Key Takeaways

  • Moonroofs and sunroofs are designed to let in air and light into the vehicle
  • A moonroof is a type of sunroof
  • Sunroofs can be made of several materials while moonroofs are usually made of glass
  • None is better than the other

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Moonroofs and sunroofs serve almost the same purpose in cars. But which is better? Our moonroof vs. sunroofs on cars and trucks guide has the answers.

Moonroofs and sunroofs are designed to allow light into the vehicle. When opened, these two will also let in fresh air into the vehicle. The main difference between them is that moonroofs will continue letting in light even when fully closed.

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Table of Contents


Due to their almost similar appearance, most people tend to assume that moonroofs and sunroofs are the same. Consequently, most people tend to use these two words interchangeably.

But, are these two features the same? Is a moonroof the same as a sunroof? Are there any differences between a moonroof and a sunroof? Are there any benefits to choosing a vehicle with one feature over the other?

Well, this guide will answer all these questions. In this article, we will delve deeper into what a sunroof is as well as the different types of sunroofs out there. We will also take a closer look at what a moonroof is. Also, we will go a step further and compare the differences between these two features.

What’s a Sunroof

A sunroof is a type of panel mounted on a vehicle’s roof. It’s designed to allow air, light or both into the vehicle. Besides its functional purpose, a sunroof also adds style and class to a vehicle.

A sunroof can be an integral part of the vehicle’s design, meaning it will leave the factory outfitted with it. You can also outfit your vehicle with a sunroof since most models come with the provision of adding one.

Different Types of Sunroofs

Cars have been sporting sunroofs for more than 100 hundred years. And, their design has evolved over the years. Today, there are different types of sunroofs out there. The different types are designed to provide different levels of exposure to natural light and air. Also, each type of sunroof has its design appeal, benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of sunroofs out there.

Pop-Up Sunroof

A pop-up sunroof is probably one of the least expensive and easiest for auto manufacturers to outfit in a car. What makes it the easiest and least expensive type of sunroof is that it doesn’t come with any moving parts in its design, apart from the locks needed to secure the panel in place.

This type of sunroof is manually operated. And, there are two main ways how you can operate it. First, you can tilt it open from one end to open it partially and allow fresh air into your vehicle. Second, you can remove it completely and store it somewhere in your car if the elements allow it.

Pop-up sunroofs are highly versatile. They can be outfitted in almost any type of car since their panel design can be modified to match the roof size. And as we’ve mentioned above, they don’t come with any complicated opening mechanisms.

In-Built Sunroof

The in-built sunroof is the classic design. It’s also one of the oldest types of sunroofs. As its name suggests, this type of sunroof comes incorporated into the vehicle. Therefore, you can’t find it as an aftermarket feature.

In-built sunroofs feature two types of panels. The first panel can be made of metal or a material similar to that used on the vehicle’s ceiling. You can retract this first panel by either pressing a button or pushing it by hand.

After the first panel, there’s a second one, which is made of glass. The second panel will be exposed after retracting the first panel. This second glass panel can also retract completely into a compartment in the vehicle’s roof or be tilted up. And by doing so, it will act as an open window in the vehicle’s roof.

Spoiler Sunroof

The spoiler or tilt-and-slide sunroof resembles the in-built sunroof in various ways. The main difference between the two is that the spoiler sunroof will slide on top of the vehicle’s roof as opposed to in-between the roof.

Similar to the in-built sunroof, the tilt-and-slide sunroof can also be tilted upwards, to allow air to flow into the vehicle. But unlike the in-built sunroof, the tilt-and-slide sunroof doesn’t open completely.

This type of sunroof is mainly manually operated in older vehicles. However, modern cars incorporate electrics to open and retract it back. The tilt-and-slide sunroof is a great design for smaller cars since their smaller roof space can’t accommodate most of the other sunroof designs.

Cars with this type of sunroof leave the factory already fitted with them since it’s not ideal for aftermarket installation. But, you can still have one installed if your vehicle’s roof can allow it.

Folding Sunroof

The folding, soft-top or rag-top sunroof is more prevalent in Europe car designs compared to those made in the U.S. This type of sunroof features a larger opening than other types of sunroofs. When the sunroof is open, your car will look like some sort of a convertible. The material used to make the sunroof can be vinyl or leather. When folded, the sunroof material will retract behind the rear passenger seats.

This type of sunroof is available in two main types. The first type folds down fully into a compartment hidden behind the rear passenger seats. When folded, it will remain completely out of view. As for the second type, it will also stack behind the passenger seats. But, it will remain visible.

Folding sunroofs can be electrically operated or manually. As you may expect, the majority of modern cars with this type of sunroof come with the electrically operated one.

Panoramic Sunroof

As its name suggests, this type of sunroof is designed to offer a bigger view, compared to other types of sunroofs. The panoramic sunroof may come as a standard feature in most luxury cars. It may also be offered as an available feature on the majority of mainstream models.

Panoramic sunroofs feature several panels on the vehicle’s roof. And, these panels can be either fixed or operable. Thanks to this design, both the front and rear passengers will enjoy sunlight and views through the vehicle’s roof. This type of sunroof is mainly found in SUVs.

Solar Sunroof

The solar sunroof is one of the latest in the market. And, you will mainly find this type of sunroof in electric-powered vehicles. It works like an ordinary sunroof, meaning you can open or tilt it to allow fresh air to flow into the vehicle. However, its glass also features photovoltaic (PV) cells, which operate similarly to conventional solar panels.

When the solar sunroof is open, it will provide ventilation for the vehicle’s cabin. And when it’s closed, the PV cells will generate electricity from the sun. This electricity can then be used to power various electric systems in the vehicle.

The PV cells in the glass make it semi-transparent or opaque. Therefore, it’s impossible to see through the glass clearly. So, if you want to bring light into the vehicle or enjoy outside views through the roof, you will have to open it completely.

T-Top Sunroofs

T-top or Targa sunroofs feature removable panels, which open towards the vehicle’s sides. When the panels are open, they will leave a central horizontal beam, running across the entire length of the roof. This horizontal beam running across the roof creates a T-shape, thus the name of this type of sunroof.

Some vehicles come with non-operable panels, made of Plexiglas or ordinary glass. The glass will give a permanent view outside. This design will also create a T-shape when viewed from above.

T-top sunroofs are highly specialized. Also, each design is made to fit a certain type of car. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to find an aftermarket fitment for this type of sunroof.

What is a Moonroof?

A moonroof is essentially a type of sunroof. Similar to other types of sunroofs, a moonroof is also designed to tilt or slide open. Therefore, it will also let in air and sunlight through the roof of the car. But unlike most of the other types of sunroofs, a moonroof will only tilt open slightly. Therefore, it will only allow a limited amount of fresh air to flow into the cabin.

Moonroof vs. Sunroofs: Main Differences

As we’ve noted above, a moonroof is a type of sunroof. The main difference between a moonroof and a standard sunroof is that the entire moonroof is made of glass. Sunroofs, on the other hand, may have two panels, made of different materials. Also, unlike an ordinary sunroof, you can’t remove a moonroof from a vehicle. Furthermore, when closed, a moonroof will allow light to come into the vehicle when closed.

Moonroof vs. Sunroof: Which is Best?

By now, you already know what a sunroof is and what a moonroof is. Also, you have a better understanding of their differences. So, which one is better than the other? Well, we can’t conclusively say that one is better than the other. It all comes down to personal preferences.

If you would like natural light to be coming into your vehicle at all times, then a car with a moonroof will be the better choice. On the other hand, if direct, high-angle sunlight gives you headaches, then a vehicle with a sunroof will be the ideal choice for you.

Moonroof Vs Sunroofs On Cars & Trucks: Which Is Best?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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