Car buying can be a trick experience filled with confusing terms


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A new study has found almost a quarter (24 per cent) have walked away from buying a new or used vehicle because they didn’t understand the salesperson’s terminology.

The study of 2,000 adults revealed 54 per cent don’t have a clue what a PHEV – plug-in hybrid electric vehicle – is, with 34 per cent feeling out of their depth when asked about anything other than petrol or diesel motors.

Only 24 per cent understand the term ‘brake horsepower’, while ‘fuel injection’ leaves 21 per cent of people bewildered.

While two in 10 don’t know what a salesperson means when they talk about transmission checks.

It also emerged just under six in 10 adults said a lack of understanding of such phrases leaves them with less confidence when it comes to buying a used vehicle.

The research was carried out by CarStore, which has created an online car jargon buster to help equip buyers to make informed, unpressured decisions.

Kim Costello, from Pendragon, which is behind the launch of CarStore, said: “We know that people can be intimidated by the used vehicle buying, selling and servicing process.

“There are many phrases that could leave you confused – whether that’s PCH, PHEV or even something as common as an electric vehicle – and we hope that this will allow people to understand the correct terminology of cars and give them confidence when buying, selling or servicing their vehicles.

The study also found 36 per cent think ABS stands for automatic braking system rather than the correct ‘anti-lock braking system’.

While one in 10 think PCP stands for permanent car purpose, when it actually means personal contract purchase.

Meanwhile, 32 per cent of adults admit they’ve pretended to understand terminology used by a car salesperson, so as not to appear clueless.

Of these, 57 per cent managed to get away with it but 23 per cent got caught out immediately by the expert.


1.            PCH (personal contract hire)

2.            PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle)

3.            EPS (electric power steering)

4.            PCP (personal contract purchase)

5.            A-pillar

6.            ISOFIX

7.            Range anxiety

8.            Differential

9.            HPI check

10.          Torque

11.          VIN (vehicle identification number)

12.          EV (electric vehicle)

13.          Understeer

14.          Supercharger

15.          Odometer

16.          Traction control

17.          Alternator

18.          Brake horsepower

19.          Wheelbase

20.          Catalytic converter