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Moonroofs and Sunroofs on Cars

By September 17, 2021September 20th, 2021Automobile

The first automobiles did not have a roof. Today, car buyers can choose among sunroofs, moonroofs, panoramic roofs, T-tops, and Targa tops. Each of these falls somewhere between a fixed roof and a full convertible. But it is the two most popular options—sunroofs and moonroofs—that we will explore.

Is there a difference between a sunroof and a moonroof? It depends on whom you ask. Some people use the terms interchangeably, while others point out a distinct difference between the two. So, what is the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof? Both are panels in the roof of a car that allow light or fresh air into the vehicle cabin. However, that is pretty much the only similarity.

What is a sunroof?

A sunroof is an opaque body-colored panel that tilts up manually, or it might be motor-driven. In some cases, it can be removed. From an outside view, it looks like a body-colored metal panel. Sunroofs come in various shapes, styles, and sizes, with the common factor being they allow light and fresh air into the cabin.

Sunroofs may be original factory equipment, a factory option, or installed aftermarket either by the car dealer or private installer. The most popular choices for sunroofs are the pop-up and spoiler: the pop-up being a manually operated tilting panel that is often removable. The spoiler acts like a pop-up with an added sliding feature.

Today few manufacturers produce cars with an opaque movable “sunroof,” which could explain why the two terms are often used interchangeably.

What is a moonroof?

In 1973, the Ford Motor Company replaced their metal “sunroof” panel on the Lincoln Mark IV with tempered glass with silver tinting. They also added a sliding interior sunshade to block the light entirely. The company’s ornate ad copy read, “When open, you see the Moon, and it sees you, but when closed only you have the view.”

The unofficial birth of the moonroof nearly fifty years ago has not eliminated the confusion associated with the two types of car roofs. Suffice it to say that the moonroof is an additional tinted window located on the top of the car. The glass allows more sunlight into the vehicle even if the driver chooses not to open the roof, meaning they can enjoy the added light regardless of the weather conditions.

The glass roof with a sunshade

Back in 2018, Lexus introduced an attractive and practical option: a “glass roof with sunshade.” From the outside, the roof looks like a black piece of glass. However, the roof is semi translucent and includes an opening that can be popped open from inside the vehicle to allow sunlight inside.

Other manufacturers add the glass roof feature, and initial feedback indicates they are making the cabin feel more spacious for their passengers, especially those in the backseat.

A word of caution: Direct sunshine causes headaches for some people, so be careful when selecting vehicles that fixed-glass roofs without a sunshade option or have mesh-like sunshades that still admit plenty of light.

What are the pros and cons of a moonroof or sunroof?

Pros: It is no secret that sunlight increases serotonin levels, which has a mood-lifting effect. Both types admit sunlight and fresh air without messing with the hair or causing sunburns like in a convertible. Unlike the opaque sunroof, the moonroof admits sunlight even when it is closed. The rigid panel in either a moonroof or sunroof is more secure and easier to seal than the T-tops, Targa tops, and convertibles.

Cons: The glass panel, motors and mechanisms add substantial mass high in the vehicle, raising its center of gravity and affecting vehicle handling. Those exact mechanisms can end up encroaching on the interior headroom. Also, sunroofs that tilt upward create drag and lower gas mileage somewhat.

Find a company that can provide you with the finest auto insurance

Choosing between a moonroof, sunroof and all the other options gets confusing. The same can happen with auto insurance. Talking with the experts at White Cloud Insurance will help you sort through all those auto insurance options and arrive at the best coverage for you and your family. Just fill out our contact form, call us at 305-556-1488 or send us a message at