Retrotransposable elements and transposons are generally both found in most eukaryotes. These two classes of elements are usually distinguished on the basis of their differing mechanisms of transposition. However, their respective frequencies, their intragenomic dynamics and distributions, and the frequencies of their horizontal transfer from one species to another can also differ. The main objective of this review is to compare these two types of elements from a new perspective, using data provided by genome sequencing projects and relating this to the theoretical and observed dynamics. It is shown that the traditional division into two classes, based on the transposition mechanisms, becomes less obvious when other factors are taken into consideration. A great diversity in distribution and dynamics within each class is observed. In contrast, the impact on and the interactions with the genome can show striking similarities between families of the two classes.