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Entering your car without any kind of car window shading when it’s in direct sunlight even for an hour can be a real nightmare. Not only can metal trim pieces in your car get hot enough to burn you, but those with leather or vinyl seats are also in for a very uncomfortable surprise. This happens because the windows of your car turn your vehicle into a greenhouse, trapping hot air and making it far hotter than the outside temperature. Infrared light is present even when there are clouds or you’re under cover, so in very hot areas, the best car sun shades will even keep your car cooler in the shade.
Sure, most cars have air conditioning, but it takes a while to get cold enough and you’re wasting gas while waiting for it. And it’s not great to ask your engine to bear the load of an air conditioner before it’s up to operating temperature. Startup under load also maximises your carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
Heat and UV will damage the materials in your car’s interior, especially on the dashboard, which gets the most direct sunlight. Your seats and other interior fabrics will ultimately pay the price in fading and cracking. Electronics like touchscreens are likely to experience reduced lifespans and errors.
The easiest way to keep your car cooler during the summer is a sun shade. Car shades are easily available and relatively inexpensive, however, not all of them are good. You’d think that parking under a tree is better, but it’s not. Parking under a tree exposes your car to sap and bird droppings, which will damage your paint. It’s just better to get a sun shade.
There are many different options for car window shading. The most common are reflective windshield sun shades placed on the dashboard and rear windscreen, which you have to remove before driving. There are also rear-seat car sun shades you can use while driving. For protecting your baby or child in the rear seats, or more privacy for your passengers back there, these car window shades can keep them shielded from heat and bright sun.
We’ve made a list of the best car sun shades you can buy, with a detailed description and pros and cons so that you’ll be sure to find exactly what you need.
First things first: Kinder Fluff. We honestly don’t know about their name (we looked), but they’ve been around since 2014 and make high quality car window shades. This is their single layer version, an inexpensive steel ring sun shade made from a high-quality 210 thread count (210T) polyester in reflective aluminized silver to reflect as much UV and infrared as possible. 210T is denser than some other car sun shades, which means that a lighter window shade will keep the cabin cooler for longer, even in direct sunlight.
The single panel is also very easy to use. It comes with a compact travel pouch. It is easily folded and very easy to install as well—just be sure to lower the sun visors for better support and you’ll be good to go.
Kinder Fluff offers this car sun shade in three different sizes. For most cars that will suffice, but you may have problems if your car’s windshield is out of the ordinary—too big or too small. Please check the dimensions of your windshield before buying.
We like the EzyShade sun shade’s simple two-piece design. It’s just two pop-out panels in one of three sizes, that press fit into place and overlap. It couldn’t be much easier to install, or much cheaper. The small panels are 23.5 x 29 inches each; medium 28 x 31 inches; and large 32.5 x 36 inches. You’ll want to get a set of car window shades that’s the size of or slightly larger than your windshield opening. If it’s too small, it’ll fall out.
A metallized coating reflects IR and blocks UV, which keep the interior cooler and protect against long-term damage to interior fabrics, plastics and leather. If your windshield is close to the next size up, EzyShade includes an adhesive dash pad to help hold their windshield sun shade in place. We’d prefer just to find either a different size or brand rather than do that, but at the price and convenience of this two-piece car sun shade, it’s definitely worth trying out.
We like the idea of umbrella-style car window shading. You can store the folded up sun shade anywhere, pop it open and you’re done. The handle can also act as a prop rod to keep it in place in a way that regular folding sun shades can’t. It has the usual silvery reflective coating and seems more opaque than other bargain brands, suggesting the fabric will do a good job of keeping out the sun.
In practice, results are mixed. For occasional use, this might be a perfect solution, small enough to keep almost anywhere in your car and affordable enough you can buy it and forget about it until you need a sun shade. You could even use it as a big, weird umbrella in an emergency. If you need to use a car sun shade every day, however, then think about how long an inexpensive umbrella will last, and look for more conventional solutions to your car window shading needs.
Amazon sells what appears to be an identical product as multiple brands, so just pick the cheapest one you see.
We include an RV windshield sun shade here because window shading for motorhomes is not only meant to block the sun from entering, but also from the eyes of strangers. With the enormous, light-gathering, peeping-eye admitting, glass expanse of a Class A motorhome, if your RV doesn’t already have some type of window shading, you probably already know you need it.
This collapsible sun shade is very easy to use, similar to other products higher on the list, with the difference being its dimensions—it is very, very big, two 42 x 50-inch sections which you can use either direction. That’s why we suggest using the included suction cups, especially if you don’t use the RV for a longer period of time.
