The Impact of a 20% Tint on Your Car: Elegance, Privacy, and Legality

Whether you’re seeking privacy and style, or simply trying to keep your car cool in the summer, tinted windows can add a great deal of value. The darker the tint, the less light it allows inside, leading to increased shade and privacy.

This piece discusses one specific tint degree — 20%. Let’s dive in and find out if it’s the perfect balance between privacy and visibility, as well as what you should know about its legality.

Is 20 Tint Dark Enough?

The “darkness” of your tint depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. If your aim is to provide enhanced privacy while maintaining enough visibility for safe driving, a 20% tint could be a suitable choice.

In the world of window tints, the number refers to the percentage of visible light that is allowed into the vehicle. Thus, a 20% tint only allows 20% of the light in, making it a relatively dark tint. It will provide a good level of privacy and a sleek aesthetic without being too overwhelming.

A photo of a car in sunset with tinted windows.

How Dark Is 20% Tint On A Car?

To visualize a 20% tint, think about a nice pair of sunglasses. You can see out, but it’s noticeably darker than without them. Similarly, a 20% tint will make your car’s windows dark, but not fully black. From the outside, it may be challenging to see inside the car during the daytime, providing a fair degree of privacy. At night, however, visibility in the car improves, especially if there are lights on inside the vehicle.

Here comes the caveat. The legality of window tints can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction you’re in. While some places have no restrictions on window tinting, others limit the level of darkness allowed, and still, others ban tinting on specific windows (like the windshield or driver/passenger side windows).

In many U.S. states, a 20% tint all around the vehicle may not be legal, as it could be considered too dark, especially for the front windows and windshield. Law enforcement needs to see inside your vehicle for their safety and yours. In states with strict regulations, you could face fines or be required to remove the tint. Therefore, before deciding on a 20% tint, it is crucial to check your local laws and regulations.

Is 20% Or 35% Tint Better?

Whether 20% or 35% tint is better for you will largely depend on your specific needs and local laws. A 20% tint is darker—it allows only 20% of the outside light to enter the car, providing more privacy and potentially a cooler interior on hot sunny days. A 35% tint, on the other hand, allows more light to pass through, making the interior of the vehicle brighter, which may be beneficial for visibility, especially during nighttime driving.

Furthermore, in terms of legality, some jurisdictions consider 20% tint too dark, especially for the front side windows and the windshield. However, they might allow a 35% tint. Therefore, it’s critical to understand the tint laws where you live or often drive to make the right decision. If privacy is your utmost priority and your local laws permit, you might prefer the 20% tint. However, if visibility and compliance with stricter tint laws matter more, you might opt for the 35% tint.

What Does 20% Window Tint Mean?

A 20% window tint refers to the degree of tint darkness—the number signifies the percentage of visible light that can penetrate through the tint film. So, if a window is covered with a 20% tint film, it means that only 20% of the external light will enter the car, with the film blocking the remaining 80%.

This makes the windows fairly dark and provides a higher level of privacy and solar heat rejection. It’s important to note that because of this darkness, 20% tint might be considered illegal in some regions, especially if applied to the windshield or front side windows.

Is 15% Or 20% Tint Darker?

In the realm of window tints, a lower percentage means a darker tint. Hence, a 15% tint is darker than a 20% tint. With a 15% tint, only 15% of external light can pass through the window, compared to 20% light with a 20% tint. This higher darkness level means that a 15% tint provides more privacy and better solar heat rejection.

However, it also reduces visibility from inside the vehicle, especially in low-light conditions, and can be more likely to run afoul of local window tinting laws. Always check your local regulations before deciding on a specific tint level.

35% VS 20% VS 5% Window Tint: What Tint Is Best For You?

The best window tint for you depends on a combination of your personal preferences and the legal limitations set by your local jurisdiction. Let’s explore these three common tint percentages:

35% Tint

This tint level is less dark, allowing 35% of the visible light to pass into the car. This option provides a balance between privacy and visibility. It can still provide glare reduction and UV protection, making the car cooler and protecting the interior from sun damage. The lighter tint also offers better visibility, especially at night or in poor weather conditions. Additionally, it’s more likely to be legal in many jurisdictions.

20% Tint

A 20% tint is darker, admitting only 20% of the visible light. It offers more privacy and better sun protection compared to a 35% tint. However, it reduces visibility from inside the car, especially in lower light conditions. In terms of legality, some areas might deem this level of tint too dark, particularly for the windshield and front side windows.

5% Tint

Often referred to as “limo tint,” this level allows only 5% of the visible light into the vehicle, providing the highest level of privacy and sun protection. However, it significantly reduces visibility from the inside, which can make driving more challenging, particularly at night. Due to its darkness, it’s also the most likely to violate window tinting laws in many jurisdictions.

Neon reflections on limosine window.

In conclusion, choosing between a 35%, 20%, or 5% tint comes down to prioritizing privacy, sun protection, visibility, and compliance with local laws. You might prefer a 35% tint for visibility and legal compliance, a 20% tint for a balance between privacy and visibility, or a 5% tint for maximum privacy and sun protection.

Why Do People Generally Opt For Window Tints?

Window tints are popular for several reasons. First, they offer an enhanced level of privacy, making it difficult for outsiders to see into the vehicle. This can be beneficial in urban environments or crowded areas where maintaining personal space can be challenging. Second, window tints can protect your vehicle’s interior.

The sun’s UV rays can cause upholstery to fade over time, but tinting can block a significant portion of these rays, helping preserve the color and condition of your car’s interior. Third, tints can also keep your vehicle cooler in hot weather by reducing the amount of heat that enters your car. Finally, some people opt for window tints for aesthetic reasons, as they can give vehicles a sleek and stylish look.

