Pros and Cons of a moonroof
October 21, 2019 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for a new car (a Toyota RAV4 hybrid), and a dealer has the model and options I want except it also has a moonroof. I've never owned a car with a moonroof, and I have no idea why I would want to pay extra for one. I can imagine downsides -- leaks, in particular. But what are the upsides? If it matters, the car will be parked outside at night and not in a garage.
posted by maurice to Travel & Transportation (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea why I would want to pay extra for one

I'm not entirely sure you have a choice - it's fairly common to include them as a mandatory feature inclusion for higher trim packages.

But what are the upsides?

Many people (including myself) perceive the interior as larger and less claustrophobic with a moonroof/sunroof.
posted by saeculorum at 10:09 AM on October 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's so you can see the sky without dealing with the wind and elements. If that's not important to you (it's not important to me) then it's maybe not worth it. However, I've had a number of cars with sun/moonroofs and I've never had a leak or other issue.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:09 AM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've owned several cars with sun/moonroofs throughout the years and have never had an issue with leaks.
posted by cooker girl at 10:10 AM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

We've got a moonroof in our highlander. No problems with leaks at all, so I wouldn't worry about that. We don't open the thing very often, but it's nice on a the rare occasions that we think of it and the weather is nice. So, that's the only upside I can think of, and I'm not sure it rises to the level of worth paying extra for.
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:10 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

As a tall (6'4") guy, the downside of a moonroof is that it intrudes into the cabin by an inch or so with the trim around the moonroof. If it didn't impinge upon my height, I would love one. (Edit: once upon a time, in the 10-year-old Volvo I bought once upon a time with abnormally decent headroom, the moonroof shattered one day. You may not be dealing with cars of the same age.)
posted by eschatfische at 10:18 AM on October 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I like to crack it open a bit on hot days to help get hot air out. With the fan set to intake outside air, I can get a decent crossbreeze going. (Note: not a Toyota)
posted by phatkitten at 10:19 AM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

I drive a ten-year-old Toyota with a moonroof that I regularly forget exists. I have no garage. I've experienced problems including weirdly dim headlights, an uncloseable sun visor, the trunk gasket coming entirely detached, and minor parts of the exterior trim simply melting in hot weather, but not once has the moonroof leaked.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:19 AM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

I had a ‘90’s Camry with a sunroof, I loved it. If it was over seventy and not raining, that thing was open when I drove.
posted by mwhybark at 10:26 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love a moonroof. I like the extra daylight and the wind in my hair on those rare sunny days here in Oregon.

On the RAV4 hybrid, I think a moonroof is standard with XLE and higher trim levels. So you might think of it as something that happens to come for free with the other options you want, rather than something you're paying extra for.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’ve had one on each of my cars, and I would never buy a car without one now. It brings so much light into the car, and makes the caning feel much larger.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

My ~10 year old Volvo (in 2005...) developed problems with the motor, but no leaks. I was able to nurse it along without replacing anything. It was nice for temperature control and getting fresh air without lots of turbulence. Not a must-have, but pleasant.
posted by momus_window at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: pro - does open the cabin up quite a bit, especially nice on nicer days. Since a moonroof typically doesn't open, the intrusion into head space is less (though more than if it were a normal roof - mechanical nonsense to make the sunroof move takes up room).

con - moonroofs don't open (sunroofs do) so you can't crack the window for fresh air. Makes the cabin hotter in warm weather unless there's a decent shade and some makes, even now, skimp out on that. Another piece of glass that can get broken. Makes the cabin cooler in colder temps though IMHO it's more pronounced in the summer. Does still take up some interior space so you may need to adjust seating position or otherwise be a bit mindful of it.

If this were a vehicle from the 80s I'd worry about leaks; they're certainly not impossible (much like the seals on any other bit of the interior, like the windscreen) but I've owned several cars with sun or moon roofs and never had an issue with them and have only briefly been able to garage said car. The oldest in that range was a 1990 model year Pathfinder. I live in an area that hits above average for precipitation and storm intensity (lots of rain but not like the PNW - it's almost always a storm) but not enough snow/ice to deal with that bag of hurt (though the Pathfinder did live in Wisconsin for a while). I do miss having the top glass - the last few cars have been solid roof models and having the extra light and air was nice, to the extent that - especially with a recent-model car with big pillars and all that - the ones that the solid roof cars feel quite a bit more cramped and claustrophobic.
posted by mrg at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2019

The only "major" risk here is hail breaking it. That said, if your car is ever subject to hail stones large enough to break the moon roof, they will break the rest of the glass as well, so it's not really a practical disadvantage.
posted by wierdo at 10:33 AM on October 21, 2019

Seconding phatkitten here. I hardly opened mine all the way, but the tilt/vent feature is really great for getting fresh air into the car without wind and road noise in your ear.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:42 AM on October 21, 2019

When I had a RAV4, a few years ago, what they called a moonroof was actually more of a sunroof -- it opened all the way. I never had any issues with it. (I LOVED that car and drove it into the ground.)

