Moonroof? Sunroof? What’s the Difference?

Sunroof Moonroof

You’re not going crazy: you’re definitely hearing more about moonroofs lately.

It seems like every other new car is advertising its moonroof or a panoramic moonroof, which is pretty much the same glass panel we’ve all come to know as a sunroof — at least, it appears that way on its face. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they were both interchangeable names for the same thing. 

But there are some key differences between the two that you should definitely be aware of if you’re in the market for a new car.

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What Are They?

Back in the day, a sunroof was significantly different than a moonroof — it was a removable, opaque panel that you had to remove entirely in order to open your vehicle up to the sunshine.

A moonroof, by contrast, replaced that piece of opaque metal with a tempered-glass panel that had a sunshade you could use to block the sun.

These days a lot of vehicles have a moonroof standard, and many offer a panoramic moonroof or sunroof standard.

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The Panoramic Sun Roof Keeps The Interior Open, Airy And Bright

The panoramic sun roof in the Infiniti QX60 keeps the interior open, airy and bright. Photo: Scotty Reiss

So, There’s a Difference?

Technically,  there’s a difference between a sunroof and a moonroof, but both phrases are used interchangeably nowadays. The classic sunroof isn’t really common anymore (could you imagine hauling a big metal panel off the top of your car any time you wanted to see the sun?), but as language has evolved, the two words have mingled.

So, if you hear a company advertising its sunroof, but it’s actually a piece of glass with a sunshade, you’re really looking at a moonroof.

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Types of Moonroofs

There are a few different styles of moonroof — and these words usually do matter when it comes to describing the type of roof you’re getting.

  • Built-in roofs usually offer an option of opening the roof, with the glass panel being stowed in between the headliner and the body of your car. 
  • Spoiler roofs are the same, but the roof pops up and remains above the roof.
  • Pop-up roofs just pop up a little at the back.
  • Lamella roofs have different glass panels that slide back like Venetian blinds, but these aren’t common because they’re difficult to engineer.
  • Panoramic roofs can be a large fixed glass panel that doesn’t open to let in fresh air.
  • Many panoramic roofs are dual panels and can be opened to let in fresh air

I'm Elizabeth Blackstock, managing editor of AGGTC, blogger, journalist, novelist, editor, MA/MFA graduate student, wife, motorsport fanatic, and bearer... More about Elizabeth Blackstock