Pros and Cons of Having a Sunroof in a Car

A charming woman standing up inside the vehicle through the sunroof moonroof enjoying the fall season in a yellow car and yellow shirt

As you’re shopping for a new car, you’ll have to consider all the different add-ons and options to include with your next vehicle. One of the big considerations is whether or not you should get a car that has a sunroof. If you never owned a car with a sunroof, this guide should help you.

A sunroof will give you quick access to fresh air without hurting your car’s performance, making too much noise, or wasting money. If you forget to close your sunroof, you can wake up to a soaked car. Additionally, sunroofs cost extra, so you’ll need to pay more upfront.

I’ll explain the major pros and cons of having a sunroof in a car. My ultimate goal is to help you decide whether you should shop for a car with a sunroof or not.

What Is a Sunroof?

A sunroof is an added panel of glass in your car’s roof. They slide open, allowing fresh air to come into your car. Even when they’re closed, they act as an additional window, giving you more sunlight as you drive along.

They will slide completely open just like a window, and they’re typically pretty large.

A sunroof moonroof halfway open viewing from the interior of a Kia Soul EV 2020 green car
2020 Kia Soul EV

By comparison, a moonroof is a little simpler and doesn’t give you the same luxuries. A moonroof might look identical, but it doesn’t slide, it only cracks open. This still lets air in, but not nearly as much as a sunroof.

If you want a simple comparison, a sunroof is like a miniature version of turning your car into a convertible. The difference is that your entire roof won’t slide back, only a small portion of it does.

A new version of the sunroof is the “panoramic sunroof”. In this model, the glass is significantly larger. Some cars might even have two sunroofs so the passengers in the rear seats can enjoy their own.

Can You Add Your Own Sunroof?

If your car wasn’t manufactured with a sunroof, you, unfortunately, can’t add one after the fact. It might seem like a simple enough installation, but there’s a lot more engineering that goes on behind the scenes.

To install a sunroof, there needs to be a huge hole in your car’s roof. Since the roof is part of the structural integrity of a car, engineers need to reinforce the area around the hole in your roof.

Mechanic working on the sunroof doing a car roof replacement

If you try to DIY a sunroof, you can be facing a huge potential safety concern. In an accident, the crumple zones of your car’s roof will be compromised, meaning you won’t be as safe.

Beyond the safety issues, it’s also hard to get a good seal on a sunroof that you are installing on your own. Your roof might start leaking as you drive,

Pros of Having a Sunroof in a Car

Let me start with some of the benefits associated with owning a car that has a sunroof.

Get Airflow Naturally

If it feels a little stuffy in the cabin, you can crack the sunroof. It’s a quick way to cool down your car without turning on the AC. Running your car’s HVAC takes a lot of extra electricity and fuel, so a sunroof is a nice alternative to save some money and get natural airflow.

Makes Your Car Feel More Open

There’s something about a car with a sunroof that makes it seem so much larger inside. I’m sure it has something to do with the extra glass on the roof that exposes more of the great outdoors.

A couple driving down the road with the sunroof open and the girl is sticking out her hand out the sunroof opening

When you’re sitting in a car with a sunroof, the entire vehicle feels more open. This makes you more comfortable while you ride along, which is never a bad thing.

(Slightly) More Headroom

If you have a sunroof and you look up at the ceiling, you’ll notice that you have a little bit of extra headroom. The ceiling will be an inch or two lower than the glass of the sunroof.

For larger options, like panoramic sunroofs, this extra headspace will be positioned right above you.

Some drivers might appreciate this extra height. It could be the difference between slouching while driving and sitting comfortably.

Cool Down Without the Noise of Rushing Air

I’m a big fan of rolling down my windows to cool off my car, but I really despise the sound of rushing air. When you’re driving fast enough, the sound is lessened because the air wooshes past your car instead of taking a detour into your cabin.

However, most of the time you’re driving you’ll get interrupted by the noise of outside air funneling through your cracked window.

