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Let the sun shine in with these popular features.

Sunroof or Moonroof: What’s the Difference? | CarMax

With thousands of vehicles in our inventory, we’re here to help make car research easier for you. We’ve partnered with car-review experts from Edmunds to weigh in on what matters most, whether you’re looking to buy or sell a car.

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Sunroofs and moonroofs are among the most popular features buyers look for in a vehicle. They provide a modern, luxurious feel and sometimes enhance the residual value as well.

And why not? Both sunroofs and moonroofs allow natural sunlight inside the cabin of your car and provide a captivating view of the world overhead. They also circulate fresh air without the turbulence that hurts your ears when you roll down the window. A sunroof or moonroof can add an exciting new element to your driving experience.

But the nomenclature can be confusing.

Technically, any opening in the roof is a sunroof. Then, there is a variation called a moonroof. Here's how to tell the difference:

  • A sunroof is a solid panel that lets no light through when closed, but it can pop open or slide back to allow outside air to come inside.
  • A moonroof is more common in modern cars, with a transparent glass window in the roof that's usually tinted or covered by a sunshade. It can also be opened.

Traditional sunroofs, with a solid panel overhead, have nearly been phased out of the market. Almost all of the sunroofs available on modern vehicles use a transparent glass panel, making them moonroofs. But to make matters confusing, some automakers use the two terms interchangeably. So the words sunroof and moonroof may mean different things from one vehicle to the next.

The important thing is that you choose the right one for your needs. Sunroofs and moonroofs sometimes come as standard equipment in new vehicles. However, they are often optional extras or part of expensive packages. You’ll need to decide whether the additional cost is worth it to you or whether you may be able to find a similar vehicle at a more affordable price without a sunroof or moonroof.

What is a sunroof?

The standard sunroof style consists of a solid panel in the roof of the vehicle. When it's closed, you can't see through it. But it can be opened to the outside air, normally electronically, by tilting up or sliding all the way back. Recent versions of the Porsche 911 often come with a sliding sunroof.

There are also removable sunroofs, which are sunroof panels that can be taken completely off the vehicle. As one example, the Jeep Renegade has an available My Sky roof that consists of two panels that can be removed to provide two large open-air portals.

What is a moonroof?

The most common style of moonroof is a small glass opening stretching horizontally over the front passengers. It may have a solid or transparent sunshade made of fabric or mesh and can tilt or open all the way at the touch of a button. This style of moonroof is available in a huge range of vehicles from Ford F-150 pickup trucks to Honda Odyssey minivans.

What is a panoramic moonroof?

The panoramic moonroof is becoming more common, especially in SUVs and luxury vehicles. This is a large glass panel beginning near the front seats and stretching some feet toward the rear―sometimes encompassing nearly the entire roof. They are usually tinted to block out harmful rays from the sun or covered with a power-activated sunshade. Panoramic moonroofs are common on BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, but they may be found in vehicles from Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and more.

What is a panoramic sunroof?

A panoramic sunroof and a panoramic moonroof are the same thing. This is an example of car companies using the terms sunroof and moonroof interchangeably. Since the panoramic style refers to a transparent glass panel that you can see through, it is technically a moonroof. The next time you see "panoramic sunroof" pop up on a list of features, just remember it's the same as a panoramic moonroof. No harm, no foul!