Everything You Need To Know About Car Body Types

Car body types range from regular sedans and hatchbacks to sporty convertibles and coupes, not to mention rugged SUVs and trucks.
Written by Jason Tushinski
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
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When you’re vehicle shopping, it's easy to be overwhelmed at the enormous bevy of options in front of you. That’s why we here at
Jerry
have categorized the most popular types of vehicles—from hatchbacks to pickups to the time-tested station wagon—to help give you an idea of what works best for your needs, be they children, groceries, or hauling cargo from A to B.
To learn more about car body types and which one best suits your needs, keep reading!
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Sedans

Probably the most iconic type of vehicle, based on the sheer number of them on the road—traditionally sedans have 4 doors and a regular-sized trunk.
Sedans are known for good fuel economy, with solid acceleration and braking. Most of them can easily transport 4 or 5 regular size adults (though if Shaquille O’Neal is one of your passengers, we here at Jerry advise you to get a bigger vehicle).
Sedans are available in many configurations including:
  • Subcompact: Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent
  • Compact: Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla
  • Midsize: Volkswagen Passat, Subaru Legacy
  • Full Size: Nissan Maxima, Dodge Charger
MORE:

Coupes

The cooler, older (or is it younger?) sibling to the sedan, the coupe is usually a 2 door vehicle with a solid roof and trunk.
Some coupes have four doors and even some crossovers now look “coupe-like” with their sleek, sloping rooflines. Coupes offer great style without sports car pricing (though once you get into luxury coupe territory, prepare to wave goodbye to your greenbacks). These car types usually offer higher performance than sedans.
Examples of popular coupes:
  • More affordable: Toyota 86, Toyota Supra
  • Midrange coupes: Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro
  • Expensive coupes: Mercedes Benz E Class, Porsche 911 Turbo

Sports cars

Popular with driving enthusiasts and people who are all about the aesthetic, sports cars can come in coupe or convertible forms—they’re slick, low to the ground, and usually pricey.
Most roadsters are 2 seaters, though some have some small rear seats. There’s quite a range of sports cars to choose from, including the following examples:
  • Prototypical sports cars: Mazda Miata, Porsche 911
  • Muscle cars: Ford Mustang Bullitt, Dodge Challenger
  • Exotics: Audi R8, Corvette

Station wagon

The station wagon has undergone a renaissance of sorts, from their early, prime purpose of humiliating teenage drivers (both learner’s permitted and licensed) to becoming a—gasp—fashionable way to haul the kids around.
Station wagons are known for their extended rooflines and hatch door in the rear. They are great for ferrying the kids and their friends to functions, and they offer plenty of cargo space.
Some models can even resemble off-roading vehicles, such as the Subaru Outback. Others pride themselves on stylish, sporty family vehicles, such as the Volvo V60.
The U.S. is no longer the go-to station wagon market (all those embarrassed teens grew up) but they are definitely available.

Hatchback

The hatchback, a perfect vehicle for those who want the handling of a sedan and the passenger space of a station wagon.
The typical hatchback
offers a square-ish roof and rear hatch door with easy access to the cargo area.
Hatchbacks typically offer great mileage and are usually easy to park. Hatchbacks are more common on subcompact and compact models, such as the Mazda 3 or the Hyundai Veloster.
More luxury carmakers are getting in on the hatchback game, with highly sought after models such as the Tesla Model S and the Audi A7.

Convertibles

Convertibles are perfect for those who love driving with the wind whipping through their hair *and* for those going through a midlife crisis. The convertible is known for its roof that pulls back and subjects its passengers to nature’s elements.
These cars often have a soft roof made of fabric that folds down electronically or by hand. Some have hard tops, however. Some examples of classic convertibles include: 
  • Mazda Miata
  • BMW Z4
  • Corvette
Others are quasi-convertibles, where the forward section of the roof is removed or can retract, with the rear element staying in place (the Porsche Targa a good example of this).
Convertibles are stylish, versatile, great for enjoying the weather, and most new ones have rollover bars for added safety.
MORE: How to protect a convertible interior

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs)

SUVs are great for families, road trips, hauling all the housewares you bought from IKEA, and for single people driving around the city by themselves.
These robust vehicles are ideal for many road conditions. They’re usually powerful, but also safe and practical. Most SUVs offer an elevated seating position, are taller than a sedan, and feature a more box-like body with higher ground clearance.
SUV cargo areas are more like station wagons than trucks. Most have AWD, and bigger SUVs usually have 3 rows of seats—perfect for carpool duty.
Some examples of popular SUVs include
  • Subcompacts: Toyota CH-R, Hyundai Kona
  • Compact: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
  • Midsize: Honda Passport
  • Full size: Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon

Minivans

Forget carpooling—you might as well run your own bus service with a minivan!
We kid—minivans are excellent for family road trips, offer a ton of cargo space for hauling all the lumber you need to build the treehouse your kids have been begging you for, not to mention getting great gas mileage and posting excellent safety ratings.
Minivans are known for their boxy look, sliding side doors, and rear hatch door. Most offer 2nd and 3rd row seats that are adjustable or removable.
Some common minivan examples:
  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Kia Carnival

Pickup Trucks

If you’re into building big things or adventuring off the beaten path, then a pickup might be for you.
Pickups are known to be very versatile and rugged, great for work or play. They offer a big rear truck bed for ferrying giant stones to and fro, usually offer decent passenger cab space, and have the ability to literally crush those other cars (please don’t do that). And higher-end pickups offer every luxury you’d find in other cars,
Almost all pickups feature AWD or 4WD. Typically, the cabs are mounted on steel frames.
Some common pickup examples:
  • Mid size: Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger
  • Full Size: Ram 1500, Ford F-150

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FAQ

Excellent question, and one with no clear answer. Adam West’s late 1960s-kitschy portrayal of the caped crusader featured an open-top Batmobile that resembled a convertible, blitzing through a Gotham City that looked remarkably like Southern California. Fast forward to 1989—Michael Keaton’s Batmobile was decidedly more coupe-like, but did feature a convertible-esque roof that popped open and closed upon entry and exit. As for Christian Bale’s Dark Knight Batmobile? That ride is basically a tank. Good luck parallel parking that thing.
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