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Know Your Prereg From Your Mpg Car Jargon Explained

Know your pre-reg from your MPG - car jargon explained

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Buying a car can be a daunting thing if you don’t know what you’re doing. There’s a lot of jargon, dealer talk, abbreviations and acronyms going on. And, while those in the car world might be familiar with what they all mean, to some they can be bewildering. So we’ve decided to take a look at some of the most common terms in use – and what you need to know to keep on top of things when buying a car.

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Appreciation: This is where a vehicle’s value increases over time. Something that’s reserved for rare and classic cars.

Depreciation: Something that every other car suffers – the amount by which its value decreases over time.

Delivery mileage: Cars will often be advertised with ‘delivery miles’. It means they’re new, but will have usually fewer than 100 miles on the clock.

Pre-reg: Car dealers have quotas to meet and often fill them by pre-registering cars before they sell them. This means that the car is new, but is already registered. So, if it’s been sitting in a showroom for six months, for example, its plate might be from the previous registration cycle and not the current one.

Used: Cars that have had one or more previous owner.

FDSH: This stands for full dealer service history and is what it says on the tin – the car has always been serviced by a registered dealer. FSH – full service history – means the car has been serviced according to its timetable but it could have been done by an independent garage, for example.

HPI check: This is a vehicle history checking service. It tells you things like whether the car has ever been in an accident, or stolen, or been deemed a write-off by insurers.

CO2: This is the carbon dioxide output of a car – ie what comes out of the exhaust. It’s measured in grams per kilometre and all new cars pay different levels of tax depending on the output – the lower, the cheaper.

Road tax bands: Cars pay a certain amount of tax every year depending on how much CO2 they emit.

MPG: This is miles per gallon – the benchmark for how efficient a car is. The higher the MPG, the more miles you get from every tank of fuel you fill up with. There are different types – urban is the car’s city average; extra urban is the car’s rural roads average and combined is a mix – it’s also the one to use for comparison.

Range: When it comes to electric cars, this is how far they go, basically, between charges. It can also be used to describe how far a petrol or diesel car will go between fill-ups.

List price/on the road price: This is basically how much a car is advertised at, with all costs and fees included. Savvy customers will treat it as a starting point from which to negotiate.

Segment: This refers to different types of cars, largely as follows:

  • City cars, for example the Volkswagen up!
  • Superminis, for example the Ford Fiesta
  • Small family, for example the Honda Civic
  • Large family, for example the BMW 3-Series
  • Executive, for example the Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Luxury, for example the BMW 7-Series
  • Sports, anything from an Audi TT to a Ferrari
  • MPVs, also known as people carriers, such as the Vauxhall Zafira
  • SUVs/4x4s, anything from a Renault Captur to a Range Rover


EV: An electric vehicle.

Crossover: An increasingly popular type of SUV, based on a car platform.

Hybrid: A car that’s powered by a mix of petrol and electric power.

PHEV: A Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, a car that uses a hybrid setup, with the added function that the battery can be charged from a plug, rather than being charged by the engine.

SUV: A sports utility vehicle, generally a 4x4 that has off-road capability and looks, although often designed to perform best on the road.

Transmission: The type of gearbox used in a car – ie manual (with a clutch) or automatic (without a clutch). Semi-automatics allow the driver to change gear manually, but without a clutch.

VIN: The Vehicle Identification Number – this is a unique number given to all vehicles when they are built. It is logged on the car’s registration document and is used to check its history.

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