20% Vs. 15% Tint: Is Darker Better?

Window tinting is one of the easiest car mods out there, and it also comes in handy when you want some privacy, thermoregulation, or simply up the looks. Car tints come in a variety of grades according to how much light they allow in which brings us to today’s topic, 20 vs. 15 tint.

The numbers indicate the percentage of light let into the car by the tints. Tint 20% or 20 lets in 20% of light, while that of a darker shade lets in 15% light.

There are things to have at the back of your mind when you want to select the perfect window cover between the two. Here is a detailed comparison of 20% vs. 15% tints that shall lead you to the perfect choice.

20 vs 15 tint vs 20 tint

What Are the Differences Between 20% Vs. 15% Tint

Most of 20% vs. 15% tint differences trace back to their light penetrability. This table summarizes some of the differences between the two window films.

Feature 20% tint 15% tint
Light transmission Lets in 20% of light Lets in 25% of light
Appearance Dark Darker than 20% tint
Legality Legal in most states Few states legalize its use, mostly for rear windows
Thermoregulation Good Better
Night time visibility Average visibility Poor visibility

We dig deeper into the car window cover differences by looking at the following aspects, which also hint at their functionality.

1. Visible Light Transmittance

Visible light transmittance measures how much light passes through an object, in this case, the vehicle window, and is expressed as a percentage. Back to the window film comparison, the figures are their respective VLTs. 20 tint reflects or absorbs 80% of light and allows in 20%. 15 tint blocks 85% of light, letting in only 15%. In short, 20 tint has a VLT of 20%, while its counterpart has a VLT of 15%.

A lower VLT film will be darker, as it allows in the least amount of light. Using this logic, we learn that 15% tint is darker than 20% tint.

2. Heat Control

During sunny days, your car’s interior can heat up due to the penetrating rays, making it uncomfortable. Tinting can help with this situation, ensuring the interior is cool without air conditioning. The window films absorb or reflect away the sun rays, with darker shades being ideal for this job.

If you leave in cold areas, you may want a warmer interior, which you can achieve by letting in the sunrays. Both 15% and 20% tint are dark, though to varying degrees, making them ideal for sunray blocking in hot regions. Nevertheless, 15% tint does a better job as it lets in lesser light.

3. UV Ray Protection

UV rays can degrade your vehicle’s interior, with the dashboard and seats being the victims most of the time. Window tints act as shields, preventing the penetration of UV rays.

Shades that let in the least amount of light, like 15 and 20 tint, are the best for UV-ray protection, though the former is superior due to its lower VLT, as little light penetrates through it.

4. Privacy

You can tint your car windows if you want privacy and security, as it is hard for outsiders to see what is inside your vehicle. Darker tints like 15% and 20% are difficult to see through. 15 tint’s intensity makes it a better pick than the lighter 20% when improving privacy.

5. Night Driving

Night driving is quite challenging due to reduced visibility. A lighter tint is the way to go as you can easily make out the traffic environment.

15% and 20% tint are not ideal for night driving due to their dark shades. You may have to open your frontal windows to get a clear view of the road, which can be inconvenient.

If picking between the two tints, the 20% is a safer bet, as it is lighter than the 15% film.

6. Legality

How dark can my car tints be? Your state’s traffic laws determine how far you can go with tints, considering visibility is crucial when driving. The regulations in different states determine the VLT depending on the window.

In most states, it is illegal to tint the windshield entirely. You can use non-reflective film above the AS-1 line to help with extreme sunlight, with a width limit of 4-6 inches.

Regarding the 20 vs. 15 tint legality, you cannot use either tint for the frontal windows in all states except New Mexico, which permits 20% tint. Nonetheless, you can use both for rear and back windows in most territories.

Please confirm your state’s policies on car window films before getting them to avoid traffic penalties.

7. Aesthetic Appeal

Tinting can upgrade your vehicle’s look if done correctly. 15% and 20% window shades are typically dark, giving your vehicle a sporty or masculine appearance. If you are adventurous, you can go for colored tints, provided they are legal in your locality.

You can go for lighter tints, like 35% and above, for a simple look but with benefits like thermoregulation and privacy.

8. Price

When choosing the ideal window film, many people focus on price, as they want the affordable pick, while others select the one offering the best value. The cost of the tint depends on the brand, size, type, and other factors.

Some brands are more affordable than others, and your pick depends on the value offered, quality, and more. Larger window tints are costlier than smaller ones. On the type of tint, we can bring up the ceramic vs. regular tint comparison, where the former is pricier than the latter due to its quality and effectiveness.

As for the 20 vs. 15 tint price weigh-up, the 15% shade is typically costlier than its counterpart, though by a small margin. The difference becomes broader if you opt for special tints, like ceramic.

9. Availability

The availability of 20% and 15% tints relies on many factors, mainly their legality. It is hard to get the shades in areas where they are illegal due to the low demand. In case you find them, the price may be prohibitive.

The good news is that several manufacturers produce them, and you may order them from states where there are plenty.

car tint 15 vs 20

What Should You Know Before Tinting Your Car Windows?

The following are things to consider before tinting your vehicle’s windows.


Ensure that tints are legal in your state before using them to accessorize your car. The regulations dictate the VLT value of the films and where you can put them. Go through your state’s traffic policies to familiarize yourself with existing restrictions on window tints.

