Washington Car Window Tint Laws (Updated)

Washington state is one of the rainiest and cloudiest places in the United States.  You would expect the laws on tinting car windows to be relaxed compared to other states, but how relaxed are they?

Quick Answer

You can get your windows tinted but the tint must allow 24 percent or more of light in.  A non-reflective tint is allowed for the top six inches of the windshield.  If you own an SUV or van, then the back side and rear windows can be tinted with certain restrictions.

Getting a spray-on tint is illegal in Washington, as is getting a mirror finish.  In other words, tinting your car should be left to the professionals.

Window Tinting in Washington State – What Does The Law Say?

Washington’s most recent tinting laws were enacted in 2011, although legislation on tinting goes back over a decade before.  Let’s take a closer look at getting a tint.

Can A Window Be Tinted In Washington State?

You can get your car windows tinted in Washington State, but it might be a good idea to consider some of the benefits and risks before you do it.

There is more privacy in tinted windows: Darkened windows mean it’s more difficult to see what’s inside, so you won’t have to worry about someone looking in.

Tinted windows block harmful ultraviolet rays: One of the biggest factors that cause skin cancer is ultraviolet rays.  Some types of window tinting will block the worst UV rays and keep your skin healthy.

Tinting helps keep your car cool: Besides UV rays, window tinting also keeps the heat down in your car.  This really helps on summer days when the car has been in the sun all day.  It also conserves the energy used to cool the car down.

There are some downsides to tinting your car windows:

It’s harder to drive at night with tinted windows: Tinting darkens the windows, which makes it harder to see in dark conditions, like night or in the rain.  This could potentially result in an accident.

Window tinting might land you in legal trouble: If you aren’t careful about obeying the tinting laws of the state you’re in, you could wind up in big trouble.  This could affect your auto insurance, costing more money than just a ticket.

What Windows Can Be Tinted in Washington State?

Washington has different requirements, depending on the window and depending on what kind of car you own.  Here’s a brief breakdown of the windows and their requirements.

Front Windshield: You can legally have a non-reflective tint on the top six inches on the front windshield.  This means that glare from the sun is less likely to blind you, but you’ll still be able to see the road clearly.

Rear Windshield: Rear windshield tints in Washington state require the car to have a set of dual side mirrors.  If you have a sedan, which just means a regular car, your rear windshield can be tinted, but the tint must be enough to allow more than 24% of light in.  Your tint reflection must not be more than 35% reflective.  If you have an SUV or van then any darkness is acceptable.

Driver and Passenger Window: Washington state has no specific requirements to tint the driver’s window.  Instead, the driver and passenger windows have the same rules: the tint must let more than 24% of light in.  The tint reflection shouldn’t be more than 35% reflective.  This goes for both sedans and vans/SUVs.

Back Windows: The requirements for tinting back windows on a sedan are that the tint must be enough to allow more than 24% of light in.  An SUV or van can have the back windows any amount of darkness, and both types of cars can’t have the tint reflection over 35% reflective.

 Restricted Colors: Washington state doesn’t allow tints in amber, red, and yellow.  This restriction is to avoid any confusion with emergency vehicles.

Washington State Window Tint Law Medical Exemption

If you have to have your window darker than the laws allow, medical exemptions are allowed.  The exemption is set by a letter from your physician that explains why you are exempt from the tint laws.  This letter must be kept in the car at all times.

The exemption covers all side and rear windows and the top six inches of the front windshield.  Which conditions that qualify for a medical exemption depend on the doctor’s discretion.  The more common ones are skin conditions like albinism or lupus.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washington State Car Window Tinting Laws

Here are some answers to other questions about car tinting in Washington.

What Does VLT Mean According to Washington State Law?

VLT is short for Visible Light Transmission.  It’s the amount of light, measured in percentage, that passes through a lens or piece of glass.  Basically, the higher the percentage is, the more light will go through it.  A tint reduces the VLT, and that means the inside of the car is darker.

How Much Does Car Window Tinting Cost in Washington State?

The cost of tinting a window depends on the type of car, with smaller cars starting around $230 to $250 for all windows.  A larger car like an SUV has larger windows, and so will go from $400 to $700.  Trucks are in the middle since they don’t have as many windows.  Expect to spend about $300 to $400 to tint a truck’s windows.

How Dark Can Your Windows Be in Washington State?

The answer depends on the windows.  Your front windshield can only get a non-reflective tint on the top six inches, while the front side windows must allow more than 24% of light in.  If you have a sedan the same goes for the rear and back side windows, while SUVs and vans can tint their rear and back side windows any shade of dark.

Is Reflective or Colored Tint Legal in Washington State?

A reflective tint is legal in Washington, but not on the front windshield.  The reflective capability of the tint can’t be over 35%.  This prevents the glare from the tint from becoming a distraction to other drivers.  A colored tint is legal, but some colors are prohibited.  You can’t have your windows tinted amber, red, or yellow.

Are there any other requirements for getting your car tinted?

There are two other legal requirements in Washington, both for the people who make the tints rather than the driver.  The film used in car window tints must be certified, and a sticker to identify legal tinting has to be between the film and glass on the driver’s side window.

Can You Get a Ticket for Tinted Windows in Washington State?

You can get a ticket if your windows are too dark.  Police officers will test the darkness of your windows, and if you don’t have a legitimate medical exemption then you will get a ticket.  You can also get a ticket if your car doesn’t have a sticker proving your tint is legal.

Wrap Up

One thing you should be aware of when it comes to tinting is that laws can change over time.  Always make sure to brush up on Washington’s tinting laws, both local and state-wide, before you get your car tinted.

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