Difference Wiki

Automobile vs. Car: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on January 1, 2024
Automobile refers to any self-propelled vehicle with wheels designed primarily for road use; Car is a type of automobile, typically with four wheels, used for transportation of a small number of passengers.

Key Differences

An automobile encompasses a wide range of self-propelled vehicles used for transportation, including cars, trucks, and buses. A car, however, specifically refers to a smaller type of automobile designed primarily for passenger transport, usually seating between two to seven people.
The term automobile is more formal and encompasses a broader category of motor vehicles. On the other hand, a car is a more colloquial term that specifically refers to a smaller, passenger-oriented automobile.
When discussing the history and development of motorized transport, automobile is the more encompassing term, including all types of motor vehicles. In contrast, car specifically denotes the evolution and design of passenger vehicles.
In technical and regulatory contexts, automobile might be used to refer to any motor vehicle complying with certain standards. In everyday language, car is used more frequently to refer to a personal, passenger vehicle.
In terms of cultural significance, automobiles represent the broader impact of motorized transport on society, while cars often symbolize personal freedom, status, and individuality.

Comparison Chart


A motor vehicle with wheels, self-propelled.
A type of automobile designed for passengers.


Includes cars, buses, trucks.
Primarily passenger-focused vehicles.

Usage Context

Broader, more formal.
More specific, informal.

Passenger Capacity

Varies widely.
Typically 2-7 passengers.


Broad impact on transport and society.
Symbolizes personal freedom and status.

Automobile and Car Definitions


A machine that transports people or cargo.
The automobile industry is a major global economic force.


A motor vehicle designed to carry passengers.
The family packed their car for a road trip.


A motorized conveyance with its own engine.
Learning to drive an automobile is a rite of passage for many.


A road vehicle with an engine, four wheels, and seats.
She bought a new car for her commute to work.


A wheeled motor vehicle for transportation.
The invention of the automobile revolutionized travel.


A small, wheeled vehicle for personal transport.
His first car was a small, used sedan.


A vehicle operating on four wheels.
The museum displayed automobiles from different eras.


An automobile made for transporting individuals.
The electric car is becoming increasingly popular.


Any self-propelled vehicle moving on roads.
Early automobiles were often open-air and lacked basic features.


A vehicle for traveling on roads, typically for a few people.
He loves driving his sports car on weekends.


A self-propelled passenger vehicle that usually has four wheels and an internal-combustion engine, used for land transport. Also called motorcar.


An automobile.


A vehicle, such as a streetcar, that runs on rails
A railroad car.


Can the word car be used formally?

Yes, but automobile is more formal.

Is an SUV considered a car?

Yes, an SUV is a type of car.

Is the term automobile used globally?

Yes, though usage can vary by region.

Are racing vehicles considered cars?

Yes, many racing vehicles are specialized cars.

What's a classic example of an automobile that's not a car?

A truck or a bus is an automobile but not a car.

Are all automobiles cars?

No, automobiles include a variety of vehicles, not just cars.

Do cars always have four wheels?

Typically, yes, but there are exceptions.

Is a motorcycle an automobile?

No, motorcycles are not considered automobiles.

Do all automobiles have engines?

Traditionally, yes, but some now have electric motors.

Can an autonomous vehicle be a car?

Yes, if designed for personal transport.

Is every car an automobile?

Yes, every car is a type of automobile.

Can the term car refer to a vehicle used for goods transport?

Generally, no. Cars are primarily for passenger transport.

Is a van considered a car or an automobile?

A van is a type of automobile, often classified as a car.

Do cars have to be registered?

In most places, yes, as a legal requirement.

Are electric vehicles considered automobiles?

Yes, they fall under the category of automobiles.

Are bicycles considered automobiles?

No, they are not motorized.

Can a vehicle for one person be a car?

Rarely, as cars are typically designed for multiple people.

What is a convertible car?

A car with a retractable roof.

Do automobiles always run on gasoline?

No, they can also be diesel, electric, or hybrid.

Are terms car and automobile interchangeable in legal documents?

Not always, it depends on the specific legal context.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons