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Understanding car window replacement costs

If you’ve owned a car for several years and drive it regularly, it’s likely that you’ll eventually notice a chip or crack in the windshield, often caused by pebbles kicked up by other vehicles.

Car window replacement is a common aspect of car ownership. If you manage to avoid it, consider yourself fortunate.

In this blog, we’ll explore the costs associated with car window replacement—front, back, top, and sides. Let’s dive in.

What factors affect car window replacement costs?

Ever ask yourself, “How much to replace a car window?” The cost of replacing car windows isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. It varies significantly depending on the age of the car or truck, the type of window that needs replacement, the quality of the glass used, how smart the glass is (yes, that’s a thing), any bells and whistles you want to add, and of course, labor costs. 

Type of window

  • Front windshield: The front windshield is a critical component of a vehicle’s structural integrity and safety system and is designed to withstand impacts and prevent shattering. Replacement costs for front windshields depend on availability for the vehicle’s make and model, the presence of advanced features like heads-up display (HUD), rain sensors, lane departure warning systems, and whether the windshield needs recalibration for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
  • Back windshield: While less likely to be damaged than the front windshield, the back windshield also plays a vital role in vehicle safety and car frame stability. Back windshield replacement costs vary depending on the vehicle’s design (e.g., hatchback, sedan, SUV), the presence of defrost capabilities, whether or not there are wipers in the back, and whether the glass is curved or heated.
  • Side windows: One of the biggest factors in replacement costs in side windows is the mechanism to lower and raise the windows, as you rarely find mechanical mechanisms anymore where you could “roll up/roll down” a window. If there’s an impact that is hard enough to shatter the glass, it’s probably ruined the mechanics in the door, too, so repair will be much more costly. However, some windows don’t open at all or just flip open, which may make repair easier and less expensive. Other factors, like tinting or built-in defrosters, will affect the cost of repair. . 

Type of vehicle

  • Cars vs. Trucks: You would think that trucks would suffer more window damage than cars as they are perceived to be “workhorses.” But we’d suggest that cars suffer more as they are lower to the ground where the majority of gravel and pebble spray land. Trucks, typically higher than most cars, probably get more dings in their bodies and headlights than on windshields. However, when truck windshields are damaged, repairs can be costlier due to their larger size and the need for specialized installation techniques, making truck window replacement generally more expensive than that of cars.
  • Specialized vehicles: Luxury cars, vintage vehicles, and RVs may require custom glass or specialized labor, resulting in higher overall expenses for window replacement. Because of the age of classic and antique cars, you’d think that older, less technical windshields would be less expensive. That might be the case for some, but other vintage windshields may need to be manufactured if the size and shape are extremely rare.

Quality of glass

Tempered glass was the standard material for windshields in the past, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, however, most windshields are made with laminated glass.

  • Laminated glass is composed of a layer of vinyl or plastic sandwiched between layers of glass. This layering allows the windshield to bend and flex upon impact rather than shatter. Not only does this make windshields easier to repair when they develop a chip or crack, but it also deters car break-ins.
  • Tempered glass, also known as “safety glass,” is still in use, though it is primarily used on side and rear windows. It’s manufactured through a rapid heating and cooling process, resulting in a glass that breaks into small, rounded pieces when shattered. With no sharp edges to cut you, tempered glass is safer in the event of an accident. Plus, it’s much easier to break open if you find yourself trapped in an overturned or submerged vehicle.

Due to differences in manufacturing processes, laminated glass is more expensive to replace but easier to repair compared to tempered glass.

Advanced features

  • Tinted glass: While it adds privacy and reduces glare, tinted glass also requires special materials and expertise during installation, leading to higher replacement costs.
  • Heating & defrosting: Windshields with heating elements for defrosting offer convenience, especially in cold climates, but complex installations can raise replacement costs.
  • Sensors and cameras: Replacing a windshield with embedded sensors and cameras for functions like lane departure warnings and automatic emergency braking is pricier than replacing plain glass. It demands precise calibration and compatibility, resulting in additional charges.

