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Guide to abbreviations in car adverts

Carlton Boyce / 28 March 2017

The most common abbreviations you’re likely to come across when browsing car ads...

Classified car ads to represent understanding the abbreviations

Navigating the minefield that is the secondhand car market is hard, but it’s made even harder by the fact that the seller often seems to be speaking a completely different language to you.

And yet, despite my misgivings about some sectors of the secondhand car trade, the sellers are generally trying to be helpful by giving you as much information as possible in a compact advertisement - and it only comes across as unhelpful if you don’t know what they’re saying!.

I do it myself, and the reason I do it is because that is the way it was done back when we all paid for classified ads in the local paper by the word: why write ‘full service history’ when ‘fsh’ conveys exactly the same information at a third of the cost? 

So, here are the most common abbreviations you are likely to come across when you’re browsing the small ads – and if you don’t think it’s comprehensive enough, why not email telling us what we’ve missed?

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Your guide to car advert abbreviations

4WD – Four-wheel drive

4x4 – Four-wheel drive

ABS – Anti-lock braking system

a/c – Air-conditioning. If an advert says ‘a/c needs recharging’ then the a/c system is probably completely and expensively broken…

ACC – Adaptive cruise control or (more rarely) automatic climate control

air – Air-conditioning (see above)

alloys – Alloy wheels

A/T – Automatic transmission/gearbox

AWD – All-wheel drive

Cat C/D – Category C or D, which means that it has been recorded as accident damaged at some point. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker but it should be a massive red flag.

CC – Cruise control

C/L – Central locking

crossover – A car that looks like a four-wheel drive but often isn’t. Very fashionable and so more expensive than the hatchback upon which it is based.

CVT – Continuously variable transmission, an inferior type of automatic gearbox that is best avoided

e/seats – Electric seats

ESP – Electronic stability programme

ESR – Electric sunroof

e/w – Electric windows

EXH – Exhaust

FDSH – Full dealer service history

FFSR – Factory fitted sunroof

FSH – Full service history

FWD – Front wheel drive

GC – Good condition. Generally attached to cars that aren’t

H/D – Heavy duty

hist – History

h/l/w/w – Headlamp wash wipe

LED – Light emitting diodes, usually referring to a type of ultra-bright headlamp

LHD – Left-hand drive

LPG – Liquid or liquefied petroleum gas, usually seen on adverts for four-wheel-drive vehicles. Can be a good thing if the LPG system has been professionally installed as it reduces the cost of running a thirsty petrol car.

LSD – Limited slip differential, often found on sporty cars

LWB – Long wheel base

miles – Mileage recorded on the odometer, the instrument that shows how far the car has travelled since it was built

MPG – Miles per gallon

MPH – Miles per hour

MPV – Multi-purpose vehicle

MY – Model year

n/s – Nearside, or the passenger’s side of the vehicle

OBD – On-board diagnostics

O/E – Original equipment

OEM – Original equipment manufacturer

offers – The potential buyer should feel free to make an offer on the car

oiro – Offers in the region of

ono – Or nearest offer

ovno – Or very near offer

o/s – Offside, or the driver’s side of the vehicle

pas – Power-assisted steering

p/ex – Part exchange

POA – Price on application. Usually the sign of an over-priced car being sold by a dealer who is hoping to be able to charge you far more than the car is really worth. (I have never answered an advert with ‘poa’ in it and never will.)

p/x – Part exchange. The seller will consider accepting a vehicle in part exchange against the car he/she is selling

r/h/r – Rear head rests

r/w/w – Rear wash wipe

RPM – Revs per minute. Refers to the engine speed

RWD – Rear wheel drive

sat-nav – Satellite navigation system

SUV – Sport utility vehicle

SWB – Short wheel base

t/glass – Tinted glass

VED – Vehicle excise duty, or road tax

VGC – Very good condition

ZED – Zero emission vehicle

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.