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The Different Types of Cars Explained


Ready to buy a car? If so, you may be overwhelmed with options. From SUVs to hatchbacks to sedans, what does it all mean? Which car will serve you best? 

Thousands of questions arise, but there’s no easy way to know what will work if you don’t even know what the world of cars has to offer. To make car buying easier, we’re explaining every type of car to give you all the information you need when you get ready to purchase a vehicle.

Types of Cars


Tesla Model S Sedan
Tesla Model S on Carsforsale.com

Se – dan (n.): an automobile having a closed body and a closed trunk separated from the part in which the driver and passengers sit; a sedan.

You’ve probably heard of the word sedan but may never really understood it. Sure, that car over there looks like a sedan, but is it really? Sedans are the cars you see almost everywhere, but there are a few models that don’t meet the mark of a sedan. Cars with no compartments, basically an open cabin that extends to the trunk, are not sedans. Most commonly, you’ll find a sedan to be a smaller passenger vehicle with four doors such as a Tesla Model S or a Honda Civic.


GMC Yukon Denali
GMC Yukon Denali on Carsforsale.com

In the U.S., SUVs are probably the most commonly seen vehicles on the road today. SUVs, also known as sport utility vehicles, are made for the road, but also for accommodating more passengers, gear, or both. SUVs are family cars with more capacity and, hopefully, decent gas mileage. Basically, they get everything done all in one. You can haul groceries and shuffle kids from school to practice, all while riding safely and comfortably in an SUV.

Some of our favorite SUVs are the Toyota FJ Cruiser, GMC Yukon Denali, and the Ford Escape.


Subaru Crosstrek Crossover
Subaru Crosstrek on Carsforsale.com

Crossovers are taking over as they offer more capabilities than traditional SUVs or sedans, such as 4×4 drivetrains and higher hauling ratings. Crossovers, unlike SUVs, are built on the chassis of a car rather than a truck. This allows the vehicle to slim down size-wise, but bulk up in ruggedness. Crossovers are usually less expensive than SUVs and more expensive than sedans. They provide the driver with better gas mileage than an SUV would, while still maintaining the ability to take on different terrain or chug up a hill. Crossovers often make great family cars and provide a decent amount of storage for gear or groceries. Crossovers are the ultimate compromise between an SUV and a sedan.

Crossovers to consider: Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Chevrolet Traverse


Nissan LEAF hatchback
Nissan LEAF on Carsforsale.com

The dictionary defines hatchback as: “a car with a door across the full width at the back end that opens upward to provide easy access for loading.” When you think of hatchbacks, you probably dream back to the days of family cars that you’ve had in the past. The trunk space is truly what makes a hatchback a hatchback. If you need the extra space for storage or hauling but want the lifestyle of owning a small car, a hatchback is for you.

If you’re looking for modern hatchbacks, look for a VW Golf, Ford Fiesta, VW Beetle, or Nissan LEAF for better fuel efficiency and storage space.


Audi A5 Coupe
Audi A5 on Carsforsale.com

Coupes are cars that are defined as: a car with a fixed roof, two doors, and a sloping rear. Classic coupes that come to mind are the Corvette Stingray, Dodge’s Challenger, and Ford’s Mustang. The coupes of today include those vehicles, but they also coexist with cars like the Honda Accord, Audi A5, and BMW 4 Series. Commonly found as an option for sports cars or cars made with aerodynamics in mind, coupes are often offered alongside a convertible model, too.


Ford Thunderbird convertible
Ford Thunderbird on Carsforsale.com

You most likely know what a convertible is, but if not, it’s pretty simple. Convertibles offer a removable roof. If you enjoy driving with the top down, a convertible is the way to go. These vehicles sell in a wide range from $20,000 to over $100,000. If you’re interested in having a little fun while on the road, a convertible will bring excitement and thrill to your drive! Some of our favorite convertibles include the VW Eos, MINI Convertible Cooper, and the Ford Thunderbird.

Used Chrysler Pacifica vs Toyota Sienna

Convertibles can be tricky purchases unless you know what to look for ahead of time. Check out our Convertible Buying Guide for a little extra guidance.


Chevrolet Silverado Truck
Chevrolet Silverado on Carsforsale.com

No other types of cars on the road look like a truck. Trucks are elongated vehicles with an open bed for storage or hauling. Trucks today are more luxurious than trucks that were made solely for work purposes even a decade ago, which makes them more and more like SUVs every day. The only difference is the amount of power, towing capacity, and payload capacity. Trucks are made for heavy-duty work and play, but also make great everyday drivers for those who can look past the fuel efficiency.

Some fan-favorite trucks include the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, and GMC Sierra.


Volkswagen Vanagon van
Volkswagen Vanagon on Carsforsale.com

Van (n.): a medium-sized motor vehicle with a boxy shape and high roof, used for transporting goods or passengers. 

Vans are the ultimate passenger and storage vehicle. There are several different types of vans: minivans, conversion vans, cargo vans, etc., The most common types for families are minivans which deliver on cargo space for kids, groceries, and gear. Conversion vans and cargo vans are often used for long distance traveling or work purposes like hauling inventory or equipment.

Whether you use a van for toting the whole swim team to practice or for carrying equipment to your job site, there’s nothing on the road with as much functionality and purpose. Vans offer you both work and play in the same vehicle, so what more can you ask for? A few of our favorite vans include the VW Vanagon, Chevrolet G10, and the Honda Odyssey.


Studebaker Lark
Studebaker Lark on Carsforsale.com

According to Wikipedia, a wagon is a car that has a two-box design, a large cargo area and a rear tailgate that is hinged to open for access to the cargo area. The most famous wagon in the world is most likely the station wagon that hit the market in the 1950s. The modern-day take on a wagon is different than it has been in the past, which has blurred the lines between a wagon and a sedan making it difficult to say what cars are wagons and which ones aren’t. For a traditional take on a wagon, look for a Studebaker Lark for a chance to reminisce on the good old days.

Find the Right Car for You

Finding the perfect car for you shouldn’t have to be rocket science. You can easily find several vehicles in almost all categories that would work for daily driving, but it comes down to your personality, budget, and needs. The types of cars available today rely heavily on what’s trending, so keep that in mind as you shop, too.

What types of cars have you owned, and would you buy them again? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Maxson

Erin loves nothing more than a good road trip. To her, getting behind the wheel is one of the biggest adventures you can take because it can lead to anywhere. Alongside her Toyota Tundra, you'll find her co-pilot pup, Rory, and a 1976 Airstream Argosy in tow. Her motto: Life is a scenic road, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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