Should I Buy a Coupe or a Sedan?

Mercedes C63

When buying a new car there’s no shortage of advice from friends, co-workers, or the guy at the dealership. Just about everyone will have an opinion about whether you should buy a sedan or coupe.

A coupe is typically a sportier looking car with two doors, and the back seats are either non-existent or very small. A sedan (or ‘saloon’ for our British readers) is usually a more practical car with five seats and four doors.

So should you buy a coupe or a sedan?

You should buy a coupe if you value style over practicality, and you should buy a sedan if you need extra room for regularly carrying people or things in the back.

So the sedan is the practical choice, but what’s the point of a coupe, and are coupes faster than sedans?

Coupe vs Sedan

There are several factors that differentiate a coupe from a sedan:

  • Doors: coupes tend to have 2, sedans tend to have 4
  • Seats: coupes tend to have a 2+2 setup, and sedans tend to have 5
  • Space: coupes don’t have much room in the back, whereas sedans have plenty
  • Styling: coupes have a sweeping roofline which is more appealing to most, but sedans are typically more bland

A 2+2 body style means that the car has two seats in the front, and two smaller seats in the back. The rear seats are more suitable for children, carrying luggage, or occasional use by adults. 

It’s very common for coupes to have this setup to accommodate the sloping roofline at the rear.

BMW M2
BMW M2

Sedans, on the other hand, tend to have two seats in the front and three in the back. As the roofline doesn’t slope as much, there is far more headroom and legroom for passengers in the back.

It’s also easier to access the back seats by opening the rear doors, rather than sliding the front seats forward as you would need to in a coupe.

Sedans generally have a longer wheelbase than coupes to allow room for the extra doors, but this also means they come with more room for luggage than a coupe.

Thanks to their styling and sometimes additional power, coupes are considered to be the sportier choice for drivers.

On the other hand, sedans provide the practical solution, often for the man or woman with a family to transport.

Here at The Car Investor we own a coupe and a saloon from the same manufacturer, BMW. You can see from the side-profile the sloping roofline on the coupe (BMW 840), and the longer wheelbase on the sedan (BMW M5).

BMW 840 and BMW M5
BMW 840 coupe vs BMW M5 sedan (saloon)

In our case, despite appearances the sedan has more power than the coupe as it’s the high-performance model, but it’s also worth noting that these cars are from different eras. The 840 is from 1996 and the M5 from 2007.

Whilst there are rear seats in the 840, it’s basically impossible for any adult to sit in them without contorting themselves first. There is no rear legroom at all, and it wouldn’t be practical for anyone to use the back seats on a regular basis.

BMW 840 rear seats
BMW 840 coupe rear seats

In the sedan there is plenty of room for three adults to sit in comfort, and access through the rear doors is far easier. The car is also six inches higher than the coupe, giving more headroom.

BMW M5 rear seats
BMW M5 sedan rear seats

Both of these cars have reasonable luggage space in the back as the 840 has a reasonably long wheelbase for a coupe. The M5’s wheelbase is just 8 inches longer than the 840’s.

BMW 840 and M5 cargo space
BMW 840 and M5 luggage space

These days, car manufacturers are blurring the lines between coupes and sedans by offering four-door coupes. These are essentially coupes with longer wheelbases to accommodate the extra doors, but with the stylish elements such as the sloping rear roofline retained.

What’s the Point of a Coupe?

The main point of a coupe is to look sportier and more stylish than other cars on the road. They also have a lower center of gravity and offer better handling than a sedan.

When manufacturers offer a coupe version of their car, they’re offering the buyer a completely different driving experience and appealing to a different target market.

Whilst the main benefits are aesthetic, there are several other benefits that coupes offer. Generally they have larger doors than other types of vehicle, so it’s easier for people to get in and out of the front seats.

Bentley Continental GT
Most coupes have larger doors and no B-pillar

Without the need for a B-pillar, coupes can also offer greater visibility for the driver. The B-pillar is the middle roof support found on most vehicles between the front and back passenger compartments.

Coupe models are also sometimes given options that the equivalent sedan would not have, such as a manual transmission or a sportier suspension setup.

Why Would You Buy a Coupe?

You would buy a coupe if you prioritize owning a fun and stylish car rather than a more practical mode of transport.

Owning a coupe means you seek an enjoyable experience when driving, rather than simply buying a car to get from point A to point B.

Coupe owners want something more than the bland, everyday cars you usually see on the roads. Driving a coupe makes you stand out from the crowd.

Audi TTS
Audi TTS

If you don’t have a family to drive around, a coupe can actually be quite practical. There’s room on the back seats to store luggage, and plenty of legroom in the front for you and a passenger.

