Car Window Tinting Cost: DIY or Professional Installation?

Tinted car windows are undeniably cool, and driving a vehicle with blacked-out windows makes a bold statement of style that is sure to turn heads as you cruise past. Furthermore, there are several practical reasons why you might want to have your windows tinted.

The thing is, there is an extremely broad range of prices for having this work done – and you can even do it yourself. To help you understand the process of tinting windows and what you get for your money, we bring you all the information you need about car window tinting cost.

How are windows tinted?

Let’s start with the basics. How are windows tinted?

In short, car windows are tinted by applying a layer of film that prevents light from passing through and that gives them that familiar darkened look.

One side of the film is usually scratch-resistant while the other side is adhesive and sticks to the inside of the car window. You can either apply the film yourself or have it done by a professional, as we will see below.

So, how much does it cost to tint windows?

Before we go into the details, we can give you an idea of how wide the range possible of prices you can expect to pay is.

At the lowest end of the scale, you can expect to pick up a roll of uncut tint film that you apply yourself for somewhere in the $10-20 range.

At the other end of the spectrum, for the highest-quality film installed by a professional, it can cost up to $800 to have all the windows of a vehicle done.

There is obviously a huge difference between the cheapest and the most expensive tint jobs available, so now we need to look at the various factors that can affect this price.

DIY tint job

The most inexpensive way of tinting your windows is simply to do it yourself. As we said, you can pick up rolls of uncut tinting film for next to nothing. However, if this is the option you choose, you will need to cut it and apply it yourself.

If you want to do a good job of it, you may also consider buying an inexpensive installation kit, which will add slightly to the overall cost but will allow you to do a more professional job.

The next step up in cost is to buy a pre-cut tinting set that is compatible with your vehicle, a solution that will remove the need for cutting the film yourself and potentially giving you more precise results.

However, using an installation kit for this kind of work is still recommended.

Professional tint job

If you decide you would rather have a professional do the work for you, prices can vary widely.

Although we will look at the factors that can affect the amount you should expect to pay in just a moment, on average, having the work done by a professional should cost around $25-50 per window – or $100 for the whole car. This could rise to $200-400 for higher-quality film.

DIY vs professional installation

Both DIY and professional installation have their associated pros and cons, so let’s look at these now.

DIY installation – pros

DIY installation – pros

  • Price

The main – and probably only – reason why you would choose DIY installation over having the work done by a pro is to save yourself some money. By buying film or a kit and doing the job yourself, you can do your whole car for the price of having a professional do a single window.

DIY Installation – cons

  • Quality of work

If you do the job yourself, you will almost certainly not do as good a job as someone who does it for their living.

This is not the same as replacing the protective covering on a smartphone screen, and if you get it wrong, you might end up with bubbles under the film or you could end up sticking it in the wrong position.

  • Lack of proper tools

If you do it at home with a cheap kit you bought online, you also can’t hope to do as good a job as someone working in a proper workshop with the necessary specialist tools.

Professional installation – pros

Professional installation – pros

  • Apply evenly

One of the biggest advantages of having a pro do the work is that you know – or at least hope – they will do a perfect job. This is something they have done many times before, and they will apply the film evenly and with no bubbles, and the positioning will be exactly right.

  • Use specialist tools

As well as being experienced in this kind of work, a pro will also have the specialist tools required to do a superior job. For example, they will use a heat gun to apply the film, something the average DIY car enthusiast won’t have access to.

  • Won’t damage your car

When applying tint to windows, it is possible to scratch the windows or damage the paintwork during the process. However, if you have a professional do the work for you, you know this is not going to happen.

  • Familiar with local laws

In the US, each state has different laws about windows and how dark you are allowed to tint them.

If you do the job yourself, you might inadvertently end up breaking the law, getting pulled over by the cops and being hit with a fine.

However, if you have the job done professionally, the people doing it for you will know the relevant laws and will be able to give you advice about what you can and can’t do.

  • Offer warranty

Having professionally-installed tint also offers you a warranty that guarantees against bubbles, peeling, colors fading and so on. This might be for one, three of five years – but usually, you get a lifetime guarantee.

Other factors that affect the window tinting prices

Other factors that affect the window tinting prices

Other than doing the work yourself or having it done by a pro, there are some other factors that can affect the price you should expect to pay.

  • Type of car

The type of car affects the price of having your windows tinted for a couple of reasons.

First, if you have a larger vehicle, you should expect to pay more simply because your car will need more film to cover the windows. Having the windows of a big SUV will cost more than having the job done on a small compact.

Second, if your car has curved or steep windows, you should also expect to pay more. This is because the work is trickier and will take longer.

  • Quality of film

Not all tint film is the same, and there are varying grades of quality as well as a range of color options.

Metallic films are a good choice and are known for blocking UV rays and heat. However, they also block telephone signals and GPS, so are not a great pick if you need to make calls or use your navigation system.

Carbon film is even better at blocking UV and heat – but also allows phone signals and GPS to pass, making it a great option if using those things is important to you while you drive.

Other options include ceramic films or other specialty options, which can bump up the price. These are the kind of top-end films that can see you paying up to $800 to have your whole car done.

  • Removal of existing film

If you are replacing old tint film, you will also have to pay for this to be removed, and depending on the work required, this can set you back anything from $25 to $200.

Why would you want to have your windows tinted?

Having looked at the kinds of prices you can expect to pay, it would be reasonable to wonder about the benefits.

For most people, the major appeal comes in the classy look they give your car. However, there are also a couple of other reasons why people prefer tinted windows.

We’ve mentioned that they block UV rays, and for some people being protected from the harmful rays of the sun could be an important consideration. Some tinted windows prevent up to 99% of UV rays from passing through the glass.

Another reason is to keep your car cool. Again, some films can keep up to 60% of heat from penetrating the window, which is especially important in warmer states.

Finally, there’s the increased privacy. If you don’t want prying eyes seeing what’s going on in your vehicle, tinted windows are the perfect solution.

The final word

As we’ve explained, there is a huge range of possible prices you could pay for tinted windows, running from $25 for a cheap DIY job right up to $800 for professional installation of the most expensive tint film.

That said, most people should expect to pay something in the range of $200-400 for a professional to fit tint film to every window in their vehicle.

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