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The best option to choose when considering a moonroof vs. sunroof is to select a roof you can see through that slides all the way open at the push of a button.  Many of the better sunroofs and moonroofs will also tilt using an electric motor to bring in fresh air and a nice view of the outdoors.

If you enjoy the feeling of driving or riding with the top down or like lots of fresh air and sunlight in the cabin, you should consider getting a sunroof or a moonroof on your next car. And if you want to know more about some other attributes popular in cars today we’ve got more comparisons for you elsewhere.

What is the difference between a moonroof vs. a sunroof?

A sunroof was a term originally used to describe a metal panel that you could pop-up and remove or slide back. A moonroof is a term used to describe a see-through glass panel that could be opened by pushing a button.

The two terms are now used interchangeably.  The big difference between the words sunroof and moonroof for most people now is the question about whether they slide open electrically. Technically the terms refer to the same thing.

The first sunroof was offered on a 1937 model Nash, a car company that was based in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The metal panel could be opened and slid back to let the sun and fresh air in. Nash built cars from 1916 till 1954.

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Besides pioneering sunroofs, Nash also was the first automaker to offer heating and ventilation systems, seat belts, unibody construction, compact cars, and muscle cars. The 1957 Nash Rambler Rebel featured a fuel-injected V-8 engine.

Ford offered sunroofs on some of their vehicles in the 1960’s as an alternative to a full convertible but the buying public wasn’t that interested. The 1973 Lincoln Continental Mark IV featured a moonroof, a motorized glass panel that slid in between the roof and the headliner.

To minimize heat and glare from the sun, the glass was tinted. There was also a sliding sunshade that could be opened and closed to control the amount of light.

Can a moonroof or a sunroof be added after the car is built?

A moonroof or a sunroof can be added to some models of cars after the car is built. In the automotive world this is known as an aftermarket item. It is an add-on that doesn’t come from the auto dealer.

Taking a look online at the website of any local auto glass repair shop is a good place to start. After you check things online by visiting the website, follow up your visit to the site with a phone call.

  • A simple, tinted glass panel that tilts to allow more air into the cabin can be bought for prices starting at about $300 just for the parts, not including installation. Some of the models allow for the glass panel to be completely removed for a full convertible feel.
  • Adding an aftermarket sunroof or moonroof to a car will usually cost you between $300-$800 for installing a simple unit that pops open for ventilation.
  • A motorized version of a top-mounted glass panel that tilts and slides along the outside of the vehicle’s roof is sometimes known as a “spoiler” style sunroof. This type of aftermarket roof has prices that start around $750. Installing a spoiler style roof will add another $600-$1000.
  • If you want a moonroof or sunroof that slides open inside the car expect to pay between $1,000-$2,000. In this instance the glass panel slides between the metal roof and the interior headliner. It’s the most common type sunroof installed on new cars today. Expect installation costs to add another $1,000 or more to the price.

Keep in mind that prices and levels of quality vary in the aftermarket. Less-expensive sunroofs use a dot matrix, screened glass that reflects back about 50% of the sun’s heat. Higher quality and hence more expensive models use a reflective glass.

Plastic or aluminum handles and hardware cost less and don’t last as long as steel or carbon fiber. The seals and gaskets that keep the rain out last longer when they are made from silicone as compared to neoprene.

When considering an aftermarket sunroof vs. moonroof keep in mind that a professional installation requires the installer to be familiar with how car roofs are built.  Any post used to support the roof cannot be damaged.

Car dealerships, auto glass repair shops, or general repair shops with experience in installing moonroofs and sunroofs are your best bet for a good installation.

Between a moonroof vs. a sunroof, which one opens completely?

A moonroof typically opens all the way by sliding into a slot in between the roof and the headliner of the car. A sunroof typically tilts open to provide ventilation and is tinted to restrict the amount of light, air, and glare coming into the car.

The difference between the words sunroof, moonroof in terms of opening means the moonroof opens completely.

Does a moonroof or sunroof add to the value of a vehicle?

Having a moonroof versus a sunroof does add value to a car and makes them easier to sell–especially if they are a power moonroof. As more and more cars in the lower price ranges come standard with sunroofs they are becoming an option that is more expected.

Buying a new car equipped with a sunroof typically adds $500-$2000 to the price of the car depending on the make and model. A certain amount of the extra value stays with the car and will come in handy when it’s time to sell.

Can a moonroof or a sunroof be repaired or replaced?

