Automobile Buying Terminology for Women: A Comprehensive Guide

I wrote this YEARS ago, but it still makes me chuckle.

Amortization – The breakdown of the vehicle’s purchase price into monthly payments intended to pay back both the principal and interest, although not necessarily in that order.

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) – A system to prevent brakes from locking by exerting steady and standard pressure to the wheels. Similar to a Shiatsu massage.

Book Value – The value of the automobile to a particular market (i.e. wholesale, retail) as specified in a specific guide like the Kelley Blue Book or the Black Book (no, not that black book, unless someone has conducted several test drives and wishes to rate vehicles accordingly.)

Branded Title – A title with a specific condition stated like “actual mileage unknown,” “reconditioned” or “manufacturer buyback.” Similar to the mandatory registration of a sex offender.

Broker – A “matchmaker” who, for a ridiculous fee, brings both buyer and seller together. Basically, just another unnecessary cost.

CARFAX – A report available online ( which allegedly details all of the potential problems with the vehicle; for example, flood or body damage, odometer discrepancies and whether the car has an Oedipal complex or commitment issues. This is especially useful for used cars and blind dates.

Certificate of Title – A legal document proving ownership of a vehicle, either by the registered owner and driver, lien holder, or parents of a spoiled 16-year old.

Certified Used Car – A used vehicle is “certified” when a mechanic who actually passed his “Mr. Goodwrench Car Master” weekend course does the pre-sale inspection.

Co-Signor – A third-party whose signature on the loan guarantees payment of the loan should the primary buyer default. Also, this person must really like the primary buyer or fear the buyer possesses some incriminating evidence about him to assume that degree of responsibility.

Collateral – A tangible item (in this case a vehicle) used to secure the loan. If payments are not made, see Repossession.

Collision Insurance – Insurance designed to take care of the vehicle should it be involved in a collision. Excludes ex-husbands.

Comprehensive Insurance – Insurance which covers property loss to the vehicle that is not collision-related; typically due to hail, theft, vandalism, or parking too close to the golf course’s driving range. Arson for hire is not included, so don’t even think about it. Besides, it is fairly easy to determine by competent fire investigators.

Credit Report – A comprehensive, detailed report illustrating one’s credit history to ascertain their risk of defaulting on the loan and to see if their parents taught them the value of money.

Dealer Holdback – The promised profit margin from the manufacturer to the dealer; therefore, if during the course of your haggling spiel the dealer won’t lower the price sufficiently, ask him if the price includes his holdback.

Dealer Invoice – The amount the dealer paid for the vehicle.  Assuming you can get the dealer to show you, then the actual inflation percentage can be ascertained and effectively negotiated.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV or MVD) – A state-run governmental agency which registers vehicles and issues drivers licenses, characterized by extremely long lines and disgruntled governmental employees.

Destination Charge – The cost of the dealer to get the vehicle transported to the dealership.  It is safe to assume that foreign imports will have a considerably higher charge than vehicles manufactured in Detroit.

Down Payment – A sum of money used toward the purchase of the vehicle and not included into the loan, intended to lower the monthly payments; although if one has a down payment in the first place, money probably isn’t an issue. In which case, just pay cash for the dang car.

Duplicate Title – A copy of the original title should the original be lost, stolen, eaten by the dog, or turned into an origami swan or decorative snowflake by one’s seven year old.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) – An agreement between the lessor and the lessee which allows the lessor to remove the loan payment from the lessee’s bank account every month. Just be sure that the lessor isn’t Big Tony at Brighton Beach Independent Bank and Loan Shark Company.

Extended Warranty – Another tactic by the automotive industry to get you to pay more money to cover repairs which might need attention after the standard warranty expires.

Factory-to-Consumer Rebate – Similar to the dealer rebate, but for the customer. Think of it as a personal coupon, like one you might receive in a direct mail envelope.

Factory-to-Dealer Rebate – A discount by the vehicle’s manufacturer which the dealer can choose to pass on to the customer. Just ask them for a coupon; it’s the same thing. But chances are they will not double it.

Fair Market Value – The amount one would reasonably pay for the vehicle in a legitimate, non-coercive, and realistically non-hallucinogenic drug-induced situation.

