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15 Tint Vs 20: What’s The Difference?

Tinting your car's windows provides several benefits, including blocking the sun's UV light and adding privacy. Picking the right tint can be difficult. To help you make an informed decision, we've researched how to tell the differences between a 15 and 20 percent tint.

Here are the main differences between these tints:

  • 15% tint is darker and only allows 15% of light in. In comparison, 20% tint allows 20% of light through.
  • Driving at night may be difficult with a 15% tint.
  • 15% tint provides more privacy than a 20% tint.
  • 20% tints are typically the darkest legal tint for front and driver-side windows.

These tints are incredibly similar because there's only a five percent difference between them. However, these differences can significantly impact your ability to drive your car. Keep reading to learn more about these differences and more!

Collaged photo of workers holding heat blowers in installing tint, 15 Tint Vs 20: What's The Difference?

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Differences Between 15 and 20 Tint

Amount of Light Allowed

One big difference between 15% and 20% tint is the amount of light it allows into the vehicle. The visible light transmission, or VLT, is the measurement of how dark a window tint is.

The percentage shows the amount of light that passes into the car. A car with 15% VLT will reflect about 85% of sunlight. The other 15% passes through. A 20% VLT shows that 80% of light is reflected, and 20% goes through.

Click here to see a window tint measure on Amazon!

Night Driving

A Honda Civic cruising along the expressway

Driving at night is dangerous. In 2020, the NHTSA reported that over half of driving fatalities occurred during the evening hours. Our visibility gets reduced to between 250 and 500 feet at night.

If you tint your windows between 35% and 50%, you won't experience any visibility issues during night drives. Tints that allow 25% or less light severely impact your driving abilities during the evening.

Windows tinted at 20% will be challenging to see through. You won't be able to see very far, especially as it gets darker through the night. You may need to open a window to help you see.

A 15% tint is much harder to see through at night. In the evening, this tint level can make windows look completely black. If you have a lot of driving to do at night, avoid this tint. You'll have to open your windows so that you can see.

Privacy

Both levels of this tint provide a decent amount of privacy. 15% will give you much more privacy than 20%.

During the day, you'll have to stand pretty close to the windows to see inside your vehicle. With a 15% tint, things will likely still be dark. It may be easier to identify items with a 20% tint.

It won't be easy to see inside a 15% tint at night. However, driving in dark or gloomy conditions will be incredibly difficult.

The 20% tint provides less privacy during the day and night hours. While still challenging, it is easier to see through this tint at night than a 15% tint.

Legality

A car getting pulled over by the cops

Since visibility is so important, dark tints are illegal throughout most states. New Mexico allows the darkest shade at 20% VLT on the front side windows. This tint is legal for the back passenger and rear windows in approximately 17 states.

A 15% tint isn't legal in very many states. No state allows this level of tint for the front-side windows. Eleven states allow you to tint your back side windows and rear windows to any tint level.

An additional four states allow either rear or back side windows to be tinted to any level. In Montana, you can tint your back side and rear windows to 14%. Louisiana allows you to tint your rear window to 12%, but your backside windows must be at least 25%.

As you can see, the legality of both tints varies depending on your state. Even within states, you could need different tint levels depending on the window you're applying it to. Be sure to check your local laws to avoid future issues.

Is 15 or 20 Tint Better?

Worker using a green heat blower in applying tint

There are few differences between a 15 percent and 20 percent tint. They both block out a lot of light and offer a high amount of privacy. So, is there one that is better than the other?

Overall, this will be based on your preference. However, there are a couple of things that make a 20% tint a better choice than a 15% tint.

The first is usability. It's easier to find places where 20% tint is legal. Even for rear windows, it is a challenge to find places that accept a 15% tint.

The second is functionality. Unless you only drive in sunny conditions, a 15% tint just isn't practical. A 20% tint isn't as challenging to drive with at night as a darker tint would be. You may need to roll the windows down to see better, but it isn't always necessary.

Overall, a 20% tint has the good qualities as the 15% tint. It protects you from a high amount of UV rays, helps keep you cool, raises the value of your car, and gives privacy.

This shade also lacks the biggest negative facing the 15% tint. Visibility is very important. Being easier to see at night is a fundamental characteristic.

What Are the Different Tint Shade Levels?

Installing tint on the car window

There are many levels of tint that you can get for your car. You can select shades anywhere from 5% to 90%. Remember that the lower the number is, the darker the tint will be.

Most vehicles don't have a dark tint when first purchased. The amounts do vary. However, front windows tend to come between 70 and 80 percent tint.

When selecting a tint, some levels are more common than others. Many companies offer shading with VLT percentages of 5, 20, 35, and 50. Some other standard levels to find include 15, 18, and 35.

Out of the most common tint levels we haven't discussed, 50% is an average choice. This tint will block out half of the UV rays. It provides a moderate amount of privacy. You can still see in and out of the car with little difficulty.

The 35% tint tends to offer the best light blocking, privacy, and functionality. At this level, you're blocking a great deal of light from entering your car. You're also getting much more privacy and are still at a legal tint level.

5% tint is sometimes known as the limo tint and it is incredibly dark. You usually only see this tint on limos, hence the name. There are a handful of states that let you do a 5% tint on your back passenger and rear windows.

Watch this video to see a visual of how some common tint levels look!

Can You Tint Your Own Car?

The potentially high costs of a professional tinting your windows may make you wonder if this is a project you can do on your own. It is! Keep in mind that this may significantly affect the overall quality of the tint job.

While straightforward, tinting is an exact project. You need to ensure you measure the film correctly. Next, cut it, so it fits the window and is smaller and easier to fit.

Another challenge is the application. You can leave wrinkles or bubbles on your film if you're inexperienced. These mistakes can sometimes get fixed. Other times, it's best to start over and try again.

If you decide to tint your own windows, pick a high-quality film. You'll also need tools. Have at least a squeegee and razor on hand. A heating gun can also come in handy, but it's unnecessary.

Click here to see this window tint set on Amazon!

Check out this heat gun on Amazon!

In Conclusion

Collaged photo of workers holding heat blowers in installing tint

15 and 20 percent tint are on the darker end of the tint shades and will reflect 85 and 80 percent of UV rays. Keep in mind that these tints may not be legal where you live. Always be aware of local laws before you select a window shade amount!

Need more? Check the posts below for more about vinyl wraps and window tints!

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