Don’t know what tint options to choose for your Tesla? You can learn from all my research!
Brand, model, tint coverage, tint percentage, installer to choose….GAHHHHHH, TOO MANY OPTIONS!
I read and researched everything for my brand new 2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance electric car. Read tons of Tesla forums as well as auto tinting forums. I’ve got BLACK exterior with WHITE interior…and believe me, the white interior makes it a little tricky. Attached are all the findings and ultimate decision I made about window tint brand, model, and tint percentage.
- I am not a tint expert or professional tint installer.
- I’m not even an experienced tint customer. This is my first tint.
- I wrote this review based on all my research and personal experience of having tinted ONE (1) Tesla Model 3.
- The guide isn’t written from the point of expert opinion but just to give my 2 cents of saving other people time from having to research all the crap that I had to research. You should still do your own research after this but at least you’ll have a better idea of what questions to ask.
Why tint your Tesla Model 3?
- Heat/UV reduction – Model 3 looks sexy with lots of glass, but let’s too much sun in. Tint is more comfortable, also protects you and car interior from heat/UV rays. What it won’t do is prevent your car from warming up. If you park your car in the sun, it will eventually get just as hot as it would without tint. The tint only slows down the absorption rate.
- Design/aesthetics – looks nicer and matches your window coloring better between the side and top glass.
- Privacy – some people feel so naked/vulnerable, like a fishbowl when sitting in traffic. Getting a tint doesn’t make you feel so naked.
- Reduces glare – reduces window glare to help you see better in certain angles of sun.
- Reduce cooling effort – tinting makes it easier to cool your car. This means you can run the AC on a lower volume (less noise) and also not have to run it as much to stay cool. This can mean less fuel used (whether electric or gas).
What makes the Model 3 so different from all other cars is the high use of glass and electronics. The glass (back window among the largest ever used in a consumer car) is beautiful and offers tons of headroom inside but also means a tougher job to tint. The electronics also complicates things as installing tint requires water that might damage electronic components near the windshield.
Best tint film brand for your Tesla Model 3
There are so many brands now…
- 3M – they have many models. Their Crystalline line is considered the best but some say it’s overpriced, overrated and/or has too many issues (blue coloring, haze, etc). Some people trust 3M because it’s a big brand with lots of science/technology. Others feel they do too many things and don’t specialize in tint. Some also feel they’re too big of a company to really care about their customers, slow on warranty claims, also that their films haven’t been improved in a long time. Crystalline tint has a slight blue in it and also isn’t offered in the darker shades (30% and below), which you may or may not like.
- Huper Optiks – considered among the best, but perhaps not the best value for pricing.
- Llumar – big tint company seen as premium tint back in the days but nowadays considered “budget-friendly” but still good enough. Probably chosen more for their low pricing and true black-color tint. They have lower end brands like CTX and higher ones like Formula 1 Pinnacle. Pinnacle is loved for the charcoal color as opposed to blueish hues by other brands.
- Madico – big company that’s been around in the industry for a long time. Many different models from average to above average.
- SunTek – another average tint brand. I would consider it low-budget.
- Spectra – new company out of nowhere from China, have Ceralux and also the highly-toted Photosync. Advertised with best numbers compared to other tints but some say it’s false advertising, hype, doesn’t last long, and that real world performance isn’t as good as advertised. I’d have to agree as it’s silly that so few tint shops carry Photosync and because of this, the price to install it is 50-100% higher than other brands that perform arguably as well or even better. I also do feel Spectra came up during the recent years perhaps to jump on the Tesla bandwagon. With that said, some people who have it swear it makes a difference. Other thing about Spectra is that it brags about high heat/UV protection despite being a light tint film. Spectra doesn’t go than 35% (I think).
- Vkool – another average one. I hear it’s made in China and just did such a great marketing job that it caught up to existing tint films in the maket.
