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Types of Cars: Car Body Styles Explained with Pictures

Types of Cars: Car Body Styles Explained with Pictures

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or deciding on your next ride, you’re wondering about what types of cars exist in the world. The earliest account of the first car ever made was 1885 or 1886. Over a century later, cars have made remarkable progress. Since cars are one of the most important inventions of all time, let’s find out all about them.

As you read the full article below, you will learn about popular types of vehicles, a little history, and the best car for you.

What Are Different Types of Cars and How Are Automobiles Classified?

This list of car types is by no means exhaustive, but it includes the most common ways to classify a car. Keep in mind a car is not exclusive to one vehicle category.

The more you understand car classifications, the better you’ll understand the industry as a whole and which car types or models are best for you.

Here are the most common car classifications:

By body Styles

Cars are assembled, designed, and configured differently, resulting in various driving experiences. Automobiles' body styles and the purpose of cars go hand in hand.

For instance, a coupe and a hatchback have entirely different capabilities.

By Size

Automobile size alone isn’t enough to decide which vehicle to buy, but you should consider it. As you explore this overview, you might find some car sizes impressive and others downright comical.

By Purpose

Each car model was built or customized for a specific reason. For instance, some cars are made for racing while others haul a dozen people.

Some cars people will never drive because their purpose is so out of range of their lifestyle.

By Price range

All cars fit on a scale of affordability. There are varying automobile classifications for every budget out there. Whether someone has a strict or bountiful budget, manufacturers make cars with them in mind.

By Engine and Fuel

As conversations about climate change, renewable energy, and the environment become prevalent, this category is expanding right before our eyes. Every car manufacturer has implemented a green initiative to reduce emissions and push the boundaries of automobile innovation.

By Performance

Some cars are made purely for speed, handling, and appearance. Car manufacturers were not always the innovators of performance cars and got ideas from the average street racer.


sedan car

Sedans are classic family cars. this type of car has four doors, comes in several sizes, and includes a three-box configuration. A three-box configuration means the engine, cabin, and cargo have separate sections. It’s a unilateral body, which helps fuel economy because sedans have an even weight distribution. The Honda Civic is a type of sedan.


coupe car

Traditionally, a coupe is considered a sporty two-door car with minimal cabin and cargo room. This vehicle’s appeal is the sleek look and performance it offers to drivers. Some vehicle manufacturers consider their four-door cars coupes because of their sloping roofline. Still, this definition is not widely accepted amongst car enthusiasts. Coupes are best suited for childless singles and couples. The Audi A5 is a type of coupe.

Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV)

suv car

Whether you’re venturing off-road or need extra cabin and cargo space, SUVs will tick both boxes. An SUV has a high ground clearance and seating height. The boxy, body-on-frame design allows SUVs to resist twisting under torque, making handling consistent and predictable on uneven terrain. The Toyota Highlander is a type of SUV.


cuv car

The CUV, also known as the crossover or compact utility vehicle, will give you the spacious interior of an SUV and the handling of a car you’re looking for. Even though CUVs are unibody like a car, their ground clearance is higher, which is excellent for visibility. You will enjoy a better fuel economy than an SUV as well. The Mazda CX-5 is a type of CUV.


hatchback car

Think of hatchbacks as a level of cars between sedans and CUVs. It’s taller than a sedan with a more spacious cargo, but the cabin isn’t as big as a CUV. The hatchback is known as a 3-door or 5-door car because of its hatch door that swings up to expose the cargo area. Why not just get a CUV? A hatchback is sportier than a crossover because of its low center of gravity, has a budget-friendly price tag, and is easy maintenance. The Kia Rio is a type of hatchback.

Station Wagon

station wagon car

Think of a station wagon, also known as an estate car, as a hatchback with a more extended cargo area. A station wagon rides like a sedan and has the chassis of one but also has ample cargo room. This type of car has a versatile interior allowing you to fold seating up and down as you need. The Volvo V60 is a type of station wagon.


convertible car

A convertible’s winning feature is its retractable roof. The roof is available as a hard-top or soft-top. Their interiors are often two-seaters. If you’re single or in a couple without kids, a stylish convertible could be the car for you.

