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Guide to Understanding the Make and Model of a Car

Guide to Make and Model of a Car: All You Need to Know
Austin Kilham
Austin KilhamUpdated September 12, 2022
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The make and model of a car refer to the brand of 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.The make of a car will typically offer a number of different models under its brand name. What is the model of a car? The model of a car is a specific motor vehicle that belongs to a make brand. 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. Any model of car can 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 

Listed below are various make and model of car examples: 

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 2021 were:
  • Ford F-Series
  • Chevrolet Silverado
  • Ram 1500/2500/2500
  • Toyota Rav4
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota Camry
  • Honda Civic
  • Toyota Highlander
  • GMC Sierra
  • Toyota Tacoma

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.
  • Sport 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 2022 you could already be seeing 2023 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.

Engine Size and Type

Cars of the same model may have different engine sizes and types. The engine size may be measured in liters, such as a 2.5-liter engine with four cylinders or a 3.5-liter engine with six cylinders. A smaller engine may generate better fuel economy than a larger engine, while a larger engine may generate more torque and horsepower. The engine type of a vehicle can be gasoline or diesel. This is the case for models with an internal combustion engine. All-electric vehicles don’t have internal combustion engines and run on electric motors fueled by rechargeable batteries instead.

AWD vs Rear or Front Wheel Drive

Vehicles can have different drivelines, including all-wheel drive (AWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), and front-wheel drive (FWD):
  • AWD vehicles have the means to distribute torque to all wheels on the vehicle
  • RWD vehicles distribute torque from the engine to the rear wheels only
  • FWD vehicles distribute torque from the engine to the front wheels only

Quality of Interiors, Speakers, and More

Cars of the same model may have different interior features. Some versions of a car model, for example, may feature leather-trimmed seats with multi-stage heating. Some versions may feature more speakers than the base model, and premium versions may feature a sunroof.

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. Even buying a classic car can saddle you with high insurance premiums. 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. Using Finder® data, the below table highlights how the make of your vehicle can influence the insurance rate you pay:
MakeAverage monthly premium
Ferrari$913
Aston Martin$548
Lamborghini$502
Lotus$444
Maserati$411
Ford$185
Hyundai$180
Subaru$168
Acura$167
Honda$161

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 loan. Lenders 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.

Getting a Title or Plates

The true cost of refinancing a car can include registration and title transfer fees. Some states may require you to re-register your car when you refinance. Some states may also charge a title transfer fee as the title moves from your old lender to the new one.

Taking a Vehicle in for Maintenance or Repairs

Taking a vehicle in for maintenance or repairs can be costly, but getting a cash out auto refinance can help you borrow money to cover such expenses. If you have sufficient equity in your car, a cash out auto refinance can replace your existing car loan with a larger-sized loan. The cash that you borrow from a cash out auto refinance may have few restrictions on how you may use the funds.

How Does Make and Model Affect Loan Refinancing Rates?

The make and model of a vehicle may have no impact or little impact on auto loan refinancing rates. Refinancing may give you a lower monthly payment by giving you a longer term or lower interest rate. Using 2022 refinance data from RateGenius, the below table shows how refinancing may reduce your monthly payment on certain car brands:
MakeOriginal monthly paymentRefinanced monthly payment
Tesla$873$720
Audi$743$641
Here are some additional points to consider when evaluating whether refinancing is right for you:
  • Refinancing for a lower monthly payment in some cases may extend your term, and extending your term can saddle you with more interest charges over the life of your loan.
  • Subprime borrowers may qualify for bad credit refinancing, but they may not qualify for the best rates of interest.

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.

Finding Out Your Vehicle’s Year

Here are some ways you may confirm your car’s model year:
  • Ask your auto insurance provider
  • Check the information in your title or registration certificate

How to Find a Car Make and Model Using the VIN

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.

What Is a VIN?

As mentioned above, a VIN is your vehicle identification number. It typically comprises 17 characters printed in a single line. It is a unique tag that serves to identify a specific vehicle — no two automobiles have the same VIN. Vehicles built before 1981, when the VIN was standardized, may have fewer than 17 characters. A car’s VIN is not generated randomly. Instead, it’s broken down into sets of characters that provide useful information about the vehicle.

How Do You Find Your VIN?

You may find your VIN located on the driver’s side dashboard of your car. Your VIN may also be listed in your car registration and insurance documents. 

Refinancing Auto Loans

Understanding make and model can help you buy 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. Visit Lantern by SoFi to learn more about your auto refinancing options. Fill out one simple form to see multiple offers from our network of lending partners.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many different makes and models of cars are there total?
How do you find out your VIN?
What is the make and model of a car?
What’s an example of a make and model of a car?
How do I find out the make and model of my car?
Photo credit: iStock/Fahroni
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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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