- Wincos – owned by Madico, considered among the best and also best value. This is what I have. Biggest drawback for some is the blue color but I don’t mind. It kinda shocks you at first but then you get used to it and then start to like it.
After researching and reading a million things on the web, I decided to trust my tint guy. He said all of the top brands are pretty good, the very “best” ones (like Crystalline and Photosync) only add maybe an additional 3-4% of heat/UV reduction but cost 50-100% more. He suggested Wincos (because he liked their quality and no-fuss warranty) and I agreed after reading positive reviews online.
I think Huper Optiks and Wincos are the best high performance choices that don’t cost too much. SunTek and Llumar are definitely sold as a step down. Crystalline and Photosync are sold as a step up. Many installers don’t even bother with Crystalline or Photosync because they’re not worth the cost, and/or a hassle or impossible to get. Another thing about Crystalline and Photosync is that they advertise high heat/UV protection despite being a lighter tint. They aren’t really offered in the darker shades like 30% and below and if you’re going that dark anyway, you’ll likely get the same heat/UV protection with a cheaper brand.
Why not to pay too much attention to manufacturer’s “tint specs” and claims…
You’ll see many films heavily advertised with such and such heat reduction and TSER (total solar energy reduction) and all kinds of fancy stuff. All will advertise themselves as being better than others. My advice is to ignore the official specs released by the company as they all measure from different distances. Obviously…testing with the heat lamp held farther away from the glass will appear to perform better than with the heat lamp held closer. If you want a true comparison, you’ll have to try it in person or read forums of people who’ve personally tried different brands.
Why do tint shops all use different brands?
- Personal preference – they use what they like to work with. Some films are too thin or fussy that they get damaged easily during installation and have to be reinstalled. I imagine some might also be inconvenient because of how they’re applied or how well they cut, peel, fade, etc.
- Demand – some films are carried because many customers like them. It’s not profitable for a shop to carry many options and models that don’t get chosen often. This correlates heavily with their customer base. A shop that does mostly fancy cars will carry different tints from one that does only low-budget tint jobs.
- Profit – some films are not as profitable as others.
- Warranty – not only should your film have lifetime warranty but also a hassle-free warranty. Some films are a much bigger hassle with warranty than others.
How much does tinting cost?
It largely depends on where you live. I’m out here in Southern California so I’d say that’s about the highest you’ll ever get in the US. Tint pricing here is probably around twice of what you might pay in the cheapest state.
- Side windows (all 6) – probably around $400-500.
- Windshield – probably $200-300.
- Top sunroof – $100-150.
- Back window – $200-300 depending on whether you want it all done in one WHOLE piece (covering the whole back window), one PARTIAL piece (covering only the bottom untinted part but leaving a visible seam from the inside), or two PARTIAL piece (covering whole back window but leaving a seam). I believe the 2-partial piece option exists because some shops don’t carry a large enough size of film; honestly, I would just avoid shops like these as they obviously don’t do many Teslas.
Overall, you can the expect the job to cost around $1000 to cover all glass with highest grade ceramic tint. 3M Crystalline will run around $1500-1600. Spectra Photosync will be around $2000-2200. The cheaper options may only run $500-700 but either don’t cool your car as well, don’t last as long, or don’t cover all the windows.
Common issues when tinting your Tesla Model 3
I list the common issues below; issues can be due to quality of tint film as well as quality of installation.
- Tint color – ideally, you’d want the “tint” of your tint to be as close to black color as possible. Most people prefer black, charcoal, or neutral gray. However, some tints have a slight hue of color to them (like blue, green, purple, or brown)…which may clash with your car’s paint color or personal design aesthetic. Blue is a common tint color for high-performance ceramic tints since ceramic dye is naturally blue. Some people notice it and hate it. Others don’t notice it (maybe because their car is already blue). Some don’t even notice since their car is blue anyway. The tint color is more noticeable in the lighter shades when the sun shines through it.
