20 Different Types of Car Body Styles Explained

Vehicles including passenger cars and truck-based SUVs can be broken into 20 vehicle types that range from sedans to hatchbacks to pickup trucks. Classifying car types can be useful. It informs and leads us to better understand certain characteristics of a car. But sometimes it creates misunderstanding, too.

However convenient the classification, its usefulness should not hinder us from understanding a car’s unique value and attributes. The easiest way to define a vehicle is by how it looks. What is the first thing you notice when a vehicle approaches you on the road? Its shape. This is called the “body style”. Is it big and boxy? Low and Smooth? How many doors does it have? The body style is the easiest way to categorize a vehicle.

Types of Cars Body Style

We present you with the top 21 types of cars classified based on their body style in the market.

SedanCoupeSportscarsStation wagon
HatchbackConvertibleSport-utility vehicle (SUV)Minivan
Pickup truckJeepElectric carCUV/Crossover
SpyderHot hatchLimousineUTE
Pony carSports sedanMilitary vehicleDragster

SEDAN

A sedan is a common example of a four-door passenger car. Most often, sedans have a 3-box design with separate areas for the engine, passenger, and cargo, which allows for stable driving thanks to better weight distribution.

Also, its unibody construction significantly reduces the weight of the car, resulting in better fuel economy. Sedans offer good protection for cargo from theft, as they do not have glass windows in the hold.

A sedan has four doors and a traditional trunk. Like vehicles in many categories, they come in a range of sizes, from small (subcompacts like Nissan Versa and Kia Rio) to compacts (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla) to mid-range (Honda Accord, Nissan Altima) and full-size (Toyota Avalon, Dodge Charger). Luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz and Lexus also have sedans of similar sizes.

COUPE

A coupe is a type of car that is defined by simplicity. The term “coupe” evokes the image of a compact sedan: a two-door car with a trunk and a fixed roof. But the exciting appeal of the vehicle is its sloping roofline which gives it a more sleek, sporty look.

As much as its appearance would suggest, a coupe is typically loaded with extra bells and whistles, from sharp handling to hundreds of horsepower. Coupe has minimal space and is a minimalist car that is meant to impress. It is not for family or for a get-together with friends. It is for the single rider or a couple looking to explore the world.

In the past, a coupe was considered to be a two-door car with a trunk and a fixed roof. This includes cars like a Ford Mustang or Audi A5 or even two-seater sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and the Porsche Boxster.

Recently, however, automakers have started applying the word “coupe” to four-door cars or crossovers with low, sleek rooflines that they consider to be “coupe-like”. This includes vehicles as diverse as a Mercedes-Benz CLS sedan and a BMW X6 SUV. But we still consider a coupe to be a two-door.

SPORTS CAR

A sports car is a car designed with an emphasis on dynamic performance, such as handling, acceleration, top speed, or the thrill of driving. A sports car is a small luxury type of car designed for speed and minimal cargo and cabin space. It’s usually a two-seater and has high stats for handling and speed. Although the sports car is usually considered a luxury car, it is strictly designed for performance.

By definition, sports cars are two-seater convertibles that allow for open-air driving and have a sporty appearance. Automakers have incorporated remarkable features such as nimble maneuverability, excellent acceleration, and great handling into their sports cars, contributing significantly to their huge amount of power and thrilling ride.

Cars like the Porsche 911 and Mazda Miata are typical sports cars, but you can expand the definition to include muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger.

Then there are the exotic high-end dream cars with sky-high prices of one percent, cars like the Ferrari 488 GTB and the Aston Martin Vantage, which stop traffic with their spaceship look.

STATION WAGON

Most notably, station wagons, also called estate cars, have a shape of an elongated version of a sedan, offering extra cargo space. The easier way to think about it is it’s a combination of a sedan and a hatchback.

Station wagons are considered to be perfect for large families requiring a reliable hauler. Aside from extra space, station wagons provide better fuel economy in comparison to their SUV equivalents, too.

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Some, like the Subaru Outback or Audi A4 Allroad, have elevated ground clearance and some rugged body cladding to make them more like a sport-utility vehicle (SUV), but they are nonetheless closely related to sedans. Wagons have fallen from favor during the past few decades and there are relatively few available for sale in the United States.

HATCHBACK

The most noticeable part of a hatchback is its hatch or a rear door that swings upward. This types of car usually come with two or four doors, excluding the trunk’s door. Hatchbacks are very similar to sedans, with both categorized as passenger cars.

The biggest difference between them is their cargo capacity. Hatchbacks typically haul more pieces of cargo compared to their sedan counterparts. Moreover, you can remove bulky shopping bags or other heavy pieces more easily. If you prioritize increased cargo capacity and better fuel economy, then a hatchback can be a good fit for you.

The Volkswagen Golf and Kia Rio are two typical hatchback models. More recently, hatchbacks have made their way into some larger cars like the Audi A7 and the Kia Stinger.

