Carbon fibre is a material that is used in racing cars and now, increasingly, in road cars. It is a light and extremely strong reinforced plastic that contains carbon fibres and is ideal for making stiff, strong but lightweight cars.
Alloy wheels not only look better than traditional steel wheels, but they are also lighter, so they can help improve a car’s handling and reduce fuel consumption.
A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a 17-digit code unique to every individual vehicle including a serial number.
Part-exchanging a car involves swapping your car for another, more expensive vehicle. You then pay the difference, which will either involve organising some form of financing or just paying in cash.
A no-claims bonus (NCB) is an insurance discount that drivers receive if they don’t make claims on their policy.
A car’s insurance group is one factor that helps determine how much your car insurance premium will be. Insurance groups band cars from the cheapest to most expensive to insure.
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.
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 it was written off or stolen.
A full service history is all the paperwork that shows a potential buyer what work has been carried out on a car and when, including the car's service book.
The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) is responsible for publishing safety reports on all the new car models that go on sale.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is the government agency that is responsible for all driving tests, and the training and regulation of driving instructors.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the government agency responsible for maintaining databases of UK drivers and vehicles. It currently holds over 48m driver records and over 40m vehicle records.
Depreciation is the difference between the value of a car when you buy it and what it's worth when you come to sell it.
The wheelbase of a car is the distance between the centre of the front wheel and the centre of the rear wheel.
A turbocharger is a device that helps an engine produce more power.
A tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is an electronic system that constantly monitors the air pressure inside the tyres.
The switchgear in a car is all the switches, buttons and stalks that are used to control functions such as the lights, windscreen wipers, heating and air conditioning, driving modes, etc.
A start-stop (or stop-start) system automatically shuts down and restarts a car’s engine in order to reduce the amount of time it spends idling.
A spoiler is an aerodynamic device that is designed to 'spoil' the movement of air (often called drag) across a vehicle body while it is moving.
A space saver wheel is a spare wheel stored in a car in case of a puncture that is designed for temporary use only.
A rear wheel drive car is one where the power generated by the engine is sent to the rear wheels, which then ‘push’ the car along.
Regenerative braking is a method of converting the energy that is usually lost when a car brakes into electrical energy, which is then used to recharge the batteries.
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.
A car platform is the underbody and set of major components shared by a number of different models and even types of cars.
The pillars on a car are the vertical (or near-vertical) roof supports.
Pedestrian detection systems are one of the current generation of driver assistance systems that use radar and cameras to spot potential collisions.
Parking sensors are designed to alert the driver of obstacles when parking, sounding an alarm if the car is too close to a nearby object.
Parking assist systems use cameras and sensors to help a driver park a car safely.
Using paddleshift is a way that drivers of automatic cars can manually select gears using paddles placed behind the steering wheel.
A panoramic roof is a sunroof that extends the whole length of a car’s roof.
OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is a display and lighting technology used to create thin, energy efficient and bright displays and lights.
A lithium-ion battery is the most common types of battery used in electric vehicles (EVs). It is well suited to EVs because it holds a lot of energy, compared to its weight, and is very efficient at charging and discharging.
LiDAR - ‘light detection and ranging’ - is a type of sensor that works by sending out pulses of infrared light millions of times a second, and measures how long they take to come back after bouncing off objects close to it.
Lane-keeping assist (LKA) works alongside lane departure warning (LDW) technology to keep a car within a marked lane on the road.
A lane departure warning (LDW) system is a form of electronic driver assistance that warns the driver when their car begins to stray outside of its lane.
A remote keyless entry/go system in a car has door locks that open when an electronic key or card is nearby.
Isofix is a system for attaching child car-seats using metal anchor points built in to the chassis of the car that allow the car seat to simply click onto them.
An infotainment system controls a car’s information and entertainment functions, usually through a screen mounted on the dashboard or in the centre console.
A car immobiliser is an electronic security device designed to prevent an engine from starting without a key, that sends out a specific digital electronic signal, is nearby.
An internal combustion engine (ICE) is the type of engine conventionally found in a car. that uses combustible fuel – usually petrol or diesel – which is mixed with air in the engine's cylinder.
Horsepower is how the power produced by an engine is measured.
A hill hold assist function on a car can prevent it rolling backwards on a slope, by holding the brakes while the driver moves their foot off the brake and on to the accelerator.
Hill descent control is a driver-assistance system that enables a car – usually an SUV – to go down a hill off-road without the driver having to use the brakes.
A head-up display (HUD) projects information on to a transparent screen, so a driver doesn’t have to look away from the road if checking their speed, navigation instructions, etc.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a network of satellites that sends information about time and location to a vehicle’s navigation system.
A car with front-wheel drive (FWD) means that the engine and gearbox are connected directly to the front wheels only.
