car with traditional moonroof

What’s the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof?

Sunroof vs Moonroof: What’s the Difference? How Have They Changed?

Automotive naming conventions range from weird to flat-out confusing. Four-wheel drive versus all-wheel-drive? Yep, that’s confusing. Add in four-by-four to that to make it even less understandable. How about traction control and stability control? Not that clear either.

Another common is example is sunroofs vs moonroofs. What’s the difference?

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Modern Definition of Sunroof and Moonroof

panoramic sunroof from inside cabin

The definition of sunroof has changed over the years. Nowadays, sunroofs are panoramic, meaning they have glass panes that extend the length of the cabin. Some open, some don’t. Moonroofs are essentially a small window on the top of your vehicle. It lets in a small portion of light and can be opened to help circulate air. Neither sunroofs nor moonroofs are typically standard features on the average consumer vehicle. Due to how both are installed, they typically reduce head room by 2.5cm to 4.0cm.

What Sunroof Used to Mean

Back when they were introduced, a sunroof was an opaque metal or canvas panel in the roof of your vehicle that could be removed to let in light and air. That’s right, it was essentially like cutting a piece of your roof out. While these were nice, there had their fair share of problems. First, if it started to rain, you had to stop your vehicle, grab the sunroof, get out of the car, and slot the sunroof back into place, likely getting very wet in the process. Second, if you valued security, you couldn’t leave a sunroof open since it was literally a hole in the top of your vehicle.

Want to Learn More?

If you’d like to learn more about the differences between well-known auto features, check out the Accessories & Features section on our blog. And if classic cars, like those with original sunroofs, interest you, take a look at our classic car inventory.