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Monday, January 23, 2012

Buying a Used Car 1


Have you ever bought a used car? What kinds of information can you get from an advertisement?


Let's look at some real car-for-sale ads and see what kind of information people give when selling used cars in America. This car was being sold by a dealer, so only the basic information is given.

2005 Honda Civic 27,884 mi. $14,977
2dr, Gray, FWD, AUTO 4SPD, 1.7L, 4cyl

2005: First we are told the year the car was made.

Honda Civic: Next comes the make: Honda. This means, who was the car's manufacturer? After that is the model. For example, Honda makes the Civic, the Accord, the Prelude, and many other models.

27,884 mi.: The next information given is the mileage. ("mi." means "miles.") How far has the car been driven? A five-year-old car that has been driven only 30,000 miles is probably in better condition than a two-year-old car that has been driven 100,000.

$14,977: Then comes the price. There are standards for this, formulas applied based on the answers to several questions: What make and model is the car? How old is it? What's the mileage? What is its general condition? What is its maintenance record? What accessories does it have? And so on. Of course you can fix any price you want, but if you go too far above the standards, you may not be able to sell it.

Now we learn a little more about the car:

2dr: This is a two-door car, also called a "coupe." (A four-door car is a "sedan," and a five-door car is usually an SUV--Sports Utility Vehicle--with a door on the back, called a "hatchback.")

Gray: the color of the car's exterior. Sometimes we see something like "Gray, white int" meaning the exterior is gray and the interior (inside) is white.

FWD: This is "Front Wheel Drive." Traditionally, cars received their "push" from the rear wheels. More recently, many cars are powered by the front wheels. And some are "4WD," Four Wheel Drive, where all four wheels are powered.

AUTO 4SPD: this car has a 4-speed automatic transmission.

1.7L, 4cyl: It has a 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine.


Here's another ad for a car being sold by a dealer. Notice the differences from the ad above.

2005 Honda Civic LX 46,442 mi. $11,995
4 dr, at, a/c, gas saver, alloys, xlnt cond, Financing/Warranty Avail

This seller gives us less information about the car itself: nothing about the color, drive mechanism (FWD, 4WD, etc.), transmission, or engine size. Besides the basics, we know that it is a sedan with an automatic transmission and air-conditioning. Then we start to hear something we must be careful of:

gas saver: This is what we call "hype," an attempt to convince you that THIS car is the best. But every Honda Civic is a "gas saver." It's like saying, "Buy this car. It has four wheels!"

alloys: This is a special wheel, made from a metal alloy. People like them mainly because they look good.

xlnt cond: "Excellent condition." Hmmm… According to whom?

Financing/Warranty Avail[able]: Hype again. Every dealer offers financing; every car has a warranty. This dealer is trying to get you to come look at this car, not based on its own merits, but on his ability to sell. Be careful! Don't fall for it!

Next time, we'll look at a car being sold by a private owner.


Find some used car ads in English. ( is a good place to start. And here's a long list of abbreviations to help you:

Answer these questions about some ads:

1. What kind of car is it? How old? What's the mileage? How much does it cost? Do you think this is a fair price for this car?
2. What features come with this car? Which ones are attractive to you? Which ones aren't important?
3. After you read three or four ads, decide which of those cars you would want to buy. Why did you choose that one?

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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