You hear of SUVs, trucks, sedans, buses, supercars, and coupes; they are all different types of vehicles with distinctive features that qualify them to be in their various categories. There are actually many types of cars, classified based on their body style and purpose.
Trains and engine-powered watercraft are actually types of vehicles. However, this article focuses on the various type of motor vehicles; this refers to vehicles you’re most likely going to see every day when you step out or hit the roads.
Note: The easiest way to identify a vehicle is from the shape, “Body Style.” Some different car types look similar anyway, e.g., hatchbacks and crossovers.
Different Types of Vehicles
1. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)
- Unique Identities: Higher clearance, off-road capable, longer than sedans
- Popular Examples: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Rav4, Nissan Armada, and Ford Escape
Sports Utility Vehicles, shortened as SUVs, are a class of motor vehicles with longer bodies, raised ground clearance, and capable of going through off-road terrains.
Actually, there are diverse definitions of what an SUV really is – the definitions differ from region to region. But the main point remains that for a car to be classified as SUV, it must be off-road capable with raised clearance.
There are equally different types of SUVs grouped by their body sizes. So, there is compact SUV, mid-size SUVs, CUVs, Mini SUVs, and full-size SUVs. Full-size SUVs have close similarities with station wagons as they offer up to three rows of seating and roomy cargo space. SUVs are fun to drive and are the preferred choice of most people.
2. Pickup Trucks
- Unique Identities: Open rear/cargo space and typically equipped with “heavier” duty (diesel) engines.
- Popular Examples: Ford F150, RAM 2500, Chevy Silverado, and Toyota Hilux.
Trucks are basically built for carrying loads and heavy items, so they are more formidable than typical vehicles. Particularly, pickup trucks, which are the most commonest driven by individuals, are equipped with V8, V10, V12, and higher engines because they need much power to carry out “truck” functions such as towing and hauling.
Most Americans prefer buying pickup trucks because they can be used for everyday jobs and also for transporting construction/farming items easily. Similar to SUVs, there are full-size and mid-size pickup trucks, some of which look like SUVs with an exposed rear side.
Trucks come with varying bed sizes from 4-foot to 8-foot, or even longer. Pickup trucks can come in 2-door or 4-door cab designs.
- Unique Identities: Four doors, shorter than SUVs/crossovers but taller than coupes and sports cars.
- Popular Examples: Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, Mercedes-Benz C300, Lexus is250, Chrysler, and Lincoln MKS.
Sedans are pretty the most common type of vehicle today. The category, Sedan, belongs to a type of motor vehicle with four doors, a three-box body design, and a traditional trunk design.
Most people refer to sedans as passenger cars, but they are more than just “Passenger Cars.” Most sedans are lavishly furnished and appear more luxurious than SUVs.
There are equally compact, full-size, and mid-size sedans. Almost all known car brands in the world (except Land/Range Rover and Jeep) produce a wide range of sedan models.
The body style of sedans have evolved over the years, and today, there are many subtypes of sedans based on their body design (hatchback sedans, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan, and sedanet/sedanette).
4. Coupes/Muscle Cars/Convertibles
- Unique Identities: Muscular body, very low clearance, high-power engine, expensive
- Popular Examples: Ford Mustangs, Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz CLS, and Chevrolet Corvette
A coupe is a sporty/muscular vehicle with low clearance and usually has two doors only (some coupes have four doors). Coupes look pretty much like sedans; in fact, there is a subtype of sedans called coupe-sedans.
Most coupes are also convertibles – you can remove the roofs – and they are sporty. Coupes are also called muscular cars (ex., Ford Mustang models), while some models without a fixed top are called convertibles.
5. Sports Cars / Supercars / Hypercars
- Unique Identities: Luxurious, low profile design, very expensive, high-power engines
- Popular Examples: Lamborghini models, Ferrari models, Porsche 911
Supercars, hypercars, and sports cars have a lot in common. They typically flaunt the same body styles – low profile, two-door, and sporty appearance. Some supercars are equally convertibles, and the door opens upwards. No, these are not coupes, but some people do refer to them as coupes.
Almost all supercars and sports cars are considered as luxury cars and have very expensive price tags. Car brands like Audi, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lotus, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and the like are some notable manufacturers of sporty/supercars.