Labor costs

Labor costs for window replacement can vary depending on where you are located, and – depending on the type of glass that’s being replaced — the expertise needed and the complexity of the installation. 

According to Gitnux market research, labor costs range from $50 to $150 per hour on average. Just like with any service, urgent or after-hours replacements may cost more. While local auto repair shops might be cheaper than nationwide brands, they might not offer as quick service or have access to as wide a variety of windshield options.

Cost breakdowns in auto glass repairs

Front windshield

When it comes to windshield replacement, costs vary depending on the vehicle’s age and technology. Older cars generally have more affordable replacement installations, ranging from $300 to $600 for aftermarket windshields, excluding insurance coverage. However, luxury models may incur higher costs. 

While newer cars equipped with ADAS, HUD and other advanced technologies provide an Eyes-on-the-Road-Benefit (ERB), they also introduce greater complexity and expense. Sensor recalibration and technical requirements can drive replacement costs beyond $1,000, particularly for electric cars incorporating these driver-assist features. They used to be only available at the high-end of the luxury automobile market, but mainstream automakers now increasingly offer features like HUD, ADAS, and rain-sensing wipers, making the cost of windshield replacement on newer everyday cars that much higher.

Back windshield

One benefit of rear windshields compared to front ones is their lack of bells and whistles. Unlike front windshields, rear windows typically have fewer cameras and sensors. Additionally, rain-sensing wipers and wiper heating mechanisms are rarely found on rear windows, except in SUVs or minivans where rear visibility is critical. This straightforward setup can result in potentially lower replacement costs for rear windshields, as there are fewer advanced technologies to consider during installation and calibration. Research from Forbes in 2023 cited that most auto glass quotes for rear windows came in under $500, although it pays to shop around as some were as high as $700. 

Side windows

When estimating the cost of replacing side windows, several factors come into play, including the size and type of the window. This encompasses whether it is a power window, a fixed window, or a sliding window used primarily for ventilation. According to GlassFixIt, an independent auto glass technician based in California, the cost to replace a passenger-side door car window ranges from $350 to $500. 

The final cost will also be influenced by the make and model of the car, advanced features like tinting and built-in defrosters, and the location where the repairs are being done. National averages can be lower, with some side windows being replaceable for as little as $150, not including labor.

Factor in glass quality when comparing costs

Whether it’s front, back, or side windows, the quality of the glass makes a difference. Because it consists of multiple layers, laminated glass is more expensive to cut than tempered glass. Exact pricing can vary drastically in each situation, but generally speaking, you can expect to pay 20-40% more for custom-cut laminated glass.

Compare costs between repairing and replacing auto glass

When deciding between repairing or replacing auto glass, consider a few key points to make the best choice. 

First, consider the extent of the damage. Small chips or cracks can usually be fixed and cost less than a full replacement. But if the damage is severe or affects the windshield’s strength, you might need a replacement. Where the damage is also matters: cracks near the edges or in front of the driver might mean you need a new windshield for safety. Check your car insurance policy, too. Some plans cover repair costs or have lower deductibles for repairs. 

Lastly, think about how long you want the fix to last. While repairs are cheaper upfront, replacements give you a brand-new windshield that could last longer. Consider these factors to make the right choice for your situation and budget.

Check out our latest blog post, where we compare auto glass repairs to replacement!

Tips for managing car window replacement costs

Having the appropriate insurance coverage

Windshield damage is often unavoidable, but having the right car insurance coverage in place can help you address repairs quickly.

Comprehensive insurance coverage is specifically designed to assist with the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged windshield caused by incidents like an impact with a flying pebble or events like fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, or even hail.

In some states, you may have the option to add full glass coverage to your policy either as part of your comprehensive coverage or as an additional feature. With full glass coverage, you may not be required to pay a deductible for windshield repairs, depending on your policy and state regulations.

