Doug Drives: Sunroofs Are Weird

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
doug drives sunroofs are weird

After considerable thought, I have come to a conclusion: sunroofs are weird. I mean, think about it: it’s a hole in the roof of your car, designed to allow you to … what, exactly? Look up at the sky? While you listen to the incessant rattling caused by the fact that there’s a hole in the roof of your car?

Yes, folks, I’m being serious. Today I’m writing about sunroofs. And there’s a reason for this: I have recently come to the realization that sunroofs, unlike virtually any other feature or option available on an automobile today, provoke some seriously strong opinions. Some people like them. Some people hate them. Some people really hate them. I haven’t found anyone who really likes them, except for myself.

Let me tell you why I like sunroofs: because they allow light into the cabin. I once had a Cadillac station wagon without a sunroof, and it seriously felt like I was driving around in a coffin. Some light came in through the regular windows, but not much, because their opening was about the size of a hedgehog. And not some ultra-fat, sumo wrestler hedgehog. I mean a svelte hedgehog who does hedgehog workout videos.

Now, in this vehicle, I always wished I had a sunroof. Wouldn’t that be nice? A panoramic sunroof that would open up and provide some excellent, much-needed light into this dark, depressing cabin. I wished for that for six months, then I sold the car to a guy who crashed it into a tree. Last I heard the engine was for sale on eBay.

But I’m getting away from the topic at hand here, which is: sunroofs. What I have learned is that most people are not like me. Most people hate sunroofs.

One major reason most regular people hate sunroofs is for the very reason I like them: because they bring light into the cabin. A lot of people don’t want light to enter the cabin. They think it’s too bright, and too annoying, and so the moment they buy the car, they close the little pad that covers the sunroof, and they never open it again. And the sunroof is sitting up there hearing all the other features get used, like the power seats, and it wonders: what about me? Eventually, it forms the “Unused Features Club” with the manual mode on the automatic transmission.

Another reason people don’t like sunroofs is because they say sunroofs limit headroom. I’ve never personally experienced this. I am a very tall human in the sense that I am six-foot, three inches in height, and I’ve never had a sunroof limit my headroom. And I am the kind of person who occasionally hits his head on light fixtures.

Then there’s the rattling. Apparently, sunroofs rattle. I cannot personally speak to this, as the sunroof in my Range Rover is possibly the only part of the vehicle that doesn’t rattle, but I will say very sincerely that I would accept a little rattling if it meant I got more light into the cabin. However, I would not accept a lot of rattling, so the sunroof had better be careful about how far it goes.

Interestingly, some automakers have noticed the public’s lack of enthusiasm about sunroofs, and they’ve started to take action. For instance: Ford now offers the sunroof as a stand-alone option on most of its vehicles. No longer do you have to get the “Quick and Easy Package 104,” which includes a sunroof along with desirable options like alloy wheels, a roof, moving windshield wipers, etc. Instead, you can order a fully equipped Ford and stop just short of the sunroof.

This makes sense, because even when I find people who don’t hate their sunroof, I’ve never really discovered anyone who loves it. Nobody ever buys a new car and then calls their friend Katelyn and says: “OH MY GOD GUESS WHAT?!?!? IT HAS A SUNROOF!!!! No, what they actually say is: OH MY GOD GUESS WHAT?!?!??! SOME DEALER ACTUALLY PAID ME MONEY FOR MY OLD VOLKSWAGEN!”

So what I’m starting to wonder is whether sunroofs are among the least-desired options in existence; something we merely pay extra money for just to put up with. It’s more work for the manufacturer, it’s more cost for the consumer, and nobody ever really gets jazzed up about the whole sunroof thing.

Except for me. I’ll never forget when I got my first car in high school: a 10-year-old Volvo with the first sunroof my family ever had. I used it constantly: when it was warm; when it was cold; when it was raining lightly. I even used it after a snowstorm, when the sun started to come out and melt everything. I’ll never forget: I had a big smile on my face, and the sunroof open, and I came to a stop at a red light. It was at that moment when the snow on the roof of my car broke loose, slid forward, and cascaded through my sunroof, all over the seats and the controls.

For several months after that, the sunroof rejoined the automatic transmission manual mode in the Unused Feature Club.

Join the conversation
2 of 163 comments
  • Voicemint Voicemint on Jul 24, 2018

    When I owned my first car with a sunroof, I hardly used it because it was manual and completely opaque -- not glass. My next car, a Honda Prelude had an electric moonroof (glass sunroof)... and I used it almost every time I got into the car. If the weather was inclement, the sunshade was back. Otherwise, the top was open. I don't think anyone today makes a sunroof without glass, so "moonroof" as a word is probably obsolete. So, not only does a sunroof allow natural light in from above, you can also get to see things you wouldn't ordinarily notice. At times I've been able to view through it the driver of an 18-wheeler driving along side me. Or skyscrapers in Manhattan. Plus, open it up and the air... it's so nice. For a while I owned 2 convertibles (a Miata and an Audi TTQR), which made me terribly sad to sell off when sensibility called for it. After owning a convertible, a hard top with no sunroof is like prison. It makes me terribly sad about the Porsche Cayman, as I love the car overall but would never own one for the lack of an available sunroof. As for noisy and rattling, those days are long over. All modern cars I've been in that have them are solid. My A3 has an "Open Sky" sunroof system, with 2 panels (one for front, one for rear passengers) where only the front opens. When closed, the panoramic view is amazing--largest sunroof in its class. I just wish when it opened that it would slide back another full inch. The only other complaint is that the sunshades are translucent and let a little too much light and heat into the car. Tilting the sunroof on a hot day is almost mandatory.

  • Stereorobb Stereorobb on Jan 25, 2019

    i love sunroofs. yeah, they can kill, they can creak, rattle, leak, get stuck, but i love them and wont drive a car without one! im one of the unfortunate people that knows not only what its like to be ejected through a moonroof in an accident, but a closed one at that! cave me a real real bad concussion and picked glass out of my scalp for ages, but it was my own dumbass fault for it happening. didnt kill my love for the sunroof tho.

  • Cprescott It is ugly enough. But why? You refuse to build enough of your products for your consumers.
  • Cprescott Only if your income also gives you more votes.
  • MrIcky It's always nice to see a car guy put in charge of cars instead of an accountant. I wish him well and look forward to some entertaining reveals. I think he and Gilles may be the only industry people that I actually enjoy listening to.
  • Master Baiter It doesn't matter whether autonomous vehicles are better or worse drivers than humans. Companies with deep pockets will find themselves sued over incidents like this. Enough lawsuits and the whole business plan collapses. Cheaper to just put a human behind the wheel.
  • MaintenanceCosts How many dogs are wiped out by human drivers annually?Which type of driver wipes out more dogs per mile? Per trip?Without some context there's not much information here.