Rear Window Replacement Cost – Is Glass Really That Pricey?

by Conner Mckay

You might not have guessed it yet, but one of the most expensive parts of any car is something that you stare at – nay, through – every single day. Sure, the machinations underneath your automobile are a complex web of dollars running around. But the masterful artistry and fabrication of your glass windows are no less costly. It’s not a surprise then that every once in a while, a crack or shatter on the precious glass leaves you running amok, thinking about the rear window replacement cost.

Expect the repair bills to rise upwards of four digits, so do sit down. It’s not a cheap fix, but perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised. The rear windshield plays many roles that we often take for granted.

For instance, it keeps us sheltered from the extremes, while also adding an extra layer of protection for you and your passengers. This alone is more than enough to justify the rear window replacement cost, no matter how large it may be. So, let’s get into why these slabs of glass are that exorbitant.

Front Windshield vs Rear Windshield

Rear Window Replacement Cost

First and foremost, let’s clear up a common misconception. This is one that’ll help us to better study the rear window replacement cost. Some folk mistakenly think the glass is similar both front to back.

It’s a thinking that’s reinforced more so by cars that have windscreens that are seemingly identical in shape and design, both in the front and back. But hold on, as the rear windshield is very distinct from the front in more than a few ways. Before we continue, we can talk about the similarities…

Both of them are glass, and thus will shatter or crack from an impact. All of us must’ve experienced this once or twice over the lifespan of our cars. An accident can result in objects smashing the rear window hard enough to shatter, or at the very least, crack.

Even if the collision doesn’t hit the glass itself, it may warp the surrounding bodywork enough to weaken it. If not from an accident, debris can be kicked up from the road, and smash into the glass with force strong enough to crack or shatter it.

There are then things that you can’t predict, like thieves smashing into your car. Or, a hailstorm bursting from the heavens. So then, what are the important differentiations that we have to make between your car’s front, and rear windshield?

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Differences #1: They’re Made From A Different Type Of Glass

This might catch you off-guard here, but it turns out that the type of glass used varies between the two. Front windscreens are made from ‘laminated glass’. So-called, as it consists of several layers of glass – often two to three – laminated together into a singular slab. This is done to enhance its ability to withstand shattering, and we can say that the front glass is more robust.

The goal here is to make sure that when an object makes an impact on the front windshield, it should be strong enough that it won’t shatter. It ought to protect you, and your eyes from being showered by tiny flying shards of glass. Meanwhile, the goal of the rear glass is different. It doesn’t need to protect your face from shards, nor does it need to be as durable.

This is why the rear windshield is made from ‘tempered glass’. Similar to what you’d find on your phone’s screen protector, tempered glass is actually supposed to shatter everywhere when it’s broken. However, it should be noted that its shattering effect is made to be controlled. Normally, the glass would break up into thousands of minuscule, sharp shards.

With tempered glass, your rear windshield should instead shatter into very small sand-like pebbles. This would help to prevent glass-related injuries, to those sitting inside the car and other users on the road.

This difference in material structure and construction is – spoiler alert – the reason why a rear window replacement cost is different than what it would’ve been for the front windshield.

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Differences #2: Rear Windows Usually Have Heating Elements

Another important difference to look at is the heating element inside your glass, or the ‘defrost’ grid’. These are those slim – typically orange or amber – lines that run across the length of your glass.

For newer cars, these may appear less visible than older ones. But their function is quite simple – to carry heating across the windshield. Thus, it can aid in defrosting your foggy windscreens.

Alternatively, they can also help to melt away snow or ice from your rear windows. Meanwhile, front windshields don’t commonly have heating grids in them. It could be that it’s far easier, and also less distracting (you wouldn’t want to be staring through those grids, would you?), to let the car’s heater warm the glass up. Or, it could be down to the fact that it’s easier to wipe away.

If the front glass is fogged up, you can more easily reach out there with a towel to clear it. The rear glass, on the other hand, is quite far away. While calculating the rear window replacement cost, it should be remembered that these heating grids will need installation, too. As a result, it may take more time to fit in the rear windows of your car than it would for the front windshield.

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Differences #3: You Need To Clean Up Before A Replacement

This is surely one aspect of the rear window replacement cost that you should be aware of. As we noted earlier, the rear window is made from tempered glass. This is designed so that it can shatter into practically microscopic, and fairly blunt shards of glass. Well, since they shatter in that way, tiny shards of glass would practically be spread everywhere on your car.

Therefore, and before the replacement can happen, the technicians will have to give your car a thorough clean. All those thousands of minute shards will need to be picked up from every nook and cranny.

Loose items in your car are, after all, a potential hazard. This doesn’t often need to be done for front windshields, so it should be considered when counting up the labor fees later on.