It’s important to note that without full glass coverage, your auto insurance policy typically applies a deductible to any claim, meaning you would be responsible for paying the amount of the claim that exceeds the deductible. For instance, if your comprehensive coverage has a $500 deductible and you file an auto glass claim for less than that amount, you’d need to cover the repair costs entirely out-of-pocket.

However, some states have regulations prohibiting insurers from applying a deductible to comprehensive claims for auto glass damage. This helps promote safer driving practices and encourages car owners to address window damage through repairs before it becomes a bigger problem. 

Considering aftermarket auto glass 

When researching auto glass repair or replacement, you may come across the term OEM, which stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. This refers to the glass initially installed in your vehicle by the manufacturer. 

While both auto glass shops and car dealerships offer OEM options, dealerships typically only install OEM glass, limiting your choices. Although most vehicles work perfectly fine with aftermarket options, some manufacturers only permit OEM products as replacements, especially if the car is still under warranty.

Opting for an auto glass repair company provides you with more flexibility, as they offer aftermarket options that can be more affordable. If you’re filing an insurance claim, your insurance company might prefer you go with aftermarket glass. So will you if you’re paying out-of-pocket. 

Shopping around for the best service and price 

Obtaining multiple quotes from reputable auto glass shops allows you to compare services and ensures you’re getting the best value for your money. Be sure to ask about warranties, the quality of materials used, and any additional services included in the quote, such as recalibration for ADAS if that comes into play. 

And don’t just consider the cost of materials: you’ll want to know what the hourly labor costs are, as that can really hike up your overall costs. If you have the time and the work can be done in a matter of a few hours, it might pay to expand your search outside of your neighborhood. Sometimes, costs are lower when there is less demand.

Finally, it always pays to research customer reviews and ask friends for a referral of work they’ve been happy with. For a local perspective, we love the community on the Nextdoor app.

Should you DIY repair or go to a pro?

While DIY repair kits are available for minor damages, like single chips in the glass, several chips near each other or cracks less than three inches, hiring a professional ensures proper installation and warranty coverage. Attempting complex replacements yourself can lead to further damage or safety hazards, potentially costing more in the long run. 

Additionally, professional technicians have access to specialized tools and equipment, ensuring a higher quality of workmanship. If you repair the glass yourself, you may void your car’s warranty or negate insurance protection. 

Maintenance and prevention is key

Regular automobile maintenance, such as cleaning and inspecting windshields for chips or cracks, can prolong the lifespan of your windows and minimize the need for costly replacements. Consider applying a protective coating to your windows to reduce the risk of damage from road debris and environmental factors. 

Believe it or not, wiper maintenance and keeping your windshield free of grit, dust and leaves can also prevent basic scratches. 

Lastly, consider the weather and natural disasters. It’s best not to park your car under trees as branches can break off during a storm and easily smash through a windshield or sunroof. 

Also, avoid parking in direct sunlight for extended periods, as prolonged exposure to UV radiation can weaken the glass and increase the likelihood of cracks or chips. This is a serious problem in extremely hot and arid areas. Windshield cracks, for example, are a huge issue in Arizona, which has notoriously had the highest number of auto glass repair claims in recent years. If you can, find some shade to park your car in! 

Here’s to seeing clearly and driving safely!

We hope we’ve helped you understand the nitty-gritty of car window replacement costs, having covered everything from front to back and side windows. We’ve broken down the factors that affect these costs, like the type of window, your vehicle, and even the quality of glass. Plus, we offered tips on managing expenses, like shopping around and considering aftermarket options. 

If you’re considering adding auto glass coverage to your insurance policy or exploring new coverage options, our team at Guided Solutions can help. 

But we’re not just experts in auto insurance — we’ve got you covered for motorcycle and boat insurance, as well as property, life, Medicare, health, and business coverage. Our goal is to find you the perfect coverage tailored to your needs, all while offering the best rates available. 

Ready to learn more? Click here for a fast quote, or give us a call at (833) 791-4719. There’s no pressure to commit — just the assurance that you’re making a smart choice.


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