You'll likely hear the phrase "make and model" when you're shopping for a car or getting auto insurance. And while those details might not seem that important, they can actually have a big impact on your lifestyle and finances.

Many types of products have makes and models, from refrigerators (like the Samsung RF27T5501SG or LG LRMVC2306D) to smartphones (like the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy).

Similarly, vehicles have their own makes and models, such as the Ford F-150, Honda Civic or Nissan Rogue. These are all examples of car makes and models, and the differences between them are important. Read on to find out why.

Key Highlights
  • A car’s make and model are two key pieces of information for drivers and insurers.
  • The make usually refers to the vehicle manufacturer (though not always).
  • The model refers to the specific vehicle product under a particular make.
  • There are several ways you can find out your vehicle’s make and model.
  • A vehicle’s make and model can have a big impact on how much you pay for car insurance.

What is the difference between vehicle make and model?

The terms “make” and “model” are similar, but they’re not the same thing. And it’s important to understand the difference when you're car shopping and shopping for car insurance.

What is the make of a car?

Generally, the “make” of a car is the same as the manufacturer. An easy way to remember this? It’s the company that makes the vehicle. Some examples of makes (or manufacturers) are Honda, Toyota, Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, Mazda, Tesla, etc.

What is the model of a car?

The model is the specific vehicle type under the make, explained John Williams, an agent with Farmers Insurance in Colleyville, Texas. For example, he said, if you have a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the make is Jeep and the model is Grand Cherokee. Or if you have a Honda Civic, the make is Honda and the model is Civic.

Keep in mind that the model can have different trim levels. The base model is usually the version with the fewest number of features.

Take the Dodge Challenger -- Dodge is the make and Challenger is the model. However, the Challenger comes in several trims, including the SXT, GT, RT, SRT and more. All of these trims come with specific features and varying price points, making each one a separate model under the Challenger brand.

What is the make and model of my car?

If you aren’t sure what your vehicle’s exact make and model are, there are a few ways to find out.

The easiest is to check out the front hood/grille and trunk or rear liftgate for logos or badges that indicate the make and model. Sometimes, the trim level is also emblemized on the rear part of the car.

However, you may not always be able to find this information on the exterior of the car, especially if you have an older vehicle.

You can also try looking at your vehicle registration or insurance card for the make and model.

“A more sophisticated way is to use a VIN look-up feature, such as through Carfax,” said David Andrius, founder of 411oncars.com.

A vehicle identification number, or VIN, is a unique 17-digit code that’s given to every car sold in the U.S. And each one provides details about the vehicle, including where it was manufactured, the make, model, year and more. Your car’s VIN can usually be found on a sticker at the base of your windshield or inside the door jamb on the driver’s side.

Can cars with the same make and model be different?

The short answer: Yes. “You can have different trims within the same model,” Andrius said.

For instance, he explained, Cadillac XT4 has a premium, premium luxury and sports trim. Additionally, each of the models and trims can have different standard features and customization options, allowing each car to have different functionalities and features such as heated seats, driver-assist packages, 360 cameras, etc.

Is the vehicle make the same as the vehicle manufacturer?

Usually, a car’s make is the same as the manufacturer. However, there are some instances when this isn’t the case. Sometimes a car manufacturer will produce different “brands” under the parent company.

For instance, Infinite is a car make, but it’s actually manufactured by Nissan Motor Co. (just like Nissan is made by Nissan Motor Co.). The same is true of the make Lexus, which is a luxury brand under the manufacturer Honda. Or General Motors, which owns the makes GMC, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Buick.

Why do make and model matter?

You might be wondering why these details matter. After all, all cars get you from Point A to Point B. But a car's make and model are important for a couple of reasons:

Differentiate price point and features

Make and model are important for distinguishing a certain vehicle’s price and characteristics. Using Chevrolet as an example, say you want an entry-level car. You could get a vehicle like the Chevy Spark.

However, if you want a step-up in size and amenities, you could look into the Chevy Malibu. Or if you prefer a sports car, you could opt for the Camaro. “Each model within the brand/make can be a step up or step down, and this all affects price point,” Andrius said.

Impact auto insurance rates

The make and model of a vehicle also dictate how much (or little) you’ll pay for auto insurance. “It generally costs more to insure a Mercedes-Benz than it does to insure a Honda Accord,” Williams said. This has a lot to do with the differing car values, repair costs and frequency and severity of claims for any given make and model.

“There can also be big differences in crash test results and safety ratings from different models from the same make,” Williams added. When your insurance company runs your VIN to help determine the premium amount, it takes into account the make, model and trim level, he noted.

An EX might look the same or almost identical to you as an LX, but they are different in some way, whether it's equipment or amenities. To an insurer, they are different vehicles with different claims records. You could pay hundreds more to insure the same make/model, but with the different body style and trim levels.

How do make and model affect car insurance costs?

Car make affects car insurance costs, but the car model is what really sets the costs apart.

As you’ll see in the table below, insurance costs for vehicles of the same make can vary greatly depending on the model.

Take Chevrolet, for example. The Chevy Express insurance rate national average $1,399 per year but the Camaro is $1,881 per year. The Mercedes variance is even larger with the GLA250 national average at $1,730 and the S63 AMG at around $3,603 per year.

Make & Model with its Car Insurance Costs
MakeModelNational Average Rate
HondaCivic$1,616
HondaCR-V$1,352
Mazda3$1,650
MazdaCX-30$1,667
ChevroletExpress$1,399
ChevroletCamaro$1,881
DodgeJourney$1,511
DodgeChallenger$2,458
FordEscape$1,439
FordBronco$1,759
JeepCompass$1,364
JeepCherokee$1,644
MercedesGLA250$1,730
MercedesS63 AMG$3,603
NissanAltima$1,799
NissanGT-R$3,706
SubaruAscent$1,495
SubaruWRX$1,920
TeslaModel 3$2,257
TeslaModel S$3,908
ToyotaCorolla$1,634
ToyotaGR Supra$2,016

Car make and model: They're more than labels

Sure, you might want a particular make and model because you'll feel cool in it or because it goes fast or sounds superb. But the car make and model you choose will affect your bank account and we're not just talking about a car payment.

Your insurance rates will be affected by the make and model you choose, even down to the trim package you select. If you've got certain features that are must-haves in a vehicle and a budget for car insurance, don't forget to consider those while car shopping.

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