Finance Charge – The “fee” to the loan company in exchange for the loan to purchase the vehicle; often twelve times the cost of the vehicle.

Fleet Vehicle – An automobile which was purchased in bulk from a Sam’s Club-like members only car warehouse.

Guaranteed Automobile Protection (GAP) Insurance – If a total insurance loss amounts to less than what the customer owes on the vehicle, this product pays the difference. Therefore, if you really dislike the car, make sure to find an elk on the side of the road early during the loan term.  Not only will you get the vehicle paid off, your family will be well-fed for at least six months and you’ll have a nice trophy for the family room.

Lease – Unlike a purchase, the customer has the vehicle for a period of time, gets sick of it, and then trades it for a newer one. Much like a midlife crisis male.

Lemon – A vehicle with a persistent problem much like my ex-husband’s alcoholic uncle Elmer.

Lemon Check – An investigation into whether the vehicle is a load of garbage or whether it zests well and would effectively flavor a pie.

Liability Insurance – Protection for the policyholder which pays for damages to another in the case of an accident (excluding the previously-mentioned elk.)  This type of insurance typically equates to a down payment for the impending lawsuit by the other driver.

Limited Powertrain Warranty – A warranty for the “underpinnings” of the vehicle:  the drive shaft, axles, engine and transmission. But, being “limited” it basically will only repair your vehicle if a tornado transfers it to the Land of Oz.

Make – The manufacturer’s moniker like Ford, Pontiac, Ferrari, or Renault.

Model – The non-anorexic creative moniker attached to a vehicle; typically an animal or a city in Arizona.

MSRP – An acronym for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.  Assume you shop at Bloomingdale’s. The MSRP is similar to the price tag at Bloomingdale’s when you could have gotten as good a product at, oh, Sears, for a better price.

No-Haggle Pricing – In a perfect world, it would mean wearing a low-cut blouse with a few undone buttons and getting a really good deal while the salesman is distracted; however, in all actuality, it is a ploy utilized by car dealerships where the “lowest price” is already on the sticker and they hope you are gullible enough to believe it.

Odometer Rollback – This occurs when a dishonest dealer adjusts the mileage of the car so it appears to have less mileage. Kind of like the late, great Joan Rivers’ face.

Option Packages – Additional “necessities” not covered as standard equipment, like a lighted makeup mirror, CD/MP3 player with 6 speakers, additional drink holders for a Starbucks fix, gun rack, chauffeur, etc.

Private Party – Refers to the owner of a used car as a friend, family member, or other non-dealer type; however, nobody should buy a vehicle from a friend or family member under any circumstance in the first place.

Recall – A reactive “Oh shit!” once the manufacturer finds a continuing problem which affects a large group of people.  A recall is issued to all vehicle owners just prior to firing the person who caused the problem.

Repossession – When an individual fails to pay for his/her vehicle, a Dog-the-Bounty-Hunter-type shows up at 3:00 a.m. and “steals” the vehicle to be returned to the dealer.  Some folks initially believe they are subject to an “Overhaulin” prank.

Regulation Z – A requirement of the Truth in Lending Act in which the lender must disclose all credit terms to the buyer. Too bad there is no Regulation Z prior to marriage.

Salvage – If a vehicle is damaged beyond repair or becomes a total loss to an insurance company it receives a salvage title and can be legally disassembled and sold for parts at an east Los Angeles chop shop; however, if the vehicle is salvaged the chop shop wouldn’t be interested in the first place.

Standard Equipment – The basic features necessary to drive the vehicle, like tires, steering wheel, seats, motor. No, a lighted make-up mirror does not qualify as standard.  See Options Package.

Sticker (or List) Price – The base price of the vehicle plus all extras conveniently attached to the vehicle for your viewing pleasure. This is not to be confused with the lesser price written on the windshield in lipstick.

Trade-In Value – The insignificant amount of money a dealer will give in exchange for the customer’s current car during the buying process of a new one.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – A unique identifier for a vehicle, much like a fingerprint or credit card number.

Warranty – A guarantee by the manufacturer or dealer promising the vehicle will perform as specified or expected for a stated period of time. Most vehicle problems will commence the day after the warranty expires.

“I couldn’t find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself.” ~ Ferdinand Porsche

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