- Dirt – probably the #1 fear. There’s always little specs of dust or random things floating in the air that will appear on your tint. While no tint job is perfect, your installers should do their best to minimize its impact. The worst is when you see a really big speck of something, like a hair or bubbles. It helps to have a clean shop with closed doors/bay during installation.
- Bubbles or warped tint – this can be due to the installation. Sometimes the tint film is stretched or mishandled during installation causing uneven material. Typically, the bubbles or waviness should straighten themselves out after curing (in the sun) but in case they remain permanently, a good shop should be able to replace it for you.
- Fading – beware. Some tints fade into an ugly yellow/orange or purple color over time.
- Haze issues – I think this is supposed to be normal when first installed but should go away after the curing time (days or weeks depending on how much sunlight exposure). If it stays for longer, this can be due to the tint film or installation issue.
- Artifacts – some people see weird things in the tint, like rainbows or chromatic patterns. I think this is due to the installation and also will show if you wear sunglasses while driving. Light tint will have less of these effects.
- Peeling – tint basically comes off. I think this is more commonly due to the quality of installation. If the edges aren’t done right, they can lift up and peel when you roll your windows up and down. If it happens otherwise, perhaps your tint isn’t strong enough to handle the sun.
- Clarity – some tints are not as clear and easy to see through as others. Not much of an issue as long as you use a quality brand.
- Night visibility – just don’t go darker than 70% on windshield and 30-35% on the front side windows to be safe. Regardless of what anyone says, I do feel 20% will definitely affect your visibility looking out from the inside.
- Warranty – some tints and installer companies give you a really hard time with warranty. If you have any issues, you have to fill out paperwork and wait and what not. Go with a reputable tint installer who can replace your tint right away no questions asked.
- Electronic malfunction – this is one of the “scariest” parts of tinting the windshield on the Tesla Model 3. It’s a risk as installers use water to install the tint and if any water gets into your electric sensors and components near the windshield, it could damage them. For this reason, some tint shops refuse to tint Tesla windshields whereas others brag about being tint specialists for Teslas. I do recommend you use a shop with lots of experience tinting Tesla Model 3’s specifically. In case you’re curious, they should be using the SoakShield rope when tinting your windshield.
- Car damage – installers sometimes damage your car when installing tint. They’re climbing all over your car (on the big roof) and cutting the tint right on your car. This can easily create little nicks on the glass, trim, car paint, or damage your car in other ways. Ideally, they’d be using some pre-cut patterns to minimize this issue but that’s a whole other topic.
- Electronic interference – this is much less an issue now as most people are using ceramic tints or other materials that don’t cause these problems. Back in the days, some tints had metallic particles in them (imagine “mirror tint”) that interfered with your car’s radio signals.
- Glass breakage – I’ve heard that incorrect tint material can cause your glass to absorb lots of heat, creating thermal stress, and increase its chance of breaking. But I also haven’t heard about this issue occurring much with Teslas.
- Dot matrix – not an issue with Teslas but you can read up about it on other cars. I’d say how they handle it is a good indicator of their skills/experience.
Best tint material for your Tesla Model 3
This discussion is moot since nobody really uses or recommends the cheap stuff for a nice car like Tesla. But I’ll still cover them below just for context.
- Dyed – just regular tint film with color dye in it to give it privacy. May look nice but pretty much no heat reduction. Does block the direct sun from wearing out your interior. Does fade over time from sun exposure and can turn purple or other colors. Many tint shops still offer this as the absolute cheapest option.
- Metalized – metallic particles in the tint film to help block the sun’s rays. The metallic aspect of it can also give a shiny or reflective appearance. You may or may not like this look. Doesn’t fade, also blocks heat and UV rays pretty well but may causes interference with radio frequences (GPS, cell phone, radio, etc). Because most new cars rely on many signals, metalyzed film isn’t recommended anymore. More expensive than dyed tints.
