Sunroof vs Moonroof: How To Choose

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · December 22, 2022 · 5 minute read

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Sunroof vs Moonroof: How To Choose

Today, the term “sunroof” is typically used to refer to any panel or window in the roof of a vehicle that may pop up or slide open to allow air to circulate inside the cabin. A moonroof is a type of sunroof that features a stationary glass panel. There are many different sizes, shapes, and styles of sunroofs.

If you’re deciding which one to choose for a new car, we’ll share the differences and the pros and cons of each.

What Is a Sunroof?

“Sunroof” has become a generic term for any panel or window in a car’s roof. More specifically, a sunroof is usually a panel located on the top of a vehicle that slides back to reveal a window or opening in the roof. The panel is usually opaque, matching the vehicle’s body color. It can be electric or manual.

Sunroofs can come in sliding or pop-up versions. Sometimes, a sunroof’s panel can be completely removed.

What Is a Moonroof?

“Moonroof” is a term introduced in 1973 by a marketing manager at Ford. A moonroof is a type of sunroof, made of transparent glass. It may be stationary or slide back, but can’t be removed. New cars typically have moonroofs instead of sunroofs.

A “lamella” moonroof has multiple glass panels that slide back and provide a scenic view. A panoramic moonroof has fixed glass panels that cover most of the vehicle’s roof.

Moonroof vs Sunroof Differences

As mentioned above, a sunroof is typically a painted metal panel that blends into the rest of the car roof and that slides open or can be removed. A moonroof is essentially a window in the roof, whose glass panel may or may not slide open.

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Pros and Cons of Sunroof

Sunroof pros: Opening the sunroof can give motorists a sense of being in a convertible without the expense. (Learn more about the costs associated with luxury vehicles.) A sunroof can make the interior space feel larger and keeps it well ventilated, reducing the need for AC. The opaque panel prevents the car from overheating on sunny days.

Sunroof cons: A sunroof can add weight to a vehicle and leave less headroom.

It can also be tempting for passengers — especially children — to extend their hands or head through the roof. However, manufacturers (and common sense) caution that it’s unsafe.

Although sunroofs add to a car’s value, they can also cost more to insure. (You can find out how much by shopping around on online insurance sites.) And the moving parts are vulnerable to jamming, which can lead to pricey repairs.

Attempts to retrofit a sunroof may not be successful, with leaks being the most common complaint. Factory-installed sunroofs are more reliable than ones using aftermarket parts.

Pros and Cons of Moonroof

Because a moonroof is a type of sunroof, most of the sunroof pros and cons above also apply to moonroofs. However, there are a few additional considerations:

Moonroof pros: In recent years, the moonroof has become more popular than the sunroof. Drivers appreciate how they allow sunlight in even when closed. Because there are no moving parts, a moonroof isn’t prone to mechanical problems.

Moonroofs typically come with a sliding sunshade inside, allowing people in the car to decide how much sun protection they’d like.

Moonroof cons: Because the glass absorbs heat, you may need to run your AC more on hot days.

Safety Considerations for Sunroofs and Moonroofs

As mentioned, it can be tempting to reach through or stand up in a vehicle with a sunroof or moonroof. For safety reasons, once the car is turned on, the driver and passengers should be seated and buckled.

Sunroofs and moonroofs also make a car more susceptible to break-ins, since there’s one more entry point for thieves to smash or pry open.

In case of a collision, there is additional risk of glass shattering, which can cause injury.

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Maintaining a Sunroof or Moonroof

Like any car feature, regular maintenance of your sunroof is recommended. And knowing how to DIY can help you save money on car maintenance. Mostly, that means keeping it clean. Here’s how:

1.    First, use a hand brush to sweep debris off the roof.

2.    Wipe down moving parts with a microfiber cloth.

3.    Clean the glass with a product without ammonia or vinegar.

4.    Lubricate moving parts with a lightweight automotive grease or WD-40.

How To Choose: Sunroof or Moonroof

When deciding between a moonroof and sunroof, consider your area’s climate and how much use you expect to get from the feature. It can also be helpful to ask friends or family who have experience with one or the other style for their opinions.

If money is a concern, a sunroof will cost $1,000-$1,500 more in a new car. Not having a sunroof will also lower your car insurance premiums.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference.

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The Takeaway

A sunroof refers to any opening or window in a car roof. A moonroof is a type of sunroof that usually features a stationary glass panel. There are many types, sizes, and styles of sunroofs, from electric to manual, pop-up to removable. Sunroofs will cost more upfront and possibly in maintenance fees and insurance. However, drivers and passengers will enjoy better light and air circulation, even without the air conditioner.

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Is a moonroof better than a sunroof?

Moonroofs do have advantages, including a lack of mechanical parts that require regular maintenance and can break down. Otherwise, it’s a matter of personal preference.

What are the disadvantages of a sunroof car?

A sunroof adds to the cost of the vehicle and likely to your insurance premiums. Sunroofs also make a car more vulnerable to break-ins and break-downs of mechanical parts.

Photo credit: iStock/AscentXmedia

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