What is the Make and Model of a Car? Your Ultimate Guide

When shopping for a car, you’ve likely seen terms such as “make” and “model.” If you’re a first-time car buyer, you may not understand what these terms mean and how they impact new car prices. Below, you’ll find a complete guide answering your questions regarding what the make and model of a car is. 

Defining Make and Model

The make of the car refers to the manufacturer and the brand of car that you’re purchasing. So, for instance, if you were searching for “Ram Trucks,” the make would be “Ram.” Other common brands include:

It’s important to note that the make doesn’t necessarily represent the parent company of the vehicle fleet. For instance, General Motors owns different product lines, including Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet. When searching for the make of the vehicle, you would use the latter three terms. “General Motors” does not refer to the make of the car or truck.

The model represents a specific type of car within the manufacturer’s line. If you were looking for GMC trucks, you’d come across models like “Sierra” and “Canyon.” When comparing cars, make and model will be the two most relevant search criteria.

How are Car Make and Models Different?

Now that you know what is the make and model of a car, it’s critical to understand how these features will impact your car-buying experience.

Perhaps you’re most concerned about shopping for a particular make of car. Maybe you've read a lot about a specific brand's safety ratings and want to focus on finding a model within that make. Car companies typically offer a range of models to meet your budget and needs. Within each model, there are tiny differences that could end up making a tremendous difference in the final price.

Body Style

Some models are cheaper, while others are more expensive. Within each model, you’d likely find various body styles. For instance, if you were looking to purchase a Honda Civic, you’d find that it was available as a coupe, sedan, or hatchback. Today’s most common body styles include:

·        SUV

·        Minivan

·        Coupe

·        Hatchback

·        Sedan

·        Convertible

The body style is critical as it defines things such as the shape of the vehicle and how many doors it has. It also describes the mechanical aspects of the car, including aspects such as the transmission, drivetrain, and engine.

Trim Level

Trim levels typically involve “styling” and how the vehicle looks and operates. When looking at car listings, references to trim level tend to come immediately after the model name.

You may notice terms such as “Standard,” “Sport,” and “Luxury” when shopping for cars. These terms all represent various trim levels. "Standard" refers to the car as-is, without any upgrades. "Sport" tends to mean that the manufacturer handling and engine performance on the vehicle. "Luxury" means that there is a smoother suspension and that the interior is much more beautiful.

Model Year

Each year, manufacturers make updates to the previous year's car model. They tend to change things such as the trim level. If you were to look at side-by-side pictures of a particular car model over the past couple of years, you'd likely notice the car become sleeker and more streamlined.

If you’re looking for a new car, you should know that manufacturers tend to release their fleets early. For instance, you don’t need to wait until January 2020 to purchase a vehicle from the 2020 product line. There’s a strong chance that this model year will be available in late summer or early fall 2019. 

How Do Make and Model Impact Price?

The make and model of the car plays a huge role in things such as safety and performance. However, perhaps the most significant effect it has is on price. The make and model of the vehicle not only impact its value but insurance rates as well.

You're probably well aware that the make of a vehicle has a tremendous impact on price. For example, BMW, Audi, and Lexus are all vehicle makes associated with high costs. Honda is a vehicle make known to be a bit more budget-friendly.

Additionally, the model of the car can go a long way toward determining the price as well. Take, for example, two different types of Toyota sedans. The 2018 suggested retail price of a Corolla is around $18,000, while the suggested price of a Camry is about $25,000. A Camry costs nearly twice as much as a Corolla, even though both are sedans within the Toyota fleet.

Furthermore, the body style and trim levels that you choose can also end up affecting the price of the vehicle. For instance, variations within the Honda Civic line tend to fluctuate by $1,000 or so. The more you upgrade the car, the more expensive it's going to become.

Not only will vehicle upgrades affect your upfront costs, but they'll also impact your insurance rates as well. This is for a few reasons. Insurance companies determine your rates based on the value of your car. Insurers base rates based on how often other drivers have filed claims for a particular make and model.

So, if you upgrade to a convertible or sport body style, your insurance rates will likely go up. Your insurance company will deem these cars riskier because people tend to drive them more aggressively, therefore filing more insurance claims. You could lower your insurance premiums by instead opting for vehicles with better safety features.

How to Locate the Make and Model of a Car

If you come across a car and would like to determine its make and model, the best way to do so is to look at the rear of the vehicle. Here, you’ll find various decals or badges that indicate the make, model, and body style.

If you’d like more details about the vehicle, such as what year it was produced, you can look up the car’s Vehicle Identification Number.