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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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