Shattered Car Window

Okay, so we know that the rear windows on your car are very far apart in nuances from the front slab of glass. In all, however, the rear windshield is made to be as robust as possible. This is to ensure that it won’t just shatter or crack that easily.

Although, if you’re reading this article, then it must mean the rear glass on your car has just shattered or cracked, right? So, why is this happening? Why is it that all of a sudden, my car’s rear windshield just exploded into tiny pieces?

Well, here are a few common causes for cracks and shattering to appear on your car’s rear glass. It may help us to properly identify the right fixes and rear window replacement costs to consider…

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Damage Types #1: Sudden Changes In Temperature

Rear Window Replacement Cost

Now, for a bit of a science lesson. Glass, as a material and looking at the atoms inside of it, expands when exposed to heat, while it contracts when it’s cold. However, if you subject glass to rapid and extreme changes in temperature, it can put a lot of pressure on the glass.

In no time at all, it can shatter, hence why some people have been left shocked when all of a sudden, their rear windows spontaneously exploded. Well, there’s a reason why that happened.

In summary, when the glass is toasty hot, don’t let it chill down too quickly, and vice versa. The strain alone can crack it into smithereens. Here’s a quick don’t-ever-do-this list:

  • Leave your car under direct beaming sunlight on a hot summer day for hours, and then turn on the air-conditioning at full blast.
  • Letting your car be exposed outdoors on a chilly winter morning, and then getting into the car just to turn the heater up to 11.
  • Using hot or boiling water to defrost ice or snow from your rear window (or any glass surface) as you leave for a drive on a cold winter morning.

What To Do Instead:

On the other side of the spectrum, here’s a set of recommendations of what you should do instead. If not, even the slightest damage that might’ve already been there, like a tiny stone chip or scratch, can be exacerbated with terrible consequences. It can be concluded by letting your glass take its time to cool down, or heat up organically:

  • Park your car in a garage or basement, or under any cover at all when the sun’s out. It’s especially so if you’re planning to park out there for a long time. Consider investing in a protected car cover with heat shielding if you regularly park your car outside.
  • If your car has been sitting out to bake in the sun, don’t just turn on the A/C at full blast right away. Wind down all the windows, and let the hot air and pressure escape and even out. Then, turn on the A/C, but do it gradually as it slowly starts to cool down.

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Damage Types #2: The Effects Of Extreme Weather

The climate is one that you can’t influence but is nonetheless a variable to consider that could end up shattering your rear windows. Hailstones are one of the most common causes of cracked or shattered windshields. At the very least, strong winds can fall tree branches or blow objects and other debris to hit your rear glass hard enough to crack or shatter it.

Going back to the temperature theory again, the weather has an effect here too. A sudden heatwave or unusually hot summer can turn up the temperature of the glass. Meanwhile, winter storms can have the opposite effect. So, do stay on top of your local weather forecasts. Then, maybe think about borrowing your neighbor’s garage to protect your car’s would-be-fragile glass.

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Damage Types #3: Consequences Of Collisions And Accidents

Rear Window Replacement Cost

This is likely the most common reason why your rear glass has turned to shards, and it’s one that we talked about briefly earlier on. Accidents can have a huge impact on the structural rigidity of your car’s glass.

Even if the initial crash hasn’t cracked or shattered it, the warped and bent bodywork of your car could. For instance, if the rear pillars, roof, or rear crash structure has altered in shape.

They can twist and distort the rear glass – or any one of the other window panes – hard enough to crack or shatter it. Of course, car accidents aren’t the only type of collision that you’ll come across. Bird strikes are another common cause of damaged rear windscreens. As is the rouge flying golf balls from a nearby golf course. Thus, be sure to drive your car carefully and vigilantly.

4Rear Window Replacement Cost, Damage Types #4: Impacts From Debris On The Road

Hits and smashes from various debris as you drive along are other factors that result in your rear windows getting hammered into pieces. Most of these come from small debris like stone chips, gravel, tiny branches, or any type of litter that is left behind on the roads. They can be kicked up while you’re driving either by you or other passing cars and fly off into your rear windscreen.

While it typically impacts the front windshield more, the back isn’t entirely immune. Alternatively, perhaps you’re driving too close to a construction area, or a road that’s in the process of being resurfaced. Loose gravel, construction debris, or whole bricks could accidentally fall off and land on your rear windows. That said, try to be aware of your surroundings when you drive.

Rear Window Replacement Cost, Damage Types #5: Improper Or Poor Installation

The glass is a part of the assembly process in any automobile that has to be done perfectly. As such, poor or incorrect installation of the windows can very easily cause them to shatter and crack down the line.

