There are many reasons you may want to tint your car windows. It can reduce glare or even prevent the car from overheating. But there are strict regulations around tinted windows in Canada. Failing to comply can lead to a fine or another penalty. That, in turn, can raise your car insurance rates. Here's what you need to know.
The Laws on Window Tinting
There are two levels of laws when it comes to window tint. The federal government limits the amount of darkness the manufacturer can put on new cars. It mandates that 70 percent of light must pass through. Once the car is on the market, provincial laws decide what changes you can make. Those rules vary from province to province, with some allowing only modest tint and some none at all.
In Alberta, for example, it's illegal to tint the side windows beside or forward of the driver. That's also the case in Quebec. Some provinces also limit tinting of the windshield to a small portion -- in Quebec, it's 15cm wide. In Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan, no front window tinting is permitted. Police monitor compliance by using a photometer that can measure the percentage of light that's going through the windows.
In some areas, like Ontario and Newfoundland, the rule is that a police officer has to be able to see you. That means you may be fined regardless of the percentage of tint if you are not adequately visible.
Why the Laws Exist
These laws are in place for safety reasons. Other drivers and police officers must be able to see you, and you must be able to see them. The laws help ensure you can make eye contact with pedestrians and others with whom you share the road. In addition, some commercial products that body shops use to apply the tint change the integrity of the window. According to an Alberta government representative who spoke to The Globe and Mail, glass without film will shatter into tiny pieces. With a film in place, it breaks into larger chunks, increasing the chances of injury in the event of a collision.
How Tinting Affects Your Car Insurance
You likely won't have to pay higher insurance premiums for having window tint, as long as it complies with regulations. There are a few important caveats, however. Since laws vary from province to province, you can get a ticket in another jurisdiction, even if your window tint is legal where you live. It's a good idea to check the rules before you take a road trip.
Also, if you are in a collision in that other jurisdiction where your window tint is illegal, it may affect how your insurance company deals with that claim. That's because you're technically violating the rules of the road where the accident happened.
Don't forget, you have to report any previous traffic violations when you apply for car insurance. If you are fined for illegal window tint, that goes on your record. Your insurance premium quotes could go up as a result.