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Why are small car windows so expensive?

Have you ever wondered why replacing that small piece of glass is so expensive? On the surface it doesn’t make sense. If your giant windshield costs $200 to replace, why does that little quarter window cost $400? This is a common concern that our customers have. While we haven’t figured out how to make this costly replacement cheaper, we can at least explain the reason behind it.

Windows are mass produced by glass manufacturers, just like every other part of your car. When a part for a car is manufactured, it has some upfront engineering and development costs. For the purpose of this post, we’ll call these the starting costs. Starting costs are the same whether you produce a single piece of glass or 1 million. Glass manufacturers spread starting costs out over the entire production run of a single piece of glass and price it accordingly.

Let’s take a hypothetical example, grab our calculators and do some simple math. In the example below, it costs $100,000 in starting costs to produce a new piece of glass and an additional $1 for every piece of glass that is produced. The chart below shows how much it will cost to manufacture 1, 2, 3, and 50,000 of the same window.



As you can see, once you produce a large amount of windows, your per-window-price drops significantly. This is exactly why quarter windows can cost so much. Windshields break often, so manufacturers make lots of them. These large production runs make the per-window-cost very low. Quarter windows don’t break very often, so they produce fewer pieces and the per-window-cost can be significantly higher.

This means that if you ever get a call from a friend or family member and they tell you, “I’m locked out of my car, so I’m going to break the small window to get back in”, you should warn them of the associated costs and recommend that they call a pop-a-lock service. You’ll be saving them a lot of money and headache down the road.

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