Hardbacon logo

The Ultimate Guide to Ontario Window Tint Laws

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 06 Jul 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Ontario Window Tint Laws

    Window tinting makes your car look and feel cool, but do you know the pertinent laws and regulations in Ontario? Whether you want to add tint to your own vehicle or already installed it, it helps to understand the legal requirements. Here’s everything you need to know about Ontario window tint laws and how they affect you.

    Understanding Ontario Window Tint Laws

    Ontario window tint laws regulate the darkness of tinted windows on cars and other vehicles. The primary legal concern relates to the amount of light that can pass through the window after tint gets applied. 

    Window tinting enhances the appearance of a vehicle and provides some relief from the sun’s glare. However, knowing the laws surrounding window tinting will help you avoid any legal issues or fines. Ontario has specific guidelines that you must follow so your vehicle’s windows get tinted legally.

    The Purpose of Window Tint Laws

    Primarily, window tint laws ensure the safety of drivers and other road users. Specifically, they aim to maintain a clear level of visibility for drivers and passengers. In emergency situations, drivers need to have a clear view of the road ahead and other cars around them. Properly enforced window tint laws can help to reduce collisions and promote safer driving.

    Window tinting also provides some relief from the sun’s brilliance and reduces the amount of heat entering the vehicle. However, drivers must balance these benefits with the need for clear visibility on the road.

    Ontario law sets the maximum allowable level of tint on front side windows at 35 percent visible light transmission (VLT). That way, drivers still have a clear view of other cars and their side-view mirrors. Also, other drivers can make eye contact and use non-verbal signs to communicate.

    Also, police find it helpful to see if a driver uses a seatbelt or tries to text while driving. If another driver wants to report an erratic or drunk driver, it helps to have an accurate description.

    The level of VLT gets measured as a percentage of light that passes through the window. This means that the tint can block no more than 35 percent of the visible light passing through the window. Applying this amount of tint balances the cooling and anti-glare benefits but it makes it easy to see through.

    Meanwhile, the back side and rear windows can have any degree of tint. However, if the front windshield gets tinted, it must allow at least 65  percent of the visible light to pass through.

    Remember, the legal limits for window tinting can vary by province or state. If you plan to travel outside of Ontario, check the local laws to ensure your vehicle’s windows comply.

    Interpretation of the Rules

    Ontario’s law states that drivers cannot operate a vehicle if the “surface of the windshield or of any window to the direct left or right of the driver’s seat.” This means if it has any coloured spray or other reflective material that “substantially obscures the interior of the motor vehicle when viewed from outside.” 

    This creates a murky legal situation. For instance, a police officer ticket a driver if they feel the front windows’ tint “substantially obscures” the view. Since Ontario police officers don’t carry window tint meter detectors, they use their judgment after pulling a driver over.  It all depends on their interpretation and willingness to give you a warning.

    If you don’t know whether you violate the window tint laws, consult with a professional installer. They can help you with advice or by replacing the illegal level of tint.

    Types of Window Tinting

    When it comes to window tinting, not all tints work the same way. You can get several different types of tint, each with unique characteristics and advantages. Here are the most common types of window tinting:

    Dyed Window Tint

    Dyed window tint makes for the most affordable option available. In short, installers apply a three-layered tinted film onto the interior side of the window. The adhesive on the bottom sticks to the window, while the dye blocks some UV A and UV B rays. Finally, the outer polyester coating reduces the potential of scratching the surface. Dyed window tint comes in a variety of shades but tends to fade over time.

    It doesn’t last as long, but you can still get several years of life out of a properly installed dyed window film. Expect to pay rates from $150 for two windows to $350 for a full van or SUV. If you buy a kit and do it yourself, the cheapest option rings in at $37.

    Keep in mind that dyed window tint doesn’t offer as much heat reduction as other types. While it reduces glare and makes driving more comfortable, it may not make the best choice for hot Ontario summers.

    Metalized Window Tint

    Metalized window tints more effectively cool your car’s cabin as they reflect UV rays. Those additional  layers make it last longer, stick together better and hold their colour. In fact, a well-installed metalized window tint can endure for the lifetime of your vehicle.

    However, its metallic substances can interfere with your car’s electronics systems, such as cell phone, GPS and radio antenna. Even your tire pressure sensors may act up. If you rely heavily on GPS or other electronic devices in your car, you may want to choose a different type of tint.

    Finally, this type of tint comes across as reflective. If that look works for you, then go for it. Yet, some drivers may prefer a less flashy tint. It costs more than dyed tint and could run up to $400 per vehicle.

    Carbon Window Tint

    Carbon window tint is a premium option that offers enhanced durability and better heat rejection than other types of tint. The carbon particles within the tint film help to block out UV radiation, reducing heat buildup and protecting the car’s interior. Carbon tint does not interfere with electronic signals and lasts longer than dyed tint. It also minimizes interior heat by 40 percent in the summer and makes it easier to heat the car in the winter.

