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Car Make and Model: What Does it Mean?

By Michael O'Connor | March 8, 2022

When searching for a car, the 'Make' and 'Model' will often come up as search parameters to find what you are looking for. A car's 'Make' is the automaker or the brand, such as Ford, Buick, Jeep, or BMW. The 'Model' refers to a specific vehicle manufactured by that automaker like the Camry, Malibu, or Fusion.

While these terms get used frequently in the automobile industry, there is more to them than just names. For example, the make and model of your car can have implications with insurance and registration and resale value. Understanding why the make and model are essential can help you get the best possible deal when buying or selling a vehicle.

To break down make and model and the differences they can make for various parts of car ownership, here's a guide that helps sort out the differences and when you'll need that information for buying, selling, and running a vehicle.

What is a Car's Make?

A car's make is generally the company that manufactures that vehicle and the brand under which they build it. Most automakers have a brand that they heavily lean into that is associated with different qualities like power, convenience, or safety. Many people have brand loyalty when it comes to their cars and will only purchase from automakers they trust due to good experiences in the past with quality or reliability.

Car makes are also associated with the countries they're based. For example, Ford and Chevrolet are well-known as American brands, while Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are large Japan-based automakers. Even though these corporations source parts and have factories worldwide, they are primarily known for their headquarters are and where the cars are designed.

Car Makes By the Same Manufacturer

Some automakers have a variety of different brands that they oversee. One good example is Toyota and the Lexus brands. While Lexus cars are manufactured by Toyota and use Toyota parts, they are designed and conceptualized by a different branch of the company. That allows larger corporations to make cars outside of what they traditionally manufacture.

Automakers will also sometimes have different brands for different categories. Acura, for example, is the luxury brand of Honda. While Acura is under the Honda umbrella, the cars are different from the practical and affordable vehicles that the brand usually makes, such as the Honda Accord.

What is a Car Model?

The model of a car is the specific type of vehicle made by a manufacturer. Often, the model will have its own style and aesthetic that distinguishes it from other vehicles produced by the automaker. All the models offered by a carmaker will be held up to the same quality control standards and manufacturing as the other models in the lineup but will have distinct designs and features.

Models also will have their own sets of performance figures. For example, the Ford Mustang and the Ford Escape are both models made by Ford, but they are very different vehicles when it comes to engines, driving characteristics, and body style. Most automakers have a wide variety of models they make that satisfy different needs and desires within the marketplace.

Variations Between Car Models

Car models will also vary depending on the automaker and what they offer. Whether this is in the way of features, engines, or body styles, one car may not have the same features as another one that is the same model. That's the automaker's way of offering consumers a wider variety of options so there is something for everyone under their corporate umbrella.

Different variations of car models from the same automaker may also have different costs of ownership. For example, some engines and interiors available with the same model are more expensive to repair and maintain than others. Understanding how some models can be different can help you make the right financial choice when the time comes to buy a new car.

Body Styles

The body style of a car is one of the most recognizable differences between models. While most car models will have the same body style, some automakers will offer different body styles for the same model. Despite having the same basic design or engines, these cars will look very different.

Some common body styles include:

  • Coupe
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
  • Hatchback
  • Convertible
  • SUV
  • Pickup Truck
  • Minivan

Trim Level

One significant variation within different model names is the type of trim. Automakers offer different trim levels for most of their models, and they can vary widely with the engines and features offered. The trim level can also heavily dictate the price, as one car model with a lower trim level can be much less expensive than the same model with a more exclusive trim.

All car models have a basic trim level that they start at with a base engine and minimal extra options. From there, trim levels can go up to more powerful and complex engines and luxurious features like leather interiors and large infotainment touchscreens. For example, many automakers will also include a sporty trim with a specially-tuned suspension or a turbocharged engine.

Model Year

Car models can vary depending on the year they were produced as well. That's because they go through different designs and get engineering and technology tweaks throughout their life. Because of this, a car made one year may be very different from the same model made another year, whether that difference is in style, power, or features.

When a vehicle undergoes a significant and comprehensive redesign, this is usually considered to be a new generation of that model. There is no set time for a car's generation, and many stay on the same one for several years. However, cars will usually change quite a bit in terms of style from generation to generation, especially if they have been in production for a long time. For example, a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic from the first generation will look and perform differently from the sixth generation.

How to Find Your Car's Make and Model

For the most part, finding your car's make and model is relatively simple. You will usually find it on the emblems, logo, or badges on the back of the vehicle right above the rear bumper. If you don't have them there, you can also look in your owner's manual, and it will be listed on the cover or inside the first few pages, or you can check the vehicle registration.
Suppose you can't find your make and model easily because the badges or insignia have been removed. In that case, you can usually find it using the vehicle identification number, or VIN. The VIN is located on the driver's side dashboard and is good to have whether you are looking for the make and model or not. Then, you can enter the number into a VIN tracking tool, which will give you all kinds of information about your vehicle.

Why Does Make and Model Matter?

It's essential to know the make and model of your car so you can access the information you need when issues arise. Everything from registration to repairs requires you to have your car's make, model, and year. Having this information at hand will make taking care of your car much easier as a vehicle owner.

Buying

Knowing the make and model you are looking for can be incredibly helpful when buying a new car. Even if you don't have a type in mind, being able to look up reviews and pertinent information about a vehicle you're considering buying can help you decide if it is the right vehicle for you. Car owners are more than happy to give good or bad reviews on vehicles they have owned, and knowing the make and model of a particular car can help you get the best information on it.
The make and model of a new car will also come into play in your lifestyle. For example, the vehicle makes built by car manufacturers known for dependability, such as Subaru, Toyota, and Mazda, will be better suited for commuters or families. On the other hand, if you're looking for something like a luxury car or sports car, higher-end makes like Lexus, Porsche, and Audi may be a better choice.

Selling

If you are selling a car, the make and model will make a big difference in how much you should sell it for and how likely you will find a buyer. By knowing the make and model of a car you want to sell, you can look up the projected value and any other important information used as a selling point when you list it. Most buyers will also want to know what kind of car it is and what year it was made before they consider making a purchase.

You can also find out if your car is in demand in your area using its make and model. By searching for the exact vehicle for sale where you live, you can see things like how many others are currently up for sale and how much they are selling for. Some makes and models will be more desirable than others, so it's important to know what kind of car you are trying to sell.

Car Insurance

Make and model is incredibly important for insurance premiums and insurance rates. Many auto insurance companies base the cost of insuring a vehicle on the make and model of a car and things like your driving record and demographic. You can also research which makes and models are the most and least expensive to insure so you can save money on your bills after purchasing a car.

For the most part, the more expensive the make and model of your car is, the more expensive it will be to insure. That's because the insurance company will need to put up more money to replace or repair it in the event of an accident. A Mercedes-AMG will warrant much higher insurance rates than a cheaper vehicle such as a Honda CR-V or Kia Forte. If you are trying to save money on your insurance and the overall cost of a car, knowing the make and model will help.

Repairs and Maintenance

Knowing the make and model when your car experiences issues is very important. It will allow you to look up information such as common problems or the likely cause of an issue you're experiencing. It is also helpful when doing routine maintenance, like changing the windshield wiper blades if you don't have your owner's manual anymore. All of this information is readily available online as long as you have the make and model of your car.

By having the make and model of your car handy, you can also be prepared for how much a repair will cost. Some vehicles will be much cheaper to fix and maintain than others. For example, a Toyota Camry will require much less expensive parts and labor than something more upscale or exotic like a Mercedes-Benz or Maserati.

Final Thoughts

While some people are very interested in things like the make and model of their car and its stats, others just want something that will get them from point A to point B. Even if you fall into the second category, knowing as much about your car as possible is a good idea, especially before you decide to buy it. The type of car you buy will end up dictating a lot about its true cost of ownership and how easy it will be to maintain and repair.

Knowing the make and model of your car can help you get access to the information you might need to keep it well maintained and in good working order. By understanding why make and model matter, you'll be informed about your vehicle and have an easier time when you want to sell it or get it fixed. There are all kinds of makes and models available, so having the correct information can help you get the best deal and enjoy your car for many years to come.