Car Vs Sedan: The Differences Explained

Red Mazda sedan car in Crimea, Ukraine near the mountains on a road

I asked my friend what kind of car he drove, and he said, “actually, I drive a sedan”. Confused by his answer, I started doing some research. I know a lot of people are in the same boat that I was in, so I’m here to discuss the differences between a car and a sedan. I’ll also talk about some pros and cons of buying a sedan later on.

A sedan is simply a specific type of car. A car is a general term that can refer to a dozen different styles. Sedans have 4 doors, can seat 4 or 5 passengers, and have an enclosed trunk, and a separate engine compartment. Cars, by definition, can have any number of doors and an open trunk, as long as it rides on 4 wheels.

What Is a Car?

A car is a very general term. Some people use it synonymously with the word “vehicle”, to describe anything that drives on 4 wheels. The term might change based on where you live, but “car” generally is a term to refer to a vehicle with either 2, 4, or 5 doors, 4 wheels, and three parts:

  • An engine compartment
  • A passenger compartment
  • A cargo compartment

Since it’s such a general term, vehicles like the Smart Car, Mazda Miata, Cadillac CT6, Porsche 918 Spyder, and Honda Civic are all considered cars. If you put these 5 contenders in a row, you’ll only notice a few similarities between them. Still, these are cars.

To get more general, anything that isn’t a truck, van, construction vehicle, bus, pickup, SUV, or motorcycle on the road is a “car”.

Red Mazda sedan car driving in the mountains
2015 Mazda 6

Different Car Styles

Within the realm of cars, there are certain style types. Each of these classifications is a more specific version of a car. Depending on who you ask, there are around 12 options. Personally, I would break down cars into the following categories:

  • Micro
  • Sedan
  • Hatchback
  • Coupe
  • Station wagon
  • Roadster
  • Cabriolet
  • Muscle
  • Sports
  • Super
  • Hyper
  • Limousine

Each of these styles has its own rules. These rules help manufacturers and consumers sort the car to better filter the vehicles they’re searching for.

What Is a Sedan?

Out of every style of car, the sedan is the most popular choice by a long shot. Many vehicles mentioned below also offer a coupe variant so keep that in mind.

By definition, a sedan has an enclosed trunk, can seat 4 or 5 passengers, and has 4 doors. This is the exact definition of a sedan, so you won’t find any exceptions. If you see a car with 2 doors, it’s not a sedan. If you get in a car that seats 20 people, it’s not a sedan either.

Cadillac CT6 2017 plug-in hybrid white car
2017 Cadillac CT6

Going back to the 5 examples I listed when I explained what a car is, only two of them were examples of a sedan. The Smart Car is a micro car, the Miata is a roaster, the CT6 is a full-size sedan, the 918 Spyder is a hypercar, and the Civic is a sedan.

The fact is that the differences between a sedan and another car style can be hardly noticeable. For instance, the only difference between a sedan and a hatchback is whether the trunk is enclosed or not.

Some car manufacturers offer the exact same make and model in a sedan, coupe, or hatchback option.

Common Sedan Types

If you drive on any highway in America, you’ll see a lot of sedans. Amongst the most common options are the Camry and Civic — two cars that refuse to die.

Toyota Camry 2021 white car
2021 Toyota Camry

Other common sedans are Chevy Impala, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Altima, and Honda Accord.

Although sedans aren’t the most popular vehicle option in America, they’re the most popular car option.

Car Vs Sedan: The Differences Explained   

To better understand the differences between the terms “car” and “sedan”, I put together this cheat sheet. Take a look at this section if you ever forget in the future.

What it Refers to

At its core, both of these words refer to different things. “Car” refers to a general consumer vehicle on four wheels with a front hood, trunk, and some seats. “Sedan” refers specifically to a car with 4 doors, an enclosed trunk, and 4 or 5 seats inside.