    In addition to its heat-reducing properties, carbon window tint can also help to protect your car’s interior from fading and damage caused by UV radiation. This can be especially important for those who live in areas with strong sunlight or who park their car outside for extended periods of time. The premium brand for DIY projects sells for $275 per 100-foot roll and has a seven-year warranty. If you pay a pro, it will likely cost close to $400 per car.

    Ceramic Window Tint

    Ceramic window tint provides the most advanced technological type of window tint on the market. This type of tint is created by layering advanced ceramic particles onto the window’s surface. As a result, ceramic tint provides the best heat rejection, glare reduction and UV protection. 

    While ceramic window tint may cost the most, it offers the best overall durability. One Toronto shop offers to tint a coupe or sedans for $425 and a van for $475. For premium ceramics, the price goes up to $550 for a sedan and $600 for a van or SUV. Another shop charges $360 for any type of car.  If you seek  the best possible window tint for your car, ceramic tint ranks as the best investment.

    Measuring Window Tint Darkness

    When it comes to measuring the darkness of window tint, you have several factors to consider. These metrics determine the level of tint on your windows:

    Visible Light Transmission (VLT)

    A VLT percentage refers to the amount of visible light that can pass through the window. In Ontario, front side windows must have a VLT of no less than 35 percent. Back side and rear windows, plus skylights, can be tinted to any degree. If you want a darker tint, make sure it still meets the legal requirements for VLT.

    How to Use a Tint Meter

    A tint meter measures the VLT of a window. By placing the meter against the tinted window, the user can accurately determine the level of tint applied. You can buy different styles with high-quality ones selling from $150 to $233. If you want to do a quick check, you can simply book an appointment at a professional window tinter.

    However, different tint meters may produce slightly different readings, so use the same meter consistently for accurate measurements. You can also download an app like Tint Meter or Tint Wiz.

    You can follow these steps:

    • Roll the car window down halfway. 
    • Slide the meter down the window. 
    • The digital display will tell you an exact percentage or opacity rating.

    Understanding Tint Shades and Percentages

    Window tint comes in a range of colors and shades. In addition to reducing glare and heat, certain tint shades can help to provide privacy and reduce the visibility of valuables inside the car. Tint percentages typically range from 5 percent (the darkest) to 50 percent (the lightest).

    When choosing a tint shade, always consider the legal requirements for VLT as well as your own preferences. A darker tint may reduce the amount of heat that enters the car, but it may also make it more difficult to see while driving at night. On the other hand, a lighter tint may not protect your car’s interior, but it may suit night driving better.

    Next, consider the quality of the tint film. Cheaper films may fade or bubble over time, reducing their effectiveness and making them look unsightly. High-quality films, on the other hand, last for years and maintain their appearance and effectiveness.

    When it comes to installation, have your window tint put in by a professional. Improper installation can lead to bubbling, peeling and other issues that can reduce the effectiveness and appearance of the tint. A professional installer can ensure that the tint gets applied evenly and without imperfections.

    Penalties for Non-Compliant Window Tint

    If you get caught driving with excessively tinted windows in Ontario, you may face fines and other penalties. Here’s what you need to know:

    Fines and Penalties

    Violating window tint laws in Ontario can cost you $110 under the Highway Traffic Act. This exceeds the standard $85 fine for other driving offenses, but still stings. Repeat offenders may face higher fines and even suspension of their driver’s license.

    Vehicle Inspection Requirements

    Ontario’s police officers can pull you over and ticket you for not following window tint laws. If they say your tint doesn’t comply, you may have to remove it and replace it with a tint that meets legal standards. That hits your pocketbook and takes your car off the road until you comply.

    Potential Insurance Implications

    Non-compliant window tint could potentially affect your insurance rates. If you drive with an illegal tint, it may be considered a driving offense and could lead to higher car insurance premiums or even cancellation of your policy. For instance, if you hit another car due to poor visibility, your insurance company may refuse to cover any damages.

    Overall, make sure that your window tint complies with Ontario’s laws and regulations. Not only would you face fines and penalties, but it can also have potential insurance implications. By following the rules, you can enjoy the benefits of window tinting without the added stress of potential penalties.

    Ontario Window Tint Laws: The Bottom Line

    Now that you understand the ins and outs of Ontario window tint laws, you can make an informed decision. The laws for window tinting differ across Canada, so remember that before traveling to another province. By staying within legal limits, you ensure your own safety and that of other drivers on the road.

    Compare Car Insurance Policies in Canada
    Compare Car Insurance Policies in Canada
    Compare Canadian car insurance policies and find the one that best suits your needs.
    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications