Turning to the dark side: How much does it cost to tint your car windows?

Looking to tint your car windows? Maybe you want to achieve a more comfortable and cooler ride in summer, perhaps you are after some added privacy or maybe you simply like the Batmobile look – watch out, Bruce Wayne!

Whatever your reason for considering a car window tint, it’s important to first understand the costs that come with tinting your windows and what laws may apply in your state regarding the darkness of the tint.

What is car window tinting?

According to Australian automotive website Practical Motoring, car window tinting can be fitted to new vehicles (factory tinting) or applied as a film to the glass of your car windows after you’ve bought it (after-market tinting), generally with the intent to darken the glass. Tinting can be applied to the driver and passenger windows, as well as to the rear window of a car.

It cannot, however, legally be installed on a windscreen in any jurisdiction in Australia, except for the visor strip across the uppermost part of the screen.

If you’re considering car insurance policies, the comparison table below displays some of the policies currently available on Canstar’s database for a 30-39 year old male seeking comprehensive cover in NSW without cover for an extra driver under 25. Please note the table is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) followed by provider name (alphabetical) and features links direct to the providers’ website. Use Canstar’s car insurance comparison selector to view a wider range of policies.

Why tint your car windows?

Australia’s window tinting industry body, the Window Film Association of Australia and New Zealand (WFAANZ), says adding a tint to your car windows could provide the following benefits:

  • UV protection

Tinting can help prevent heat, glare and harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays from penetrating the glass, providing some protection to the driver, passengers and interior of the car from sun damage while potentially reducing the need for air conditioning.

  • Safety

The ultra-thin film can add strength to the glass, which could reduce the risk of injury in an accident and help to prevent break-ins.

  • Privacy

Darkened glass can provide a level of privacy for vehicle occupants while on the road and help to hide a car owner’s belongings from prying eyes.

  • Improved appearance

Some drivers feel window tinting achieves a smarter, sleeker look for their vehicle, and with a range of colours and styles available, you have control over the final aesthetic look.

car tinting
Source: Sompetch Khanakornpratip (Shutterstock)

On the other hand, despite WFAANZ’s claim that car window tinting can cut down on UV radiation and reduce heat, the Cancer Council of Australia has found that ordinary automotive glass already cuts around 97% of UVB (short-wave ultraviolet light) and more than 30% of UVA (long-wave ultraviolet light) radiation, while laminated glass (used in windscreens and some side windows) blocks all UVB and about 80% of UVA rays.

Tests conducted by the RACQ in 2009 also found that while tint films slow the uptake of heat into the car through the windows, the car will still reach about the same temperature eventually, and tinting can slow the loss of heat, meaning the car could take longer to cool down. In addition, they found tinting your windows may reduce visibility in low-light conditions, making it harder for the driver to see pedestrians and cyclists.

It can be important to consider potential benefits and downsides such as these before deciding whether to tint your car windows.

How much does car window tinting cost?

According to WFAANZ, it will generally cost between $300 to $800 to have your car’s side windows and rear window professionally tinted, depending on a number of factors. Online service marketplace, Oneflare, has a lower estimate of between $200 and $500, or approximately $70 to tint a single window.

Some key factors that may influence the cost of having your car windows tinted, according to Oneflare, include the make, model and size of your vehicle, the brand and type of tint film you choose (e.g. classic black, charcoal or ceramic) and your desired look and features (e.g. scratch or fade-resistant, non-reflective). Costs will vary between professionals, so it is usually a good idea to get quotes from a number of providers to compare your options.

How long will car window tinting take to install?

WFAANZ states that on average, it will take a professional a couple of hours to tint four standard side windows and the rear window in a sedan. You can request an estimate of how long it will take directly from the provider you choose.

Where can you get your car windows tinted?

Car window tinting services may be offered by auto tinting companies, auto service shops, and motoring clubs. The WFAANZ suggests customers choose a professional installer who will abide by all state or territory guidelines and can provide a warranty on the film and the installation, which may allow replacements or corrections to be made if the tint film bubbles, peels, fades, cracks or comes off the windows after installation.

WFAANZ members who have made a commitment to comply with these standards and regulations can be found in the members directory on the WFAANZ website.

car tinting installation
Source: Nomad_Soul (Shutterstock)

What are the car window tinting laws?

In Australia, the maximum darkness for after-market and factory car window tinting is set and regulated by state and territory road and traffic authorities, often referred to as the ‘darkest legal tint’. If you deviate from the car tinting rules set out by your state or territory authority, then the WFAANZ says you could render your car unroadworthy.

This could mean that as well as having to pay to remove the tinting from your car, your registration or insurance policy may be cancelled, and you could face a fine or even criminal charges if the tinted windows prove to be a contributing factor in an accident.

Window tint darkness is measured in Visible Light Transmission (VLT), which is the amount of light that can pass through your window. The lower the VLT percentage, the darker the film.

The window tinting rules in each state and territory for the side and rear windows, as of September 2019, are outlined below:

Legal minimum window tinting VLT percentages by state/territory

Location Front side windows (VLT%) Rear side windows (VLT%) Rear window (VLT%)
NSW 35%   20%*   20%*
Qld 35%   20%*   20%*
Vic 35% 35% 35%
SA 35% 20% 20%
WA 35% 20% 20%
NT 35% 15% 15%
ACT 35% 20% 20%
Tas 35%   20%*   20%*
*If the vehicle is fitted with side mirrors on both sides, then 20% VLT for rear windows is allowed. If not, then the minimum VLT is 35%. Information gathered from state and territory authorities.

In all states and territories, windscreens cannot be tinted, except for a small tinted strip along the uppermost 10% of the windscreen.

Can car window tinting affect your car insurance?

If your car window tinting does not comply with the laws in your state or territory, then your vehicle could be rendered unroadworthy. Some car insurance providers may not pay a claim if it was found you were driving an unroadworthy vehicle at the time of an accident.

Car modifications, including window tinting, may also bump up your car insurance premium costs if they are found to increase your risk of having an accident.

Before you tint your windows, it could be worth informing your insurer, so they can let you know if the tinting is covered by your current policy or if it will impact your insurance premium.

Cover image source: Stefano Buttafoco (Shutterstock)

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