Sunroof Vs. Moonroof: What's The Difference?


While many use moonroof and sunroof interchangeably, there are some differences

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A sunroof or moonroof on a car is a relatively new development in the automotive world. The original automobile was essentially an engine-powered open carriage, meaning it had no roof at all. Later, vehicles started featuring canvas tops for improved protection from the elements, with some featuring clear side curtains as well. Not too long after the creation of the first fully enclosed car did automobile owners discover the need, or rather the desire, for something that could bridge the gap between the enclosed car design and the open-carriage. European automakers responded with metal- or canvas-covered roof openings before the arrival of the patented Pytchley sunroof system. Since then, the technology has evolved to form part of the innovative glass slide and/or tilting panoramic roofs we know today.

Sunroof Versus Moonroof Mercedes-Benz

What’s yhe Difference Between a Sunroof and a Moonroof?

The words sunroof and moonroof are used interchangeably by just about everyone, even automakers themselves. It's no sin, however, as many of their original differences have fallen away over the years. A typical car's sunroof was initially described as an opaque panel, usually constructed from canvas or metal, that could be opened or closed to let in light and air. A moonroof, on the other hand, was a tinted glass panel that occupants could see through completely and its installation typically included a sunshade on the inside that occupants could draw if they wanted to block out the light.

Cars are no longer sold with opaque movable roof panels or "sunroofs", and so sunroof and moonroof essentially refer to the same thing these days. They are a great addition to luxury cars if you live in sunny states in the USA.

Moonroof Jaguar
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What are the Different Types of Sunroofs and Moonroofs?

There are several different types of specialized car roofs that one can install in their car:

  • Built-in: These roofs are usually electric and can be fully retracted with the panel sliding away between the roof and the headliner. It can also be slightly raised at one end to allow for some airflow into and out of the cabin. The Honda Civic, for example, comes equipped with a built-in moonroof as standard.
  • Spoiler: A spoiler moonroof is similar to the built-in kind in that it can slide open completely or just pop up for some ventilation. But instead of stowing away between the roof and the headliner, it slides open above the car's roof.
  • Pop-up: Pop-up roofs are usually just that, sunroofs that pop up to allow for ventilation. Though mostly purchased on the aftermarket, one of the best cars with this sunroof is the BMW E30.
  • Lamella: Lamella roofs are made from tinted glass sheets layered similarly to Venetian blinds. They can be opened up to varying degrees but have proven to be rather problematic in the cars they were offered on - the Mercedes-Benz ML430 SUV and the Pontiac G6.
  • Panoramic: A panoramic roof spans the length of the cabin to provide both the front and rear passengers with a view out the top. One popular car with a panoramic sunroof is the Kia Soul, a quirky SUV offered with the option.
Sunroof Honda

The Truth About Installing a Moonroof or Sunroof

Now that we know how to answer the question, 'what's the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof', we can look at the advantages and disadvantages of cars with a sunroof or moonroof. When comparing a car sunroof vs a moonroof, the benefits and disadvantages are virtually the same.

Pros and Cons

  • Creates another source for fresh airflow
  • Lets some sunlight in, which is good for passenger mood
  • Doesn't over-expose you to the sun like a cabriolet
  • More secure/theft-resistant than a drop-top
  • They can hinder a car's handling because of the added weight
  • Installing one usually comes at the cost of interior headroom
  • They are considered a luxury, meaning they're usually quite expensive


What’s the best type of sunroof installation for my car?

This depends on the model you have and its size. A more compact car should stick with a standard tilt-and-sliding sunroof while a larger car can get away with a panoramic roof. If you're looking to purchase a truck, the single cab usually isn't offered with a sunroof at all; you may need to opt for a double cab.

Can coupe vehicles be installed with a sunroof?

Yes, many premium coupe vehicles do, and many a luxury car comes with a panoramic sunroof, too.

Can I put a T-top on my car?

While cars could be installed with factory-fitted T-tops and even aftermarket T-tops or Targa top kits in the past, the process is considered a specialty or custom build these days and will likely only be done by specialty workshops. It may be simpler to buy a used car that already has this modification.

What’s the price of a sunroof?

Prices on new cars differ depending on the car, the type of sunroof, and whether or not the installation is included in a package that contains other add-ons, which is typically the case. For a standard sunroof, you should expect to pay upwards of $750. Check the manufacturer site or trustworthy reviews for accurate pricing of add-ons.

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