Makes and Models: Understanding why it's relevant

Car Make and Model Guide

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Have you ever wondered why we take about a car make and model? Whenever you discuss a car, the question is asked. Why? A car make and model are terms that are used to identify and describe a vehicle. These terms are sometimes referred to as model year, body style and trim level. The make refers to the automaker or vehicle maker – the company that manufactured the car. That could include Honda, BMW, Ford, Chevrolet and other brands. A model is the specific vehicle type. So, you would get a Honda (make) Civic (model) or a Toyota (make) Camry (model) and a Ford (make) Mustang (model). 

In this post, we will explain car made and model. But it’s important to note that body style and trim level may differ greatly between cars of the same model. Vehicle manufacturers often make one model in a variety of body style options.

Car Makes Explained

Although most car manufacturers and producers are usually multinational corporations with multiple locations and their products are popular around the world, makes are often strongly associated with their home countries. Korea is the home country of Kia and Hyundai, while we strongly associate BMW, Porsche, Fiat and Volkswagen with Europe. Chrysler, Chevrolet and Ford are American cars. Some brands also have sub-brands, or luxury brands. For example, Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus, and Honda’s Acura. 

Car Models Names Explained

The model refers to a specific type of car found within a common brand. Models have distinct names to differentiate them from other cars made by the same brand. Model names are usually a specific, distinct name, such as Explorer, Prius, Corvette or Mustang, while others are simply a letter or number, such as the Audi A3 or Q3. A model name is particularly important when car makers release similar vehicles with very similar car body style, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon that are owned by the same company.

Some of the differences between car models could change the way in which it is sold, shopped for, insured or registered. Why? Because model years and trims could affect safety features, transmission and engine size, to name a few. These factors are important when you compare car prices.

In some cases, the exact car model might have a different body style with the same model name. For instance, a manufacturer might offer a sedan, coupe and convertible under the same model. They might refer to a crossover as a hatchback or even a wagon or SUV. As such, the body style refers to the function and general shape of the vehicle. To make it easier, we would refer to a sedan as a car with four doors, or a coupe to a two-door vehicle. 

Different body styles also sometimes offer a range of trim levels. The 2019 Dodge Charger is available in no less than six different trim levels. The 2018 Honda Civic sedan is also available in six trim levels, namely LX, EX, EX-T, EX-L, Si and Touring. The alphanumeric naming conventions can make it complex to decipher between the model and trim. When you decode the vehicle’s name to figure out the model name and trim package. For instance, when you look at the 2018 BMW 540i:

  • 5 indicates a 5-series BMW
  • 40i is the trim level. 

Think about the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Rubicon is one of the trim options of the Wrangler for off-roading. Another example is the C Class Mercedes-Benz, which is available in the AMG C43 and C 300. 

Common trim levels include Standard, which has no upgrades; Sport usually has upgraded handling and engine performance, while Luxury usually features a smoother suspension and upgraded interior.

Another consideration is the model year. The model year also helps you to distinguish a vehicle and to assess its value for resale and insurance purposes. Note that a car’s model year is not necessarily the year in which it was manufactured. You can often purchase a vehicle for a given year several months before the start of the calendar year. In some cases, a car maker will completely redesign a specific model, which is why it’s helpful to know the year. However, it’s important to know that cars are often available for purchase in the year before the model date. So a 2019 model brand new car that was available for purchase in 2018, will still be a 2019 model car.

A car’s brand can be identified by its name and logo that can be found somewhere on the vehicle. The emblem usually appears in a prominent spot on the grille. The model is also usually indicated somewhere on the vehicle, or on the owner’s manual and registration documents. 

Interestingly, a car that is older than 25 years is considered a classic, while cars older than 50 years are considered vintage. 

Why Does the Car Make and Model Matter?

The model of your car determines its value. This is important when you want to buy or sell a car. It’s important to understand that cars with the same body style and make can differ significantly in value. Looking at Toyota sedans, retail prices of the Camry XSE V6 and the Corolla L differ by more than $16,000, so it’s important to be specific. The trim also affects the vehicle’s value, and as such insurance rates by car model.

Auto insurance rates, especially for collision and comprehensive coverage are based on the car’s value. Insurers will also consider these aspects when setting premiums. If many drivers with that specific car file liability claims, you will be deemed a risky driver. That’s how they determine insurance rates by car model.

As illustrated by this article, there are various important reasons why companies may ask about your car make and model.