Perfectly tinted windows are an often-overlooked vehicle feature, but one that drivers ultimately appreciate, especially if they’re logging many hours behind the wheel.
Tinting can make the difference between an uncomfortable drive spent squinting into the bright sunlight and a relaxing commute in shaded comfort. Window tinting also helps keep vehicles cooler in the summer and gives your car a more polished, modern look.
With a purchased vehicle, if you decided you wanted to get the windows tinted, you would simply schedule an appointment, but it’s not so straightforward with a leased vehicle.
So, what happens if you’ve already leased a car only to realize that you are now stuck with non-tinted windows? Can you tint a leased car, or will it violate your lender’s policies? What if you have the dealer do the tinting or are willing to have the tint removed before returning the leased vehicle?
Keep reading for these answers and more as we explore the ins-and-outs of leased vehicle window tinting.
Ready to dive right into a particular topic? Use our interactive table of contents to go directly to that section.
- Can You Tint a Leased Car?
- Who Decides if I Can Tint My Leased Car? Dealer or Bank?
- Leased Car Window Tinting Policies from Popular Lenders
- Can I Tint a Leased Car Myself?
- DIY vs Professional Window Tinting
- How to Remove a Tint on a Leased Car
Can You Tint a Leased Car?
Since you don’t own a leased vehicle, before you apply window tint, you first need to check with the lender who services your lease. The lender determines what types of changes you can and cannot make during the contract.
Generally, you can only tint a leased car if you have the tint removed prior to the lease end vehicle inspection. Vehicles must be returned in “as leased condition” with no modifications, and most lenders consider window tinting to be a type of vehicle modification or alteration. Check your lease agreement for details.
Now that you know you need approval for tinting, continue to the next section where we will help you better understand who determines the tinting policies on your vehicle lease.
Who Decides if I Can Tint My Leased Car? Dealer or Bank?
Cars are often leased through independent banks or credit unions rather than directly through manufacturers or dealers since most manufacturers charge a higher interest rate than financial institutions. So, who makes the decision? Is it your dealer or the credit union/bank who is financially servicing your lease?
Since the bank owns the car, the bank sets the terms of the lease agreement, not the manufacturer or dealer.
For example, although you are leasing a Toyota car, if U.S. Bank owns the car and is providing you with the lease, then U.S. Bank will make the lease decisions, not the Toyota dealership. If you set up a lease directly through Toyota Financial, however, then Toyota will provide the lease terms and decide if you can tint your car.
Leased Car Window Tinting Policies from Popular Lenders
The surest ways to know if tinting a leased car is allowed are to speak with the lender and to review the fine print of your contract. Always check the terms of your lease agreement before moving forward with a tint job.
Vehicles can be leased through many different lenders, but to give you an idea of what to expect, we reached out to four of the top vehicle lease lenders and asked about their tint policies.
Note: All the lender responses below assume that you are turning your vehicle back in at the end of the lease, rather than doing a lease buyout. If you decide to purchase your leased vehicle, in most cases, any modifications you have made during the lease can be left intact. They will simply be reviewed and factored into the assessment of residual vehicle value which you will pay to purchase the car.
When it is time to return your leased vehicle, the Chase lease end department will conduct a lease-end inspection. The Chase policy for leased vehicle modifications is that all vehicles must be returned in the as-leased condition.
Any aesthetic changes made during the duration of the lease must be reverted to the original state prior to return or you will be charges with additional fees.
What this means to you is that when you lease a car with Chase, you can get the windows tinted if you would like, however you must have the tint properly removed prior to the lease-end inspection or you will be billed.
Ally Financing’s lease end modifications or customizations policy lists “tinted or engraved glass” as one of the aftermarket alterations for which lessees may incur additional charges.
Within 5 days of your leased vehicle turn in date, a third-party inspection company hired by Ally will assess the condition of your vehicle and decide what charges, if any, apply.
As with other lenders, U.S. Bank’s auto lease team conducts a thorough inspection near the end of your lease term.
If you return your vehicle with window tinting added, you will be billed because the tinting is considered an alteration, and U.S. Bank does not allow alterations to their leased vehicles.
As with Chase’s policy, U.S. Bank does not explicitly state that you cannot tint the windows during the lease, only that you must return the vehicle without any alterations.
Credit Union Leasing of America (CULA)
Credit Union Leasing of America does not allow modifications to their leased vehicles.
All leased vehicles must be returned in the same condition they were when the lease started.
Based on this policy, you may again be able to tint windows if you commit to removing the tint before you turn in the vehicle.
Can I Tint a Leased Car Myself?
Now that you know your lender’s stance on window tinting, and have decided to move forward with it, you may be wondering, “Do I need to hire someone to tint my windows?” or “is it easy to tint your windows yourself?”
Aftermarket window tinting is done by applying a thin sheet of darkened transparent laminate film to your vehicle’s windows. The film filters out UV rays to keep them from damaging your skin and the vehicle’s interior. Tinting also decreases the amount of light that passes through the glass, thereby minimizing glare and keeping your car cooler during hot summer months.
