Automobile Moonroof Vs. Sunroof: What Are The Differences?

Category: Insurance

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9 min read

Just what makes the roof of a car a ‘Moonroof’ or a ‘Sunroof’?

Does it involve harnessing the powers of the moon or the sun? Well, not really.

The cool thing about roof panels though, is it adds some useful features not present on a typical automobile.

You can do things like pop your head out to greet a friend or enjoy a scenic view of the sky. You can even use the roof as a solar panel to power your car’s cooling system.

In this article, we are going to tackle two similar yet different popular types of car designs: the sunroof and the moonroof.



The sunroof is an adjustable panel of a car that allows passage of light and air in the compartment. Traditionally metallic, it is often painted the same color as the entire car.

Some of the Different Types of Sunroof:

1)  Pop-up Sunroof

This sunroof is a medium-sized panel that is tilted upwards but cannot fully retract. As its name suggests, it opens like how Jack pops out of the box.

2)  Spoiler Sunroof

Similar to the pop-up sunroof, the spoiler is a panel that electronically pops up and retracts to the back. Like the pop-up, it’s smaller than other sunroofs, but this roof offers the convenience of self-storage.

3)  Folding Sunroof

A sunroof of European origin, the material is dominantly made out of vinyl fabric. They take inspiration from a convertible in which the entire roof folds to the back.

4)  Removable Sunroof

It is very similar to the pop-up, with a crucial difference being that its entire top roof is removable. Two primary examples of removable sunroof are the T-Top (T-Bar in the UK) and the Targa.

5)  Moonroof

Believe it or not, the moonroof is in actuality a derivative of the sunroof.


The moonroof is a plexiglass panel that only allows passage of light to the convertible. Compared to its older counterpart, the traditional moonroof is fixed on a sliding mechanism and doesn’t open as wide.

Some of the Different Types of Moonroof:

1)  Panoramic Roof

These are two panels that cover the front and back part of the car roof. It offers a scenic view to the rider, especially at night.

2)  Solar sunroof

While made of glass, this model has a photovoltaic layer that serves as a solar panel. This feature allowed the roof to power the ventilation of the car, countering potentially hot weather.

Except for the folding and removable Targa panels, almost all types of sunroof can be remodelled as a moonroof.

Brief History of the Sunroof and Moonroof

In 1937, Nash Motors, a Wisconsin-based automotive company, introduced the concept of cars having a sunroof to the US. This feature was just optional and didn’t start becoming mainstream until several years later.

Ford tried making cars with removable panels during the 1960s but failed due to low public interest. They tried again during the mid-1960s to early 1970s, this time partnered with American Sunroof Corporation.

In 1973, Ford made a new version of the sunroof for their Lincoln Continental Mark IV. They dubbed this variation the ‘moonroof’.

The term was coined by the company’s Marketing Manager, John Atkinson. He gave it the slogan, “When open, you see the Moon and it sees you, but when closed only you have the view.”

Based on its namesake, it allowed the moonlight to pass through the cabin while keeping the cold air out. The glass was tinted in a dark shade to reflect as much heat from the sun as possible.

In the middle of those years, different automotive companies produced variants of the sunroof. The Targa Top became popular in the 1960s and 70s, and the Panoramic roof system became popular around 1969.

Also read my guide on getting your car insured here.

Don’t Confuse Sunroof with Moonroof

It is a popular misconception for a moonroof to be referred to as a sunroof and vice versa. The possible reason for this is because the sunlight passes through the car interior, unlike the real sunroof.

That’s not the purpose of the traditional sunroof which was opaque. It was meant to control the amount of sunlight allowed in the car by opening or closing it.

The moonroof, on the other hand, was made slightly transparent to enjoy a scenic view of the moon.

Nowadays, newer models meant those two terms are now interchangeable. But never forget the original properties that initially distinguished the sunroof and moonroof from one another

Which One Is Better?

Choosing between a sunroof and a moonroof is purely up to the buyer. However, some crucial factors affected the preference of one over the other.

Design Evolution

As per history, the sunroof started as a removable metal panel. A few decades later, the variant with tinted glass panel came to prominence.

While the moonroof hasn’t overtaken the sunroof entirely, it is more common due to popular demand. What is still technically a sunroof now also employs technology associated with the moonroof.


Judging by perspective, it is more pleasant to be able to see the sky without having to open the roof. That is a big reason as to why the panoramic roof is one of the most popular panels.

In a way, the moonroof serves as the sixth window in an automobile. This preference for visibility severely impacted the demand for opaque sunroofs.

