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Guide to Make and Model of a Car: All You Need to Know

Guide to Make and Model of a Car: All You Need to Know
Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Updated January 4, 2022
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The make and model of a car refers to a brand of the vehicle and the type of product a car company is offering. For example, when you refer to a Honda Accord, you are referring to both its make, Honda, and the product the auto company is selling, their Accord model. Understanding the difference between make and model is important. It has implications for what features you will be offered as a consumer, the cost of the vehicle, insurance rates and financing. 

What Is the Make and Model of a Car?

The make of a car is synonymous with its brand. It may also be the same as the manufacturer of the vehicle, but this is not necessarily the case. For example, while Ford is both a make and a manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company also owns Lincoln, which is another make. Each make will typically offer a number of different models under its brand name. The model helps you identify exactly what type of vehicle you’re getting. However, the model may also refer to more than one body style. For example, the Honda Accord has been offered as a sedan, a hatchback and a wagon. Models often include numbers to help differentiate between them. Models often vary year to year, so using the year in conjunction with make and model can help you identify an exact product. 

Make and Model of Car Examples 

Here’s a look at common make and model cars. 

Make Examples 

  • Acura
  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Dodge
  • Ford
  • GMC
  • Honda
  • Nissan
  • Tesla
  • Toyota

Model Examples 

According to the car shopping guide Edmunds, some of the most popular makes and models in the U.S. in 2020 were: 
  • Ford F-Series
  • Chevrolet Silverado
  • Ram 1500/2500/2500
  • Toyota Rav4
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota Camry
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • GMC Sierra
  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Accord

Differences Between Vehicles of the Same Model 

Make and model can vary depending on what year a car is produced and it can also encompass a number of different features from body style to trim. 

Body Styles 

The make and model of a vehicle may be offered in a variety of body styles. Here are some common examples:
  • Sedan: Offers four doors and a traditional trunk and may come in a range of sizes from small to full-size. 
  • Wagon: Has four doors, an extended roof and a hatch door in place of a trunk.
  • Hatchback: Traditional hatchbacks have been made like small sedans with a hatch door in the back. Recently, manufacturers have been putting this feature on larger vehicles.  
  • Sports-Utility Vehicle: These tend to be tall, have a higher seating position and offer more ground clearance than cars like sedans. 
  • Pickup Truck: Offers a cab in front and an open bed in the rear of the vehicle. 
  • Minivan: Built for carrying a lot of people and cargo, minivans tend to be tall, offer a lot of space, sliding doors and a hatch in the rear. 

Trim Level

Trim levels are essentially various versions of a model, each offering different features. Higher trim levels offer more equipment and may include the use of better quality materials in the vehicle interior. Examples are leather upholstery and higher quality materials for flooring and side panels. 

Model Year 

The model year denotes the year in which a vehicle from a particular fleet is produced. Confusingly, manufacture often begins in the year preceding the model year. That’s why in 2021 you could already be seeing 2022 models appearing at car dealerships. It’s important to pay attention to model years, because models can undergo big design changes from year to year. 

Why Is a Car’s Make and Model Important? 

When choosing what car to buy, make and model are not only important considerations when deciding what features you want or need but also have a financial impact. 

May Impact Auto Insurance

Before settling on a make and model, consider that more expensive makes are, in turn, more expensive to insure. That’s because luxury vehicles like BMWs or a Lexus are pricier to repair or replace than more economical cars like a Mitsubishi.Insurance may also be pricier for factors associated with different models, such as horsepower. The more powerful an engine, the more it may cost to insure since it can be driven at higher speeds. 

Price of the Vehicle

Make and model will also have an impact on price. Of course, luxury brands will tend to cost consumers more to buy, as will models with extra features. Some makes and models hold their value longer than others, making them more expensive to buy on the used market. 

Car Loan Terms 

Because make and model have such a big impact on price, they will in turn have an impact on car loan requirements whether you’re taking out a first loan or refinancing. More expensive vehicles may have higher monthly payments and might require you to take on a loan with a longer term, which can translate into more interest payments over time. 

Auto Loan Refinancing 

Your car’s book value, which is largely determined by make and model, may have a big impact if you decide to refinance your auto loanLenders use a metric called loan-to-value (LTV) ratio to help them determine whether to refinance your auto loan. LTV compares how much you owe on your vehicle to how much your car is worth and must be considered when weighing the risks and rewards of refinancing. If your car is worth less than the amount you owe, you may have difficulty securing refinancing. Consider how soon you can refinance to increase your chances of securing a favorable loan. 

How Do I Find Out the Make and Model of My Car? 

If you’re unsure of the make and model of your vehicle, you can usually determine most of that information from the logos, emblems and badges on the exterior of the vehicle. A logo with a blue oval showing seven stars can let you know you’re looking at a Subaru, and the car likely spells out the model, such as Outback or Forester, on the back.  You can also check out a vehicle’s registration certificate, which will list make and model. 

How to Find a Car Make and Model Using the VIN Number 

If you want to dig a little bit deeper into information about your car, like location of manufacture, model year and equipment specifications, you can use your vehicle identification number (VIN), which is a unique identifier for a vehicle. Where a VIN is located will itself depend on a vehicle’s make and model. However, for the most part, it will probably be on the driver’s side dashboard, where you can see it through the windshield. Or it may be on a sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb. With the number in hand, you can use online decoders to help you parse what it means

The Takeaway 

Understanding make and model can help you purchase a car that meets your needs in terms of capabilities and specifications. It can also help keep you on budget, offering insight into how much you’ll pay for insurance or what kinds of rates you might get if you take out or refinance an auto loan. If you need help finding the loan that’s right for you, visit Lantern by SoFi. By filling out one form, you can see multiple loan options.
Photo credit: iStock/Fahroni
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC1221052

Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. He focuses on personal finance, retirement, business, and health care with an eye toward helping others understand complex topics.
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