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Car Buying Jargon - The Full Guide

Added: 13 September 2019

Buying a car is exciting! However, sometimes it can be difficult to understand certain terms, especially if you're new to the digital car buying market.

White Dove have put together a blog post explaining the latest car buying jargon; what they mean and what this means for you as a buyer.

We hope these explanations make it easier for you to understand certain statements!


What is an estate car?

An estate car has an extended boot area behind the rear seats. Most estate cars also have rear seats that fold down, creating an even larger load area for all your gear as well as a mucky Labrador or two.


What is a hatchback car?

A Hatchback is a car with a hatch-style boot-lid, hinged on the roof of the car, so it opens upwards. The space behind the rear seats is also inside the main cabin of the car, as opposed to the separate boot of a saloon car.


How does anti-lock braking systems work?

Anti-lock braking systems (known as ABS) automatically kick in when a car’s wheels start to slip while breaking. It stops the wheels from locking up by pumping the brakes quickly, allowing the wheels to grip the road surface better while still allowing the car to be steered.


What is adaptive Cruise Control? (ACC)

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is a form of cruise control that uses sensors at the front of a car to maintain a steady speed and a constant distance from the car in front, keeping pace with the traffic. If the vehicle ahead slows down, the ACC slows your car to the same speed, maintaining a safe distance. When the vehicle in front speeds up again, the car speeds up, but only back to the speed it has been set to.


What is Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)?

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are a clever collection of systems that help drivers stay safe. ADAS have been developed to automate many of a car’s safety systems, with the aim of reducing the chances of human error, which account for over 90% of all collisions on the road.


What is car emergency breaking?

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems use cameras and radar to help cars avoid crashes, by spotting dangerous situations early and warning the driver. AEB also helps reduce the seriousness of crashes that can’t be avoided. It does this by slowing the car down to help reduce the impact of the collision and also by preparing the car’s seatbelts and other safety features for the impact.


How does a blind-spot warning system work?

A blind spot warning system uses sensors to look for other vehicles around the car – which might be in a driver’s blind spot and not covered by one of the car’s mirrors. It then warns the driver that another vehicle is in a position that could be dangerous if they decide to change lanes. The warning is usually a flashing light, perhaps in the wing mirror, or a loud beep.


How do parking assistance systems work in a car?

Parking assist systems use cameras and sensors to help a driver park a car safely. The system measures the size of a parking space while the car is moving (at a low speed). It tells the driver if the car will fit in an available gap. And, while the driver controls the speed with the accelerator and brake, it steers the vehicle into the space. Many systems can now perform this operation either for parallel parking by the side of a road, or parking in a bay at a car park.


How does traffic sign recognition work?

A traffic sign recognition (TSR) system uses the forward-facing camera fitted to a car to scan the roadside and ‘read’ traffic signs indicating the speed limit. The pictures from the camera are run through a software in the TSR system to recognise the characters and a message of the legal speed limit is then sent to a display in the driver’s instrument panel. This is permanently displayed, so the driver always knows that the speed limit is!


How does a rear parking camera work?

A rear parking camera is a wide-angle lens fitted to the rear of the car, which transmits a live image of the area directly behind the car when reverse gear is selected. The picture from the camera is usually displayed in the infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard.


What is a pedestrian detection system on a car?

A pedestrian detection system is one of the current generation of driver assistance systems that can use radar and cameras to spot potential collisions. In this case, the technology can identify the more subtle movements of pedestrians, but is more effective at slower speeds.

Pedestrian detection can’t always avoid a collision – especially if a car is driving at 30mph or faster – but the ability of the system to automatically apply the brakes can help reduce the speed enough to lessen the impact.


What is a paddleshift in a car?

Using paddleshift is a nifty way that drivers of automatic cars can manually select gears using paddles placed behind the steering wheel. In most cases, the paddle on the left is used to change down a gear, while the one on the right is used to change up (please check handbook to be sure).


What are daytime running lights?

Daytime running lights (DTR) are designed to make your vehicle more visible in bright, daytime conditions, which helps improve road safety. They are positioned on the front of a car and come on automatically when a car’s engine is started.


What are Xenon lights on a car?

Xenon lights use higher-quality light bulbs than the traditional halogen lights and emit a white light that’s more similar to daylight.


What is eCall?

eCall is a European Union initiative that is designed to help motorists who are involved in a collision. A device installed in vehicles automatically contacts an emergency call centre in the event of a serious road collision. It knows a crash has happened through impact sensors in the car and the deployment of airbags. GPS coordinates are then sent to local emergency services, who then know where to look for the crashed car.


What is AdBlue?

AdBlue is an additive for a car’s exhaust system, rather than the engine. It is stored in a special tank in the car. From there it is automatically injected in small quantities into the exhaust system, where it brakes up harmful gasses into harmless nitrogen and water.


What is PCP?

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP), is a way of financing the purchase of a car, with repayments covering the amount of money that the vehicle is expected to lose over the length of the agreement (normally three or four years).

PCP offers fixed, low, monthly payments and a number of options at the end of the agreement. You can simply hand the vehicle back with nothing else to pay and start a new PCP agreement, or purchase the car outright with a one of payment (this is called the balloon payment).


What is a Hire Purchase?

A hire purchase is one of the many ways you can now finance a new or used car. This method normally includes paying a deposit and then paying off the rest of the car with monthly payments. The loan is secured against the car, so you don’t own the vehicle until the last payment is made.


What is an HPI check and do I need one when buying a Used Car?

An HPI check – which stands for Hire Purchase Investigation – is an in-depth look at the vehicle’s history, designed to uncover anything that a buyer needs to know. For example, an HPI check will flag up whether the car is an insurance write off, or if it’s previously been reported as stolen. A HPI check will also indicate if the vehicle has outstanding finance!


What is Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance?

Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance (GAP) covers the difference between the amount you paid for your car and how much you would get from your insurance provider if the car was unfortunately stolen or written off. GAP insurance is often purchased when buying a New or Used car from a dealer and is extremely beneficial if you have taken out a loan or finance agreement. Its particularly beneficial for these circumstances as the insurer will only pay out what the car is worth at the time, so any shortfall from what you owe to your finance company will have to be paid by you if you don’t have GAP insurance.