Car Buyer’s Dictionary – Handy Motoring Jargon Buster!

When you’re buying a second-hand car, it can often get a little confusing. There are so many car and motoring terms to get to grips with! 

We know the feeling of being slightly lost amongst all the technical motoring jargon when all you really want to do is get a reliable second-hand car that won’t let you down. 

That’s why we’ve put together our very own car buyer’s dictionary, or motoring jargon buster, so you’ll never feel lost again!

A

APR 

This is your Annual Percentage Rate. It’s the amount charged every year for your loan, in the form of borrowing fees and interest.  

C

City car 

Nothing too complicated here – this is a car designed mainly for use in the city. (Also known as a microcar.) 

Company car

A car for the use of employees that is bought / provided by their company.

Contract hire

A way to lease a new car or a quality used car by paying a monthly amount over a set period of time. (This is sometimes knowns simply as “leasing”).

Convertible

A car with a fold-down roof for when the weather is fine! (Also called a cabriolet.)

Coupe

A sporty style of car with only two doors and a fixed roof that is low and sloping. (Although some coupes now have four doors and five seats instead of the traditional two.)

CC (body style)

Short for coupe-convertible – a combination of a coupe and a convertible with a fold-down roof.

Crossover

A car that crosses over the categories and comes halfway between an SUV (sports utility vehicle) on the one hand and a classic family hatchback on the other.

D

Dealership

The motoring world’s equivalent to a shop – a dealership is where you go to actually buy your car and sometimes for your maintenance too.

E

Estate 

A car with good storage behind the back seats and a back door for easy access. (Known as a station wagon in the US.) 

EV (electric vehicle)

You’ve guessed it… a vehicle that is electric! No on-board power generation here, just charge up and go.

Ex-demo

An ex-demonstration car that will have been used by the dealership for selling and test-drives. You’ll often find them at a reduced price after a couple of month’s use.

F

Fastback

A term for a car with a sloping rear that reaches all the way down to the back bumper. Can apply to both two and four-door cars.

G

GAP insurance 

This stands for Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance. If you’re in an accident and write off the car, this is a type of insurance that covers the gap between what you still owe for your car on your finance scheme and what the insurance company will pay out. 

 H

Hatchback

A car that literally has a hatch at the back so you can easily get into the boot. 

HPI

A company that checks the history of vehicles registered in the UK. An HPI vehicle history check will tell you about whether a car has been stolen before, whether there’s outstanding finance and so on.

Hybrid

A nifty car that combines a traditional petrol engine with an electric motor. 

I

Insurance group

Car insurance is divided into 50 different groups for different types of car. The higher groups have higher premiums.

L

Lease

If you lease your car, you usually pay a certain amount of money towards it per month for a set period of time. (It’s also sometimes referred to as contract hire.)

M

Micro car

Not literally a microscopic car, but a small car that’s made mainly for driving in cities. (Also known as a city car.)

MPV

This stands for multi-purpose vehicle and is used to describe cars with more than five seats and lots of interior space. (They’re also known as people carriers.) 

Mini-MPV

A smaller version of an MPV.

P

PCP

This stands for Personal Contract Purchase. It’s when you pay less for your car each month and then at the end of the contract either: pay off the final amount, return the car or use the remaining amount as a deposit for a new car.

PHEV 

This is short for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. See entry for Plug-in hybrid below.

Plug-in hybrid

A hybrid vehicle that can be charged up either by being plugged in to an electricity supply or from the car’s engine. 

Pre-reg

A car that has been pre-registered. In other words, a new car that has been registered at the dealership and only has delivery mileage. 

R

Range-extender

Think of a plug-in hybrid; range extender vehicles are similar but they work by using the engine to charge the batteries only when they go flat. Hence they extend the vehicle’s range.

Roadster

A nice sporty, open-top, two-seater car.

S

Saloon

Traditionally, a style of car with a closed boot section separate from the passenger section. In practice, today, it’s usually used to refer to a car where the lid of the boot is hinged beneath the back window. (Also known as a sedan in the US.)

Spec/specification

The term for all the technical details of the car.

Station wagon

US English term for estate. (See entry for “estate”)

Supermini

A car style that comes somewhere in size between a city car and a traditional hatchback. Superminis are small but quite powerful.

SUV 

This is short for Sports Utility Vehicle. These cars are often referred to as 4×4’s. They are large, have high ground clearance, off-road capability and sporty handling.

T

Tourer/Touring

Traditionally, a car without a fixed roof made for long distance motor touring. Now, it is used to refer to touring cars that race or as an alternative to the term “estate car”.

Trim level

The specifications that refer to what you get inside the car. There are often many options, from the standard to the more high-tech or luxurious. (Also known as trim package.)

W

Warranty

When a manufacturer will repair or replace car parts that wear out within a given period, say, two or three years after purchase. Often it’ll be completely free of charge. 

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