If you decide to tint a leased car, you can ask the dealership if they do tinting. You may also take the vehicle to a third-party independent shop or, if you are very ambitious, buy a window tinting kit and do the job yourself.
Cost of DIY Window Tinting
If you have the skills and tools, it will cost less to apply your own tinting than to outsource the project. You will need to purchase either a roll of window tinting or a specialty window tinting kit that is custom cut for your vehicle. Depending on your window tinting kit choice, you could pay as little as $50 to tint a car yourself.
There is a learning curve for DIY window tinting, so if you have never done your own tinting before, a leased vehicle may not be the place to start. If you make a mistake or damage the vehicle it could cost you. Remember, even if your lender allows window tinting, a low-quality amateur tint application is a nearly sure way to end up paying lease-end fees or tint removal fees at the end of your contract.
Doing your own tinting is also very time consuming, especially if you purchase your window tinting by the roll and must measure and cut each piece. The windows will have to be perfectly cleaned and dried prior to application.
You will need a clean, dust and dirt-free area to apply the film since, just like with a cell phone screen protector application, all it takes is a few particles of dirt on the glass to mess up the look of the tint.
Even if you don’t make any mistakes cutting or applying the film, the money saved by tackling the tint project yourself may not be worth the amount of time and frustration it ultimately takes to complete the job.
Cost of Professional Window Tinting
For some lenders, a high-quality professional tint job is viewed as an upgrade that adds to the value of the vehicle. In this case, your likelihood of needing to pay for tint removal at the end of your lease is lower if you have the job done professionally and keep the tint in excellent condition with no scratches, peeling, or bubbling.
Even if you know you will need to have the tint removed at the end of your lease, you may still want to hire a professional to apply a quality tint that you know will last the life of your lease without degrading.
Expect to pay up to $500 for a standard film tint at a professional shop. If your leased vehicle is a large SUV/van or you want specialty metallic and colored tints, you may pay as much as $1,000 for a pro tint job. The average professional window tinting project takes roughly two hours to complete.
DIY vs Professional Window Tinting
Film quality is another important factor to consider when choosing a window tint route. Professional shops know which manufacturers produce the highest-quality long-lasting film.
Some cheap DIY kits available online use low-quality film that bubbles and turns purple over time. The inferior film also blocks fewer UV rays meaning your car will heat up faster on a sunny day and you risk skin damage by prolonged exposure to improperly filtered sunlight.
If you purchase a DIY tint kit, check the reviews to ensure the film will hold up for the length of your lease.
Pro Tip: When in doubt, the best route is to have a professional do the tinting.
How to Remove a Tint on a Leased Car
Perhaps your tint job got damaged, or maybe you went ahead and had your vehicle’s glass tinted even though you knew your contract didn’t allow it.
Your lease may have permitted temporary modifications with the stipulation that you remove them prior to turn in day. Whatever the reason, as your leased vehicle’s contract maturity date approaches, if the tint won’t pass the return inspection, you will want to have it removed.
Some dealers charge only a minimal fee to take care of tint removal for you, while others will hit you with a hefty unapproved vehicle alteration fine.
If the tint needs to come off and the costs of dealer removal are too high, your other options are to remove the tint yourself or take the car to a third-party professional.
Professional Window Tint Removal
Professional tint removal is the easiest and quickest option. The pros have the necessary sprays to dissolve the tint adhesive as well as the proper scraping tools to remove the film and residue.
They are experts at removing tint and returning vehicles to their “as leased condition” without damaging the windows or heating elements. The cost of professional window tint removal averages $100 to $250.
DIY Window Tint Removal
As with tint application, it costs less to remove a tint yourself than it does to use a professional. Assuming the process goes smoothly, the cost of a DIY window tint removal is under $25.
There are risks and downsides to DIY window tint removal, however. By going the DIY route, not only are you potentially signing yourself up for an afternoon of scraping residual glue away with a razor blade, but you also risk damaging defroster lines and radio antennas in the process. Any lingering mess or damage will cost you extra when you return the vehicle.
If you are considering the DIY method, learn how to remove window tint on both heated and non-heated windows by watching an easy window tint removal tutorial. The necessary tools are listed in the video description. This video shows a heat gun being used for removal, but hair dryers or clothes steamers are also an option if you have them on hand.
Most vehicle lease agreements require you to return the vehicle in an “as leased” condition. This includes all forms of modifications and alterations, even window tinting. If you really want to enjoy tinted windows during your lease, you can usually have tint applied, but it must be removed by the lease-end inspection date.
DIY tint application and removal is the least expensive but also the most potentially problematic way to tint a leased car. Unless you are an experienced tinter, it is smarter to hire the professionals to apply and remove window tinting. Expect to pay around $500 to apply and $100-$200 to remove a standard window tint film.