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DRIVETIME: MOTORING: Unlocking the lingo of the classified adverts.

Byline: ROBIN ROBERTS

CLASSIFIED ads for cars use a language of their own.

Just flick through Auto Trader, Loot or the motoring pages of any paper and some of the words look familiar, loosely based on English. But newspapers and listings magazines charge by the word, so small ads are as concise as possible.

The result is a jumble of jargon, clichs and abbreviations. Nic Barfield, editor of Parker's Car Price Guide, says the worst offenders are often traders advertising as private sellers.

By law, trade adverts must carry a T or Trade tag, but many small-time traders leave it out. Ask the right questions, however, and you can catch them out.

When you phone them, ask if the car is still for sale - unlike a private seller, a trader will usually be selling more than one.

Then ask about the model, engine size, year, mileage, condition and colour. A private seller will be able to answer these questions easily, but it will fox the dodgy trader with a driveway full of motors.

If you're happy that it's a private seller, read the advert more critically. Does it have lots of facts about the car? If it's missing essential information such as age, mileage, and key items like power steering, ABS and automatic transmission, the vendor is likely to be hiding something.

Also watch out for items listed and priced as extras - they could be standard. Use a copy of Parker's Car Price Guide or Parker's Car Chooser to find out.

"No timewasters" is a suspicious phrase. Sellers may resent showing their cars to people with no intention of buying, however, for buyers, checking the car out thoroughly and not rushing to a verdict is never a waste of time. Anyone pushing you into a quick sale probably has something to hide.

Finally, "must be seen", "must sell" or "reluctant sale" are a waste of space. Who buys a car without seeing it, and why advertise unless you want to sell it?

Mr Barfield said: "When you're scouring the small ads, make sure all the critical info about the car is there: model details, age, colour, mileage, service history and key equipment. Then follow up with a searching phone call before arranging to view it. That way, you'll save time and petrol, and avoid disappointment."

Jargon buster

Experts at Parker's Car Price Guide show you how those clichs could translate back into English and what to ask the seller...

CLAIM: First to see will buy (Only if they're blind or stupid.)

Ask why is the car for sale.

CLAIM: Clean and straight (Respray hides damage; you'll only notice the twisted chassis when braking suddenly.)

Has the car ever been in an accident or had major repair work? Invest in a data check to be sure.

CLAIM:Totally original (Nothing repaired or replaced - not even oil, tyres, light bulbs etc.)

Does it have a full service history?

CLAIM: Fully loaded (Superfluous body kit, tacky trim and useless gadgets.)

What was standard on the car, and what 'extras' does it come with? Does it have modifications that affect the insurance premium?

CLAIM: Very rare car (Replacement parts are impossible to find.)

Was it officially imported into the UK? (Check the vehicle registration document.)

CLAIM: Service history (Tattered receipts for light bulbs, tyres and items that always need replacing.)

What work has been carried out? Where was it carried out? Do you have receipts?

CLAIM: Needs cosmetic attention/TLC/a little work (A rusty heap likely to fail its next MOT.)

How long is left on the MOT? What work needs to be done? And at what cost?

CLAIM: Not your usual rubbish (Invariably means that it IS.)

What's special about the car?

CLAIM: Low-mileage (Little or no service history; could be 'clocked'.)

What's the mileage? (10,000 miles per year is average.) Can it be verified with MOT certificates, garage receipts and service history?

CLAIM: One lady owner (Woman's name on the V5 registration document, but thrashed by her 18-year-old son, who's a named driver.)

Have you been the sole driver?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 9, 2003
Words:679
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