Brown SUV with the sunroof open vertically

With a sunroof, you don’t have to listen to the wind as you drive. Since the sunroof is located at a highly aerodynamic part of your car, more air will flow by without getting sucked into your car.

At the same time, you’ll enjoy the cooling effects associated with driving with a window open.

Airflow Without a Performance Dip

Another differentiator between rolling down a window, blasting the AC, and opening a sunroof is the potential for a performance dip.

When you roll down a window, your car becomes less aerodynamic and air friction will slow you down more.

When you turn on the AC, your engine has to divert power which takes away from your car’s performance.

When you open a sunroof, you don’t have to worry about either of these scenarios. In short, it’s a way to get some fresh air without your performance suffering.

It’s an Emergency Escape Hatch

I know that none of us want to think about a scenario like this, but there are times when people get stuck in their cars and need to find a way out. If your doors won’t open, then what are you supposed to do?

For people with a sunroof, there’s potentially an emergency escape hatch right above your head. If you can either open the sunroof normally or break it open, you can climb out of the slot and getaway.

Happy woman standing out of the car's sunroof enjoying the Nordic weather

You’ll notice that a lot of sunroofs are easily big enough for someone to fit through. In addition, they’re located in a convenient place where you can push yourself up through the sunroof.

Trying to squeeze out of a window or a truck’s sliding rear window, for example, are much more difficult by comparison.

Get Extra Sunlight as You Drive

Even on a cold winter day, you can still appreciate your sunroof. They add an extra boost of sunlight to your drive and can be a nice mood-booster as you’re driving around town.

You don’t have to open the sunroof to enjoy the added sunlight, you can just slide back the cover and let the rays in.

Improves Your Resale Value

A car with a sunroof is typically more expensive than the same car without one. This means that you can get more money for your car when you go to sell it in the future. Who doesn’t love a boosted resale value?

A young confident businessman in a suit opening up the sunroof inside the vehicle

As I mention a lot, cars aren’t intended to be an investment, but it’s always nice to get more in the end when you sell the car for your next ride.

It Looks More Luxurious

Even though a sunroof is just a piece of glass, it makes your car look more luxurious. Lexus loves to put massive sunroofs in their cars, and they’re a pillar for luxury on the car market.

I think this is largely due to the fact that sunroofs are typically add-ons and come with a bigger price, so everyone perceives them as more luxurious.

Great for Comfortable Stargazing

It might seem odd, but I like stargazing in a car with a sunroof. If it’s too uncomfortable outside temperature-wise, you can still look up at the night sky if you have a sunroof.

A car parked on the side of the road observing the night sky milky way galaxy at night through the sunroof

It’s the equivalent of using a truck bed for stargazing, but you have a temperature-controlled environment to do so.

It’s up to you if you keep the sunroof open or closed while you do this.

Cons of Having a Sunroof in a Car

There are also some negatives of having a sunroof that I should address. This section is all about the cons associated with owning a car that has a sunroof.

Heats Up Your Interior

The added sunlight that I was praising in the previous section also comes with a big downside — it heats up the interior of your car.

POV view of the sunroof from inside the vehicle with the sun and heat shining through all windows including the sunroof

Due to the position of the sunroof, your car will get direct sunlight and start heating up. This can make things uncomfortable, but the extra heat won’t be more dramatic than the heat your windshield is generating.

You can also completely avoid this issue by sliding the cover across your sunroof. Most cars with sunroofs have a shield that looks like a continuation of the car’s ceiling. You can close it and stop sunlight from entering your sunroof.

Raises Your Car’s Center of Gravity

Something you can’t adjust is the added weight of a sunroof. It has to have glass, a reinforced framework in the area, and motors to move everything around. All of these components are much heavier than the sheet metal roof of a car without a sunroof.

This means that the top of your car will be much heavier. The center of gravity is calculated by taking all of the weight of your car and finding an average position. The lower your center of gravity, the better your car is in terms of safety.

