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Is it legal to tint the windows on a leased car?
In a word, yes, most of the time you can tint windows, and you aren’t going to get arrested for adding potential value to your vehicle in the form of a tint. You might pay extra to return the vehicle, depending on how the tint was applied.
A little bit about your leased car
Leasing a car is a bit like renting an apartment. While you can make small modifications to the vehicle (or apartment) you best be prepared to either do a very good job making those changes, or be ready to pay extra when you are complete to have things fixed. Leasing is overall a positive experience for people who want to drive a newer car on a regular basis, have the latest technology, and almost never have maintenance problems - but it isn’t for the person who wants to heavily modify their vehicles - though window tinting is usually OK. Let’s get into that now.
What to ask and know about adding a window tint to your leased car
Our biggest suggestion here is to ask the finance person or those who sign the paperwork with you, then actually read the document yourself to fully understand the window tinting policy on a leased vehicle. The lease contract should be very clear about what you can and cannot do to your vehicle, and the consequences - usually extra money paid at the end if you do. Many will forbid “lowering” a vehicle’s suspension, repainting it, or making other major modifications. Window tinting is a little different.
The window tinting difference in leased cars
Here is one of the odd keys that will determine whether or not you get charged extra when returning a leased vehicle with newly tinted windows: Is it a good tint? Does the window tint exceed the darkness specified in the contract, if there is anything in the contract about window tint?
A professional window tint job might just pass the eye test. The dealership or leasing company might not even say anything about a good window tint. In case you are wondering, a good window tint is free of scuffs and bubbles - and looks nice and smooth.
Improperly tinted windows might cost you extra when turning the vehicle in for final inspection. Why? Because of the labor and material cost of window tint removal.
Some leasing companies or car dealerships won’t say anything after they evaluate the window tint. The reality in some cases is that vehicles with more tinted windows are in demand and adding tinted windows may have added value to the vehicle. Of course, you won’t get your money back - or the car, but it was worth it while you had the vehicle!
Are tinted windows legal? Check with your local law enforcement first
When driving a leased car, whether or not the leasing company cares about window tints isn’t really the first concern. Instead, you should check with your local police (or if you travel frequently, the police where you tend to travel) to see what the laws are on tinted windows. There is likely a law indicating how tinted your windows can be. Being pulled over and ticketed for too deep of a window tint will only add to the bill - and also require that you get some of the tint removed anyway.
Window tints by state
For a little more detail: Some states allow for a 50% tint on the side windows and rear windshield. Window tint on the front windshield depends on the state you live in. Sunny states like Arizona allow some. States like my home state of Minnesota do not allow any window tints. You might also see differences in tinting the rear windows.
Why do people tint windows on their cars?
Vehicle owners tint their car windows for a variety of reasons. Tinted windows add a sense of privacy - especially for people who don’t want others to see expensive or potentially sensitive equipment and other things in their vehicles. A good window tint also provides some extra shade from the glaring sun and is relatively common in places that are frequently more warm and more sunny than average. Car owners in hot states also know that direct sunlight can cause interior fabrics to fade.
Of course, car window tinting also looks unique and cool to some and could add contrast to the visual appeal of a vehicle.
Tinted car windows do indeed provide a service - but much of the reason why they are only allowed up to a certain degree is that window tinting and tinted windows can make your windshield and side windows too dark, making it harder to see in bad weather. From a legal perspective, tinted windows also prevent law enforcement from seeing into your car and establishing a reason to search your vehicle.
Should I remove my window tint before turning in my leased vehicle?
Since window tinting is just a film, you could just have it taken off before turning your vehicle in on your leased car. You should look into it, though to be honest, it might be the same price or cheaper than paying the dealership or lease company extra to remove the window tint from your leased car. Another option is to turn it in a little early, then see if they care about the tint installation on leased cars.
Removing window tint isn’t that hard - the company just doesn’t want to pay the expense of having window tint removed.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding