Wheeler Dealer Mike Brewer explains the used car dealer jargon that’s most likely to confuse buyers

Time 9 months ago

Sometimes it feels like car dealers speak a different language – and for customers it can all get rather confusing.

With acronyms a plenty and a variety of phrases only heard in showrooms, it can all be a little confusing as to what it all means.

To celebrate the revival of the Used Car Awards for 2021 as a physical event on November 29 this year we’ve been chatting to our host and Wheeler Dealer star Mike Brewer.

In a special video, which you can watch above, Brewer picks the phrases that he often gets asked about from customers in his used car showroom.

If you think of any he missed, let him know on social media.

Here’s what he had to say…

There is a jargon in the used car dealership world which is a bit like going to the horse races and seeing the betting guys doing their hand signal system – it’s a language between them and we’re expected to guess what it means.

It can be the same when you walk into a car supermarket and being the owner of a car dealership even we’re guilty of it.

We’ll sit with staff and chat about a car in front of a customer and you’ll end up using jargon that they might not understand or haven’t heard of before. I think even car dealers aren’t aware they do it sometimes.


You’d think it would be a common one and something everyone understands, but not true. The term ‘part-ex’ basically means your part-exchange vehicle that you’re putting in as part of the deal to pay towards the cost of the new car. 


It might sound like the sort of thing you’re offered behind a nightclub but it’s nothing like that. It means Personal Contract Purchase and is a type of finance with low monthly payments and deposit which lets you hand the car back at the end of the agreement or pay off its guaranteed future value. 


No, it’s not something you put on your bacon sandwich, it means Hire Purchase. This is basically when you fund the entire amount of the car and pay it off monthly, rather than have a lump sum to find at the end like a PCP deal.


GAP Insurance doesn’t mean the space between the car and the kerb, it covers the gap between the amount an insurance company would pay out in the event of a write off and how much you owe on the finance. Cars depreciate and sometimes, if you’re unlucky to lose your car, the amount you owe on your finance may be more than the insurance company will pay out – GAP covers the difference.

Negative equity

It’s a term we use all the time and means the car’s true value is less than the amount you owe on it. If you put a car in part ex and it’s got finance outstanding on it that’s more than it’s worth, you’re in negative equity. It happens less these days, but is still a term that confuses buyers.


This is a ‘Friday afternoon car’, one that’s a bit sour and not very good. A lemon is used to describe a car that’s a bit nasty or one that was built poorly on a Friday afternoon before workers knocked off for the weekend. 

CAP clean

In the trade this is used to describe a car’s value. CAP is a pricing guide and in that a ‘CAP Clean’ price refers to a car in good condition is the best price that car could achieve in the trade.

Tyre kicker

It’s a term not only used by car dealers but in most sales environments and refers to a customer that has just turned up to look around and waste time. No one likes a ‘tyre kicker’.


This refers to a car’s maintenance history and if it’s got FSH that means Full Service History – basically all the service book is stamped up and it’s been checked over when it should have been. An ‘FSH’ is great for a car’s value and shows it’s been looked after.

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While I know I’ve only scratched the surface there, car dealers will use a whole variety of terms that maybe even they don’t realise people don’t understand.

Those are the most common ones that I get asked about by Wheeler Dealer fans and customers at my showroom and for those in the trade it’s worth remembering that not everyone understands what you’re going on about.

The Used Car Awards 2021 will be back later this year at The Brewery in London. Just a few sponsorship packages are still available. Contact [email protected] or call 020 8125 3880 for more information.

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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