That means that adding a sunroof makes your car less safe in a collision. To be honest, the change isn’t very dramatic, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Driving in Rain is Typically Louder

I’ve driven cars with sunroofs for almost 4 years now, and there’s one feature that really bugs me: how loud they are during a rainstorm.

The metal of your car is relatively good at dispersing force and dampening the sound of a raindrop. Glass, on the other hand, seems to amplify every raindrop.

Raindrops falling on the roof of a black SUV car with a sunroof in the parking lot

If you’re driving in the rain, you’ll hear it more from the cabin.

Compare this to a rainstorm when you’re in your house. The raindrops on your windows are much louder than on your siding. The same physics are at play in a car with a sunroof.

Its Use Depends on Temperature

If you live in a very hot or very cold area, a sunroof might not be right for you. They’re perfect for crisp fall days or beautiful spring days, but they don’t fare well in the depths of summer or winter.

In other words, a sunroof’s use is very temperature-dependent. When you open it, the outside air will make its way into your cabin, so you can only use it on temperate days.

Fades Your Interior Quicker

For cars with plenty of leather and plastic in the interior, sunroofs can pose an additional threat. Since they let in more sunlight, they also let in more UV rays. UV rays will fade the interior of your car quicker.

Car with faded interior due to extreme sunlight and heat driving down a gravel road on a sunny day

Again, this can be avoided by closing the cover of your sunroof. It’s only an issue when your sunroof is exposed, and the sunlight is coming in.

They Can Leak

If there is a failing seal on your sunroof, you’ll experience leaking. These are often difficult to fix on your own since manufacturers will use specific gaskets for their sunroofs. It’s also hard to ignore the dripping water on you as you drive along.

With these leaks, your interior will get wet and can also get ruined. As you might expect, this is an expensive problem to have.

Forgetting to Close then Before a Storm Is Messy

I’ve known a lot of people who forgot to close their sunroof, and they woke up to a soaking interior of their car.

If you don’t close your sunroof before it snows, rains, or when you go through a carwash, you’ll be in for a bad time.

Rain in the car raindrops flying in through the window because the sunroof and windows were open

There’s nothing stopping all that snow and rain from pouring into your car and saturating every surface. With cloth seats, trying to dry them out is an uphill battle.

Even if your sunroof is open but the sliding fabric cover is closed, your roof will leak. The only way to prevent it is by completely closing your sunroof after parking your car.

More Expensive to Own

I mentioned earlier that a sunroof is a quick way to boost a car’s resale value. The flipside is that you’ll also have to pay more if you want to own, rent, or lease a car with a sunroof.

A lot of manufacturers will bundle a sunroof with other luxury-tier add-ons like premium seating, higher-end trim, and nicer infotainment systems.

As long as you’re willing to pay more, you’ll get to reap all the benefits I discussed earlier.

Is a Sunroof Worth it?

At this point, you’re probably wondering if you should get a car with or without a sunroof. In my opinion, where you live is the biggest consideration. If you live in an area where you can utilize a sunroof for a lot of the year, I say go for it.

Driving with a sunroof open is an instant mood booster for me. I prefer it over having the windows down, and I know a lot of other people share my viewpoint.

A woman standing out of the sunroof near the beach enjoying the scenery

It costs a little extra and has the potential to leak in the future, but those negatives get washed out by all the positives, in my opinion. If you live somewhere that’s especially hot or cold, I would think a sunroof isn’t the best option. You’ll pay extra money for a feature that you’ll rarely be able to use.

At any rate, the final decision is up to you. Are you willing to pay a little extra for a feature that opens up your car and adds some extra luxury?

Conclusion

Now you know all the major pros and cons of having a sunroof in your car. Remember that you can’t DIY this project, the sunroof needs to be a part of the car when you purchase it. If you want more car guides and explanations, explore the rest of my site. As always, take a look at my full list of recommended products to get the most out of your car.

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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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