Safety Comparisons

Generally speaking, a solid roof panel is less dangerous than one made of glass. For example, a strong-enough impact can shatter glass but mostly dent metal.

According to this New York article, around 200 people die in a year from moonroof-related accidents (referred to as its parent category the sunroof).

These factors didn’t only determine which type of sunroof model was preferred; it also paved the way for the next generation of panels. As of now, modern advanced technology developed sunroofs and moonroofs that incorporate the features of both.

Current Automobile Models That Employ Moonroof/Sunroof

Now that I have thoroughly tackled the history and differences, we now move on to 21st Century sunroof models.

As I begin to wrap up this post, I’ve decided to look for cars that have sunroof panels. This author might not exactly be the most trusted car geek, but this list borrows from the specific car’s general ratings and reviews.

With each item, I will detail the advantages and disadvantages (depending on the page) to give a fair description.

Here are some of the present-day vehicles that feature the mechanisms of sunroof:

1)  Citroen C4 Cactus hatchback

Debuting in 2014, this SUV-like keeper is known for its low running costs. This particular model features a panoramic sunroof.

The C4 Cactus is known for its comfortable ride and fuel efficiency. The drawback though is its perceived “lack of excitement” when being accounted for speed.

Nonetheless, this is the car for drivers who want to feel safe and sound (no pun intended).

2)  Honda Civic (moonroof standard)

This model is an ideal example of how to make a compact car. For its small size, it is versatile and is available in Sedan, Coupe or Hatchback variants.

It also has remarkable cargo space for its size.

One particular drawback the 2018-2020 models have would be their faulty interface. Other than that, let its rating and quality charm you into keeping this winner.

3)  2018 Nissan Maxima S

This Nissan model has a distinctive panoramic sunroof which can retract to allow passage of air. It ranks right in the middle of 2018’s Most Affordable Large Cars.

The 2018 Maxima S’s perks include a powerful V6 engine, intuitive infotainment, and a luxurious cabin. The drawbacks are that it’s rather expensive and needs high-quality gasoline, and the trunk size leaves a lot to be desired.

If you don’t need a spacious car and can handle the hefty budget, you can rely on this large car.

4)  Skoda Octavia Estate

This crimson-coloured keeper is a regular inclusion on the best cars list. It receives positive feedback thanks to its affordability and ample cabin space.

In this case, the panoramic sunroof is optional and may cost some. However, it will give the interior a nice-looking, natural light.

5)  Volkswagen up!

Just like the Honda Civic, this superb German dwarf receives positive feedback for being big on small packages. At only 3.54 meters long and 1.64 meters wide, this city car can squeak in even small parking spaces.

The sunroof of the Volkswagen up is a panoramic panel that slides and tilts. This feature makes the ride a scenic view that makes the cabin feel spacier than it has a right to be.

One of its few cons is its supposed lack of modern look. Still, don’t count this beautiful city car out.

6)  2018 Audi S5 Premium Plus

The upgrade cost to a panoramic sunroof may lean on the hefty side, but this 2018 Audi model’s specs make up for it. Just like item number three, it operates on a V6 engine that produces 354 horsepower.

In addition to its power, this particular Audi also comes with Bluetooth, infotainment and a powerful speaker system. The rearview camera and forward collision warning, among others, make for a substantial safety standard.

And last but not least, the front seat of the S5 has a massage function that many will find useful for long-distance driving.

Interested in buying one? There are many more car brands you can look for that fit your standards. Here are some of the automotive seller pages featured in this article that can help:

  1. Carbuyer claims to have a more straightforward interface than other sites. They make videos on testing the cars they sell.
  2. Founded in 1966, Kelley Blue Book is one of the most trusted automotive companies. In addition to selling, they also make blogs especially on the best cars to buy.
  3. JCT600 is one of the UK’s biggest and most significant vehicle dealing companies. They serve as official centres for 22 manufacturers like BMW, Jaguar, Kia, etc.
  4. This site is a subcategory of a famous news publishing company. It offers some reviews on the best automobiles to buy and claims to have lower monthly payments.

Let’s not forget that purchasing these products work best with insurance. Visit The Insurance Nerd to know more about the best insurance companies, the cheapest rates, health insurances, and so much more.

Wrapping up!

And so, this particular article about moonroof vs sunroof has reached its conclusion. My goal was to post more than just comparisons and history regarding those two. I wanted to make a complete package that would pique the interest of the reader. To add to that completeness, I listed out the modern cars which still make use of this classic feature in a technologically more updated sense. Including the automotive and insurance webpages, I hope this article proves useful for those who want their sunroofs fancy.

Let me know in the comments if you have found this article about sunroofs and moonroofs useful.

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