How Specific You Want to Be

Following the same logic, you would say “car” if you want to talk about this type of vehicle in general. If you want to be more specific when you’re talking about your Civic, you would say “sedan” if it’s a four-door variant. As a reminder, a sedan is a very specific style of car.

Grey Honda Civic 2021 sedan parked on the side of the road
2021 Honda Civic – sedan

The Square/Rectangle Description

In math, you probably learned that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. The same description can be used when you talk about car vs sedan. All sedans are cars, but not all cars are sedans.

The Price

Prices of cars can vary a lot. Looking specifically at new cars, you can find options anywhere from $15,000 to over ten million dollars (no, that’s not an exaggeration).

For consumer-level sedans, the price point is somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000 — a lot more centralized. There are luxurious options from Bentley and Rolls-Royce which can get up to $450,000, but people typically don’t consider these vehicles when they talk about sedans.

Pros and Cons of a Sedan

I mentioned that a lot of people choose sedans as their car of choice. There are plenty of great reasons why. In this section, I’ll review some of the common pros and cons of why you might choose a sedan over a coupe or hatchback.

Pro: A Timeless Style

Since the very birth of vehicles, sedans have been present on the road. The first four-passenger sedan was sold in 1911, and sedans haven’t stopped selling since then.

Today, sedans tend to be much more aerodynamic and sporty looking than they did a few decades ago. Regardless, a sedan’s body style is classic. You can open any old car magazine and find plenty of sedans that look just like today’s options.

If history tells us anything, then the body style of a sedan isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pro: A Well-Rounded Option

A sedan isn’t going to outperform every car on the market. It’s not the most luxurious, fastest, lightest, or least expensive option that you can buy. However, this plays to the advantage of the sedan.

In reality, the sedan is in the middle of the pack for every matchup you can consider. As a result, you’re buying a well-rounded option that has a little of everything when you buy a sedan. It’s “good enough” in every category to satisfy the cravings you have for speed, luxury, weight, and cost.

Dodge Challenger Hellcat
Dodge Challenger Hellcat

In reality, people tend to stick with sedans unless they’re looking for something very specific. For instance, if you want something over 400 horsepower that can shred a track, then you’ll step outside of sedans and start shopping for a sports car. If you want a lighter and sportier option, then you might pick a roaster.

Keep in mind, that there are quite a few four-door sedans that pack plenty of power like the Dodge Challenger Hellcat which proves sedans can be more than just commuters. However, if you want a daily driver that’s super convenient and easy to own, then a sedan is the well-rounded option to go for.

Pro: More Comfortable

A unique feature of sedans is the extra room they have compared to a lot of other car options. This means more headroom and legroom for the driver and all of the passengers. It also means that you can put your parents in the back seat without popping a hip out of place.

Mercedes Benz car interior sedan 2020
Mercedes-Benz interior

Modern sedans tend to have leather seats and a lot of other creature comforts added in — a luxury that other car options don’t choose to include.

Now it’s not to say that a coupe or hatchback variant can be just as comfortable however when manufacturers multiple trim variants of a car there will definitely be pros and cons to each one.

Pro: More Affordable

Since sedans are created with the typical American in mind, the price point is typically more favorable. As I mentioned earlier, different car types like muscle cars, sports cars, and hypercars can get incredibly expensive. With a standard sedan, you’ll get a much better price.

Pro: Large Enough for Groceries

Another downside of the other car options is that they don’t have a lot of room for storage. This is another area where sedans do a pretty good job. You don’t have the massive trunk of a hatchback, but you have way more space than most of the other car styles.

Bearded man putting groceries that are in a paper bag inside the trunk of a black sedan car

It’s worth mentioning that using a sedan to help your friend move isn’t as great as using a truck or SUV, but it definitely beats a coupe or sportier option.

Pro: No Need to Squeeze People in

I mentioned that the big difference with a sedan is that it has 2 rows of seats and 4 doors. This makes it a lot easier to carpool with coworkers, family, or friends. I’ve been subjected to squeezing into the back of a 2-door in the past, and it’s definitely not a fun experience.

