A vehicle is typically named using its make and model. Examples include Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, or Honda Civic. There’s a significant difference between both terms. It’s important to understand this when you’re shopping for, selling, or appraising a car. To help you along, we’ll explain the difference between make and model in more detail.

To start, here are the definitions you need to know:


The brand of the vehicle, such as Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan, etc. Some manufacturers have different makes or brands. Toyota is an example. It produces Scion and Lexus vehicles as well. General Motors Corp. has acquired Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet, which were once individual manufacturers, but still retain their own identities.

A make can be a parent company with other makes under its umbrella. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is one. While Fiat and Chrysler are makes of their own, FCA also manufacture’s Jeep and Dodge. Similarly, Honda owns the luxury make Acura. Depending on the make, it can be produced in its country of origin, but makes are more typically global companies that operate in many countries.


The specific vehicle model is a subset of what’s included in a brand. It narrows down the selection to a vehicle you are looking for. Examples include BMW, which has SUVs identified as X1, X2, X3, and so on up to X7. Ford’s SUVs include the Explorer and Expedition. Its sedans include the Fusion and Fiesta. You’ll often see vehicles listed as something like “2018 Ford Explorer”; the model name and year gives you the complete name of the vehicle.

Furthermore, vehicles of the same model can be broken down into trim levels. These may be differentiated by their paint color, body style, wheel design, and interior materials, but often focus on performance and luxury. There can be differences in the suspension or transmission and added features like sunroofs, heated seats, or leather upholstery. A trim level may be indicated by initials such as “L”, “S”, or “EX”. Other makes and models use fancier names; the “Sport”, “Sahara”, and “Rubicon” are trims offered for the 2020 Jeep Wrangler.

What Does Model Year Really Mean?

Most people associate model year with when the car was built. However, it doesn’t identify when the car was manufactured; instead, it’s when the vehicle is introduced to market. For example, the 2020 Honda Pilot was released in fall 2019. Vehicle designs can change drastically from one year to another and model years are often grouped into generations. Each generation typically reflects a major change in design.

How Do I Know My Vehicle’s Make and Model?

The make and model of your car can be found on the registration certificate or even on the vehicle itself. A logo, badge, or emblem on the exterior may identify it. You can also look up the vehicle identification number, or VIN, to find this information, plus the model year, where the car was manufactured, and various specifications. The VIN is a 17-digit alphanumeric code located on the driver’s side, at the base of the dashboard near the windshield.

Significance of Your Car’s Make and Model

Cost and value can differ significantly between makes and models, as well as trim levels and body styles (sedan, coupe, hatchback, SUV, minivan, truck, etc.). Different body styles may be available for the same make and even the same model. The price of different trim levels for the same model can differ by thousands of dollars, even if they’re the same body style.

Insurance rates are also affected by a vehicle’s make and model. The value of a car is used, in part, to calculate the cost of comprehensive and collision coverage. Insurers use various metrics when setting premiums. These include how often liability claims are filed by drivers with your vehicle’s model and body style. The number of safety features, vehicle age, driver age, and location are also considered in determining insurance premiums.

Visit Hawthorne Auto Square

The difference between make and model is significant in terms of how a vehicle is used and what you can afford. Body style and trim level are also important to know when shopping around. Hawthorne Auto Square has an extensive used car inventory with high-quality, low-mileage vehicles at great prices. We also offer in-house programs to help afford your vehicle of choice plus a 6-month comprehensive warranty and repair and maintenance services.

To learn more and choose from our huge selection of popular brands, visit our showroom or call 866-707-7664.