Sunroofs and Moonroofs – What’s the Difference?

The summer months are finally upon us. The arid and vitamin-d-filled weather calls for new ways to go about your daily drive. Are you the type to blast your air conditioner, creating a bubble of wonderfully cold air? Or are you the type to drop your windows down, letting the precious wind of the Denver climate blow through your hair? The season can call for a plethora of different temperature-battling options. One of the most common and sought after is sunroofs and moonroofs. But what is the difference between them?

Ultimately sunroofs and moonroofs sound like polar opposites. One lets you enjoy the golden rays, while the other is for night drives amongst the breeze. Right?

Not necessarily. In fact, the two roof options are pretty much the same concept. But, a need for different titles means a need for different functions. Let’s break it down.

Types of Roofing Options

The top of your vehicle can often be overlooked. Realistically, you shouldn’t be spending much time observing the top of your car. The top of your vehicle’s body does matter (duh). Not only does it act as a cornerstone for your car’s structure and therefore, your safety, but it also can lead to a variety of different weather-enjoying techniques.

Here are the main options for car roofs:

Solid Tops

Overall, your standard vehicle roof. A solid structure that protects you from overhead elements.


Convertibles and luxury have always been synonymous, if only in connotation. Consequently, if your vehicle has a fully convertible top, it’s often seen as stylish or sporty.

Overall, a convertible allows you to drop the roof of your car, exposing the entirety of the interior to the elements. Ever want to feel like you are exposed to the world? Want to feel the rush of wind, sun and bugs through your entire body? Convertibles are for you.

Convertibles come in two different styles: hardtops and soft tops. A soft top is a vehicle that features a vinyl or canvas roof that can be lowered. A hardtop has a solid roof that can also be lowered. Easy peasy.


As simple as the name implies. A semi-convertible vehicle has a roof that can partly be exposed. Some models include the outdated-yet-stylish T-top, a two-panel roof that can be taken off, leaving a t-shaped bar through the top of the vehicle.

These strange structures are fairly uncommon in modern cars, but they do exist.

Solar-Powered Roofs

The future is here, and it’s getting pretty impressive.

While solar-powered roofs have yet to hit the open market, the technology has found its way into a lot of concept vehicles. Consequently, with the rise in electric vehicle production like Tesla, the idea of generating power is becoming unavoidable.

A car that charges the car as you drive the car? How novel.

Basically, the concept is to have solar panels on the roof of the vehicle, constantly (or at least during the day) generating power for the car. Furthermore, the vehicle would have an open view throughout the entirety of the roof.

Will we ever see solar sunroofs on the highway? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

Sunroofs and Moonroofs

The star of today’s show. Sunroofs and moonroofs are panels of glass on the top of a vehicle. They can retract, leaving a window-sized opening in the roof of the car.

What is the difference between them? Well, let’s stop beating around the bush.

What’s the Difference?

By the sound of the names, the two roof types may seem like night and day (aha). Believe it or not, this is not the case.

The difference lies within the auto glass. A sunroof is an opaque panel on the top of the roof that can be removed to allow sun and air into the vehicle. It is often made of the same metal as the rest of the vehicle, allowing for a seamless appearance when closed.

A moonroof is a panel of glass that can be opened, much like a sunroof. The glass is often tinted and features a closeable piece on the interior, allowing for users to cover the glass. Ultimately, if you want to allow natural light into the vehicle but want to avoid the rushing wind, you can open the interior and keep the glass over the roof. This creates an extra window on the top of the car.

Most modern cars feature a moonroof, not a sunroof. The moonroof allows for multiple options. It can be fully opened, tilted, or closed with the glass exposed. A sunroof has two options: opened or closed.

Moonroofs and sunroofs are terms often used interchangeably. Technically that panel of glass in your car is a moonroof, but it’s commonly referred to as its sun-named variant. If you refer to your moonroof as a sunroof, everyone will understand what you mean. No need to stress about your further diction.

Panoramic Moonroofs

Let’s throw a third option into the mix.

Modern luxury cars are seen with a new, and often impressive, roof option. The panoramic moonroof is when a car’s entire top is covered in glass. Within this glass roof is multiple panels, all able to open. This allows passengers in different rows to control their own moonroofs.

Firstly, this roof allows for customizable wind options. Secondly, it gives riders a view of the entire world above them. As we said, the future is pretty impressive.


Consequently, the functionality and mobility of roof options lead to a bit more upkeep than a normal solid top. As retractable panels, both sunroofs and moonroofs have a sliding mechanism that can eventually result in wear and tear. Furthermore, the opening mechanisms require electronic components and lubrication. If your roof doesn’t openly smoothly (or at all), it will need maintenance.

Moonroofs include a panel of auto glass. Therefore, the auto glass must be treated with the same care as the rest of the vehicle. As a panel that directly faces sunlight, it can often become damaged. If you see a chip or crack on your moonroof, then it should be treated like your windshield. If the small chip is not fixed, it can lead to a full crack. Then, the whole panel will have to be replaced.

Overall, it’s cheaper and easier to get your moonroof auto glass fixed as soon as you notice the damage.

Need Roof Repair?

Does your sunroof or moonroof not open properly? Do you have a chip in your auto glass? Need work done as soon as possible?

SLP Auto Glass can handle any roof-related repairs. From glass fixes to slider lubrication, we can fix any of your sunroof and moonroof needs.