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Window tinting may be a welcome privilege in bright or warm climes, but state laws often keep dark windows from being too dark.
Frustratingly, there is no national standard for window tint, despite the fact that drivers often travel across state lines. However, there are some generalities among state laws with regard to car window tints.
So how dark is too dark for car window tinting?
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Front Side Windows Generally Lighter
Most states measure the legal amount of tinting of any car window by its light transmittance (LT) -- the amount of light that can pass through the tinted window.
Because of the need for a driver to not only see out the front side windows to use his side mirror, as well as the need for police officers to see the driver of any vehicle, the amount of tinting allowed on the driver's-side window must be lighter or at least as light as every other window. Federal regulations require auto manufacturers to make pretty much every passenger car's windows have a low enough light transmittance to allow for driver visibility -- 70 percent LT.
However, these rules don't practically stop car owners from ordering after-market tint which is darker than 70 percent LT, which is where state laws come in. For example, California, along with many other states, prohibits front window tinting which is 70 percent LT or less, in line with the federal standard.
However, even in these states, the back windows can often be tinted darker than the front, or even blacked out.
Sunnier States May Allow More Tint
Anyone who has been in a black car in states closer to the equator can testify that window tint is extremely important in sunny zones. In Texas, for example, the front side windows can have an LT as low as 25 percent, while the rear side windows can be as dark as possible. In Florida, the front windows may have no less than 28 percent LT with tint, and back windows of no less than 15 percent LT.
Drivers who have a medical need for more tint than allowed by state law can often be eligible for a medical exemption, usually with a doctor's or optometrist's recommendation.
Don't rely on the guy selling you aftermarket tint to tell you what's legal. You'll want to review your state's laws before putting any tint on your car.