Used car jargon defined

MATT CAMPBELL
Last updated 11:05 16/09/2013
Used car salesyard.
Fairfax NZ

GOOD AND BAD: Cutting through the used car ad lingo can help you separate the good from the bad.

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Any used car ad is generally packed with cliches and catchphrases. But what do they really mean?

If you've ever thought to yourself: "how can a 1989 Nissan Patrol be in ‘as new' condition?", you're not alone. So we're here to help.

Members of the Fairfax Media motoring team have collectively bought and sold hundreds of cars, so we reckon we've got a keen eye for detail in cutting through the spin in used car ads.

As such, we've come up with a list of some of the most common terms used - and our light-hearted yet cynical interpretations of what those terms may actually mean when translated.

"One lady owner"

What they really mean: We can't find the rego papers.

No offence, ladies, but as far as we're aware there's no evidence to suggest that all female drivers are always safer and more careful than their male counterparts. Having said that, we've never seen an ad stating "one male owner".

"Only ever driven on Sunday"

What they really mean: It doesn't always start when you turn the key...

Is that because it spent most Monday to Saturday periods at the mechanics? Or is it because it's an ex-race car? See also; "Always garaged".

"Good for its age" or "good condition"

What they really mean: This is a reeeeeeally old car.

Good by whose measurement? These types of subjective statements are open for interpretation. Slobs may think a sty is good. Persnickety owners may have an immaculate car and only describe it as good.

"Always garaged"

What they really mean: My mate's cousin has a garage and I used it once.

It may have been parked undercover at one stage. But we know of at least a few entrepreneurial sales people who've applied the always garaged moniker when the car spends most of its time soaking up sun and rain. When there's no way of checking, how would you know?

"No rust"

What they really mean: I asked the dodgy repair bloke to cover up all the orange stuff.

No rust … that you can see. Underneath that fresh coat of paint, though, it's a different story. It could have the potential to be riddled with cancer within weeks.

"As new"

What they really mean: It's got four wheels.

A new car has four wheels, and so does the car for sale. That makes it "as new", doesn't it? Inspect it closely.

"Owner moving overseas"

What they really mean: I'll halve the price.

Are they really? Ask to see their tickets. It's a fairly common excuse for sellers who just want to offload their car ASAP, usually because it's about to blow up/run out of rego/generally cost a lot of money.

"Regretful sale"

What they really mean: Crikies, I can't wait to get rid of this jalopy.

Or maybe the only thing they regret is not offloading it sooner. If the person truly regrets selling the car, we'd want them to wipe tears away when they talk about it, and be unwilling to budge more than a couple of hundred bucks on price. Otherwise, they probably can't wait to cash your cheque.

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"Selling it for my mum"

What they really mean: Mum gave me the car for my 18th birthday.

How many teenagers have borrowed their mum's car?

It could be a genuine chance for you to get a bargain car owned by a careful female driver. But who says mum isn't a hoon? Or the newfound licence holder. See also; "one lady owner".

"Never been in a crash"

What they really mean: It's been repaired after every crash.

This instantly makes us think the car has been crashed. Get a full inspection if you think it's suss - used car inspectors have clever tools - also known as magnets - that enable them to determine whether the car has evidence of body filler, which is often used by panel beaters.

"Full service history"

What they really mean: I'm pretty sure it's had an oil change.

Easy to write, not as easy to prove. Just saying the car has always been serviced is not always enough. Demand evidence, including a log-book and receipts for all work performed on the car. If you're not sure ring the workshop that worked on the car.

"Very reliable"

What they really mean: It hasn't broken down since last time.

That's good, so it made it all the way to work today without stalling? Bonus! Always check the log-books for the car's service history. See also; "full service history".

"One of its kind"

What they really mean: No one else has scraped the right hand side down a wall like that before.

Has damage that no other Corolla has ever managed to have inflicted upon it. Or the hectic paintjob and 15-inch subwoofers that my Civic has are nothing like my mate Johnny's car. He has a black base coat with metalflake pearl in the top coat, but mine has a grey primer base coat with the same top coat. The effect is completely different from a distance in the dark.

"Don't hesitate to call"

What they really mean: Please. Please….. PLEASE. Someone call!

I've been trying for months to offload this thing and no-one wants it! At the very least it'd be great to have the phone ring – even if you don't buy it.

"Negotiable" and "ONO"

What they really mean: I have no idea how much my car is worth.

These are some of the most common terms. But just how negotiable is the seller? And what will you need to offer to be the "Or Nearest Offer" winner? It all depends how much you're spending. If it's a $4000 runabout, you could get a $2500 bargain. But don't expect to get a $40,000 car for $25,000. That's not how things work.

"No tyre kickers" or "no jet pilots"

What they really mean: Unless you've got $300 jeans or sunglasses you're not getting behind the wheel.

Applies mainly to performance cars or rare models. Basically it's to ward off the enthusiasts who have no intention of buying but can't wait to get behind the wheel. Applies mostly to performance cars or rare cars.

"Has been a fantastic family car"

What they really mean: … but now it's buggered.

Expect to find traces of kids' lunches wedged between the seats, marks on the upholstery that can never be removed and a few dings and scratches in the paintwork.

"New tyres"

What they really mean: The rest of the car looks like it's been dragged through a creekbed, but check out the new rubber.

OK, so it's important to check the tyres on the car you're looking at are in a roadworthy state, but you also want to make sure those brand new Hankooks haven't been fitted because the last set has done the Bathurst 1000.

-Fairfax News Australia

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