Types of Auto Window Tinting

Car with tinted windows

Tinting your car windows can give your vehicle a customized, sporty look, as well as protect your car's interior from sun damage. To darken the windows of your vehicle, you or a professional installer must apply a tinting film to the glass. This film comes in four main types, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. It's best to understand all your options before you choose the type of film that's best for your needs.

Dyed Window Film

Dyed window film is made by placing a layer of dye between an adhesive layer and a protective polyester top coating. The adhesive layer sticks to the window glass, and the top coating prevents nicks and scratches. This type of film can block from five to fifty percent of the light from entering your vehicle.


There are several reasons to consider dyed window film:

  • Dyed film produces the darkest effect, and it's non-reflective. Many people like this esthetic.
  • This type of film does not block radio waves, so it won't interfere with an in-glass antenna.
  • It reduces fading from sunlight.
  • This film blocks unwanted glare from headlights and other bright lights.
  • In general, this type of film is the most cost effective.


Dyed film also has a few important disadvantages:

  • When installed incorrectly, dyed film can have an unattractive bubbled appearance.
  • According to The Spokane Shop, this option does not block as much heat as other products.
  • This type of film can delaminate, which means the layers can separate from one another.
  • Over time, the UV rays of the sun can break down the dye, causing it to turn from a deep black to a purple color.

Metalized Window Film

Another option is metalized window film. This type of film consists of several layers. A base layer of adhesive bonds the film to your window. This is followed by a layer of film treated to block ultraviolet radiation, which is then bonded to a metalized layer that reflects heat and darkens the window. Finally, a top coat of protective film helps prevent scratches. Metalized film often blocks out everything but ten to forty of the light.


There are a number of reasons metalized film might be right for you:

  • It is very effective at blocking heat, since it reflects the heat before it enters the car.
  • It also blocks glare very efficiently.
  • Metalized film is excellent at blocking UV rays.
  • This type of tinting film does not fade over time.
  • Metalized tinting film is extremely durable.


There are three main disadvantages to metalized film, all of which are important to consider:

  • This type of film can interfere with radio technology. In addition to in-glass antennae, the film can block your cell phone signal, stop your tire pressure monitoring system from working properly, and cause other problems.
  • Metalized film has a very shiny appearance, due to the metal content. For many consumers, this isn't the esthetic they have in mind.
  • This type of film costs more than dyed options, since the metal makes it more expensive to produce.

Hybrid Tinting Film

Hybrid window film is designed to offer the advantages of both dyed and metalized films without the disadvantages of each of these types. It consists of an adhesive layer, a dyed layer, a metalized layer, and a protective top coat, all bonded together with laminating adhesive. Depending on the brand, this option blocks everything but five to fifty of the light.


There are lots of reason hybrid window film may be the best option:

  • It blocks heat very effectively due to the reflective metal content.
  • This film blocks glare and UV rays.
  • Because of the metalized layer, most hybrid films reduce fading.
  • The metalized layer increases the durability of the film.
  • Because less metal is used, this type of film doesn't interfere with cell phones and radio signals.
  • Less metal content means that the film isn't as reflective, allowing it to provide the esthetic many people enjoy.
  • It is less costly than metalized film.


There are few disadvantages to hybrid tinting film, although it's important to note that this type of product is more costly than dyed film.

Ceramic Film

A relatively recent option, ceramic window film consists of an adhesive layer bonded to a thin ceramic layer and protected by a top coat. The ceramic reflects heat and darkens the window, blocking out all but thirty to fifty percent of the light.


You may want to consider ceramic film for a number of reasons:

  • This type of film is very effective at blocking heat.
  • It blocks UV rays and light glare.
  • It does not fade as dyed films might.
  • It allows radio signals to pass through it, making it ideal for in-glass antennae.
  • Ceramic window film isn't as reflective as metalized options.


The main disadvantage of ceramic window film is that it can be very costly. It is the most expensive option when it comes to window tinting.

Application Methods

No matter what type of film you choose, you should have it professionally installed if you want to ensure a great appearance. The cost of the film and the application vary, depending on the type and brand of film, the experience level and credentials of the installer, the type of car you own, and the area where you live.

You can also choose to install any type of window film yourself. This is the most budget-friendly choice, but the results can be variable. You'll need a squeegee and a razor knife to apply the film to your windows without trapping air bubbles. You can purchase many types and brands of film, as well as the installation tools you'll need, at any automotive parts store.

Legality of Window Tinting

Each state has its own laws about window tinting. There are regulations about colors of tinting, light transmission, and reflectivity, as well as which windows can be tinted. To decide which type of tint is best for your car, it's essential that you know the law in your area. The International Window Film Association has a helpful chart with specific information about each state.

Weigh Your Options

Choosing the best type of auto window tinting means considering all the options and comparing them to your needs and budget. If you weigh your choices carefully, you'll be sure to end up with a window tinting product that works for you.

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Types of Auto Window Tinting