you apply — will be in the direct line of fire of UV rays. That means your tint will see UV exposure every single day, which over time can cause fading and coloring changes. In order to choose a high-quality window tint, you’ll want to look for products with long-lasting color stability. Most tinted are rated for this; a color stability rating of less than 1 is the best of the best.
While window tint is designed to obscure your windows to some extent, you want to make sure you aren’t choosing a tint that makes it difficult to drive safely. When you’re considering different tints, opt for one that offers good clarity. The clearer — and less foggy, warped, or obscured — a tint is, the better you’ll be able to see easily out of your side and back windows. This will ensure you aren’t losing visibility in the brightness of daylight or the darkness of night once your tint is installed.
- UV Blocking Power. Each type of auto tint has a particular level of UV-blocking capability. For example, ceramic films are 99 percent effective, while dyed, carbon, and metalized films don't provide as much protection. The higher the percentage of UV blocking power, the better it is for protecting your vehicle's interior from fading.
- Ease of Application. If you decide to apply a window tint yourself, it's important that you purchase a product that is easy to use. This is especially important if you've never done it before. That is why many car owners prefer to have a tinted window shop carry out the task.
- Durability. Another important factor is the longevity of a particular brand. You need to know how long the tint will last on your vehicle after it is exposed to a variety of elements, including the bright sun. The longer it lasts, the less expensive it will be for you.
- Heat Dispersion. In very hot weather, temperatures can rise quickly inside your vehicle, particularly if it is sitting for an extended period of time. The best car window tint for heat reduction will disperse heat instead of absorbing it. This will provide a cooler atmosphere inside the vehicle.
- Colors. The best types of window tint come in a variety of colors, including gray, amber, green, and blue. You can customize the look while simultaneously keeping cool and protected from harmful rays of sunlight. Colored tints, like their black tint counterpart, should also provide VLT, UV protection, and heat dispersion.
Best Window Tints Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Ceramic tints are very advantageous because they provide the best protection. However, they tend to be more expensive, so other tints are good alternatives as long as they provide the protection you require.
- Think about why you want a window tint. If it's purely for aesthetic reasons, you can spend less money on brands that are not as geared towards blocking harmful UV rays.
- Installing a window tint yourself can be tricky. If done incorrectly, you can ruin the tint kit, or worse, damage the glass on your vehicle. Paying a professional may be worth the extra cost.
- To apply window tint yourself, put your vehicle in a well-shaded, dust-free area. Also, have the following products on hand: application solution, a squeegee, low-lint cloth, razor knife, and a plastic scrubby.
- It's crucial to thoroughly clean your windows before applying the tint application solution with a plastic scrubby. Also, completely dry the window with a squeegee.
- Clean your windows with a razor blade scraper, but be careful on factory-tinted windows because you could remove the coating. Do not use a razor blade to clean rear windows with defroster lines or antenna lines.
- Order more of the product than you think you’re going to need so you have an extra tint to work within the event that you make a mistake.
- To remove old window tint, use a fabric steamer to steam the window. Eventually, the adhesive will melt, and you will be able to peel the tint off.
Q: Are window tints illegal?
Every state has different laws about auto tints, which usually involve a product's VLT. Some states will charge or fine you if your window tint goes below a particular VLT value.
Q: How do I clean a tinted window?
Be extra careful when washing a vehicle with tinted windows. Do not use sharp objects or harshly scrub the windows. Avoid high-pressure water so the tint doesn't peel off at the edges. Also, use a soft cloth or sponge to prevent scratches and to maintain the gloss finish and UV rejection effectiveness.
Q: Why do some window tints turn purple?
Over time, the sun fades and ages window tint. UV rays and heat exposure eventually damage the tints, particularly the type that is dyed. Better, more expensive options such as metallic or ceramic tints will not turn purple.
Q: What causes some window tints to bubble?
If you improperly install a window tint, you may experience a bubbling effect. It's essential to remove the water and air bubbles between the glass and the film, otherwise, the sun can cause air bubbles to form. Eventually, those bubbles will crack, which can be unsightly.
Q: How long do window tints last?
A properly installed window tint should last for many years, particularly if it's metallic or ceramic. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and choose a high-quality product.
Our top pick for the best window tint is the LEXEN 2 Ply Premium Carbon 20 Inches by 100 FeetRoll Window Tint Film. It’s high quality and easy to cut and heat shrink. It produces a super clean look, and there is no hazing of any kind.
A less costly alternative is the Protint Windows 5% Shade Color 24 Inches by 10 Feet Window Tint Film Roll.