woman with her torso through vehicle sunroof with vector of scale balancing moon and sun

What’s the Difference Between a Sunroof and Moonroof?

Sunroof vs Moonroof: Word Origins, Meaning, and Comparison

If you’re like the vast majority of us, you’ve been using the words sunroof and moonroof interchangeably since the day you first discovered the curious upwards window. The mere fact that you’re here means something. It says that today was the day that you finally thought “OK, I’ll bite,” and whipped out your internet-capable device in search of the answer to the age-old question: “What is the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof?” (No, the answer isn’t what time of day you’re using it. Nice try though.) To unwrap the answer, we’ll have to look into the origins of each word. So, hop in the DeLorean Marty because we’re starting back in a time when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the Hindenburg was making headlines, and a gallon of gas rung up for 10 cents.

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solid metal sunroof panel

PART I: What Is a Sunroof?

The very first sunroof was introduced in 1937 atop a Nash Motors model, but it wasn’t quite the same thing as the version we’ve come to know and love. At the time, the sunroof was just a solid metal panel that could be either tilted, slid back, or removed. Sounds pretty lame by modern standards, but we can assure you it was quite a snazzy upgrade at the time. The new feature offered motorists the advantage of fresh air and sunlight overhead without the drawbacks and of a convertible.

PART II: What is a Moonroof?

Change scene to 1973 – U.S. Troops are just being withdrawn from Vietnam, The Exorcist was the top-grossing flick, and a gallon of gas would now cost you four dimes. It’s at this time that a Ford marketing manager first coined the term moonroof to describe the new tinted glass panel which slid between the roof and the headliner on the Lincoln Continental Mark IV luxury sedan. The automaker promoted the feature with the slogan, “When open, you see the Moon and it sees you, but when closed only you have the view.” Cheesy or charming? We’ll let you decide that one.

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PART III: What Does It All Mean?

So, here’s the takeaway: The word sunroof encompasses any a panel in the roof of a car that can be opened for extra ventilation. If we’re getting technical, a moonroof is simply a type of sunroof. With that being said, we don’t expect you’ll find the old-school metal panel on modern cars, so you can safely assume that any use of the word sunroof or moonroof in your car search is referring to the sliding-glass panel we’re all familiar with.

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