Upside-Down Thinking by Patric Fransko
by Patric Fransko
February 11th, 2015

It’s Time to Talk About Illegal Tinting

This week, I wanted to touch on a topic that has always been a hot-button issue in the industry: illegal film—and whether shops should install it.

In an effort to spur conversation, I have boiled this debate down to three primary positions. There are certainly nuanced versions of these positions, but I think these listed will encompass most people’s feelings.

  1. A Professional Shop Should ONLY Tint Legally.

    These shop owners say installing illegal tint will cause a police crackdown.

    These shop owners say installing illegal tint will cause a police crackdown.

This position is fairly straightforward. The idea is that anyone running a legitimate business will only abide by the laws in the area that their business resides and refuse to do any installation that would be considered illegal. This shop would likely have the laws posted on their walls to make the customer aware right up front that they will not cross the legal boundaries. They might feel that shops that do illegal installations are jeopardizing the entire industry by creating a situation where law enforcement gets stricter on cars with tint.

  1. A Professional Shop Will Install “Technically” Illegal Film Within Limits

This position is the most ambiguous of the three. This shop owner would argue that in order to stay in business, he must be willing to go beyond what the law states—but only to a certain extent. However, they would also criticize a shop that is going too far beyond the law. He would typically make the customer aware of the law and try and steer the buyer to making a responsible choice. An example might be a shop in California that would be okay with installing a 40 percent film on the front doors, which is illegal in the state, but would not put 20 percent film on them. Likewise, installing an entire windshield is illegal nearly everywhere, but many shops are willing to install a 70-80 percent film without thinking twice, though they’d be very critical of someone willing to do a windshield with 35 percent film.

  1. A Shop Will Install Whatever Film the Customer Asks for, Regardless of Legality

This shop managers feel that it’s the customer’s responsibility to make the choice on what they want on their vehicle. Installers may make the customer aware of what legal limits are, but in the end, it’s left up to them. The shop owner feels it’s his job merely to install the film the customer requests and they are okay with whatever that person chooses. If their request is 5 percent on the sides and 20 percent on the windshield, so be it.

I’m not taking a position on this, nor am I advising shops on what they should or should not. I am only trying to stimulate a productive discussion on the topic. I will say that after many years in the field as a film rep, and many others talking daily with shop owners, position No. 2 seems to be most common. I’ve come across very few shops that will turn away illegal work as long as what is being requested is not way beyond the legal limit. Likewise, I haven’t been in many shops that totally disregard the law and will install anything the customer asks for, regardless of legal or safety concerns.

So let me ask you, what are your thoughts on this subject? Also, if you want to know the latest laws for window film in your area, the IWFA website offers a handy chart and a link to the law for your area in the U.S. and Canada. See what’s legal for your state here.

Thanks in advance for a lively debate! I look forward to reading your comments on this subject.

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16 comments
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  1. I think that the shop that installed the illegal tint should be fined right along with the motorist!

  2. WE TINT LEGALLY BECAUSE… IT’S THE LAW!

  3. This is not a moral or a financial one, it is a safely issue and someone other than us have made a law. If the law is viewed as unjust there are channels for addressing this.
    Ilegal window tint has been associated with so much that is negative. With window tint having less than 50% penetration, it strikes me that going mainstream with a quality legal product is going to be more profitable for all who take a long term view of the industry.

  4. In South Africa we have a law that stated ”the darkest tint allowed on all windows except for the front windscreen is a 35 percent”.
    However car manufactures are selling cars with dark 20 percent on windows behind the driver.
    They think they are a law unto them selves.They need to be taken to task.The likes of Toyota ,Landrover, Jeep to name a few……….. Leon Levy Klingshield South Africa

  5. i think the law should be the same in every state should be no lower then 15% on any window .if that were the case more shops would follow the law .and i do believe the windshield should be legal at 80% . if the laws were there for safety reason the law would be the same everywhere it is there to make money just like the seat belt law if the government cared about safety everyone would need a helmet to ride a motorcycle in every state .

  6. Liability- most state laws specifically say it is illegal to sell or install illegal film. I don’t want to risk my business for a couple bucks

    Insurance- Commercial insurance policies are beginning to raise concern and sometimes require a form to be signed stating that only legal window film installations are performed.

    A Clear Conscious- I would feel so guilty if an “illegal” tint job installed at my shop caused injury to someone.

    If we all followed the law customers wouldn’t “go to the next guy”

  7. I have a bigger issue with illegals tinting at a 25% of the suggested retail price. Unfortunately from what I have seen they are more than likely to put illegal film on cars as well. I have put on illegal window film on most of my vehicles. As I get older my eyes are not as they were so I prefer a lighter tint. I agree with film being unsafe at night when it’s to dark on windows that are needed to see through for safe driving. I could see a great use for a variable film on cars that will give more vlt during night or low light situations. If the technology grows for such a thing laws should be changed to allow for darker films during the day.

  8. Why do car manufactures install dark privacy glass when in the manufacturing process ???

  9. I didn’t know that certain tinting is illegal. I agree that tinting shops should only install the amount of tinting that is legal. The customer should know what is and isn’t okay. That is my take on it. Thanks for the post!

  10. Is window tinting for cars are banned? Can’t we use light tinting for our cars instead of dark?

  11. David,

    Not all tinting is banned. Tint laws vary by state as to what the acceptable level of tint is. The higher percentage of the tint, the more transparent it will be. So, a 20% tint will only allow 20 percent of light to pass through the window, so it’s pretty dark, whereas a 70% tint is nearly transparent. Hope this helps!

  12. It’s as simple as this….

    It’s not up to the shop to babysit it’s customers!

    This is isn’t a situation where it’s illegal to sell the product. Just as it’s not illegal for gun shops to sell guns. But it is illegal to fire a gun on the street for no reason, just as it’s illegal to drive with too dark of tint on the street. But both products can still be sold. It’s up to the customers choice to be legal or illegal with a product.

  13. Dave, it’s different though because the tint shop is installing the tint exactly where it is illegal–on the windows. You can’t compare it to selling a gun because they are two different things.

  14. Better question, Anybody ever heard of a shop getting sued over them installing illegal film at the customers request? Not a dumb fine, I mean actually getting sued for thousands of dollars? My next question, is this the way the big film companies get out of paying for illegal tint job Warranty?

  15. A lot of people are in this business and don’t even know the international laws require 75% windshield
    70% front side windows
    any% and opaque is legal behind the b pillar if a right and left mirrors are installed.
    This is why the rear windows of a lot of new vehicles comes with dark tint in the rears, the darkest from factory are the x and y models from tesla @5%.
    Guys, a lot of states in the US don’t follow the law for the rear windows. You can have vinyl there… And don’t tell me it’s dangerous, or the mirrors this and that blablabla: panel vans are here to say the opposite.
    And btw, we all know that 35% tint is safe on the front side windows.
    If the LAW as some of you say is JUST, then every state in the world would start @35% up front, any% back half, a tint strip that’s not on the field of view of the driver and 70% whole windshield… Other than that is pure invention.
    Just study, study

  16. Its one accident away from them outlawing tint. There is a Bill in congress ready to go. We are lucky the bill got deferred.

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