Know Auto Lot Lingo Before Car Shopping

When you need a car and shop at new car dealerships, you’re confronted by a bevy of terms. Besides a new car, many dealers also offer pre-owned vehicles, program cars, and certified vehicles. To make matters more confusing, every vehicle category might contain current model year vehicles. Those are new, right? Not exactly.

car shopping auto lingo

New Cars

The term new car refers to a vehicle that rolled off of the manufacturing line and onto a vehicle transport truck. No one has owned it or driven it because it went straight from the manufacturing plant to its parking spot on the dealership sales lot.

Used Cars

The term used refers to any previously owned vehicle. A used vehicle does not carry any special designation, such as manufacturer certification. Typically, the previous vehicle owner traded it in for credit towards a new vehicle or sold it to the dealership for cash. These vehicles do not usually include a warranty.

Pre-owned Vehicles

A pre-owned vehicle passes through an extensive examination of more than 100 points to earn a designation as a pre-owned car. Some dealerships refer to it as a certified pre-owned (CPO) program, states Consumer Affairs.com, and qualifying for it means these late-model vehicles come with a warranty and sometimes, a year of manufacturer-recommended maintenance. After examination, the dealer or manufacturer replaces any parts that do not meet the specifications of a new vehicle.

Certified Vehicle

Not all manufacturers offer a CPO program, so some dealerships offer a certification program. These vehicles qualify using similar criteria to a CPO vehicle, such as low mileage, one owner, late model years, and good condition. The dealership handles certifying the vehicles, which may or may not come with a warranty.

Program Car

The vehicle manufacturer used a program car as its own fleet vehicle for its employees to drive, according to Edmunds. After a few months to a year of operation, the manufacturer sells these vehicles via auction to dealerships. Some dealerships refer to rental car company fleet vehicles as program cars, but they actually fall into the category of potential CPO vehicles. If the manufacturer or dealership reconditions them, they would suit the CPO program because of their late model years and reasonably low mileage.

Demo Car

When you visit a dealership in person, you might spot a few vehicles marked down with a discount and labeled “demo car.” This term refers to a demonstration vehicle – the car, truck, or SUV used for test drives. These vehicles have a few miles on their odometers but have not seen heavy driving. The dealership keeps them up nicely since they help sell the other vehicles. Because of that, you can nab a higher trim level of a vehicle for a few thousand dollars less than others of the same model year.

Know Your Car Talk Before You Shop

Before you visit Orlando car dealerships, learn their lingo. When you know the meaning of each term, and which terms can mean more than one thing, it helps you shop with savvy. Decide what you want before you shop and ask a dealership salesperson to see the precise model you want, so you can shop efficiently.


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