- Hybrid – a combination of dyed and metallic tint, all the advantages without the disadvantages. Blocks the sun well and looks like regular tint. Doesn’t interfere with radio signals and also less expensive than metalized tint.
- Carbon – tint using many layers of polymer and carbon to block the. Does an even better job of heat/UV blocking than hybrid tint, looks good, lasts longer, also won’t interfere with radio frequencies. This was the best tint of the previous generation but now sold today as the “budget-friendly” option. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to use carbon tint when ceramic is only $100-200 more.
- Ceramic – currently, the best tint and most technologically advanced tint available today. Blocks the most heat and UV rays, also allows the most optical clarity/visibility (the lighter tints can block almost as much as the heavier tints). Is also the most expensive. It also looks the lightest compared to other films, which can be a pro (if you want great heat protection without having to go too dark) or a con (if you wanted a very dark-looking tint). Regardless, people generally go ceramic nowadays.
Ceramic tints are usually blueish or greenish color.
Most ceramics (like Huper Optik, Wincos, Crystalline, Spectra Photosync) are blue-ish or greenish tint due to the ceramic dye. If you definitely don’t like this blue or greenish tint, then maybe go for a class Llumar or Madico Charcool option…it doesn’t block heat/UV as well but does have a more traditional black color. In case you’re wondering what the tint color might look like…I suggest for you to pay attention to other cars in the street or parking lots. Look at the ground or background through their windows and see if you can spot the hue of their tint. Maybe the slight blue or slight green won’t bother you so much.
Some tints are brown or yellow color.
Maybe they start out looking like black but pay careful attention. Personally, I’d rather my tint fade towards blue than towards yellow or brown, I think those looks uglier.
Colored tints show more on white interior.
If your tint has any color in it, it will be more apparent on white-colored seats from the outside. If there’s any blue, you will really see the blue as the seats will look exactly like blue-tinted white seats from the outside. Any brown or orange and it’ll show. Black interior tends to look more black from the outside. Again, you may or may not like this issue if you have white seats.
White interior appears much lighter than black interior.
Do keep in mind that the tint color will show up a little more obviously if you have white or light color seats as opposed to black seats. I would say most people who want the cool tinted look (but not gangster or drug-dealer look) will prefer 20-35% in BLACK interior. It looks very sleek and nice but not like you’re some kind of shady person or covert government agent hiding in there.
But with WHITE interior, it looks wayyyyyy lighter. With direct sun, it feels like you barely got 50%. The white shows up easily and I believe also bounces more light around in the car. 20% would give more of the tinted look on white interior…BUT!!!!…it really affects your visibility looking out at night. I got 30% and happy with it. I wish it could have had a darker look but it’s grown on me and I don’t mind. The protection is great, visibility is good enough…I definitely wouldn’t want it any darker. Especially with Tesla’s auto-dimming feature on the rearview mirrors. So many people wish they could turn it off. With 30% tint, I can definitely say it’s harder to see what’s in the rearview mirrors. At 20% tint, you’d definitely have to roll down your windows to parallel park and such.
If you have WHITE interior, go with 30% as the lowest if you want the best balance between looks and visibility. Or go 20% if you have good eyesight and really want that more tinted look.
Best tint percentage for your Tesla Model 3
Different brands will offer different tint percentages and generally, you choose the same brand and model throughout the entire car so that the exact tint color and color fade (if any) will match evenly over the years. The only difference is choosing different percentages on different windows.
For those wanting my exact recommendation:
- 70-75% for windshield – best visibility, minimal tint appearance from outside, still pretty good heat/UV reduction.
- 30-35% for side windows (I prefer 30%) – best balance of visibility, styling, great heat/UV reduction. Going lighter (like 45-50%) would look untinted. Going darker (like 20-25%) may have a darker tint look but impede your night visibility especially when looking at the side rearview mirrors. Yes, you can go 45-55% on side windows if you want an “un-tinted” look but still good heat/UV protection.
