Sunroof vs. Moonroof: What Is The Difference? [Explained]

A sunroof is more like a sunshade. Moonroofs, on the other hand, are transparent. It enables a full view of the open sky. It uses tinted glass to block the sun’s rays. However, it doesn’t block the light entirely when closed, unlike sunroofs. 

That’s not all. There are more differences between sunroofs and moonroofs. Care to figure them out? Then join us in the full discussion of What Is The Difference Between A Sunroof And A Moonroof?

Sunroof Vs. Moonroof: A Quick Comparison

We’ll be covering a lot of details on both the sunroof and the moonroof. But let’s take a look at the fundamental differences below.

Aspect Sunroof CarsMoonroof Cars
Built-in retractable sunshadeNoYes
Tinted GlassNoYes 
Removable YesNo
Provides light when closedNoYes 
SafetySaferSafe
CostModerate to expensiveExpensive 
Maintenance & RepairModerate to expensiveExpensive 

Still confused? Don’t you worry. Our detailed sections have all the answers you’re looking for.

Difference Between Sunroof & Moonroof: Detailed Comparison

Both sunroof and moonroof have similar functionalities. But their ultimate goal is different. It’s not surprising that people quite often get confused about sunroof and moonroof panels.

Some people even use the term interchangeably. Because both let light and fresh air into the vehicle. But the similarities end here. There are more than a few differences between them.

Let’s unravel them one by one.

Design & Functionality

The sunroof and moonroof both have quite a lot of similarities in their functionality. Which is why people often use it interchangeably. But their design and functionality are not all the same. Let’s find out.

Sunroof

A sunroof is a metal panel seated on the car’s roof. It matched the color inside the vehicle’s body. It can be tilted, slid back, or retracted to allow light and air while driving. 

Some of the sunroofs can even be removed completely. However, removable sunroofs are not commonly found. You’d have to look a little more specifically to find them.

Sunroofs provide sunshade to some level. But not as good as moonroofs. As the glass in them doesn’t contain any filter. 

Moonroof

Moonroofs are very similar to sunroofs but with a tilted glass panel. It is the major difference between two roof types. One of the main functions of a moonroof is to provide a sunshade. 

And for that, they have a power-operated or built-in manual retractable sunshade. This keeps the vehicle’s interior heat in check. Internal designs have a lot similarity with sunroofs as well.

It also has an interior panel that can slide or tilts open just like sunroofs. To access the panel, you’d have to slide it open. But unlike sunroofs, they can not be removed entirely from the roof. 

Moonroofs have wide glass panels. So, you can get an open view of the sky through the tinted glass. Even when the interior panel is closed light still enters inside. When opened, sunlight and air enters inside. 

Summary

Sunroofs are entirely removable, but moonroofs aren’t. But the moonroof has better privileges. You can see the infinite sky better from them. It also gives more shade from sunlight. So no chance of getting sunburned!

Types

Since both are seated on the roof; their building has similarities. Both sunroof and moonroof are available in different designs. Here are the types of sunroofs and moonroofs you can get-

Built-In

This is the most popular design among all. It enables a great open space on the car roof. But it’s only applicable to large vehicles since it requires additional spaces.

Built-in sunroofs have a tilt feature. It allows the rear to pop-up and make a small opening on the roof. It can be opened completely. There’s also an additional feature to it. 

Pressing the operating button for longer opens/closes it automatically and completely. The con of using the built-in design is the additional space it requires. 

The door slides open inside the car space and not outward. This takes extra space for installation and cuts short the headspace. This is why it’s more suitable for bigger cars.

Spoiler

The design of spoiler sunroof is a combination of pop-up and in-built design. But it’s somewhat inconvenient that the sunroof can’t be completely opened or closed.

Its design allows the sunroof to be opened about 60% compared to the entire opening. It can be tilted and left in that position to let air into the car. 

Some of the spoiler sunroofs are manually operated. The advantage of this design is that it takes less space. It’s suitable for smaller and compact cars

Pop-Up 

Pop-up sunroofs are the least expensive among all sunroof devices. It is designed to open and close manually with the help of using a liver hatch. Older models used to have a rotary crack mechanism. These types are completely removable.

Panoramic 

It is perhaps the most popular styled sunroof these days. It’s popular due to enabling a 360-degree view from the passenger seat. Which is why panoramic moonroofs are getting more popular than panoramic sunroofs (1).

It’s mostly due to improved noise regulation(2). It is designed to have multiple glass panels covering the entire roof. Among other sunroofs and moonroofs, it definitely gives the best view.

Lamella

Lamella sunroofs are designed to have multiple opaque panels. These panels can vent and slide back to the previous shape. It almost looks like a set of horizontal Venetian blinds.

Although it may look aesthetically pleasing, it has frequent functional problems. At least the Mercedes Pontiac G6 and ML-class say such.

Summary

All the types mentioned above have both sunroofs and moonroofs. It’s only a matter of the tinted glass. The design is pretty much the same.

Safety 

Both sunroofs and moonroofs provide more adequate protection than a canvas convertible top. The materials they are made of are quite hard to break. 

So thieves can’t break them easily, unlike a canvas convertible top which can be slashed. Although the solid panel can break if it gets hit by a heavy object.

But it still provides more security than a regular convertible top. Since sunroofs usually have more metal parts so it can handle more impact.

But there’s a drawback of additional weight on both. They weigh down the centre of the vehicle as gravity raises(3). This can affect vehicle handling and increase the rolling resistance. 

The extra weight also puts a toll on the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. The extra weight increases fuel absorption. Although it’s not a safety concern, it’s still an economical hazard.

There are also issues like the moonroof and sunroof leakage. The leakage is mostly caused by the clogged drainage system. 

