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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Auto Classifieds Glossary 

If you haven't caught on by reading the title, I'm still looking at auto classifieds. And I'm starting to notice common elements in them. Crazy, stupid things. Clues to the buyer's potential screwing hidden behind catchy, smartassed buzzwords and oft-repeated but little-understood terminology. But fear not! In my many (well, around 20) years as a car enthusiast, I have caught on to the true meanings of these terms, and have decided to compile them here. If ever you are in the market for a used car, refer to this handy little glossary to find out exactly what those unscrupulous guys with no scruples are REALLY saying.

Original with only 28k miles
What it's supposed to mean: It's barely been used, and will be in good shape.

What it really means: It's owned by some old lady and has never been driven over 20 miles and never faster than 40 mph, so you can be sure there will be lots of cold-running stress on the mechanical components.


Many new parts
What it's supposed to mean: We've replaced nearly everything, so it's practically a new car.

What it really means: We abuse the hell out of it, which is exactly why we've had to replace everything on it.


Can't replace for this price
What it's supposed to mean: You won't be able to restore a car like this one for the amount of money we're asking for it.

What it really means: We're hoping you don't know that people hardly ever get their money back out of a restoration, so you'll think $20,000 for a car that's had $30,000 invested in it will be a good deal, even if the book value is only $10,000.


Stored since 1975
What it's supposed to mean: It's like a time capsule! Fresh as a the day we put it in storage.

What it really means: We forgot to drain the fluids, so there's been plenty of time for calcium deposits to build up in the cooling system, the oil to gunk up, the engine to seize from lack of use, the gasoline to crystallize, and the battery to leak acid and eat through the inner fender. We also forgot to mention it's been stored outdoors for thirty years.


Valued at $10,000, asking only $8500
What it's supposed to mean: It's a great deal. We're asking far less than it's worth.

What it really means: The fickle market currently isn't interested in this car, and despite what the NADA book says, no one will offer me more than $5,000 for it.


Numbers matching
What it's supposed to mean: Hell if I know. Seriously. Everyone has their own definition for this one. This phrase is really supposed to mean every part is the same that came on the car, but this almost never applies to the car being advertised.

What it really means: The seller saw someone else selling a car that had that phrase in the ad, and it sounds really professional and stuff. And I mean, sure it has aftermarket wheels and a Bosch alternator, but it still has the original engine. I think. I mean, it's the right kind, anyway...so that means it worth like, five grand more than all the others like it.


No joy rides
What it's supposed to mean: I won't let you drive it for a long distance without supervision prior to the purchase.

What it really means: I won't let you test drive it at all, and if I'm lucky, you'll pay me the money and sign the title before you realize the lower control arms are severely bent.


No tire kickers
What it's supposed to mean: Don't stand around idly and pretend to go over the car even though you don't know what you're doing. That's a waste of my time.

What it really means: I won't let you examine the car closely at all, and if I'm lucky, you'll pay me the money and sign the title before you realize there are rust holes in the trunk floor and frame rails.


80% restored
What it's supposed to mean: I've done most of the restoration on this car, now you can finish the final details.

What it really means: I restored the interior and had the car painted, now you just need to rebuild the transmission and replace the floorboards.


My loss, your gain
What it's supposed to mean: I'm selling the car for less than its book value and less than I've invested.

What it really means: I'm losing a money pit, you're gaining one.


Needs TLC
What it's supposed to mean: Basically solid, just needs to minor repairs.

What it really means: If you want to get it home, you'd better bring a flatbed.


Runs and drives
What it's supposed to mean: It's a usable car in its current condition.

What it really means: We didn't say how well it runs and drives. The valves clatter, the pistons slap, it burns oil, and the transmission slips, but yes, technically, it does run and drive.


Nice driver
What it's supposed to mean: It won't win any shows, but it'll look good driving down the road.

What it really means: It looks great from thirty feet away, it's not until you get close that you realize half the chrome is missing.


Complete car
What it's supposed to mean: The car needs work, but no parts are missing.

What it really means: Half the parts need to be replaced, but yes, they are still on the car.


Adult owned
What it's supposed to mean: It's been owned by a responsible individual, not someone who abused it.

What it really means: The seller is 35 and has driven the shit out of the car, but is hoping the buyer will buy the stereotype that only teenagers do that.


Paint your color
What it's supposed to mean: We've primered the car for you, to save you time and money.

What it really means: We've primered the car to cover up the rust, and the fact that we fabricated the right quarter panel out of Liquid Nails, a street sign, and five gallons of Bondo.


Just remember, if you ever think you're being screwed when buying a used car, just check to see if the seller has ever used these terms. Then you'll know for sure what's wrong with it. And you'll probably want to kiss me.

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