panoramic roof
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Moonroof vs. Sunroof: Is There a Difference Between the Two, and Why Is It Important?

The new vehicles that automakers are coming out with these days are pretty sweet. Even if you haven't thought about it in the past, buying a new car is becoming more and more tempting. With varieties of options and trim levels, you can pick the perfect vehicle with the right amount of equipment in your budget.

Whether your thinking about purchasing a Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Honda, or BMW, make sure you look over the available options to know exactly what you're getting. This is particularly important if you're buying online, as opposed to at the dealership in person.

Now, one common point of confusion is not knowing the different roof system options. Many times, the terms sunroofs and moonroofs will get used interchangeably, but they're not exactly the same thing. Let's go over a few of the main differences.

What Is a Sunroof?

A sunroof is classified as an opaque panel that matches the body color of the vehicle. It is traditionally a metal panel, rather than a glass panel. Now, it can pop up, slide open, or even be completely removable. Certain designs will allow this metal panel to retract into the roof when open.

The main thing to know is that a sunroof acts as a sunshade. When it is closed, no light or fresh air will be able to pass through. Although these types of roof panels are still used on some luxury car models, it is much more common for modern cars to be equipped with a moonroof, even if they still use the term "sunroof."

Read More: Muscle Cars vs. Sports Cars: Breaking Down the Differences

What Is a Moonroof?

A moonroof is a type of sunroof, but the design is a tad different. Instead of using a metal panel that blocks out all of the light, moonroofs use a tinted glass panel. Typically, any glass sunroof is actually a moonroof. These power moonroofs act in the same way as a regular sunroof, giving you the ability to tilt up and retract the panel, but it's not very common to remove them completely.

Since light can still pass through them when closed, automakers normally include a retractable cover on the headliner that matches the interior of the car.

Panoramic Roofs

Panoramic roof options are also growing in popularity. It's essentially just a larger panel in the roof of a car. This allows both the passengers in the front seats, as well as the rear passengers in the rear seats, to enjoy a view of the sky and feel the open air. Again, while many times these are described as panoramic sunroofs, they are actually panoramic moonroofs if using a large glass panel.

You're not going to find traditional sunroofs on many models anymore, but it's beneficial to know the difference in the two terms, so you're not surprised when you pick up your dream vehicle. If possible, you should definitely check out a car in person to confirm all of its equipment before buying. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to test drive it.

Products featured on Alt_driver are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

This post was originally published on March 16, 2021.

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