Pickup Truck or Ute

pick up truck

If you need a workhorse, look no further than a pickup truck, called a ute in Australia and New Zealand. A pickup truck cabin seats two to six people and has an open cargo area called a bed. Trucks are built with capability in mind. These vehicles can handle rugged terrain while hauling and towing heavy loads as often as you need to. Pickup trucks are light-duty or heavy-duty. The Ford F-Series is a famous fleet of popular trucks.


van car

These big boxy vehicles are for hauling numerous people or cargo. There is an open area in the back instead of a trunk, and they can carry 20 people or 4,000 lbs of cargo. Vans are used for families, as shuttles, and commercially.

How Are Cars Classified by Size?


microcar car

Microcars are the smallest size cars obtainable. These vehicles have not caught on in popularity in the USA, but other areas of the globe such as Japan and Europe love them. These cars have 1-liter engines, seat two people, and have three or four wheels.

Subcompact and Compact

compact car

Subcompact and compact cars provide the basics for drivers. Even when these vehicles are brand new, they are affordable for most drivers. These types of cars cabin and cargo area aren’t exceptionally roomy, but these cars are great for city parking and their fuel economy. Subcompact and compact cars are a great go-to for single, city-dwelling commuters.

Midsize and Fullsize Cars

midsize car

Midsize cars are middle of the road, meaning not too small and not too big. Fullsize cars are the largest sedan you can get. Midsize and fullsize describe sports utility vehicles too.

Extended Length Automobiles

extended length suv

This size descriptor is reserved for SUVs and pickup truck beds. These types of cars offer the maximum amount of space for a driver’s daily routine.

How Are Cars Classified by Purpose?

Family Cars

family car

No family is a monolith, but the automotive industry typically caters to adults who are the caretakers of kids when manufacturers say “family”. With that in mind, any car with ample space for a growing family is considered a family car. Minivans, SUVs, and full-size sedans are vehicles specially made with families in mind. This type of car come with infotainment systems, a multitude of compartments, several rows of seating, and more.

Racing Automobiles

racing car

Race cars are for competing. These vehicles have powerful engines, exceptional handling, and striking good looks. This type of cars are not for the average driver, which explains their high price tag - think $40,000 for the engine alone. You need to take classes to handle race cars properly.

Commercial Vehicles

commercial car

A commercial vehicle is for helping people do business, meaning a person or company receives money to transport goods or people. Thanks to rideshare and delivery services, the average person can use their car as a commercial vehicle. Cargo and passenger vans, pickup trucks, and box trucks are commercial vehicles used for heavy-duty purposes and can be customized as you wish.

Concept Automobiles

concept car

These types of cars are an idea brought to life but not yet produced on a massive scale. The car manufacturer will reveal it to the public to gauge reactions. They decide if the automobile prototype will go forward with production, continue improvements, or nix the plan. These vehicles are radically unconventional in technology, design, and utility.

Show car

show car

Any car with awesome customization is rare, or is super unique can be a show car. It is not driven but displayed. For example, a fan of the first-generation Ford Mustang could buy one and store it or display it in car shows.

Exotic Cars

exotic car

Exotic cars are unmatched in performance, comfort, and wild looks. This type of car is in limited supply, costs $100,000 and up, and is astronomically high maintenance. Maintenance service and parts of these types of cars cost $8,000, and that’s on the low end. Ferrari and Lamborghini are types of exotic cars.

Off-roader Vehicles

off road car

An off-road vehicle is the best type of car to drive on unpaved terrain thanks to its tires, 4x4 drivetrain, and exceptional suspension system. These automobiles have plenty of capability to comfortably carry you on muddy, rocky, and steep terrain.


stretch limousine car

For opulence, order a limousine or limo. They are stretch cars with a partition between the chauffeur and passengers. Limos have a bunch of features that provide ultimate luxuries, such as refreshments, upholstered leather seats, and a high-quality stereo system.