Sunroofs and moonroofs can be repaired and replaced. One of the most common problems is leaks that are often caused by leaves and other debris clogging drain holes that are located in the four corners of the roof frame.

Open sunroof in the rain

  • The holes lead to drain tubes that need to be cleaned from time to time. Cleaning the tubes and drain system usually costs about $125.
  • A moonroof is mounted into a track that allows it to slide back and forth. The unit may stop working properly if one of the tracks gets jammed or a cable breaks. A repair for this kind of problem starts at about $800.
  • If the glass of the roof itself is broken or cracked it can be replaced for between $300 and $400, which includes the labor and the replacement glass.
  • The motor that opens the roof can also fail and need to be replaced. A new motor goes for about $350 and the labor adds another $150 to the repair bill.

What is best, a moonroof or a sunroof?

Using the old definitions of these words, the moonroof is the better choice of the two as it was designed to open and close by pushing a button. A sunroof is typically made from metal and is opened manually by hand or by using a hand-operated crank.

The term moonroof was actually a term thought up by a Ford marketing manager John Atkinson. Ford got their first moonroofs through a partnership with a company called the American Sunroof Corporation, which was based in Detroit. The German company Golde was also producing moonroof kits during the same time period.

As the popularity of the moonroof versus sunroof option increased, Ford began offering them on Mercury Cougars, and Thunderbirds. General Motors countered by putting them on Cadillac Coupe deVilles, Sedan deVilles, Fleetwood Broughams, and Fleetwood Eldorados. Eventually the trend spread downstream to Ford’s LTD and the Buick Riviera.

What model cars are available with sunroof or moonroofs?

Virtually every car manufacturer building autos in the 2018-2019 time period features models that have moonroofs or sunroofs, as they have become more popular. Sometimes they are considered an option and cost more. Other times they may be part of an upgrade package which may include other sought after specials like better sound systems, power doors locks and leather interiors.

As sunroofs and moonroofs have gained more acceptance, power moonroofs that slide and tilt have become the norm. A sun visor is typically included that closes them off them off by sliding it when less light is desired.

The automakers are now competing for buyers attracted to moonroofs and sunroofs by making them larger, which has led to panoramic roofs–some of which open.

What is a panoramic moonroof?

A panoramic moonroof or a sunroof generally refers to a factory-installed roof system made up of fixed and sliding glass panels. It may be available as a standard feature or may be presented as an option.

interior of a car with sunroof

Keep in mind that a panoramic roof may reduce the headroom in the car and could make things hotter during a sunny day. Paying extra for a solid glass roof that doesn’t open might not be as good as money saved.

Cars that offer panoramic moonroofs span a wide range from luxury models to compacts, including the Ford Escape, Cadillac CTS, Honda CRV, Toyota Camry, and the Mini Cooper.  Tesla models include panoramic options as well as entire roofs made from glass from the front to the back.

Should I get a moonroof or a sunroof?

If you enjoy the feeling of riding in a convertible but want to be able to control the amount of wind, you should get a moonroof or a sunroof. If you enjoy looking at the sky as you drive, you will enjoy a glass-paneled or panoramic roof.

Many models of new cars from compacts to full size SUV’s offer a moonroof or sunroof as an option. If you already own a car with a standard roof, a sunroof or a moonroof can be added as an aftermarket item.

Some drivers have no desire for extra wind or wind noise in the cabin. While convertibles account for less than 2% of the cars sold, cars with moonroofs or sunroofs account for nearly 40% of the cars sold.

Safety is another concern as being thrown out of sunroofs kills about 200 people a year. Keep in mind that deciding between sunroof or moonroof inclusions depends on many factors. It’s nice when you can pop open the roof. On the other hand, it is good to save the money.

A moveable glass roof can add value to your car when you sell or trade, but it can also be a source of extra service, and maintenance may be required. So, when considering the moonroof versus sunroof option, be sure to weigh these pros and cons.

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Moonroof vs. Sunroof: What is Best and Should I Get One?
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Moonroof vs. Sunroof: What is Best and Should I Get One?
Description
We distinguish a moonroof vs. sunroof and how each can affect the value and maintenance issues for your car so you can decide to get one or not.
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AutoGravity
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Scott Sowers is a writer based in Washington, D.C. His work appears in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic and many other fine publications. He grew up in the car business as his father managed Western Auto and Goodyear stores for several years before buying his own repair shop. He’s written automotive content for Car Gurus, The Fuel Line, The Auto Body Line, Auto Exec and serves as an Associate Editor for AutoDealer.

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