Hence, leaving you, the lucky owner, to have to deal with it. This can be caused due to the use of poor-quality installation equipment, or improper handling by the production staff.

If not installed as it should be, gaps might appear between the glass and the body frame. While this isn’t enough to damage the windows, know that as you keep on driving, the vibrations can cause these gaps to enlarge and intensify. When it does, the glass could very easily pop out of its assembly, and then hit the bodywork hard enough to crack or shatter. Or, it could just fly off entirely.

Can I Drive With A Shattered Back Window

You may be thinking about the lofty rear window replacement cost, which we’ll get into in a bit, and decide that perhaps you’d avoid that. Maybe the damage – crack, chip, scratch, etc. – isn’t so bad at all.

Maybe you think you could keep on driving for a bit longer. Well… Don’t. For starters, it’s illegal to drive a car with a damaged windshield (front and back) as it could badly impair your visibility. This is enough of a reason for us to recommend that you should absolutely get your windshield replaced pronto (and figure out how to get your windshield replaced for free).

Worse, you’re throwing your safety, and those of your passengers, literally out the window. Even if there are the tiniest of stone chips or cracks in there, know that it’s enough to compromise the rigidity of the glass.

Once a tiny chip appears, it can weaken the structure of the rear windows to a point where say, a small impact with debris could cause it to shatter. Therefore, you should not keep calm and continue driving with a damaged windscreen, no matter how trivial the issue might appear.

Rear Window Repair vs Replacement

But, you might ask… Could you simply repair the window instead of replacing it outright? What if the cause of the damage is small, like a tiny stone chip or a minute scratch?

Unfortunately, the rear glass, mostly owing to its construction out of tempered safety glass, is much harder to repair. If not, it can be considered nigh on impossible to repair by some experts compared to the front windshield, which can be treated for chips and cracks quite easily.

How could you tell? Well, here are a couple of signs that you could look out for to know if you could be in for a quick and (relatively cheap) rear window repair instead of a complete replacement:

  • It’s important to look at the size and depth of the chip, crack, or scratch to determine if it can be filled in instead of replaced. Most shops can repair your rear window with a chip of around 1 inch in diameter, or cracks about 3 inches long. However, more high-tech glass repair shops could patch up cracks as long as 18 inches if need be.
  • If the damage spans a large enough area to affect certain functions of your car, then it can’t be repaired. One example is if the chip or crack spans across the defrost or heating lines that we talked about before. Alternatively, some cars might have their rear antenna powered by delicate wiring embedded into the glass. Damage over this couldn’t be fixed.

Rear Window Replacement Cost

The best way to tell if you need a repair or a replacement is to drive over to a local glass shop and have them inspect the rear windshield. Remember that there are very fine lines between being able to fix it, or needing a completely new unit.

For repairs, we can estimate that the average cost of repairing a chip or crack is around $100. If you’re left with no choice, then you’ll be curious to know the extent of a rear window replacement cost. In short, it’s costly.

According to some quotes that we’ve found, the average price for a rear windscreen replacement for most cars is between $200 to $500. For the most part, you’ll likely be paying around $300, and these prices account for both the glass and labor.

It should be considered as well that not all cars are the same. The make and model of your car will make a huge difference in the final rear window replacement cost that you’ll have to pay.

Some luxury cars, for example, have double-paned – or ‘glazed’ – windows. These thick slabs of glass help with sound deadening, thus reducing as much outside noise as possible for the passengers’ comfort.

No doubt, a replacement set of rear windshields for this could run you upwards of $1,000 or more. Plus, some cars don’t even have “glass” windows. Racier automobiles, like sports cars, rely on somewhat rather exotic materials such as Lexan to make its glasshouse as lightweight as possible.

Factors Influencing Rear Window Replacement Costs

Transitioning from the introduction, it’s evident that car rear window replacement costs can vary significantly. While the make and model play a role, there are other factors to consider.

1. Glass Type and Features

Different types of glass come at different price points. Basic tempered glass is generally cheaper, while tinted or UV-protected ones cost more. Additionally, windows equipped with defroster lines, antennas, or other advanced features can be pricier.

2. Installation Complexity

Cars with complex window designs or structures may require more time and expertise to replace. More intricate setups might increase labor costs as specialists are often required.

3. Geographic Location

The region where you’re getting the window replaced can impact the price. Major cities or areas with high living costs may charge more due to elevated overheads.

4. Insurance Coverage

Automotive insurance can significantly affect your out-of-pocket expenses. Some policies cover window replacements, turning a potentially large bill into a minimal fee or deductible.

5. Mobile Service vs In-Shop

While both services ensure a job done, mobile services often come at a premium. However, the convenience of having technicians come to you might justify the added cost for many.