Military Vehicles

military car

A military vehicle is built for battle with layers of armor. This type of vehicles are capable of withstanding explosions and bullets while transporting soldiers and cargo. These vehicles are stocked with armaments to defend soldiers when attacked by combatants.

How Are Cars Classified by Price Range?

Luxury Cars

luxury car

Cars with high-end features, creature comforts, the latest technology, and the smoothest ride are luxury cars. The interior of a luxury vehicle is decked out in various types of lavish materials such as suede and leather. You’ll love the heated seats and 4-way lumbar support providing optimal comfort. High-income people drive luxury cars. There is usually a higher insurance premium for luxury cars because they are expensive to repair and replace.

Economy Automobiles

economy car

Economy cars are affordable for many. Up-front and maintenance prices make these cars easy on the budget. This type of cars don’t always have all the bells and whistles, but it will get you from “A” to “B” with no problem. Used and certified pre-owned cars are great economy cars too. Used cars are vehicles that aren’t fresh off the lot. Certified pre-owned means the car is used but comes with benefits like a warranty.

How Are Cars Classified by Engine And Fuel?

Natural Gas Automobiles

Natural Gas cars are becoming more popular as the green energy movement gains traction in the United States. Natural gas is an abundant fuel source and burns clean, unlike gasoline engines.

Diesel Cars

Diesel cars use an internal combustion engine fueled by diesel, a thicker fuel than gasoline. Instead of using a spark like gasoline engines, diesel engines compress air until it’s hot and inject fuel to cause combustion. Diesel engines were built for work, so they are usually in heavy-duty vehicles.

Curious about the difference between gasoline and diesel engines? Read our gasoline vs. diesel engines comparison.

Ethanol Vehicles

Ethanol is flammable alcohol made from the fermentation of grains. Even though people believed ethanol was better for the environment than gas, experts debate about it still. Flex-fuel cars use a fuel blend of gasoline and ethanol up to 85%.

Electric Cars

Instead of converting chemical energy into mechanical energy, electric vehicles convert electricity to mechanical energy via a motor. Electric cars have been gaining favor with manufacturers because the supply of fossil fuels is running out. Plus, this type of vehicles runs on clean, green energy.

Hybrid Automobiles

An electrical motor, internal combustion engine, and regenerative braking powers hybrid cars. This type of car is another alternative for drivers who want a vehicle that reduces their carbon footprint. Some hybrid automobiles are plug-ins, and some are not.

Fuel cell Vehicles

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) convert hydrogen into electricity, which converts into mechanical energy. Instead of fumes, this type of cars release water vapor, which is better for the environment.

How Are Cars Classified by Performance?

Sport Cars

sports car

A sports car is usually a coupe or convertible with two seats and a cool look. These vehicles are expensive and have a six-cylinder, turbocharged engine to produce all the power needed from a high-performance vehicle. Sports cars have superior handling as well, making them excellent in curves.

Muscle Automobiles

muscle car

Massive V-8 engines power muscle cars. Muscle cars are high-performance American cars with beefy bodies and are affordable for everyday people. This type of car was designed for drag racing. A Chevy Camero is a type of muscle car.

Roadster and Spyder Cars

spyder car

Both types of cars are types of convertibles. These vehicles origins come from the horse and buggy era. A roadster from back then was a horse and buggy that could travel on city roads. A spyder or “spider” was a buggy with a small carriage for two and enormous wheels, resembling the outline of a spider.

Hot Rod Cars

hot rod

Hot rod cars are roadsters from the early 1900s that were modified to drive faster. This type of vehicles had huge car engines that were sometimes visible. Hot rod cars are not made anymore, but they still have a thriving culture behind them.

Dragster Vehicles

dragster car

A dragster is a kind of racecar. This type of car uses a centrifugal clutch instead of an automatic or manual. Dragsters were first built in the 1960s and modified with front-engine rails. As you can imagine, there is no space for cargo.

Looking for high-quality car insurance at a price that doesn’t make your wallet weep? Reach out to Insurance Navy and find out how you could start saving on cheap car insurance premiums today.

Call us at 888-949-6289 or request a quote online. Representatives are also happy to assist you in person at one of our many locations.

Updated: December 2023

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