If you’re trolling Craigslist, eBay or AutoTrader looking for a new ride, you’ve probably seen dozens of different terms used to describe used cars. I’ve bought and sold my share of used cars, so I know a thing or two about the terms and what they REALLY mean. In the interest of helping you shop for your next set of wheels, I’ve compiled a list of the most common phrases below. I hope this helps you decide between that “creampuff” Road Runner and the “no disappointments” ‘Cuda.
Low mileage - I couldn’t actually drive the car since it’s been in the shop so often.
Original owner - I’ve been trying to offload this piece of shite for years without any success.
Future collectible - I have unrealistic expectations about the cars value.
Creampuff - The interior occasionally smells like rotting dairy products, generally after it rains.
Service history included - I found the Pep Boys receipt for my last air freshener, and I think I have a few Jiffy Lube receipts somewhere.
Needs nothing - Except for a valve job, a bottom end rebuild, paint, upholstery and electrical work. See, “Future Collectible”
Has racing history - It’s been wrecked so often that there isn’t a straight panel left on the body.
Lots of upgrades - I’m trying to pass along the cost of the cold air intake, header and exhaust system that actually made the car slower.
Lowered suspension - I took three inches off the springs with a hacksaw, so you’ll hit the bump stops on anything other than glass-smooth pavement.
New tires - Well, they were new when I put them on five years ago. Ignore the dry rot and they almost look new; hey, they still hold air.
Professionally rebuilt motor - I paid an eight ball and loaned the guy my girlfriend for the night, so I can guarantee the work is top notch.
No disappointments – For me anyway, if you actually agree to pay money for this heap o’ shite.
Must see - I can’t begin to describe how rough the car really is, so you need to see it in the flesh to fully comprehend my desperation.
Clean condition - I ran it through a car wash. Once. Ten years back.
Factory certified - The sweatshop behind my house will certify that they’ve seen this thing parked in my driveway for the last five years.
Won’t last - Unless someone buys it soon, chances are good it will rust into oblivion.
Motivated seller - I’ve finally realized I won’t recover the money I spent on parts (see “Lots of upgrades”) and need to raise bail money. For my mom.
Limited edition - I pinstriped it myself and bought “Type R” badges from eBay. See, “Future collectible”.
ABS - Could mean Antilock Braking System, but probably means, ”Ain’t Buying Shit” until I unload this lemon.
PS - Could mean Power Steering, but probably means, “Piece of Shite”
PB - Could mean Power Brakes, but probably means, “Potentially Boned” if I can’t sell this dog soon.
Cold A/C - The air conditioning worked fine the last time I tested it. In 1985.
Restoration nearly complete - Except for rebuilding the motor, body work and a new interior. See “Needs nothing”.
Solid Florida car - Didn’t float away after the last hurricane, although it was under water for a few weeks. See “Creampuff”
As is, no warranty - I’ll be skipping town as soon as your cash hits my hand, so good luck tracking me down when you throw a connecting rod. At the end of my driveway.
Recent tuneup - I cleaned the mouse nest out of the air cleaner, and made sure there was oil in the crankcase.
Divorce forces sale - My wife is going to be pissed when finds out I sold her car, but that’s what she gets for banging her golf instructor.
Rust free car - The whole body is covered in Bondo an inch thick
Numbers matching car - At least two of the numbers on the cars VIN agree match numbers on the car’s engine.
Car needs little to be perfect - Little except a new motor, new wiring harness, new transmission, etc. See “Restoration nearly complete”
Clear title - I tried to use white out where it read “Salvage”
Too many upgrades to list - If I really thought about all I’ve spent on this money pit, I’d eat a bullet.
There’s no way I can cover all of the terms you’re going to encounter, so feel free to reply with any I missed. I’ll tell you what they really mean, so you can make an educated purchase decision – think of it as a public service from your truly.