Market Fees and Other Considerations

And, here are some other considerations to take into account…

1. Disposal Fees

Most professionals properly dispose of the old glass, but this service might come with a fee. Check ahead of time to avoid unexpected charges.

2. Calibration

Cars with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) often need calibration after a window replacement, to ensure all sensors work correctly. This process, crucial for safety, adds to the total cost.

3. Warranty or Guarantee

Some shops provide warranties for their work. Though it might increase the upfront cost, it offers peace of mind and can save money in the long run if issues arise.

Price Variation Based on Brands

Not to mention, there are variations in price to consider…

1. Mainstream Vs. Luxury

As mentioned, luxury cars often come with a heftier replacement cost. Brands like Mercedes-Benz or BMW, with specialized glass features, can have higher price tags than more common vehicles.

2. Older Models Vs. Newer Models

Older models, especially those with discontinued parts, might cost more due to the rarity of the parts. Conversely, newer models with advanced technologies might also have higher replacement costs.

Given the numerous factors influencing the cost of a rear window replacement, always get multiple quotes. It’s essential to ensure you’re getting a fair deal. Remember, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. Prioritize quality and safety over saving a few bucks.

Rear Window Replacement Cost: In Conclusion…

Having learned the nature of rear window replacement cost, you might be concerned about the high price tag attached to it. There is some good news, at least, as you can try to file for an insurance claim.

Some insurance policies – though you do have to double-check this with your agent – can cover rear windscreen repairs in full. Plus, it doesn’t come at the cost of any deductibles, if you’re keen to avoid the lofty repair bills. However, most policies have a $100 to $300 deductible for replacements.

But given the average rear window replacement cost of around $200 to $500, that should soften the blow quite a bit. You could even try to shop around for used rear windshields instead of buying up a new one.

Those left behind by identical cars like yours could fit right in if they’re still in decently good condition. In all, the financial burden of replacing your rear glass isn’t easy to bear. However, all of the upsides are invaluable, in safety and comfort, and it may just save your life someday.

Rear Window Replacement Cost: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you’re still curious to learn more about a rear window replacement cost, our FAQs here might help…

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Windshield

On average, the cost to replace the front windshield of your car will range from around $200 to $400. This is roughly similar to the cost of replacing the rear windows, as it should lie somewhere about $300, in total. However, this replacement cost will easily skyrocket once you take into account the driver aids and safety assistance systems that many modern cars are equipped with. For instance, a lot of vehicles sold today come with automated rain detection and heads-up displays. These systems may need to be replaced or recalibrated, which can easily increase the total cost to upward of $1,500 to $2,500.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Car Window

For the most part, a singular car window will cost you around $300 to replace. Albeit, the actual prices may vary somewhere between $200 to $400 for a replacement. As such, a roughly $300 replacement cost applies to each window on your car individually. The front and rear windshields are roughly similar in cost, nudging closer to $400 owing to how much glass there is. Meanwhile, the driver-side front and rear windows, as well as the passenger-side front and rear windows, are slightly cheaper for each, closer to $300 than $400. Meanwhile, the vent/quarter windows are actually slightly more expensive, around $350 each.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Windshield Crack

Windshield cracks are relatively inexpensive to fix compared to having to replace the entire windshield. On average, repairing cracks and chips would range between $50 to $150 for a professional repair job. Meanwhile, if the cracks and chips aren’t too severe, you could even manage a fix on your own with DIY repair kits. The latter can cost as little as $10, albeit the results may not necessarily be as seamless as a pro. Speaking of, professional repairs can be costlier than $150 (sometimes closer to $200) if the cracks are more severe, or if there are numerous cracks and chips to repair at once.

How Long Does It Take To Change A Windshield

Replacing a windshield (either front or rear) isn’t a time-consuming process. If you’ve sent it to a professional for minor chip and crack repairs, a skilled technician could have that done in as little as just 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, a complete windshield replacement usually takes between 1.5 to 2 hours. Although, depending on the vehicle or the technician’s skill level, they could even have it done in under 1 hour. Granted, the entire replacement process might take longer in some cases. For example, if your old windshield is shattered, you have to take into account the time required to collect and clean all the shards.

Someone Broke My Car Window What Should I Do

If someone broke your car window, the first thing to do is not to panic. Once you’ve ensured that your surroundings are safe, take out your phone. Don’t touch anything, and take as many photos as you can. Mainly, focus on the damage done to the windows themselves. As well as, take some pictures of any other damage done to your car, such as the interior. Then, take notes if anything’s missing from your car – personal property, etc. Finally, call the police and file a report. While you’re doing that, make sure that you have the necessary documentation. You can then use this to claim insurance, depending on your coverage.

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