With independent doors and seats, a sedan allows you to comfortably bring people with you. The best part is that you can fit more than one other passenger, unlike roadsters, micro, sports, and supercars.

Con: Not Enough Power

I mentioned that sedans are a nice “middle of the road” option when it comes to categories like price, comfortability, power, and fuel efficiency. Power output is a category that you might be underwhelmed with.

A lot of sedans have somewhere around 100-200 horsepower. A typical sports car can easily have double this figure and more.

Close up of a Mazda 3 SKYACTIV engine 4-cylinder
Mazda 3 SKYACTIV engine with a 14:1 compression ratio

Stomping down on the gas pedal won’t give you as much oomph in an economy sedan as it will with a smaller, more powerful car. This is why you rarely see a stock sedan lining up for a quarter-mile or lap at your local track.

For lovers of speed, sedans simply don’t cut it. The option is to mod your car and make it faster, but that costs thousands of dollars and strips most warranties away from your car.

Con: Less Fuel Efficient

Fuel efficiency is largely determined by the performance and weight of a vehicle. Smaller, lighter cars are a lot more fuel-efficient. Since sedans are on the bigger side of the car spectrum, they are less fuel-efficient.

The solution to this issue is to opt for an electric or hybrid sedan. In fact, sedans are the most common car options for electric-powered vehicles on the market, which is good news for sedan lovers.

Tesla Model 3 2
Tesla Model 3

The other option is to convert your car to an electric vehicle, but the price and time typically aren’t worth it.

Even though they aren’t the most fuel-efficient car style, sedans offer pretty good gas mileage compared to SUVs and trucks.

Con: Harder to Navigate and Maneuver

Another downside to the longer, larger, heavier nature of sedans is that they’re harder to navigate and maneuver. This is especially true with full-size sedans like the Cadillac CT6 I talked about earlier.

This added difficulty makes it harder to get around in cities and find decent parking spots. 7 of the 12 car styles tend to be smaller than sedans, so they’re among the larger options on the market.

Who Is a Sedan Perfect for?

If you’re looking for a new car, then a sedan might be a good choice for you. Since it’s the most popular style of Car on the market, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sedans have a lot to offer.

They have extra comfort, more room, and decent fuel efficiency. Compared to other car types, they don’t have the same power that will blow you away.

A man behind the steering wheel driving with a phone GPS mounted to the windshield and the sunset on the horizon while driving the car on the road

A sedan is a perfect option for the everyday person who is looking for a commuter car. If you pick something like a Civic, you’ll have a reliable option that can be used as a daily driver without issues for years.

As you shop around the sports car and micro car market, you’ll find big issues with reliability. These more niche options that are specifically designed to serve a single purpose often overlook reliability and ease of ownership. With sportier cars specifically, you’ll end up spending a lot more for a car that dies sooner.

Typically, drivers who aren’t sure what exactly they’re looking for can benefit from a sedan. This option is the generic answer for people who want a nice car to drive every day.

The Available Options for Sedans

If you look at every style of Car on the market, sedans offer the most available options. This gives the buyer more power when it comes to hand-picking the exact features they’re looking for.

An aerial view of cars possibly fleet parked in a parking lot

Since there are so many options, you don’t have to make as many compromises. With supercars, you have much fewer options to choose from. It might mean that you wind up with a car that doesn’t have cup holders simply because it has the other features you’re looking for.

When it comes to buying or leasing a car, the number of options you have is one of the biggest factors. If you’re not crazy about one of the sedan options, there’s likely a similar vehicle that you’ll like even better.

Conclusion

Now you know more about sedans and cars. As I explained, “car” is a general term that refers to this type of vehicle. A sedan is a specific type of car that’s the most popular option on the market. If you have more car questions, take a look at my site. I also have a list of recommended car products that might interest you.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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