Drivers considering various window tint films know the benefits; reduced infrared and UV light exposure, reduced cabin temperatures, more privacy, and even anti-shattering properties.
However, there are two types of window tint film that stand out as the best options available.
Carbon and ceramic window tints offer measurable improvements in many areas over cheaper, economical window tint film. In this post, we break down all the important differences so you can make the right choice for your vehicle.
What is Carbon window tint film?
Carbon window tinting was introduced at the turn of the century. The carbon particles absorb heat and filter UV and infrared light.
They do not cause any problems for electronic equipment like radios, GPS and mobile phones (metallic films cause a lot of interference issues).
Despite being a far better product than early dyed and metallic films, there were some issues as well. Glare was one of the biggest problems due to the size and inconsistent distribution of the carbon particles used in early carbon films.
Each generation of carbon window film has improved; as the particles in the film have gotten smaller, more consistent and better distributed, the performance of carbon tint has gotten better.
The benefits of heat rejection and light filtering really do leave older films in the shade.
What is Ceramic window tint film?
Ceramic window tints are still relatively new, with the initial patents for nano-ceramic films being approved in the late 1990s and mainstream use climbing over the last 15 years.
Ceramic car window tint promises to be all things for all people; improved solar heat rejection, improved light filtering, and improved visibility.
A ceramic window tint can be optically clear, yet still offer the same UV and infrared blocking ability as darker film.
Like carbon, the non-conductive ceramic particles don’t interfere with radio, GPS, or mobile phone signals.
For interior comfort, it has no peer because it can absorb and reflect more solar energy than any other window film.
Carbon vs ceramic tint: Key similarities
UV and infrared light filtering
Quality carbon and ceramic films will filter 99% of UV light, and between 90% and 99% of infrared light (depending on the level of tint).
(No) GPS and mobile interference
Metallic particles in metallic film interfere with GPS, radio, and mobile reception. The newer carbon and ceramic films cause no such problems.
Fading tint is largely a problem of the past. It is the dye in older films that breaks down and causes the tint to fade. Unlike dyed film, neither the newer carbon nor ceramic window tint will suffer the same fate.
Most professional window tinting specialists offer lifetime guarantees on the work and the film, be it carbon or ceramic.
However, ceramic film has only been in mainstream use for around 15 years, so we are only now seeing enough real-world experience to know it will stand the test of time.
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Carbon vs ceramic tint: Key differences
Ceramic is more expensive than carbon, it is as simple as that.
While the price difference isn’t always a lot (some shops say only $200), it might turn some customers away.
Ceramic window tint film will keep your car interior cooler for longer than a carbon tint.
While a lot of figures thrown about by installers and manufacturers can be misleading (some just use the figures that concern blocking infrared light), the best Total Solar Energy Rejected (TSER) of carbon tint is between 60 and 65%. The very best ceramic film has a TSER of 80%.
Glass shatter reduction and durability
While any film will add some protection by keeping a broken sheet of glass together, there are claims that ceramic films add some strength to glass.
That said, ceramic tints claim to be tougher against general wear and tear, too.
Glare and visibility
Ceramic window film is the superior choice. While the carbon film performance improves significantly as you go darker, visibility reduces with visible light transmittance (VLT).
Ceramic tints can offer virtually the same performance benefits regardless of how much visible light is blocked (which means you can have a lighter tint that still works).
Aesthetics versus performance
For carbon window tint to offer high effectiveness in solar heat rejection and blocking UV and infrared light rays, it needs more carbon particles which in turn reduces the visible light transmittance (VLT).
Ceramic tint can be as effective without the need to be darker.
In many areas, ceramic window tinting film is the superior product, but it comes with two major caveats:
- It is more expensive, but we think the price difference is justified.
- The big unknown is the longevity and lifespan of the ceramic films, because it just hasn’t been around as long as carbon film.
Manufacturers are backing ceramic as the future, and professional installers agree by offering lifetime warranties.
If protecting your passengers and interior is a priority, either carbon window tint or ceramic window tint will do the job and do it well, but ceramic tinting will do it better.