I LOVED IT. My current car -- a Ford Escape -- has a massive sunroof now because I loved it so much. I would never buy a car without a sunroof now. It is so much less claustrophobic and so much less like you're sitting in a little box. (I did not know I would have such strong feelings until I actually had a moonroof, btw.)
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:52 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Our 2006 CRV developed moonroof leaks. I always want a moonroof but have found we never really use it.
posted by terrapin at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2019

Well, for early 2000's Honda accords, I will tell you that after about sixteen years, the long plastic drainage tubes that run inside the car can become cracked and leak into your car, flooding the interior.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:08 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's another way to get fresh air and sunlight on a nice day. Just remember to close the cover when you park so your car doesn't bake any more than it has to in the summer.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:34 AM on October 21, 2019

FWIW, I can't imagine not having a moonroof. It's a must-have for us now, and every car we bought since the mid-80s has had one (or a sunroof, if we couldn't get a moonroof). We use it all the time. It kind of feels wrong when we get in a car without one.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I adore my moonroof. I have one of those absurd double-length ones.

The only downside I've experienced so far is if you leave the cover open on a nice summer evening, sometimes the next day your car is extraordinarily hot if the sun's been baking into it. Small price to pay for breezy drives and letting light in!

As others have said, it makes your car feel extra-expansive.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:05 PM on October 21, 2019

The only moonroof I've ever experienced that leaked was the one my dad installed in our Buick in the early 80s, and even that leakage was minimal and I love the fact that he cut a flipping hole in the roof of our brand new car because he was SO sure he could make that moonroof happen.

We've got one in our 2010 Civic and have never had any problems with it. I love watching the rain hit it, I love the occasional bonus glimpse I get of a cool bird flying by overhead, I love looking up and seeing stars or the moon when we're driving at night ... And my lame little Gen-X heart LOVES cracking it open and turning up the volume any time Alice in Chains is on the radio.

Moonroofs (moonrooves?) are delightful!
posted by DingoMutt at 12:25 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

According to this site, moonroofs *do* open, and that's what I have. I like it for a bit of light/openness without opening the moonroof.

I also like it for nice autumn days where I don't want to open my windows, but I want a bit of fresh air. I can crack open the moonroof and get air in. It's not overly windy at all.

I don't love it enough to have it become a dealbreaker on a future car, but it's a nice option to have.
posted by hydra77 at 2:10 PM on October 21, 2019

Best answer: They are extremely useful for cooling down the car on hot days, but when those roof drains fail, they fail in a really horrible way that you may not discover until you feel water dripping on you inside the car. Given the choice, I would not get one but I also hate sunny days, so YMMV.
posted by corey flood at 2:16 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, moonroofs open. My 5 year old Mazda has one that has never leaked, and I park it outside too, in northeast weather. Some car models are known for bigger problems with leaking and/or breaking glass. (More an issue with panoramic glass roofs, Hyundai is currently getting class-action sued about this.) Most of them are fine and will last the life of the car. I'd certainly trust Toyota quality on this.

I myself would hate not to have a moonroof, even if it does steal an inch of headroom and I'm a big guy who likes small, quick cars. A major benefit is that you can get significant air circulation with the vents on fresh air and the moonroof cracked, while not needing to open your windows. That saves road noise. But I notice it also improves my gas mileage noticeably not to drive with my windows open. In theory the cracked moonroof creates a little more drag, but nothing like the scoop effect of open windows.

Plenty of times I like to just open it (and the windows) all the way and feel the wind and the sun. I'd miss that, even if it isn't all that often, if I couldn't do it at all.
posted by spitbull at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2019

Toyota RAV4 moonroofs do open. In modern parlance, a sunroof is made of something that isn't transparent (usually the same steel that the roof is), and a moonroof is made of glass. Both of them open, usually both as a tilted "vent" (perfect for letting air OUT), as well as the more traditional "slide open" (perfect for messing up your hair and letting you see the sun).

I love my moonroof (I also have a big two-panel one: 2013 VW Tiguan, and it was a big reason why I chose this car over a CR-V). I loved my sunroof in several cars that had them. I loved my convertible. The ability to open the roof on a nice day is an enormous plus for me.

I've had exactly one that leaked: a 1980 Volvo with 275,000 miles on it and many other more significant problems -- and that leak was minor. Modern polymer seals and better engineering tolerances makes for far more air-tight vehicles in 2019 than in 1980.