Are There Any Drawbacks To Having Darker Window Tints?

While darker window tints, like a 20% tint, can provide more privacy and protection against the sun, there are some potential drawbacks. One of the most significant is reduced visibility, particularly at night or in poor weather conditions. This can make driving more challenging and potentially even hazardous.

Additionally, darker tints can attract the attention of law enforcement, especially in jurisdictions where there are regulations governing the level of darkness allowed. Lastly, dark window tints might make it more difficult to communicate with other drivers on the road, which could also affect safety.

To check the legality of your window tint, the best source of information is your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or a similar governing body. They should have comprehensive information about the regulations in your area. Additionally, many window tinting service providers are well-versed in the local laws and can advise you accordingly when choosing your tint.

Does The Quality Of The Window Tinting Film Matter?

The quality of window tinting film absolutely matters. High-quality films not only provide better UV and heat protection, but they also tend to be more durable and less likely to bubble, peel, or fade over time. They can also have a more professional, sleek appearance. While high-quality films might be more expensive upfront, they can save you money in the long run by avoiding the need for frequent replacements.

Can I Install Window Tint Myself?

While it’s technically possible to install window tints yourself, it’s often recommended to have them professionally installed. Tinting windows requires precision to avoid bubbles and to ensure the film fits perfectly. Professional installers have the necessary experience and tools to ensure a smooth, flawless finish. Additionally, professional installers are often familiar with local tint laws and can help ensure your tint meets legal standards.

How Do I Maintain My Tinted Windows?

To maintain your tinted windows and extend their lifespan, you should clean them regularly with a soft cloth and a cleaning solution that is safe for tinted windows—avoid any cleaners that contain ammonia, as they can damage the tint.

Try to park in the shade whenever possible to minimize exposure to the sun, and avoid rolling your windows down for a few days after getting them tinted to let the film cure properly. Regularly inspect your tint for any signs of peeling, bubbling, or fading, so you can address any issues before they become larger problems.

Are There Alternatives To Window Tinting For Protecting Against UV Rays?

Yes, if window tinting isn’t for you, there are alternatives. One option is UV-protective films, which are clear and won’t darken your windows but will block UV rays. These can protect your interior from sun damage and keep your car cooler without reducing visibility.

Sunshades are another option; while they only work when the vehicle is parked and won’t offer privacy while driving, they can effectively block the sun and keep your car cool when it’s parked in a sunny location.

What Should I Consider When Choosing The Percentage Of My Car Window Tint?

When choosing the percentage of your car window tint, you need to balance a variety of factors. These include the level of privacy you desire, the amount of sunlight you’d like to block, the visibility you need (especially for nighttime driving), and the laws in your local area.

The darker the tint (represented by a lower percentage number), the more sunlight it blocks, increasing privacy and solar heat rejection but decreasing visibility. Always check local regulations before making your choice, as overly dark tints can be illegal in certain jurisdictions.

Can Window Tinting Impact Vehicle Safety?

Yes, window tinting can impact vehicle safety, both positively and negatively. On the plus side, window tints can reduce glare from the sun and headlights, making it easier to drive in certain conditions. Tinting can also hold glass together in the event of an accident, potentially reducing injuries from shattered glass.

On the negative side, dark window tints can significantly reduce visibility, particularly at night or in poor weather, which could potentially increase the risk of an accident. The reduced ability of other drivers or pedestrians to make eye contact with the driver may also be a safety concern.

Can Window Tints Help Protect My Skin From Harmful UV Rays?

Yes, high-quality window tints can block up to 99% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, providing a significant level of protection for your skin. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to sunburn, skin aging, and even skin cancer. By installing a window tint, you can reduce this exposure and protect not only your skin but also the interior of your car, which can be damaged by constant sun exposure.

A woman driving a car.

Can Window Tint Be Removed Or Changed?

Yes, window tint can be removed if it’s damaged, if you want to change to a different level of tint, or if you need to comply with changes in window tinting laws. This is typically done by applying heat to the tint film to soften the adhesive, then carefully peeling it off.

However, this process can be challenging and might risk damaging your windows if done incorrectly. It’s often best to hire a professional to ensure the removal is done safely and correctly.

What Is The Lifespan Of Window Tinting?

The lifespan of window tinting depends on several factors, including the quality of the film, the quality of the installation, the amount of sun exposure, and how well it’s maintained. High-quality professionally installed window tint can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, or even longer in some cases. Regularly cleaning your windows with appropriate cleaning solutions and avoiding harsh sunlight exposure can help extend the lifespan of your tint.

Can I Use Window Tint On Windows At Home Or In My Office?

Yes, window tint isn’t just for cars. It can also be used in homes and offices for many of the same reasons. It can provide privacy, reduce glare, block UV rays, and help control temperature by reducing solar heat gain. As with automotive tinting, the laws regulating residential and commercial window tinting can vary, so it’s important to check local regulations.

What Are The Potential Penalties For Having Illegally Dark Window Tint?

Penalties for having illegally dark window tint can vary depending on the specific laws in your jurisdiction. They can range from minor fines to more significant fines for repeat offenses. In some cases, you may also be required to remove the illegal tint, which can add to the overall cost.

In rare cases, having an illegally dark tint could potentially impact your insurance, particularly if it’s found to have contributed to an accident due to reduced visibility.

A car on the road.


In conclusion, car window tinting is a multifaceted topic with numerous aspects to consider. From deciding on the appropriate darkness level to understanding local regulations and the implications for safety and UV protection, there’s a lot to ponder.

It’s always advisable to consult with professionals before making your final decision to ensure that your choice is legal, safe and meets your individual needs. Remember, while the aesthetic appeal of window tints is undeniable, their practical considerations are far more significant. Your safety and comfort on the road should always be the priority.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!