A forward collision warning system alerts the driver of a possible crash with a car in front, which can be slower moving or stationary. Think of it like another set of eyes on the road.
Electronic stability control (ESC) improves a vehicle's stability by detecting when a car is starting to skid.
Electric power steering uses electric motors to reduce the amount of effort that the driver has to put in to turn the steering wheel.
An Electronic Control Unit (ECU) controls the electrical systems in a car.
Dynamic stability control is BMW’s version of electronic stability control (ESC).
eCall 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.
Daytime running lights (DRLs) are designed to make your vehicle more visible in bright, daytime conditions, which helps improve road safety.
A diesel particulate filter (DPF) removes soot from the exhaust emissions of diesel engines by trapping the soot as it passes through the car's exhaust system.
Engine displacement is a measurement of the total volume of all of an engine’s cylinders, usually written in cubic centimetres (cc), or litres.
A dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is a type of gearbox that uses two separate clutches and sets of gears, with one set for odd gears and another for the even ones.
DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting and is an alternative digital way of broadcasting radio signals, as opposed to the older analogue form, which used FM and AM frequencies.
A crumple zone is a safety feature on a car that is designed to absorb the energy from the impact during a crash, by allowing the metal to deform safely.
When petrol or diesel burns in an engine, carbon dioxide gas – also known as CO2 – is the result.
The size – or cubic capacity – of a car’s engine is measured in cubic centimetres (cc). It refers to the amount of air and fuel that can be pushed through the cylinders in the engine.
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a type of automatic gearbox that can change seamlessly through a range of gears.
A catalytic converter controls harmful emissions by breaking down the harmful compounds that are produced by vehicle engines.
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.
A black box is a small GPS unit in a car that sends information to your insurance company, so that you can potentially pay lower premiums.
Apple CarPlay allows iPhone owners to connect their phone to a car and show an iOS screen on the infotainment system display.
An all-wheel-drive (AWD) system sends the power of the engine to both the front and rear wheels all the time so if one or more wheels is stuck, or can’t get any grip on the road, the other wheels are still driving the car forward.
Autonomous driving means that a car can move along a road with little or no need for a human to control the car.
Android Auto is a way of linking your smartphone to a car and are designed to help improve safety and convenience.
A limited slip differential (LSD) is a device on a car that limits the amount that a wheel spins, for example, when a car loses grip on the road.
MirrorLink allows drivers to sync their smartphones with their car’s infotainment system so they can safely access many of the smartphone’s features while driving.
On-board diagnostics (OBD) refers to a car's ability to self-diagnose and report any issues about how the vehicle is running.
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer and can also refer to the company that supplied the components that are fitted to a car when it is built.
Airbags are large nylon bags, neatly folded away and hidden until a car has a crash. They sense when to inflate, using devices called accelerometers around the car, which detect any sudden slowing down.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems use cameras and radar to help cars avoid crashes, by spotting dangerous situations early and warning the driver.
AdBlue is an additive for a car’s exhaust system that is automatically injected in small quantities into the exhaust system, where it breaks up harmful nitrogen oxide gas into harmless nitrogen and water.
Advanced driver-assistance systems (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.
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.
A car’s air conditioning system works by removing warmth and moisture from the air that is already in the car, leaving behind the cool air.
Anti-lock braking systems (known as ABS) automatically kick in when a car’s wheels start to slip while braking.
A 4x4 car is one that is fitted with four-wheel drive, which means that the power created by the engine is sent to all four wheels.
Automatic transmission changes gears as the vehicle moves, without the driver having to do anything themselves.
Sport utility vehicle - or SUV - a type of car fitted with four-wheel drive, which was built for use off-road.
The car market is divided into segments in order for different models of the same type and size to be compared, not only by consumers, but also by regulatory authorities such as those responsible for safety.
A self-driving car – also known as an autonomous car – is one that can move along a road with little or no need for human control.
A saloon car has the engine, passengers and cargo in separate compartments. It tends to have four doors and two rows of seats.
An MPV is a multi-purpose vehicle, which offers more space than a saloon or hatchback and is usually fitted with five or seven seats.
A mid-engine car has its engine between the rear and front axles, usually behind where the passengers sit, a layout most commonly found in sports cars.
A hybrid car is one that combines a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor. They tend to consume less fuel and emit less CO2 than a car with just a petrol or diesel engine.
A hatchback is a car with a hatch-type 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.
A grand tourer. or GT, is a high-performance car that is more practical than an out-and-out sports car, because it can cover longer distances and often has four seats and a larger boot.
An electric car, also known as a battery electric vehicle or EV, uses one or more electric motors to move the vehicle.
An estate car has an extended boot area behind the rear seats with a boot-lid at the back of the car that opens in the same way as a hatchback car.