If you want something else that's only available in a package that includes the moonroof, then you're getting the moonroof for free.
posted by toxic at 2:30 PM on October 21, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments so far. It sounds like I may be too worried about the roof leaking, but I'm still thinking about the other points. To clear up one thing: the moonroof is definitely an option on the model I'm looking at.
posted by maurice at 3:37 PM on October 21, 2019

Best answer: When I was in college, I had a car with a moonroof. I rarely if ever opened it up, but I would look through it and watch the rain at night after hanging out at our local coffee shop. I would sit and sigh with my captain's chair reclined all the way and look up at the stars and the drops settling on the window and think about one of three or four different baristas I had a crush on, each one forever unattainable, out of reach like happiness itself.

Or I would sit with a girl and talk about the music we were listening to, looking out to see which star Mike's finger on my MST3K decal was pointing out.

Nothing came of any of that that I can recall apart from memories and strong feelings. No leaks. I had the car for 8 years. I strongly prefer a car with a moonroof, and can think of no practical reason to require one.
posted by billjings at 6:02 PM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I had a moonroof on my last vehicle (a Honda Accord), and used it perhaps three or four times total over nine years of ownership. It did open, but you could also slide the carpet cover back (not that I ever did). It never was a downside for me, but I personally don't consider it more than the most marginal of upsides either. I actually just bought a Toyota RAV4 this past weekend and it has a moonroof too. I accidentally opened it when I was trying to find where the interior lights were, and it fully retracts.

I would never explicitly pay more for a moonroof or make a choice about purchasing a vehicle based on its having a moonroof or not, but if it comes standard with the other features I do care about, I'm fine with that. I'd probably even go so far as to say that if it cost exactly the same and everything else was exactly the same, too, I'd pick the moonroof over not having it. But nothing's exactly the same and I care more about everything else (mileage, safety tech, accident history, owner history, etc).
posted by vegartanipla at 6:22 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

My current car has a moonroof (2014 Impala, if it matters). I use it rarely, in part because I used to be a fierce in-car smoker, and using the moonroof would cause ash to blow around. Now that I've quit smoking, I really should open it up and see if I like it. That said, I can confirm leakage doesn't seem to be a problem so far, and there is something a bit freeing about opening it up - one of my favorite recent memories is driving home from a local parade with my kids (then 22, 16, and 14) blasting Bryan Adams and singing at the top of our lungs, and having the moonroof open added to that feeling.

That said, I would never have paid extra for it.
posted by cinnamonduff at 7:33 PM on October 21, 2019

Best answer: The best part about one: getting into a baking-hot car. Open the windows and the roof and you will experience a blessed inrush of cool as the hellish bubble of heat rises up into the sky. Seriously, it takes ten seconds and the car is ready to chill with the AC. It’s the only time I ever open mine and it’s definitely worth it (other than that, the less I see of the Cancer Ball the happier I am).
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:57 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I see no one has mentioned weight - glass is very heavy. I've seen it quoted at about 25kg-50kg weight penalty, depending on the size of the glass. (look up kerb weights for the same car specced with and without the glass roof and you'll see.. some the weight gain is due to larger wheels).
posted by xdvesper at 2:45 AM on October 22, 2019

I've had two cars with sunroofs and they both leaked :( one was an aftermarket sunroof on a 99 Civic and the other was on a mid 90s Infiniti, so ymmv with newer cars
posted by theRussian at 5:43 AM on October 22, 2019

Best answer: I have the worst luck with moonroofs, 3 separate vehicles all early 2000s, all leaked and one flew off while I was driving on the interstate. However not a single one of my family, friends or coworkers have ever had problems with their moonroofs or sunroofs. I’d say you have a 99% chance that everything will be just fine.
posted by Bornanerd at 8:20 AM on October 22, 2019

Best answer: * Waving from my 2018 Toyota RAV4 hybrid *
I've had a couple of vehicles with moon roofs (this one and a Honda Accord). No problems with either one. It does take the heat out of the car and it lets a cool breeze through without blowing my hair around.
My RAV4 has both the slide and the accordion features. I opened it last night during a trip before a storm came through. No hail damage.
We only open the cover when we are inside the vehicle. Sometimes we open the moon roof as well.
Also -- 34.2 mpg last night for long-distance travel. Nice.
posted by TrishaU at 1:44 PM on October 22, 2019

My spouse and kids are vampires and usually complain whenever I open the moonroof. When I'm driving by myself I will always open the fabric part and if weather permits (Canada) I will open the roof as well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:03 PM on October 22, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks to many of the comments here, I decided to get the car with the moonroof rather than waiting for one without. I was pretty skeptical of the claims that it made the cabin of the car seem more spacious, but you all were right. It really does. However, it's going to be some months before I can test the cooling properties.
posted by maurice at 3:42 AM on November 24, 2019

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