They look like sedans, but they actually have a steeply sloping tailgate that provides easier access to the cargo space and greater load capacity than a conventional trunk.

CONVERTIBLE

Convertibles have been known for their recognizable aesthetics and loving design for decades. These types of cars have been popular for decades because they became icons of cinema and symbols of freedom and youth.

They have retractable canopies and minimal passenger cabins that sometimes only accommodate two people. They also have a small hold.

Can the roof retract into the body and leave the passenger cabin open to the elements? If so, it’s a convertible. Most convertibles have an all-electric fabric roof that folds down, but some have to be lowered by hand.

There are also a number of models with a retractable hardtop as well as some unusual quasi-convertibles (so-called “Targa-Tops”) such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF, Porsche 911 Targa and Corvette; only the front part of their roofs can be retracted or removed by hand.

SPORT-UTILITY VEHICLE (SUV)

A Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is defined by its off-road capabilities and roominess. These types of cars are built with a long journey in mind. It boasts a comfortable ride in rough, rugged cross-country terrain. It offers a relatively high seating position which allows a better view of the road.

These functionalities have been made possible by its sturdy body-on-frame construction that is borrowed from trucks. Hence, if you are one of those who enjoy outdoor adventure and expect to tow dirt bikes, an SUV might be best suited to you.

They include a station wagon-like cargo space accessed through a flip-up hatchback door, and many offer all-wheel drive. The larger ones have three rows of seats. Sizes start at small cars (Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks), ranging from medium to full size (Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe). Luxury brands offer many SUV models in most of the same size classes.

MINIVAN

When designing minivans, the focus is usually on the size of the cabin space rather than the size of the storage space. These types of cars are often associated with station wagons and family cars.

It was made with the specific idea of accommodating a whole family in it. It has a lot of cargo space, but not much compared to the hatchback.

Minivans are the workhorses of the world of family cars, the best way to move people and cargo in one efficient package. They are called minivans, but they are far from “mini”. That’s because they’re tall boxes on wheels with sliding side doors for easy access and a tailgate that opens up to large cargo space.

Most minivans have reclining second and third-row seats that can often be removed or even folded into the floor to create huge open cargo space. The Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica are great examples of this breed.

PICKUP TRUCK

A pickup is one of the most recognizable types of cars in the world. It is distinguishable from other automobiles due to its distinct design. Its cargo space is completely divided from its cabin space and it usually seats no more than 3 or 4 individuals at a time.

A pickup truck has a passenger cab and an open cargo bed in the rear. Virtually all pickups offer some form of all-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive the latter for off-road use only. With one exception the mid-sized Honda Ridgeline pickup bodies are cabs mounted to a separate steel frame.

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The Ridgeline is more like a crossover with the rear section of the roof lopped off to expose a cargo bed. Currently, pickup trucks come in two size categories: full-size and mid-size.

JEEP

Jeep is like Kleenex. It’s a product model that’s become synonymous with an entire product line.  Jeep, as a model, is designed and built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The Jeep hit the scene in November 1940, just before the USA entered WWII. 

They were widely used throughout the war and subsequent wars due to their ability to travel on all kinds of terrain.

In 1987 Chrysler bought the Jeep brand and has expanded the models ever since. While the traditional design is still popular, Chrysler also developed the SUV model Cherokee.

ELECTRIC CAR

I cannot wait to lease my next car, which will be an electric car. This is an exciting time because, over the next few years, most automobile makers will be rolling out many electric car options. Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes are all rolling out a fleet of electric cars. 

Tesla, of course, is the current top dog in the arena but will be facing tougher and tougher competition over the next 5 years. GM’s Volt is also a good option.

While I like Tesla’s designs, it doesn’t come close to how cool the first Porsche electric car looks.  Check it out… the Mission E. What I love about the Mission E is it’s a 4 door and still looks super cool.  I have young kids so a 2-door is out of the question.

CUV/CROSSOVER

If we had to summarize crossovers in a single phrase, it would be “a combination of an SUV and a hatchback”. Crossovers have the practicality of an SUV but also come with superb fuel efficiency like hatchbacks do, as they are built on a unibody construction that is lighter and consumes less fuel.

SPYDER

The Spyder is a type of car that has two seats and the appearance of a sports car. It has many variants, one of which is the popular Lamborghini Spyder. Its use has spread all over the world and is recognized as a luxury car.

There was a time when it was used as a racing car in the United States Auto Club during the 50s and 60s.  The Spyder is also often called the Roadster, which was originally used to describe a horse that is suitable for traveling on the open roads.

Originally the Spyder was only fit for one person to ride, but it has gradually adapted to the two-seater model that is internationally known.

HOT HATCH

The hot hatch car is a high-performance car that takes its design from the hatchback. It has the same door that swings open in the back and a similar shape.

Though not as spacious or large as the hatchback, it can still fit up to 5 passengers and quite a bit of cargo. It began being manufactured in the late 1980s and is a favorite among consumers in Europe and Asia.

LIMOUSINE

A limousine is considered one of the most luxurious cars in the world. These types of cars are noted for its large length and the partition between the back and the front.

