Last updated May 2022
That little pebble, kicked up by a truck in front of you and cracking your windshield, likely created a costly headache down the road.
While replacing most vehicles’ side and rear windows typically costs $150 to $400, windshield replacements for many models now often run $800 to $1,000—and for some popular models, they can cost $1,500 or more.
That’s because for many late-model cars, when you look through your windshield, a lot of devices are looking, too. Automakers now often pack a lot of technology—sensors that feed info to software controlling automatic wipers, lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, and advanced steering and braking systems that avoid collisions—directly into windshields or locate these features behind them. Often, after replacing or removing windshields these gadgets must be tested and recalibrated; sometimes that involves “dynamic recalibration,” which requires a test drive. These checks can add one or two hours to what used to be a simple task of swapping out a windshield ravaged by that pesky pebble.
No matter how big or small the job, if a window for your ride needs a fix you want it done quickly and for a fair price. Here’s how to find a glass act.
Before Replacing, Check Whether a Repair Will Do
Damaged auto glass doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced; chips often can be repaired. Modern windshields are essentially made with two layers of glass sandwiching a layer of vinyl, designed so glass breaks into tiny cracks, rather than shattering. These cracks can be filled by injecting polymer into them and then smoothing the area once it sets. Repairs are possible for relatively large areas of damage—larger than you might expect. Generally, chips that penetrate at an angle perpendicular to the surface or at a shallow angle can be repaired. If you’re not sure repair is possible, ask a glass repair shop for an inspection.
Other windows in your car aren’t comprised of the same kind of sandwich; they’re typically “tempered” glass, made by heating it to over 100 degrees F and then quickly cooling it. This process strengthens the glass and ensures it will break up into very small pieces, which limits injury. If these windows haven’t shattered, they’re also candidates for repairs, instead of replacement.
Small repairs are relatively inexpensive, around $60-$90. But repairs must be made as soon as possible after the damage occurs. Rain and dirt will infiltrate damaged areas over time, and air will quickly make windshield cracks worse, making repair impossible.
Choosing a Shop
While it’s a good idea to get a windshield or other glass repaired right away, you want to choose a repair shop carefully.
Here at Checkbook.org, you’ll find customer reviews of auto glass outfits, based on surveys completed by Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers, plus other local consumers we invited to participate. Fortunately, most glass shops overall received quite favorable ratings, especially compared to the very mixed bag of reviews we get for auto bodywork.
If the damage was caused by someone else, and their insurance company is paying for the fix, start by checking with the insurer. Some have price agreements with networks of shops and chains; and while they’ll pay for repairs done by others, they might not fully compensate you if the one you pick charges higher prices than its contracted shops.
If you’re paying, shop around to make sure you don’t overpay. Our researchers collected price quotes from a sample of area shops for four jobs. The table below reports the prices quoted by the shops. As you can see, we found fairly sizable price differences; for example, from $320 to $666 to replace the windshield on a 2017 Ford Fusion using an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) part, and from $975 to $1,732 to replace the windshield on a 2021 Honda Odyssey EX-L using an OEM part and including recalibration of the van’s ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems).
The last column on the table also reports for each shop our price comparison score. These scores indicate how each shop’s quotes, on average, compare to the average price for all shops quoting on the same mix of jobs. The price comparison scores are adjusted so that the average for all shops equals $100. A shop with a score of $110 had prices 10 percent higher than the average shop’s prices; a score of $90 indicates the shop’s prices were 10 percent lower than average.
Fortunately, some companies’ websites offer quick quotes via online pricing. We found that even those that don’t can quickly and easily provide pricing via phone or email. Have your ride’s VIN handy to make sure you collect prices for the correct part.
When collecting price quotes for a windshield replacement, ask if any recalibration work is needed and, if so, whether the shop can handle those tasks. It’s highly preferable to get all the work done—replacement and any recalibration tasks—by the same company. That way, if something doesn’t work correctly afterward, there’s no question as to who’s at fault.
And ask for a timetable for when the shop can get to your car and how long you have to wait after the repair/replacement is done before you can drive the car.
Most auto glass services offer mobile service: Their techs will meet you at your home or office parking lot and do the work there. Know that your vehicle might need to remain parked for a bit after the work is complete so that adhesives completely dry; how long varies by vehicle, weather, and materials used.
Ask for the warranty details. Look for one that covers the service life of the vehicle—and make sure it covers the glass and labor.
When contacting shops, ask if your technician is certified by the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC), which offers training programs and maintains standards for replacement techniques and monitors product performance.
Many auto glass repair shops are members of the AGSC, but any company can employ an AGSC-certified technician. Membership requires the shop to agree to abide by work standards and pass site inspections. These are nice safeguards, but the key is to make sure your technician does great work.
There are three levels of certification:
- AGSC Master Technicians have passed the AGSC master technician certification test and work for AGSC-Registered Member Companies.
- AGSC Certified Technicians have passed the AGSC general technician certification test and work for AGSC-Registered Member Companies.
- AGSC Qualified Technicians have passed the AGSC general technician certification test but do not work for AGSC-Registered Member Companies.
Check on Source of Parts
All automotive glass must meet certain Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), but depending on your vehicle and your insurer, you’ll likely have a choice between replacement glass from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or from a different manufacturer that is considered an original equipment equivalent (OEE) or “aftermarket” part.
It makes sense to ask about any cost savings you might get from using an aftermarket glass replacement, but, especially for windshields, it’s usually best to stick with an OEM model. As is the case with other auto body parts, there is some concern over the quality of non-OEM windshields and glass. A lot of aftermarket windshields and windows fit poorly.
Illinois law requires shops to tell you if they use aftermarket replacement parts.
And, as we mentioned above, because many vehicle models now come with safety equipment that has components embedded into windshields or that need recalibration after a windshield replacement, many automakers now publicly urge owners to seek OEM replacements.
Ask any shop to give you a written promise that all the materials it supplies for your job meet or exceed ANSI Z26.1 (that’s the industry standard for repairing and replacing vehicle safety glazing) and all pertinent Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Dealing with Insurers
Auto glass is covered under a policy’s comprehensive coverage. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, you can’t claim repairs or replacement on your policy. But before you file a claim, find out how much your repair or replacement will cost and compare that to your deductible. It’s not worth bothering to make a claim if it doesn’t substantially exceed your deductible. And even if it does, you may want to pay out of pocket rather than face the possibility of a hefty premium hike.
Many insurers offer “full glass” deductible options, which pay all costs of windshield and window replacements. But don’t buy this protection unless it costs less than $40–$50 per year, or your vehicle’s windshield is unusually expensive. Many companies charge a lot more than that, making the cost of the coverage not worth the possible benefit.