If you’re a very private person, tinting your car windows is a fantastic way to keep yourself to yourself, and let everyone else focus on their own business.
The only problem is, certain degrees of tint obscure visibility in poor light conditions, which means driving at night or on gloomy days can be extremely dangerous. As such, every State has its own legislation on the matter, determining how dark you can tint certain vehicle windows.
Is 5% Tint Legal
Technically, the darkest possible legal tint is 5%. This is the incredibly dark, near opaque, black tint you’ll see on the rear windows of limos, separating the possible celebrity passengers from the wandering eyes of the public. However, “limo tint” drastically reduces visibility in poor lighting, so it’s illegal to use on the front driver and passenger side windows.
Certain states such as California, Delaware, Arizona, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, and Vermont allow the use of 5% tints on the rear window and rear side windows, but in certain circumstances, you can still receive a citation from a police officer.
The reason being, 5% light transmission is the very limit the law permits, so if there’s anything else obscuring that 5%, be it dirt, scratches, bubbles, tears, or lines, you’re technically breaking the law.
If you have the back windows tinted at 5%, you’ll also be required to have dual-sided mirrors fitted to compensate for the visibility you sacrifice for that private back seat.
In other States, it’s perfectly legal to treat your rear window to a nifty 5% tint, but they give completely different rules for side windows. For instance, if you’re going to be driving in Connecticut, the 5% back window is fine, but your rear side windows must allow at least 35% light transmission.
This is because 35% is the darkest tint you can have without severely hampering your vision in poorly lit areas and times of the day.
Rear side window transparency is taken even more seriously by New York, with the local by-laws stipulating that they must accept at least 70% light transmission. On the other hand, Texas is slightly more lenient, permitting tints on rear side windows that allow only 25% light in.
Front Side Windows – Darkest Legal Tint
Laws surrounding the tint percentage of front passenger and driver side windows will almost always be more strict than those pertaining to rear windows.
For example, in New Jersey and Vermont, you’re not allowed any sort of tint on the front side windows, whether installed in the factory or as aftermarket customization.
From there, the darkest legal tint for front side windows is 20%, as stipulated by New Mexico. The next darkest tints can be donned in Montana and Washington with the limit being 24%, closely followed by Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma that permit 25% tints.
Colorado allows 27% tints on the front side windows, and Florida, Mississippi, and Wyoming bump it up to a 28% tint.
The most common laws across America concerning front side window tinting allow for a minimum of 35% light transmission. This rule is enforced by Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Indiana and Arizona are slightly more lenient, allowing 30% and 33% respectively, and Alabama and Georgia allow 32% tints.
In Utah, 43% is the minimum, while Louisiana lets that figure slide to 40%. Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin draw the line at 50%, while Alaska, California, Delaware, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. require 70% or greater light transmission.
Other Legal Considerations
On top of the opacity of the tint, States also enforce their own laws on how reflective the tint can be, so even if your 5% tint is technically legal from a shade point of view, excessive sheen or mirror finish will still render it illegal. If this is the case, a police officer is well within their rights to hit you with a citation.
It’s also illegal to layer more than one tint film on top of another, even if they’re only 50% tints. The dual layering can prove far too much of a visual obstruction, especially in poor lighting conditions.
Hue is another concern for local law enforcement. Every state has its own ideas of what‘s acceptable in terms of the color of your tint.
I hope you found the answers you were looking for here today. The darkest legal tint is 5%, but it’s only legal to use on the back windows of your vehicle. As a final note, before we part ways, once you’ve checked local bylaws on light transmission, don’t forget to check the rules on color and reflection. When you’re clued-up on all that info, you’re good to book your baby in for a tint fitting — hurray!