Make vs. Model: What’s the Difference?

A make is the car’s manufacturer, while a model is its product name. Learn the difference here, plus the meanings of trim, body, and model year.
Written by Jasmine Kanter
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you want to buy or sell a car, you’ll need to know its make and model—that is to say, which company manufactured it (the make) and what specific product it represents in their catalog (the model). 
Combine make and model with the model year—plus the body and trim level to get even more specific—and you have your car’s complete name. With it, you can start searching prices, browsing aftermarket parts, and even finding
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What’s a make and what’s a model?

Let’s say you have a red, four-door car sitting in your driveway with a silver H on the back. You’d like to sell it. How are the words “make” and “model” going to help? 
Well, just like a scientific name tells you the family and lineage of an animal, a car’s make and model tells you everything about it: who built it, what it includes, and what it’s worth. Let’s put a name to that car.


The make refers to a car’s manufacturer—i.e., the company that built it. Think
, or
Did the name Porsche stand out on that list? Certain makes, like brands of clothing, are luxury names. Makes like
, and
have cultivated an image of quality (and big price tags to go with it). 
Two or more brands can be owned by the same parent company. For example, Honda and Acura are both owned by Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Due to the differences in design, quality, and target markets between brands, people usually refer to vehicles by their make rather than their parent company. 
If you walked into a car dealership and asked for a Honda or an Acura, they would have a much better idea of what you wanted than if you requested “something from the Honda Motor Co., Ltd., please!”
Each manufacturer has a logo that appears as a badge on their cars. The silver H on the car in your driveway probably stands for Honda or Hyundai. A car’s make and model is detailed in its owner’s manual and can be looked up by the car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, as well. The VIN is typically printed on the car’s door jamb or dashboard.


The model identifies a specific product in the manufacturer’s catalog. Each car manufacturer has different ways of naming its models.
keeps their names understated, releasing A3s through A8s, but
opts for monikers that wow like the Avalanche, Blazer, Equinox, and Trailblazer. 
Then there’s
, which prefer to separate models by numbers like the 435i or the E430. Does it have anything to do with the fact that they’re both German? Perhaps.
Car models can get pretty confusing, but luckily every car model is unique to its make. There’s no Volkswagen Spaghetti competing with the Ford Spaghetti. The F-150, however, is unique to Ford, so folks in the know often skip the make and refer to them simply as F-150s.
Model names are usually spelled out in silver letters on the rear of the car. Let’s say your mystery car is called a Civic—well, mystery solved! Only Honda manufactures Civics, so you have a Honda Civic sitting in your driveway.
Key Takeaway The make of a car identifies which company manufactured it, while the model narrows it down to a specific product within their lineup.
MORE: How different kinds of cars affect your car insurance rates
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What’s the difference between models?

Consumers love options, especially when it comes to their cars. Dealerships can offer buyers different car bodies based on their needs, which they can then customize further with trims and options. Here’s what it all means.


The body refers to the basic design of the car, including how many doors it has, how many seats it has, what its storage capacity is, and how much it can tow. Models might be issued in one or more bodies. Standard body styles include:
  • Convertible: A sleek design with a retractable roof that allows you to feel the wind in your hair.
  • Coupes
    : A two-door silhouette usually reserved for sports cars.
  • Hatchbacks
    : A practical design with four doors; hatchbacks get their name from the way their rear windshields and trunk doors lift up.
  • Pickup truck: Pickups include a two or four-door cab with one or two rows of seats, plus a flatbed in the rear used for towing cargo.
  • Sedans: With four doors, two rows of seats, and average trunk space, this is the most common type of car on the road.
  • Station wagons: A four-door body (sadly) going out of style, the station wagon is a long and low family vehicle from yesteryear.
  • Vans
    /minivans: Ideal for businesses and busy parents, vans have four doors (two of which are often sliding), a hatchback or double-doored rear, and a large profile for maximum seating and storage.
  • SUVs: Sometimes termed urban assault vehicles, four-door SUVs have a boxy profile and roomy seating and storage.
Honda Civic
was only ever released in coupe, sedan, and hatchback versions, but the sedan is the most common. The more you know!

Trim level

Trim levels
are packages that contain pre-selected optional features for the car’s interior and exterior. These features could touch on everything from leather seating and climate controls to powertrain and suspension differences. Trims are spoken of in levels; they often go up in price and luxury with each tier.
Trims follow the model name in the lettering on the back of the car. The Honda Civic was issued in base models (no lettering), plus DX, Hybrid, Sport, and Touring versions. 
Just like trim levels affect the purchase price, they also affect the resale price. If you saw the words “Sport Touring” on the back of your Honda Civic, you’d know to look at other Honda Civic Sport Tourings to set your asking price when selling!
Did you know that higher trim levels also make cars more expensive to insure?
can help you find the most competitive rates in your area so you don’t have to compromise on your dream car.


Some features are offered singularly and independent of any trim packages, so they’re known as options. They can give you a chance to modify the powertrain, interior, and accessories of the vehicle without buying a whole trim level. 
Does your Honda Civic Sport Touring have a continuously variable or manual transmission? A leather interior? Black alloy wheels? Check your bill of sale to be sure.

Model year

Model years refer to the year the car’s design was officially issued rather than the date that the car itself was manufactured. Much like the fashion industry, carmakers set the trends for their models years in advance. They’re issued in the fall ahead of their model year—for example, the
2022 Honda Civic Sport Touring
was released in fall 2021.
Key Takeaway Vehicle models differ from year to year, with further customization offered through body styles, trim levels, and options.

How can I find my car’s make and model?

Besides the badges and lettering on the car, you can find your car’s make and model on your registration certificate. You might also have luck checking the owner’s manual
Lastly, on the driver’s side of the car, where the dashboard meets the windshield, you’ll find the vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is unique to each car and serves as an identifying serial number. Put the 17 digits into a VIN lookup website like
this one
and you can see all the details, plus the car’s history.

How do I find car insurance for my make and model?

Your car’s year, make, model, and trim level also play a big role in the search for
affordable car insurance
. It’s true! 
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A car’s make is its manufacturer.
Each product in a car manufacturer’s lineup is called a model.
A car’s model year refers to the year its specific design was released.
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