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What is the Difference Between a Coupe and a Sedan?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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Many definitions define the coupe as a two- or three-door model, while a sedan almost always has four doors. Actually there are four-door coupes, and two-door sedans, so the differences between a coupe and a sedan automobile may not always be quite clear. In reality, a coupe is strictly defined by its interior volume or space.

The real distinction between a coupe and a sedan has little to do with doors and are made clear by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which standardizes definitions of the different types of cars on the market. Measurements of these cars are as follows:

  • A coupe has an interior space of less than 33 cubic feet (0.934 cubic m).
  • A sedan has an interior that is equal to or greater than 33 cubic feet (0.934 cubic m).

As a result, volume alone is the real difference. A two-door car with a large interior space is essentially a two-door sedan. Likewise, a four-door car with a small volume is a four-door coupe.

Nevertheless, many manufacturers call a car a coupe when they want to evoke a sportier concept for it. The term may even be part of the name, even though technically, the buyer is really getting a sedan. The Cadillac Coupe de Ville is a classic example of what is really a two-door sedan. It can be difficult for most people to determine what the car really is when the word "coupe" is added to the name.

Some people mistakenly think a coupe and a sedan are differentiated by whether the car has a hatchback. While it is true that many coupes have these rear openings, and are sometimes referred to as a three-door car, not all do. Some have a traditional trunk. Further, there are four-door coupes and four-door sedans with a hatchback, which are more properly called station wagons.

It is also not true that these cars can be distinguished by counting the number of seats. Some people define coupes as having merely front seats, and possibly a removable back seat. Actually, coupes can have two rows of seats or one. In contrast, the sedan always has two rows of seats, but the distinction between a coupe and a sedan can’t be made here because of the variation of rows of seats in the coupe.

The best bet is for people who want to know the difference to stick with the car’s interior volume, rather than worrying about what the car is named. When choosing a car, most consumers find that it doesn't really matter little what it is called. Usually what does matter is the car’s performance, space for passengers, and ease of use.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WikiMotors contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon993113 — On Oct 23, 2015

Chicks usually dig coupes more then sedans! So if you are single or want to pick up chicks; you need to go with a coupe! Sedans represent family vehicle and is usually more practical. Chicks don't like guys that are practical! They like bad boys.

By anon989515 — On Mar 10, 2015

The little deuce coupe had neither hard top or rear seat. I reckon it would have to be one of the earliest coupes.

By anon975111 — On Oct 24, 2014

Some people. What does your ability to measure the back seat (not the whole car like some on here are going on about) have to do with the "official" definition of a coupe? 33 cubic inches or less is a coupe -- more is a sedan. Standards are there for a reason, just like marketing is there for a reason. I see marketing has won again (sad, really).

By anon954677 — On Jun 03, 2014

Coupes and sedans are different types of automobile body shapes. A sedan is a car with a back seat, where the back seats have more or less the same room as the front seats. Also, it has a separate trunk. A coupe has no back seat or a smaller cramped passenger area and no separate trunk.

By anon301867 — On Nov 06, 2012

If there is a column behind the front doors, it is a sedan. If there is no column behind the front doors, it is a coupe. It's that simple.

By anon267642 — On May 10, 2012

So how would you describe a two-door sedan?

By anon220181 — On Oct 06, 2011

Interesting. I'm not sure whether the cubic feet thing is a great definition as it's a bit hard for the average person to measure this.

I think the pillarless door definition is better but would like to add that a coupe must have a 'boot' like a sedan. If it has a hatchback rear end then it's called a 'liftback' which I guess is a cross between a coupe and a hatchback.

i have owned 'liftbacks' with and without pillars and I have also owned coupes (which have been pillarless) and there is a fair difference between the two body styles.

By anon189108 — On Jun 22, 2011

The Beetle (Fusca, in Brazil) was called a sedan. It wasn't a coupe?

By anon186377 — On Jun 15, 2011

If a car has a hard roof, and two doors designed for human entry/exit, it's a coupe. If it has a hatchback, it's still a coupe.

If a car has a hard roof, and four doors designed for human entry/exit, it's a sedan. If it has a hatchback, it's still a sedan/wagon.

The MS3 is a sedan/wagon. The GTI comes in coupe and sedan/wagon forms. The Mustang is a coupe.

By anon147047 — On Jan 28, 2011

Many of the 60-70's GM four-door hardtop cars where called Sport Sedans. Those first few years of the Tempest and Cutlass models were called coupes and were post model cars.

With a post, they called them coupes. Those without the post they called Sport Coupes. Interesting info on interior space being the reason for coupe vs sedan title. Been dealing with parts on these cars for 18 years and had never read that before. lol

By divyankar — On Oct 21, 2010

Comment 7 is absolutely right. That thing is called pillar less. Four door pillar less is considered a coupe. best example is Audi's A7.

By anon76709 — On Apr 11, 2010

Comments 7 and 8 are wrong. If a center post is present only determines if a car is a "hardtop" or not. If no post, it's a hardtop (unless it's a convertible; if a post is present it's not a hardtop.

With regards to the difference between a "coupe" and "sedan", that is defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE); a coupe is defined as having less than 33 cu ft. of interior volume, while a sedan has equal to or greater than 33 cu. ft. interior volume.

For example, the 1968 4-door Impala with no center post was referred to by Chevrolet as a sedan. Although the car was a "hardtop", it was defined as a sedan due to the size of it's interior volume. This is shown by Chevrolet literature of the period.

By anon64505 — On Feb 07, 2010

I agree with comment number 7. If you roll down the windows on a hardtop and there is no post, like on a convertible, it is a coupe. Number of doors does not matter. There can be two or four door coupes or sedans.

By anon63586 — On Feb 02, 2010

My uncle ran a body shop for 40 years. He said if you roll down both windows on one side of the car and there is no post that was dividing them, it is a coupe. If there is a post, its a sedan. A '65 Buick Electra 4-door is actually a coupe, although its a very large car.

By anon59784 — On Jan 10, 2010

are you saying that any car less than 33 feet in volume is a coupe? maybe it is but you can't go around measuring a car's volume can you? is an escort rs turbo a coupe?

By anon54586 — On Dec 01, 2009

Coupe has something to do with sportier look. Tana Nano, a coupe! damn it.

By anon44152 — On Sep 05, 2009

The tata nano is a stupid dump small hatchback car. it is not a coupe.

By anon38057 — On Jul 23, 2009

is every car having space less than 33 cubic feet called coupe??? you mean TATA "NANO" is coupe.....

By lil_moon — On Jul 10, 2009

How interesting - I always thought it was just the two door/four door difference. I've never heard the seat definition before.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WikiMotors contributor, Tricia...
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