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If you don’t have a car with a removable roof, a sunroof is the next best thing. They can usually be purchased as an upgrade to many standard cars and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sunroofs help you make the most of the outdoors, as well as improve ventilation in your vehicle.

In addition to sunroofs, auto companies also offer moonroofs as an add-on option, with many of them built into the standard trim. It’s installed in the same place as the sunroof, so most consumers assume they are the same. However, although they function similarly, there are a few differences between a sunroof and moonroof.

Types of sunroofs

The most common type of sunroof is a pop-up, generally the cheapest option. These removable metal panels are operated by hand using a hatch or crank. A sliding roof system is built into the car and features a panel that slides in between the interior liner and roof. Unlike a pop-up sunroof, this panel stays in the roof at all times and doesn’t have to be stored in a different place. They have slightly larger openings than a pop-up sunroof and require manual operation.

A spoiler sunroof has elements of both the pop-up and sliding roof panels. It can be stored in the roof of the car, but it won’t offer as much headroom as a sliding roof. All sunroofs were originally operated by hand, but some modern sunroofs can be operated by an electric switch.

History of the sunroof

In the late ’30s, the Nash Motor Company was the first automaker to offer sunroofs on its vehicles. Initially, the sunroof was only an option on its luxury models, like the Ambassador. It consisted of a removable large metal or cloth panel. Other car companies quickly developed their own sunroofs, introducing the sliding and pop-up panels.

Moonroofs began as just sunroofs by a different name. The term “moonroof” was originally coined by John Atkinson, a Ford marketing manager, in the ’70s. The name was changed to reflect the more modern design of the removable roof that operated by a motor instead of a crank. The first car to offer moonroofs was the Lincoln Continental Mark IV

Types of moonroofs

There are quite a few distinctions between sunroofs and moonroofs. All moonroofs can be operated electronically and will roll up and down with the push of a button. A sunroof can be made of either glass or metal, but a moonroof is exclusively made of glass or plexiglass. Unlike a sunroof, a moonroof lets in light to your vehicle even when it’s closed.

In addition to a standard moonroof, you can also install a panoramic moonroof. Typically spanning the entire length of the car’s roof, these either consist of one large panel or multiple panels. Although it’s more expensive, a panoramic moonroof is perfect for stargazing or maximizing the airflow in your vehicle.

Which one is better?

For most buyers, a sunroof and a moonroof seem identical. If the price is important to you, you may want to choose a sunroof that’s removable. Motorized sunroofs and moonroofs are more expensive to install. Moonroofs also usually open the roof of your vehicle all the way as opposed to just one section.

Despite small differences, both a sunroof and moonroof can enhance your driving experience and even make your car more marketable should you decide to sell it.