The only downside of this product is that is not as easy to fold as other products—we would’ve really liked a clever solution, even though space is not a problem in an RV.
If you’re looking for side window shade options, Enovoe’s well-reviewed sunshades are a great addition to your travel accessories.
This six-piece car window shading bundle includes four of Envoe’s thin and light side window shades, which cling on with static rather than suction cups. Our experience with mounting things to car windows with both static and suction cups says both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. You’ll definitely want to read the instructions if you want them to stay attached.
You also get a pair of seatback kick mats, which several of our editors wish they’d thought of when they had kids. If you don’t have them, you’ll find out fast what little feet can do to the back of a seat. And to your back.
Mesh screens will help with privacy and light blocking, but not as much as solid car window shades.
These so-called socks for your back windows offer protection like no other. You’ll feel like you’re in a luxurious vehicle, like a Lexus LS or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. They block most of the light and heat and really make a difference in the sunny days. As opposed a small window sun shade like Enovoe’s, the ShadeSox will protect every inch of your window, regardless of the car type.
They are also very easy to install—just open your vehicle’s door and literally pull the sunshade down over it. This means that you must be stationary if you want to remove it, but you can’t always have the best of both worlds. On the other hand, you can easily roll down the window while this sunshade is in use, which is not something that you can do with other products.
The downside of ShadeSox design is that it’s not as durable as sun shades that mount to the interior of the window. The mesh on the outside can get easily damaged, especially if you drive on the highway a lot. Prepare to buy another pair sooner than with other products. Another small caveat is that the ShadeSox tend to degrade visibility more than Evonoe’s product.
Accordion-style folding car sun shades tend to be thicker than soft fabric ones, with more layers of light-blocking and heat-insulating fabric. Almost all custom-fit car shades are accordion style, including OEM ones from car manufacturers, as they offer the tightest fit, most protection and easiest installation.
When they’re not custom fit, folding car sun shades can be a bit hit or miss. They take up more room when folded and can be trickier than a two-panel design to put up. This one from BDK Los Angeles is fairly large at 58 x 27 inches, so measure your windshield first. Often, the folding design does mean you can fold it in a little if it’s too big. The upside, if it works for you, is a great, clean look and excellent sun protection.
According to a 2018 study by researchers from University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Arizona State University, and the US National Integrated Heat Health Information System, parts of a car interior can reach 75°F hotter than the exterior temperature in just 60 minutes. At high noon on a sunny day with exterior air temperature of just 86°F/30ºC, the interior can reach over 154°F/68°C in as little as five minutes.
According to the study’s authors, there are only “minor cooling effects [from] ‘cracking’ a window and small differences by car type or color.” Even on cloudy days or in shade, cars will still heat up as they admit and trap infrared radiation, along with some residual heating effects from the hot engine and especially exhaust. After 60 minutes, the interior and exterior air temperatures were the same…but on an 86° day, the interior reached 104°F/40°C after 2.4 hours.
Even in the shade, your car can easily heat up by almost 20° on a cloudy day, and by as much as 50°F in just a few minutes in direct sun. The only way to prevent that is to keep the sun from getting in at all with reflective window sun shading.
Illustrations: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide
According to the University of Utah Department of Dermatology,
The front windshield of your car blocks most of the UVA and UVB radiation coming from the sun, but the driver’s side window may not be pulling its weight. A recent study found that while the front windshield blocks 94 percent of UVA rays, the driver’s side window only blocked 71 percent.
“Multiple studies have demonstrated that individuals spending a large amount of their time driving have an increased risk of skin cancer and UV-induced skin damage on the left side of their body,” said Jason E. Hawkes, MD, University of Utah Department of Dermatology. “This damage is primarily due to the UVA light passing through the driver’s side window.”
Your windshield blocking 94% of UV is enough to prevent harm to you, but multiply that by the hours your dash, steering wheel and seats are exposed to it, and you see why interior materials degrade with time. And with side windows being much less effective, you can see why it’s so important to protect both young children and yourself from UV in the car:
Due to its shorter wavelength, UVB light is more easily blocked by window glass,” Hawkes said. “However, the longer UVA wavelengths require additional protective measures to avoid passing through the glass.
Studies estimate that 74 percent of melanomas appear on the left side, evidence that suggests that the deeper penetrating UVA rays may be contributing to the rise in this more invasive, deadly form of skin cancer.
It’s a hot summer day, you’ve gone to work and left the car in the parking lot. When you come back, hell awaits because your car has gotten so unbearably hot while it’s been baking in the sun. If you have black leather seats, you can probably cook your dinner on them because they’ve gotten so hot.
