Sunroof Vs. Moonroof

Written by david w. berner
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Sunroof Vs. Moonroof
A sunroof can be a popular car option (car runs at speed isolated on road image by alma_sacra from

The terms "moonroof" and "sunroof" have become interchangeable in many ways to most car owners over the years since they were first introduced in cars in the 1970s. But there is a distinct difference. Sunroofs are opaque and usually made of metal that fits flush against and matches the colour of the car's roof. They can be adjusted to let in sun or closed to give the impression of a closed roof. A moonroof is essentially a sunroof made of glass, usually tinted, and is never completely opaque.


In the 1970s car enthusiasts began to cut holes in the roofs of their cars to allow sunrise to come in without having a traditional convertible. They placed a panel in the hole that was manually operated to open and close. Soon afterward, auto manufacturers began to offer the option and it caught on throughout the industry. Around 1973, the American Sunroof Co. (known then as American Specialty Cars) developed the moonroof, essentially a sunroof made of glass. Ford was the first to install one in a new vehicle.

Features of a Sunroof

A sunroof is covered with metal and glass, with the metal portion protecting the glass unit. The metal usually matches the roof of the automobile and is either electronically or manually opened from inside the automobile. The sunroof can be adjusted to reveal all of the opening or a portion of it with the metal panel rolling all the way back and out of view. The glass is usually heavily tinted, deflecting the harshest of sunlight. Many times there is a sunroof visor on the front portion of the roof that allows the air to flow away from the opening in the roof when the car is in motion.

Features of a Moonroof

A moonroof is made of glass or sometimes plexiglass. There is no metal cover that matches the roof of the automobile. The operation is similar to that of a sunroof, including the ability to roll back the glass partially or completely. Most moonroof glass is tinted but may also include a filter panel or mesh that will deflect sunlight when the glass is all the way open. Like a sunroof, a moonroof may also include an air visor to deflect the flow of the wind.


A sunroof or moonroof gives the driver the feel of a convertible without the expense. Either allows for a breeze, and sunlight or moonlight to shine through the opening into the car's interior section. Many times a sunroof or moonroof, either as a manufacturer's option or an aftermarket addition, adds resale value a vehicle.


The price of a sunroof or moonroof as an auto manufacturer's new car option can vary greatly by the make of the car and whether the roof is manually or electronically controlled. Generally, a sunroof costs more as an option because it includes the metal panel that matches the roof. According to option values at online auto dealers, the cost generally ranges from £520 to £780 for the sunroof option. A moonroof is less costly, with the range between £260 and £585.

Overall, aftermarket installation is less expensive. Maintenance costs are minimal, but car owners should particularly keep an eye on the fit and the seals on an aftermarket sunroof or moonroof, being aware of wind noise or leaks when it rains.

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