- 70-75% for top roof – best visibility, doesn’t darken it any further, good heat/UV reduction.
- 30-35% for back window (I prefer 30%) – best visibility, tints the un-tinted lower portion, doesn’t darken the tinted upper portion too much, and will match with the side windows (assuming you chose 35% like I recommended).
- Lookswise – black interior can go 35% sides/rear and white interior should go 30% sides/rear since white interior appears lighter.
- Want to see what the different tint percentages look like on different Model 3 cars? Check out Model 3 Tint Thread (at TeslaMotorsClub forums).
For those wondering about the law. The law (depending on the state) is usually NO tint on windshields (some allow only the top 4″ inches to be tinted), and anywhere from 30-50% on front windows. However…many states don’t police it as heavily. The hotter states tend to let you get away with more. As long as you don’t go too dark. You’ll be alright.
The other issue you should worry about is during car accidents. You can lose a case automatically even if you’re not at fault just because your car windows are tinted. It’s very dangerous for this reason. Read online about cases of people getting manslaughter charges for killing a person.
- 60-75% – the minimal approach is best, for maximum visibility.
- Some may wonder: A) why not go higher like 80%, or B) why not go lower like 50%? Well, 70% blocks more heat and still looks untinted and safe. 50% starts to look tinted and will definitely not be allowed.
- Typically, your installer will have anywhere from 60-75% options depending on the brand and model. They might have 60% and 70% of one brand, or 65% and 75% of another.
Top / sunroof:
- And 60-75% – just like the windshield. I prefer something super minimal like 70-75% since it’s already tinted pretty dark.
- You’re only adding extra tint to block heat/UV. You don’t want to darken it any further and impede inside visibility of your beautiful sunroof.
- This is the hardest part of the decision-making. It comes down to a matter of personal style and preference.
- Some people do all windows evenly. I am definitely of the opinion that doing it all one color just looks so much nicer. It looks like the car came from the factory that way. Very clean and sleek.
- Others do the front ones slightly lighter than the back. Doing the front and rear side windows at different tints gives it more of a modded after-market look. Yes, it’s true that you can do them with a slight contrast so that it’s not as noticeable but to me it’s still noticeable enough. The most common is 10% difference between front and back. So like 30-35% in the back, and 40-45% in the front. Or can be 20-25% in the back and 30-35% in the front. Or you can also do whatever in the front and then something super dark in the back like 5% for maximum privacy and heat/UV reduction.
- Tint is somewhat like one-way glass. It’s much darker looking in than looking out. You can see out from the inside pretty well. With that said, going below 30% will be harder to see out from the inside; I don’t recommend it for front windows!
- From all the research I’ve done, 30-35% is the absolute best window tint percentage for side windows. It is dark enough to give a cool sleek “tinted” aesthetic but light enough to see out from the inside. You can see perfectly even at night, and especially through the auto-dimmed rear view mirrors. If you go with 20% tint, you may find yourself rolling down the windows to see the rear mirrors more clearly. If you go with 40-50%, it will appear almost as if you didn’t even put any tint…which is totally fine if you want the “un-tinted” look and use the tint more for heat/UV reduction than for privacy.
- So who chooses 20-25%? It’s for those who want more of that “dark” look, or live in really hot desert areas (like Nevada). But again, I do think 20% visibility will affect your vision very slightly when driving at night. Some people say it doesn’t affect them or that they can see perfectly fine but I don’t believe it. I wouldn’t recommend 15-18% either, especially not on the front side windows.
- WHITE vs BLACK interior – white interior really does make the tint feel so much lighter; everything more visible from the outside. Black interior will make tints appear darker. For example…black interior with 35% tint looks nice and dark/private whereas white interior with 35% tint looks barely tinted and you can see everything. It looks like you’re only using only 45% tint. Then again, many people say if you got white interior, why not show it off instead of trying to hide it? I have white interior myself and very happy with the 30% (on sides and rear)…if the front side windows could be another 5-8% darker would be perfect but I’m happy with what I have now.
