Beginner’s Guide to Car Lingo

There’s a specific lingo that’s part of the automotive industry, and without the necessary knowledge, you could find yourself fumbling your way through a conversation with a car salesman whilst being totally unaware of what they’re on about. Do you know your horsepower from your miles per gallon? Our handy beginner’s guide to car lingo will have you sorted in no time.

Miles per Gallon

Also known as MPG, this is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a new car, and basically refers to how economic your vehicle is when it comes to fuel – or how many miles you will be able to get out of a gallon of fuel. From diesel vans to petrol cars, all vehicles have their own MPG statistics, so it’s important to see how economical your vehicle is before you make that purchase. You’ll often find new diesel cars give you more MPG than petrol models.


A vehicle’s 0-60 is just as it sounds; how long it takes to get from 0-60mph on the speedometer. You’ll usually find sports cars can accelerate to 60mph in just a few seconds, whilst a people-carrier or heavier vehicle takes longer. Bear in mind that these figures are generated under test conditions, although it’s handy to know this figure to assess how fast your new car will be able to accelerate on the motorway!

Safety Ratings

Safety ratings are all about how safe your car is – it will have been tested in wreck conditions for a number of safety features, and you can usually find out more about how safe a specific model is by researching online or asking your dealer.


It’s actually nothing to do with horses – this refers to your engine’s output. One horsepower is what is required in order to lift 550 pounds a foot off the ground in one second. This can be affected by vehicle aerodynamics, weight, gearing etc., so there’s no magic number to search for.

Classic Cars

You might be wondering what constitutes a ‘classic car’? It’s generally defined as a car manufactured more than 25 years ago – although in the UK and US the definition varies slightly.

Pony Cars

Originally, pony cars were the Ford Mustang and any other four-seater sports cars with a long bonnet and short trunk. Pony cars are most often referred to when buying a car in the American market.

Trailer Queen

If you own a classic car or attend classic car shows, you may hear this term, and it means the vehicle has been driven sparingly, so is mostly towed by trailer to shows and other events.


If your car dealer keeps referring to MSRP, that’s the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (sort of like RRP) – you might also hear this referred to as ‘sticker price’, which is the price you’ll see on the car in the showroom. Checking out a car’s MSRP beforehand will ensure you don’t get taken for a ride!


You’ve heard of manuals and automatics, but a manumatic? This is generally an automatic car which has a separate mode for changing gears that can be operated by the driver.

CVT Automatic

So what’s a CVT automatic? This is a continuously variable transmission – but what does that even mean? It means you won’t notice gear changes as in a traditional automatic vehicle, as the car makes tiny, imperceptible shifts according to the load, throttle position etc.
Now you’re up to date on some basic (and not so basic) car lingo, you’re ready to start shopping for that dream car!