Type of Tint

The 20% vs. 15% tint discussion covers tints graded by their light penetrability. If you are a frequent night driver or your state prohibits darker films, you should go for lighter shades.

The tints may also fall under regular, dyed, carbon and ceramic categories, each having a specific selling element. For example, regular tints are affordable, and metalized films strengthen the car windows.


You can use window shades for various applications, such as sunlight protection, aesthetics, and security enhancement. Your reasons for tinting windows will lead you to the most suitable film type. For instance, you should go for carbon tints if you want heat insulation, or ceramic tints for heat control and shielding the interior against UV rays.

Brand Really Matters

Similar to most car utilities, you should rely on the best window tint brands to avoid a hit-or-miss situation. The pricing may be steep, but you are sure of getting a decent bargain courtesy of the value offered.

Tricky Application

Tinting is an intricate process that can be challenging, more so for novices. You should exercise utmost care when applying the window film and follow the provided instructions for excellent results.

Poor handling shows in the form of bubbles or insufficient adhesion and the film may detach. Do not waste the window tint by seeking help from a professional if you are not sure about its installation.

Tint Laws by State (USA)

As earlier hinted, legality is a crucial determinant of how intense your car window tints can be. Regulations on the tints vary from state to state, and they guide you on how dark they can get and where to put them.

You cannot tint the entire windshield in all the states. However, a thin film strip set on the windshields upper 4-6 inches is acceptable.

20% tint is the darkest you can go for frontal windows in all states. It means you cannot use 15% tint for the frontal windows all over the country. New Mexico is the only state that permits 20 tint for frontal windows.

Montana and Washington closely trail New Mexico’s frontal window film limits at 24%, while Arkansas and Oklahoma set it at 25%. It is illegal to tint front windows in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New Jersey.

The laws are more relaxed for backside and rear windows, with many states authorizing the use of 15% tint. The following states have zero tinting limits for backside and rear mirrors.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Utah
  • Ohio
  • North Dakota

Florida accepts 15% film for rear and backside windows, and Montana at 14%. You can go as low as 10% for rear windows in Arkansas. New York has no restrictions for rear window tinting, but you cannot go below 70% for backside windows. 

The aforementioned states obviously accept 20% tints for rear windows. 15-20% shades for back windows are acceptable in

  • New Mexico
  • Nebraska
  • Kentucky
  • South Dakota

How Do You Calculate Tint Percentage?

You should know how much light is getting into your car to determine whether you meet your area’s traffic laws.

When tinting it is essential to know how much light is getting into your car to determine this modification’s legality. You can calculate the tint percentage by factoring in the VLT of the film and the VLT of the window.

An online search for tint calculator car will lead you to tools that will help you with the calculations. You get the tint percentage by dividing the VLTs of the car window and window shade by 100. Multiply the two percentages by each other, then multiply the final result by 100.

Case in point, what is the tint percentage of a window whose VLT is 90%, while the tint’s VLT is 20%?  Divide both VLTs by 100 to get 0.9 and 0.2, respectively. Multiply the two values to get 0.18, which you also multiply by 100 to get a tint percentage of 18%.

Related Topics

Is 15% Tint Really Dark?

15% tint is among the darkest legal window films that reflects or absorbs 85% of light. Its reflection and absorption capability make it extremely dark and perfect for maximum vehicle privacy and thermoregulation.

Can People See Through 15% Tint?

It is hard to see through 15 tints from the outside due to its intensity. Outsiders have to strain enough to have a peek at what is inside the car. This quality makes it perfect for privacy and security.

Is 20% Tint Really Dark?

20% tint reflects up to 80% of light, letting in only 20%. This is quite dark, and hard to see through it. The darkness of this shade makes it illegal for front windows in most states, with the exception of New Mexico.

What Percent Tint Is Good at Night?

Poor visibility characterizes night driving. If you frequently travel at night, your front windows should have a higher VLT for maximum visibility. If possible, do not tint the front windows. Nevertheless, if you need this modification, go for a lighter shade, ideally 50% and above.

What Percent Tint Looks Best?

All tints look good, depending on your preferences. You can go for highly reflective shades to achieve a sporty look, or opt lighter tints to maintain the vehicle’s stock appearance. You may also push the limits and get colored tints if they are acceptable in your state.

What Tint Is Legal in All States?

Tint legality varies from state to state, but to be on the safe side, you should go for films with a higher VLT that let in more light. A 50% tint is among the safest, and you will avoid traffic stops nationwide. Please check your state’s laws to know your tinting limits.

Is There A Big Difference Between 15 And 20 Tints?

The 20 vs. 15 tint discussion reveals the two to be among the darkest car window film shades, letting in only 80% and 85% of light, respectively. The best between the two tints depends on intended use and legality, among other factors.

20% tint for front windows is only acceptable in New Mexico, but you cannot use 15 tints for the same windows in any state. You have more freedom for rear and back side windows in most states, with some having no tinting limits.

So, is darker better? Not really, due to practicality. The two are dark tints and do an excellent job of keeping UV rays from the vehicle interior and ensuring privacy. Using 20% tint for rear and backside windows is safer as it is acceptable in many territories. 


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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