It’s for this reason that coupe owners are usually either younger (before having kids) or older (once the kids have left home).

Why Should I Buy a Sedan?

You should buy a sedan if you need a car with more space and practicality than a coupe offers, but don’t want to drive a bulky SUV or crossover.

A sedan is a more practical choice than a coupe simply because of the ease of access and space that the rear seats benefit from.

They’re often more luxurious and offer a more comfortable ride than a coupe, which is why you often see celebrities and politicians being driven around in them.

Rolls Royce Ghost
A Rolls-Royce, a luxury sedan

Whilst they’re not as sporty or good looking as a coupe, most sedans are still more aesthetically pleasing than larger vehicles with the same number of seats, and handle better too.

Are 2 Door Cars Annoying?

If passengers need to get in and out of the back seats regularly then only having 2 doors will get annoying very quickly. But if it’s only you and your partner, it won’t be annoying at all.

Whether you find a 2 door car annoying or not will depend on what the vehicle is used for. 

Having owned multiple two door cars here at The Car Investor, we can speak from experience when we say that it only gets annoying when there are multiple passengers in the vehicle, which for us is quite rare.

Whilst having to move the seats back and forth to let people into the back, it’s not so much the lack of doors that cause the main issue, more that the space in the back is usually very limited.

Rear-seat passengers end up being very uncomfortable as a result.

Is a Coupe a Good First Car?

A coupe is not a good first car as there’s not much room in the back for friends, and insurance is usually more expensive.

The first thing a young driver wants to do when they’ve passed their test is to pick up their friends and go out for a drive. 

Unfortunately in a coupe it can quickly become irritating to keep having to get in and out of the car every time your friends want to get in the back.

Ford Mustang
Ford Mustang

On the other hand, if you’re not using your car to drive friends around (or you don’t have any friends!), a coupe can be a good first car for those who value looking good as the number one priority.

Having a bit of extra cash saved for the additional insurance costs and potentially higher fuel costs (depending on the type of coupe) will help too.

Is a Coupe Safer Than a Sedan?

There is no correlation between the safety of a vehicle and whether it’s a coupe or a sedan. Both types of car conform with all modern safety regulations, and neither one is safer than the other.

Coupes usually sit lower on the road so may be harder for truck drivers to spot in their mirrors, but they also have a lower center of gravity making them less likely to roll over in a crash.

Whilst both of these points are true, they don’t make any discernible difference in safety between the two types of car.

Some makes of coupe score very highly in crash safety tests, and some sedans score terribly. But the same is true vice versa.

It all depends on the type of car you buy and how well engineered it is, rather than the body type.

Are Coupes Smaller than Sedans?

Coupes tend to have shorter wheelbases and a lower ride height, making them smaller and giving less legroom and headroom than most sedans.

Typically coupes are smaller, but some modern day coupes are almost as big as their sedan counterparts. This is particularly true of four-door coupes.

Mercedes CLS
Mercedes CLS four-door coupe

One of the advantages of a coupe over a sedan is improved handling, which is largely thanks to the smaller, more nimble and more aerodynamic body shape.

Coupes tend to look sportier than sedans thanks to their smaller dimensions too.

Are Coupes Faster than Sedans?

Coupes are not necessarily faster than sedans, and many manufacturers offer the same engine options for both body types.

If one style of car ends up being heavier (usually the sedan), manufacturers have the option to include slight engine tweaks to compensate and bring the two cars onto a level playing field.

However, if you compared an average coupe with an average sedan, it’s very likely the coupe would be faster and handle better. 

This is because there are plenty of sports cars designed solely as coupes, whilst the average sedan is designed with functionality and economical driving in mind.

Porsche 911
Sports cars are often coupes, like this Porsche 911

Are Coupes Better than Sedans?

Coupes are better to look at and drive, whereas sedans are better to transport people and things.

Whether a coupe is better than a sedan is subjective and depends on the driver’s requirements of a car. 

It’s impossible to compare whether one is better than the other, so the answer is entirely dependent on how the owner will use the vehicle.

Should I Get a Coupe?

You should get a coupe if style and driving experience is more important to you than practicality and functionality.

When you’re behind the wheel of a sedan it almost feels like you should be sporting a briefcase rather than hitting an apex on a winding back road.

Audi R8
Audi R8 on a country road

Coupes are great fun, but realistically they don’t have space for a family of four.

Some people decide to buy a coupe as a second car to be used at the weekend or on special occasions. They tend to have larger cars, such as sedans, to use during the week to go to work and drive to the shops.

If you can afford to do that, then you’ll get the best of both worlds!

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