If a supercar is packed with much more higher-end technologies, it is referred to as a “hypercar.” Most of this type of cars are used for racing.
6. Crossover (CUVs)
- Unique Identities: It looks like SUVs and hatchbacks at the same time, not off-road capable
- Popular Examples: Hyundai Kona, Nissan Rogue/X-Trail, Honda CRV, and Lexus RX
Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs), or simply Crossovers, are a type of motor vehicle that sits between the typical SUV characteristics and hatchback characteristics. CUVs are mostly referred to as SUVs that are not “off-road capable.” Also, CUVs are not meant to be used in hauling or towing loads as opposed to SUVs.
There are many segments of crossovers, including coupe CUVs like the BMW X6 and convertible CUVs like the Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriole convertible. When you look at crossovers from the front, they look like SUVs, and when you see the rear, they look like hatchbacks.
In fact, every car category has a crossover segment. Hence, the term “Crossover” is used for SUV-like vehicles that are not designed for off-roading or used for towing and hauling.
- Unique Identities: Tailgate hinged at the roof, rear door opens upward
- Popular Examples: Toyota Corolla hatchback, Kia Stinger, VW Golf, and Audi A7
The easiest way to spot a hatchback is that the trunk/rear door swings upwards, and the tailgate lights are hinged at the roof. Also, hatchbacks can be said to be a type of motor vehicle with a squared-off roof and flip-up hatch as the rear door.
The trunk space of hatchbacks is smaller compared to SUVs and CUVs, but bigger compared to sedans and coupes.
Most car brands have hatchback versions of their sedan models; for example, the world-famous Toyota Corolla sedan has a hatchback version and, equally, a wagon version.
Many other car manufacturers have similar lineups – hatchback versions of their famous models. When looked at from afar, most hatchbacks look like typical sedans.
- Unique Identities: Longer hatchbacks
- Popular Examples: Ford Mondeo, Volvo V60, Volkswagen Passat, and Mercedes-Benz C Class
Station Wagons, or simply wagons, are a type of sedan/saloon with a longer rear side. Wagons have a similar trunk design as hatchbacks – they open upward and have their rear lights attached to the tailgate.
Some popular station wagon vehicles include the Subaru Outback, Audi A4 Allroad, and Volvo V60. People who buy wagons typically need a sedan with bigger cargo space or large families who need a car that can contain everyone at a go.
- Unique Identities: Reconfigurable seats, multipurpose vehicles
- Popular Examples: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Dodge Grand Caravan
Vans are multipurpose vehicles used in transporting goods and humans. The most common type of vans used in transporting humans is referred to as minivans, with popular examples being the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.
Some vans are based on pickup trucks or SUV chassis but designed to be very tall, and in some cases, very long too – slightly longer than wagons.
Delivery services, hospital ambulances, special crews, media teams, and even large families use minivans or cab-over vans to commute from one place to another.
Minivans offer a ton of space for passengers, and the seats are usually highly customizable in different forms. In Asia, minivans are referred to as Asian Utility Vehicles (AUVs).
- Unique Identities: Usually tall and long, and carries more passengers than any other vehicle type
- Popular Examples: New Routemaster double-decker
Buses are equally a type of multipurpose vehicle; popular bus types include school buses, transit buses, special-purpose luxury buses, and tour buses.
Over the years, buses have evolved in design – with so many modifications to match the demanding needs of modern users. The name, Bus, is actually a shortened form of omnibus.
- Unique Identities: It looks like an elongated sedan with multiple compartments
- Popular Examples: Cadillac One, Lincoln Town Car, and Aurus Senat
A limousine, shortened as a limo, is a long vehicle with a separate driver’s compartment. Limousines are typically sedans but with more than four doors, a luxurious interior, and an intercom system for the passenger(s) to communicate with the driver(s).
Modern limousines are becoming shorter, unlike some early models like the Lincoln Town Car and Navigator models that are very long – called stretch limousines.
Basically, there are many types of cars, but these are the major categories; all other types of cars are more like a subtype of the ones listed above.
For example, some people may refer to Grand Tourers as a separate type of vehicle, but they are a subtype of sports cars.