A cut and shut car is the result of welding together the front end of one car that has been shunted from behind and the rear end of a similar model that has been in a head-on collision.
A crossover car is one that combines the design features from two (or even more) traditional types of car and often involves some element of an SUV.
A coupé is traditionally a car with two doors and a fixed roof which slopes down at the back.
A cabriolet is a convertible car that has a foldable roof which can be stowed away
A car’s turning circle is the radius (usually measured in metres) that a vehicle will turn through to make a complete U-turn.
In essence, torque is the pulling power of an engine, the force that’s needed to get a car in motion, and keep it going.
Ride quality refers to a how comfortable a car is to travel in.
Range anxiety is a term used widely about electric vehicles and relates to the fear that a car won’t have enough range to reach its destination.
RPM stands for revolutions per minute and is a measure of how fast the engine is spinning.
A car’s range is the distance it can travel with the current amount of fuel in the tank.
The octane number of a fuel is a measure of how well it performs, usually expressed as a RON (Research Octane Number).
NOx is a term that describes nitrogen oxides, harmful pollutants that are emitted by car exhausts that have been proven to have serious health implications.
PS (short for Pferdestärke - Horse Strength in German) is how the power produced by an engine is measured and is defined as metric horsepower.
Miles per hour (shortened to MPH) is how speed is measured in Britain, expressing how many miles a car can travel in one hour.
In Britain, a car’s fuel consumption is measured in miles per gallon, which is shortened to MPG.
KiloWatts per hour (kWh) is the measurement of energy that an electric vehicle can store in its batteries.
Kilometres per hour is a measurement of speed, expressing the number of kilometres that can be travelled in one hour.
Handling describes the way a car reacts on the road to what a driver does, using the steering wheel and pedals.
Brake horsepower (BHP) is a measurement of how much power a car engine produces.
Winter tyres help the car to maximise grip when driving in weather below 7 degrees Celsius, or on roads covered with snow and ice.
Car trim levels are the various packages of features that manufacturers provide with their cars.
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a vehicle that has a slightly larger battery than a regular hybrid, so it travels further just using electricity.
A battery electric vehicle (BEV) uses the electrical energy from rechargeable batteries to power an electric motor (or motors).
A car’s satellite navigation system, or sat nav, uses the information from GPS satellites to work out its latitude, longitude, altitude and movement.
A car’s safety cell is a passenger compartment built with high-strength materials, usually steel which has the strength to stay intact in the event of a crash.
A side impact protection system (SIPS) is a safety system that protects the occupants of a car against injury in the event of another vehicle crashing into the side of it.
A car’s suspension is designed to keep the tyres in contact with the road, while at the same time absorbing all the bumps created by driving over uneven surfaces.
A traction control system (TCS), is usually a function of the electronic stability control (ESC) system on cars designed to prevent a loss of grip by the wheels.
Telematics technology uses information from a vehicle’s on-board computer along with GPS data to record how and where a car is being driven – for example, how fast it is going, how harshly the accelerator or brakes are applied, etc.
A tracking device tracks uses GPS technology to show where a vehicle is at any time, sending that information (using a mobile phone signal) to a central computer server.
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.
Xenon lights (also known as high-intensity discharge or HID) use higher-quality bulbs than the traditional halogen lights and emit a white light that’s more similar to daylight.
Benefit-in-kind (or BIK) is a tax on employees who receive perks from their job on top of their salary. So, if you have a company car that you also have for private use, you’ll have to pay a BIK tax contribution.
A full dealer service history is one that shows that all the servicing, maintenance and repair work done on a car has been carried out at one of the manufacturer’s official dealers.
Hire purchase is a way of financing a new or used car and usually involves you putting down a deposit and then paying off the rest of the cost of the car in monthly instalments.
The list price of a new car is the recommended retail price. It is what buyers pay before various charges are added on that then add up to the on-the-road (OTR) price.
The New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) is a laboratory-based test designed to assess the emission levels of car engines and fuel economy of car models on sale.
A car’s on the road (OTR) price is the list price plus the extra costs that needed to get the car on the road.
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 (usually three years).
A SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification) is used by car owners to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that the vehicle is registered as being off the road.
Commonly known as road tax or car tax, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is the annual tax that the owner of a vehicle has to pay to the government for it to be used (or parked) on public roads.
A V5C document is the official vehicle registration document that registers a car with the DVLA.
The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) is a laboratory test that is used to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars, as well as their pollutant emissions.
A modified car is one that has been changed so that it’s now no longer the same as the manufacturer original specification.
The centre console is the area in the middle of the dashboard that contains the buttons and switches for operating most of the car’s functions.
An ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) is a motor vehicle that uses low carbon technologies
A transmission is another name for a car’s gearbox.
Traction control helps limit tyres slipping when the car is accelerating.