Difference Between A Sunroof & Moonroof

Panoramic Glass and sliding system sunroof on car. Blue Skies in car Through Sunroof.

To sell vehicles, automakers highlight popular features like sunroofs and moonroofs. While they both enhance the driving experience, they do have some differences. Honda differentiates them by coming up with unique designs and controls.

In the Beginning

In 1937, Nash Motors installed the first sunroof in one of its cars. Initially, people considered the sliding metal panel quirky. However, they realized that along with giving the vehicle a unique aesthetic, it exposed drivers to fresh air and sunlight.

However, it wasn’t until 1973 that the Lincoln Continental Mark IV featured a moonroof. It didn’t take long for sales of this factory-made item to skyrocket. After all, as a luxurious vehicle, people wanted the latest and greatest features available.

A Brief Overview

Most people use the terms “sunroof” and “moonroof” interchangeably. However, sunroofs and moonroofs differ in how they perform and the benefits they provide. For instance, a sunroof consists of an opaque metal panel. Typically, the color of the metal matches the body color of the vehicle. In addition, people can tilt sunroofs and even remove them completely.

As for a moonroof, it’s a transparent sliding panel made of tinted glass. Unlike a sunroof, a moonroof isn’t removable. For a great view and fresh air, customers could have a retractable shade installed that’s operated either manually or electronically.

Are There Different Types?

When it comes to sunroofs, you can choose from several types. These include:

  • Pop Up – This type of sunroof consists of a manually operated tilting panel that doesn’t retract all the way.
  • Spoiler – In addition to tilting up, the spoiler sunroof slides back approximately 60% of the way.
  • Inbuilt – Typically, this type of sunroof operates electrically. While sliding back, the panels go completely between the vehicle’s headliner and its metal roof.
  • Folding – Also called a “ragtop,” it’s made of fabric that simply folds back while sliding open.
  • Top-Mounted – Mounted on rails, the top-mounted sunroof opens on the interior of the vehicle rather than the exterior.
  • Panoramic – A lot of people love this kind of sunroof because it lets in a significant amount of light. If they want to enjoy a lot of fresh air, too, they can opt for sliding panels. Otherwise, this sunroof has fixed panels.

As for moonroofs, you’ll only find a few options that include fixed panels and panoramic. Just like a sunroof, a panoramic moonroof gives the driver and passengers an amazing view of the moon and stars.

However, most often, moonroofs have fixed panels, and here’s why. When driving at night, the air often feels chilly. A fixed-panel moonroof provides fantastic views of the nighttime sky without letting cold air inside the vehicle.

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The Bottom Line

The main difference between a sunroof and a moonroof has to do with the panels. With sunroofs, people can let both light and air inside the vehicle. For moonroofs, the panels generally don’t open. That means people can enjoy a fantastic view without dealing with cooler air temperatures at night. Again, it’s possible to choose a moonroof designed with sliding panels.

Here’s the interesting part. The term “moonroof” didn’t even exist until Honda decided to give the name to its retractable glass sunroofs. Although differences exist, people will likely continue to use the two terms interchangeably. You can see the unique operation of both by visiting Bob Brady Buick GMC in Forsyth, Illinois.

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