The limousine is driven by a chauffeur in most cases and is pre-booked for formal affairs. Limousines are usually owned or used by movie stars, businessmen, dignitaries, or politicians.

UTE

A UTE, an abbreviation of utility, is a term for a car typically purchased in Australia and New Zealand for cars standing behind the passenger cabin.

It can be driven with a regular driver’s license. It was originally used to refer to cars built on passenger car chassis with the bed attached to the passenger body.

Any vehicle with an open cargo area at the rear is now referred to as a UTE in the New Zealand-Australia region.

PONY CAR

The Pony car has its roots in the Ford Mustangs of the 1940s and 50s. These types of cars were wildly popular in the 1960s and even broke sales records in the US. It created the pony car craze and was designed as an affordable, compact, and highly stylized alternative for Americans.

It was a direct consequence of customers’ interests in small cars that had a sporty and luxurious design.

SPORTS SEDAN

The Sports Sedan or the Sports Saloon is a very subjective term for a car. It is designed for great performance and impeccable handling features. The term goes back to the 1930s and includes the Rover 14 and 16 cars.

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Sports Sedan was a term that began being applied to sports versions of cars for different manufacturers in the 1960s. The originals used manual transmissions and rear-wheel drives. However, as time passed, a number of other transmission types and layouts became common.

Some important cars that fall into the category are the BMW M5, the Jaguar XJR, the Maserati Quattroporte, and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

MILITARY VEHICLE

Military vehicles are designed for combat and endurance on the battlefield. They are designed to withstand bullets and blasts and are equipped with extensive armor and protection. Capable of transporting soldiers, ammunition, and lots of cargo, they run at top speed while transporting cargo.

DRAGSTER

Dragsters are modified racecars. With modified engines, they are specially built for drag racing. They were first built during the 1960s and fitted with front-engine rails, and slingshots. Dragsters can be supercharged or turbocharged based on their designs.

They can run on alcohol, natural gas, or a mixture of nitromethane and gasoline. Rear engine dragsters have now become the standard dragster design because of their durability and performance benefits.

SHOOTING BRAKE

The Shooting Brake is a term for a vehicle with a specific body shape. It was once used for horse-drawn wagons used to transport rifle squads to their hunting grounds. The first with automotive capabilities were developed in the early 1900s.

They are known for their elongated sterns and large cabin spaces. They take several clues from the tailgate. One of the most commonly manufactured Shooting Brake cars is the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

Classification Of Cars

Cars are classified into various categories depending on several factors. Here is a list of those classifications.

1. Based on Body Style:

Vehicles are categorized according to the styling of the body. Some of the cars that come under this group are convertible, coupe, hatchback, minivans, crossover, etc.

2. Based on the Car Segment:

Vehicles are categorized based on the elements that your car has. Subcompact cars, green cars, compact cars, muscle cars, and luxury cars are some the examples of this group.

3. Based on Size:

These vehicles are segregated based on their size. Microcars, compact cars, mid-size cars, and extra-large cars are some of the examples in this group.

4. Based on Fuel:

Vehicles are divided based on the type of fuel used in them. Some of the cars that come under this group are diesel cars, electric cars, natural gas cars, hydrogen cars, etc.

5. Based on Purpose:

This is a category of vehicles that are divided according to the purpose they are used. Commercial cars, family cars, exotic cars, racing cars, and sports cars are some of the vehicles that come under this group.

FAQs.

What Are Different Types of Cars?

Different Types of Car:

  1. Sedan. A sedan has four doors and a traditional trunk.
  2. Coupe. Mercedes-Benz.
  3. Sports Car. These are the sportiest, hottest, coolest-looking coupes and convertibles—low to the ground, sleek, and often expensive.
  4. Station Wagon.
  5. Hatchback.
  6. Convertible.
  7. Sport-Utility Vehicle (SUV)
  8. Minivan.

What color car gets stolen the most?

Surprisingly, green cars are the most popular among car thieves according to recent research by Monash University Accident Research Centre. While white may be the most common car color – they’re stolen at a rate of 2.65/1000 registered vehicles.

What is the safest car color?

We’ve referenced the safest color car on the road. That color is white. White cars are 12 percent less likely to be involved in an accident than black cars at any time of the day under any conditions. This is because there is often a lot of contrast between white cars and their surroundings.

What color car attracts cops?

They’re followed by red cars, then gray cars, and then silver cars. However, when adjusting for prevalence, gray and then red cars top the list as likeliest to get ticketed.

How many types of cars are there?

There is a diverse range of cars available to own but most cars come in one of seven car body types: Hatchback, Sedan, SUV, MUV, Coupe, Convertible, and Pickup Truck.

What is the most popular car type?

Despite a slowdown in vehicle sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a global chip shortage, Americans still bought plenty of trucks last year. In fact, 48 out of the 50 states had a truck or SUV as the top-selling vehicle in 2020—and most states actually had trucks taking all of the top three spots.