dogs looking out of sunroof
Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

Sunroof vs. moonroof: Is there a difference? As it turns out, yes, there is. The average driver uses the terms interchangeably, but they are two different features.

When a car has a sunroof, it has a set of panels on its roof that open up to allow either light or air into the car. The panels can be manually powered or electric. Sunroofs are not transparent. They allow light into the car only when they are open. The can slide to open or be propped up to vent the car.

A sunroof is usually made of the same materials as the body of a car, but a moonroof is made of glass, meaning it can let light into the car even when not open. Technically, a moonroof is a type of sunroof, but not all sunroofs are also moonroofs. A moonroof either props open or slides open between two panels on the roof of the vehicle.

Many moonroofs also feature an additional panel inside the car. The panel is usually covered with the same upholstery as the interior of the vehicle and can be pulled over the moonroof to block out light. This can be a useful feature when the sun is directly overhead on a hot day, and you want to keep the interior of the vehicle cool.

Origins of sunroofs and moonroofs

The Nash Motor Co. debuted the first sunroofs on a few of its models in 1937. In the 1960s, the concept began to catch on, and Ford began to offer power sunroofs as a factory option on several of its models, notably the Thunderbird.

In the 1970s, the moonroof was born. It first appeared in 1973 on the Lincoln Continental Mark IV. The first moonroof was made out of tempered glass that was tinted to reduce glare. Lincoln was a division of Ford, and the company came up with the term “moonroof.” Today, a moonroof is the more popular option.

Benefits of a sunroof or moonroof

There are a few benefits to having either a sunroof or a moonroof. On a nice day, opening the moonroof is a great way to get fresh air into the car without having the wind blow directly into your face from an open window.

Opening a sunroof or moonroof lets you talk to your fellow passengers or listen to your music while still enjoying fresh air.

A fun benefit of a moonroof is that it lets you look at the stars without leaving the comfort of your car. You can drive to a lookout point, push the upholstered panel to the side and gaze at the night sky for hours, even on a chilly night.

Does a sunroof or moonroof help resale value?

Generally speaking, having a sunroof or moonroof on a car helps boost its resale value. If you’re hoping to get a good trade-in value for your car, picking a model that has a factory-installed sunroof or moonroof can help.

Keep in mind that the more moving parts your car has, the more risk there is for problems or failure. Like any other window on your car, the moonroof can break if it’s hit by a fallen tree branch or rock. The motor that opens a power sunroof or moonroof can also fail. But the potential for risk or damage shouldn’t deter you from getting a feature that will improve your driving experience.

Use Bankrate’s calculator to estimate the monthly payment on your new car.

Promoted Stories