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What is the Difference Between Make and Model of a Car?

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Updated November 28, 2022

If you’ve ever asked yourself “What is the difference between make and model of a car?” you are certainly not alone. Car terms like these can be very confusing at first, but you’ll be able to keep them straight before long!

Make and Model of Car Part 1: What is the Make of a Car?

So what is the make of a car? Well, the “make” is like the brand name. Some non-car examples of brands would include Kraft (makers of food products like macaroni and cheese), Levi’s (makers of denim clothing and other apparel), and Chanel (makers of perfume, cosmetics, and accessories).

While automobile brands may all make essentially the same type of item- a vehicle that moves us from place to place- certain brands specialize in specific kinds of vehicles. For example, if you were to hear the names of the brands or “makes” Cadillac and Jeep, you probably envision different kinds of vehicles and customers. People who love off-roading adventures probably won’t be shopping for a Cadillac.

Some other vehicular examples of brands or “makes” would include Buick (who make the Enclave, the Encore, and the Lacrosse), Ford (who make the Fusion, the F250, and the Escape), or Subaru (who make the Forester, the Outback and the Crosstrek).

what is the make of a car

Make and Model of Car Part 2: What is the Model of a Car?

Ok, then what is the model of a car? A model is the product that the brand makes. In our car examples from before, Enclave, Fusion, and Forester are all models of automobiles.

Let’s keep using the Levi’s example and say that the brand Levi’s makes different kinds of jeans to sell in a given year. Those types of jeans might include men’s straight leg, men’s wide leg, women’s skinny jeans, women’s flare, women’s boot cut, and children’s jeans.

Each of these is essentially the same- they are pants made out of denim, and they are all made by Levi’s- but they have different features that will appeal to some customers more than others. This is very similar to how and why car manufacturers produce a variety of models. A Ford customer may not need all the interior space that the Ford Escape provides, but they might like a truck- such as the F250- to transport cargo.

what is the model of a car

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Make and Model of Car Part 3: Getting Specific

Now that you’ve gotten a good handle on the make and model of car, let’s get even more specific! For this example, we’ll be looking at the Toyota Corolla. For the year 2020, Toyota (the make) has made nine different types of Corollas (the model) that are available for purchase. So before we get into those, let’s take a look at our Levi’s jeans example to better understand the concept.

We might say that a woman has considered her interests and options and has decided to look for a pair of boot cut jeans… does that mean she could go to the store and say, “I’m looking for a pair of Levi’s boot cut jeans” and they would give her a pair right away? That’s a silly example, but we know that the store clerk would need more information.

For example, does this customer prefer dark wash or lighter jeans? Does she want these pants to have embellishments, or are they meant to get muddy? Does she want pants with a zipper and a button enclosure, or would she feel more comfortable in an elastic waistband? What size or length of pants does she wear, and would she need to try a few on to see what fit and looked the best?

Just as there are variations within a certain product model of women’s boot cut blue jeans, there are also variations within the product model of a certain kind of car.

Toyota Corolla

Now that we understand that, let’s look at the 9 different kinds of Corollas Toyota is selling in 2020. In order (from the lowest to the highest price) they are the L, LE, SE CVT, SE Nightshade Edition, SE (6MT), Hatchback, Hybrid LE, XLE, and the XSE. That’s a whole lot of letters! You’ve probably already guessed what some of these acronyms stand for (such as “Limited Edition” or “Manual Transition” or “Sports Edition”).

You’re also probably familiar with the terms “Hybrid” (meaning a vehicle that uses two or more power sources, such as an engine and a battery) and “Hatchback” (meaning the vehicle has a more spacious trunk area with a lift gate, rather than a traditional trunk lid). As you can also imagine, the more expensive the model comes with more bells and whistles (and style). For example, the XLE comes with a moonroof, heated front seats, and a touchscreen.

Some of the cars are only available in certain colors or offer a unique color option. All of these kinds of cars come with special features, and there is some overlap among them. But the body of the car is relatively the same.

You can usually recognize a Corolla out on the road because of its design, even if you don’t know which variation it is. Just like our boot cut jeans- you might not know the details, but you could tell whether they were men’s or women’s jeans, or if they were boot cut or flare.

Do you feel like you understand the difference between make and model of car? Great! Now give yourself a pat on the back for learning something new and having a greater understanding of the automobile industry!

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