- What about 5-15%? I don’t even think these are legal. These are basically the “limo tint” where you can’t even see through even if you had your face pressed up against the window. I don’t recommend them at all (at least not for the windshield or front side windows).
- If you do decide to get 20% or darker, you can try disabling the auto-dim feature on the review mirrors. Hopefully, Tesla will release an update to do it through the software.
- Some people tint only the lower “untinted” part. Tinting only the lower part is cheaper and would still make the back window tint look even from the outside, leaving only a tiny seam visible from the inside. Some people notice the seam and it bothers them, others don’t. Tinting only the lower part would also keep the top part of your back window the same color and not let it get any darker (less visible) from the inside, but doesn’t block as much heat/UV.
- Some people tint the whole thing. I recommend this as the best option for maximum heat/UV reduction. In case you don’t want the back window getting too much darker from the inside, stick with 30-35%. Usually, people match the back window to the rear side windows.
- Keep in mind that if you use 20% on the back window, it can be nice to match with your rear side windows but does darken the tinted area of the rear view window further from the inside. Then again, I do feel like the driver almost never looks through the tinted part of the rear window. If anything, you only look through the top sunroof glass when looking up.
Picking the right tint shop for your Tesla Model 3
Make sure they’ve worked with tons of Teslas. Familiar with the electronics. Familiar with the giant back glass. A good sign of one that doesn’t do Teslas much is when they can’t tint the back window in one piece. It’s because they don’t bother to buy a roll big enough since they don’t do enough Teslas.
Hand-cut vs Pre-cut
Ask how if they hand-cut manually or use precut (machine-cut) patterns. Machine-cut patterns are when they run the film through a cutter machine that cuts exact shapes for the windows of your car. Hand-cut would be when installers lay uncut film right over your glass and then trim it by hand.
There are arguments for both. Precut patterns show that the shop has the money for nice machines and a professional tinting process. But it might also show that they are a high volume shop and don’t take the time to install the tint perfectly. Shops using pre-cut patterns can tint your entire car in only 2-3 hours. Shops cutting by hand will take more like 4-5 hours.
Precut patterns are nice since the shape is perfect. What makes them difficult (or less desirable) is because of the end product you get. For example, some pre-cut patterns don’t bring the films all the way to the edge of your window. They stop short a few millimeters and don’t give that perfect seamless look. The other issue is that because they’re pre-shaped already, you have to lay them perfectly onto the window. A few millimeters off-center would mean one side goes to the edge and the other side stops short. So you have to imagine how hard it would be to perfectly lay a precut pattern of the gigantic Model 3 back window. And then if they mess it up, that’s a lot of film wasted as they have to recut a new piece.
For the reasons above, handcut may seem like the better option. It takes more time but allows the installer to just lay the film however, and then cut perfectly around the edges by hand and shave them off nicely. As long as they take the time and know what they’re doing, it will look good. My installer used precut patterns for the side windows but handcut the windshield and back window.
Check before you decide
Ask to samples of how each film performs under the heat lamp. Also ask to see other cars and what tint percentage they have. Can also ask them to hold the film over your window just so you can see how it might look.
Ask how their warranty or replacement works
Typically, tints come with lifetime warranty and hassle-free replacement if you have issues. Read their Yelp reviews to see if they actually honor this. Usually, they should be able to help you out under the following scenarios:
- Tint failure – lifetime warranty
- Crappy installation – having excessive dust/bubbles or issues with peeling and edges.
- Ticket – if you get a fix-it ticket, they will remove the tint for free.
The tint installer company I used:
OC Tint Solutions
Costa Mesa, CA
Really friendly, helpful, great attention and care. You will be very well taken care of. Trust them 100%!
Other shops I thought of using:
- TW Tinting (in Santa Ana) – great reviews and reputation
- Will list more here as I remember them