Cranking the AC to its maximum setting will certainly cool the interior down, but this takes time, so the best thing to do is to prevent your car from getting so hot in the first place. Parking under a tree is also not advised—it exposes it to sap and bird droppings that can damage your paint, and getting covered parking can be expensive.
Thankfully, there are several cheap and easy-to-use products that can help keep the cabin temperature lower while your car is under the bright summer sun. There are also a lot of tricks you can do to lower your car’s temperature even further (aside from finding the perfect spot under some shade) and making the whole driving experience more comfortable and less sweaty! Read further if you want to find out everything about how to keep your car cool in the sun.
This is a no-brainer. We think every car owner should have a sun shade in the car. A car sun shade will not only help to keep the temperature down, but it will also keep the dashboard and the steering wheel from heating up. This makes driving much more pleasant and keeps the interior materials from fading and cracking over time.
When buying a car window shade, be sure it’s from a reputable manufacturer. Don’t just cheap out and get a gas station or dollar store model because you get what you pay for.
There are several different types of sunshades you can consider:
These are the best type in our opinion, as they can be easily folded and almost always come with a handy pouch. When folded, they are very compact and can be easily stored in your car’s cabin, like your door pockets, for example. Higher-quality steel ring sunshades are also very easy to install onto your windshield and can be used on a variety of different windshields. Still, it’s best to check the dimensions before buying.
If you want to be sure that the sun shade is the best fit for your windshield, you should buy a custom one. The roll-up types are not as easy to use as the steel ring and are very big when folded, but this type will cover every inch of your windshield perfectly. There are also roll-up universal fit sunshades, but they’re no better and less convenient than a good folding ring car window shade.
These car window shades are generally have a lower price than steel-ring sunshades. They offer very good protection against sunlight, are very easy to use and fit almost every type of windshield. The downside is that they are bigger when folded—in a smaller car you can’t store them up front if you have a passenger.
Umbrella car window shades create a canopy for the whole car, so they offer the best protection against sun rays and heat. With an umbrella sun shield, your car will be kept at the lowest possible temperature, but there are downsides. They’re expensive, and tricky to use and install.
The statistics on cancer make it clear: Whether parked or driving, you need a side-window shade. These sunshades are see-through, but you can’t them on the windshield while driving. On the other hand, they are great for protecting your kids in the back seats from harmful UV rays and generally make traveling more comfortable. There two different types of side-window sunshades:
These car window shades are generally very easy to use, as they can easily attach to the window, either by a suction cup or via static cling back. Some of them come in a cartoon designs, which certainly makes them more cheerful for your children, but reduce visibility. Higher-quality items offer great protection against harmful UV rays, but almost all of them can be easily detached by your kid and don’t cover the whole window perfectly. They can’t be used with an open window at all.
Unlike normal side-window sunshades, these “socks” cover the entire window and door frame to make better shade against sunlight. They are also very easy to use but degrade visibility more than the ones that are attachable to the window and can’t be removed while driving (which may be better for kids). They are also not as durable, as one side will always face the sun and wind, getting dirty in the process.
Most new cars already come with tinted windows, but you can install additional tint that will protect your car from heat and UV. Higher-quality tinting materials can block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays, while reducing infrared light that warms up the interior. There are a lot of DIY tinting wraps, but getting it right is hard. We would suggest going to a professional for this job, as they know the regulations better (you can’t tint your windows all the way up) and will do cleaner job that will likely be covered under their warranty. Expect to pay a minimum of US$150 for a basic tint on a small car, and up from there.
The seats and the steering wheel in your car are the worst offenders when it comes to making driving uncomfortable, as they can get very hot, especially leather and vinyl upholstery. That’s why we suggest throwing a blanket or towel on them, preferably white so it can reflect sunlight better, to keep them cool.
Hot air is less dense than cold air and rise up and out through window openings. If you’re in a safe location, leave a gap a little narrower than your fingers for hot air to escape. But if you’re uncertain about security, keep them closed. It’s much easier to break an open window than a closed one.
A very efficient way of keeping the interior of your car cooler is to use the sun for the job. Purchase a solar-powered fan that will work every time your car is on sunbathing in the sun and circulate air through the cabin. These also work best with slightly opened windows, as they can help the warm air to escape through the openings.
Your AC uses a surprising amount of the horsepower your engine produces, so be kind and let the air flow for a few minutes before you turn it on. It’ll be much more effective if you’ve cooled down the car just by driving with the windows down first, and it will help minimise your carbon footprint, even if just by a little bit.
10/14/2021: Replaced multiple unavailable products with new recommendations. Updated and expanded FAQs.
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