To protect them from leakage, you can use a moonroof or a sunroof visor. The moonroof and sunroof visor work like a shield for the top. It prevents heat, rain, and debris from getting in the way.

Summary

Sunroofs are hard to break, thus giving a more sense of security. Moonroofs aren’t bad in terms of protection, either. However, moonroofs can endure less impact than sunroofs due to having wide glass panels.

If both sunroof and moonroof are made out of wide glasses the argument becomes invalid.

Cost

Sunroofs are cheaper than moonroofs in comparison. Purchasing a factory-installed sunroof will cost you about $1,500 on average. On the other hand, a pop-up sunroof costs about $400.

Depending on the type of sunroof or moonroof you’re picking the cost will vary. The same goes for the installation. Here is a list of the cost of different types of them.

TypeSunroof Moonroof 
Panoramic $1,500$1,500-$3,000
Spoiler$700$1,000
Aftermarket$300-$800$1,200-$2,500
Factory Installed$1,000-$2,000$1,500-$3,000
Pop-up $400-$700$900

Summary

Moonroofs are more expensive and the price is even higher when it’s factory-installed. The price can be even double the amount of a sunroof. 

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, maybe a sunroof is better.

Repairment Cost

One of the drawbacks of owning a moonroof or a sunroof is the maintenance cost. Both are expensive to repair or replace. Especially if it’s the motor or the drive cable.

It can cost you about $1,000 or more, depending on the damage it has taken. Moonroofs are more expensive to replace if it’s the glass that’s broken.

Repairing filtered glasses are more expensive than changing regular glasses. It may cost you a few more hundred. You’d also have to allocate a budget for the lubricants and cleaners for maintenance. Unclogging and cleaning the roof drain on a regular basis is important to extend longevity.

It’s recommended to lubricate the moving parts yearly once at least. Installing a sunroof or moonroof visor is also a good idea to keep them safe.

Summary: Repairment Cost

Sunroofs and moonroofs usually have a simple fix in case of broken glass. But if the track pull is damaged, it can cost you around $800. 

If you wish not to pay such a hefty amount, regular maintenance is better. Also, be careful not to handle them roughly.

Is Sunroof & Moonroof Interchangeable?

Sunroofs and moonroofs are part of the same family. So the terms are usually used interchangeably. So comes the question: is a moonroof the same as a sunroof? Are they interchangeable? 

They aren’t initially the same, but they are interchangeable. However,  there are many limitations. Since both sunroofs and moonroofs have separate builds, you’d have to reinstall the whole thing.

Parts from the sunroof will not fit the moonroof and vice versa. It also brings the type of sunroofs and moonroofs into question. And unfortunately, in most cases, interchanging isn’t possible.

It’s mostly due to shape and size. For example, a panoramic moonroof might not be interchangeable with a spoiler moonroof or sunroof. But a panoramic sunroof is interchangeable with a panoramic moonroof.

The shape and the model plays a vital part. The chances entirely depend on your car’s roof build. Even if there’re some mishaps, a skilled custom shop will be able to fulfil your wish. 

But you’ve to be willing to spend a hefty sum. The custom building always costs more than buying car models that already include sunroofs or moonroofs. So, avoid doing custom builds.

Better you choose a vehicle exclusively with your preferred roof type. The cost of the sunroof or moonroof raises the price of your vehicle. 

Better consult an expert if you have more queries about them. Especially if you plan to interchange them. 

Summary

They are interchangeable if you’re willing to spend enough money on them. However, there will be limitations of choice based on the vehicle’s size and build.

Which Is Better Sunroof Or Moonroof?

Both sunroof and moonroof have their own set of pros and cons. Their fundamental differences make it quite easier to figure out which one you’re looking for.

After all, both let you enjoy open air and sunlight on a drive. But do you like to see the open sky while driving all the time? Then the moonroof is probably what you’ll prefer. 

You’re less likely to get sunburned from owning a moonroof but be careful about theft issues. Sunroofs are for sun lovers. If getting a little tanned doesn’t bother you then sunroofs are good for you.

Plus you’ll be assured with all that theft-resistant glasses. It’ll also be cheaper. Hopefully, this helps you make up your mind.

Summary

Moonroofs give more access to the open sky through the tinted transparent glasses. It also prevents heat and sunburn. Compared to that, the sunroof might feel a little suffocating.

But personal preference also matters. So, the ultimate choice is yours.

FAQs

How Long Does It Take to Install a Sunroof?

Installing a sunroof takes about 90 to 120 minutes. Experts in customization will finish the job even earlier. But it heavily depends on your car design and the type of sunroof you want. If you plan to go DIY it may take more than a few hours.

How Long Does a Sunroof Last?

Good quality sunroofs can last as long as 20 years even if they’re overused. The best quality sunroofs are made out of silicone or polycarbonate. The ones with low-quality materials like plastic or neoprene are likely to break faster. These materials can’t handle harsh weather.

How to Fix a Leaky Sunroof in a Car?

Clean inside the rubber seal and remove any dirt or debris. Now, locate the sunroof drains under the seal and blast compressed air through it. You can also try inserting a thin metal wire inside the drain tube. If these aren’t enough, take them to a car service center.

Conclusion

So now you know what is the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof? Hopefully, this answers all the questions you’ve been looking for.

Don’t forget to get a warranty on both the sunroof and the installation. It’ll help you avoid unexpected costs for your sunroof or moonroof maintenance. 

Safe driving!

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Gary Wright

Hi, I'm Gary Wright, an automotive industry specialist. I'm an installation, repair, and maintenance specialist of automotive sunroofs, moonroofs, and panoramic sunroofs/moonroofs.