Car Lingo 101

Man under Volkswagen Bug royalty-free image. Car Lingo 101 by

We’re all guilty of it. We hear the car guru in our family or at work talk about the ins-and-outs of cars or the latest car news! And you? You just nod your head and try to not make a fool of yourself. What do all these terms even mean anyway? is going to define basic car lingo, jargon, and industry terms for you with our Car Lingo 101 guide! You’ll sound like an old pro in no time with this guide!

The “Make” Of A Car

The logo of Toyota is considered the "make." The Toyota Logo is the property of Toyota Motor Corporation. Car Lingo 101 by Blog
Toyota would be the “make” or brand of any vehicle that is manufactured by Toyota.

To many, this may seem like a blatantly obvious one but we’re starting with the easy ones first. The “Make” refers specifically to the brand of the car. For example, a Toyota Camry is Toyota brand, therefore the make of the car is Toyota! It’s a shorthand term for the car-savvy. Just remember, make = brand.

“Just remember, make = brand”

Base Model

Buttons on dashboard of base model car. Traction control button is the only one that is labeled or works.  Car Lingo 101 by Blog
You have to love buttons that don’t do anything.

What exactly is the “base” model? The base model of a car is the most basic form of a particular car model without any additional features that are unnecessary by the manufacturer. Also referred to as the lowest “trim” level. Additional features include a digital speedometer, digital screen built into the console, GPS, a back-up camera, among other things. What’s considered the “base model” can change between makes and models and trends. Radios weren’t always included in base models of the 1990s, nor powered windows. The base model changes with the times and the most basic demands of consumers for that time.

What exactly is included in the base model changes depending on what consumer’s demands are at the time.

Coupe and Sedan

The top picture is a Honda Civic Coupe, the bottom picture is a Honda Accord sedan. Car Lingo 101 by Blog
Top: Honda Civic with 2 doors, i.e. a coupe. Bottom: Honda Accord with 4 doors, i.e. a sedan.

Another very general term used to describe a very large group of vehicles made up of various makes and models is coupe and sedan. This is also terminology that is easy to remember and understand. A coupe, also known as a two-door, is any vehicle that has, well, two doors. They are smaller, have less room, and aren’t suited as family cars. Coupes are often luxury or sporty cars that have no reason to be toting around kids in them.

Coupe = 2 doors, sedan = 4 doors


On the other hand, there are sedans. Alternatively, they are known as four-doors. Why they are called this is obvious, they have four doors. Sedans tend to be better as family cars. They have more room, and often prioritize gas mileage over sports performance. Sedans are becoming the vehicle of choice for car manufacturers as they become more and more popular as space and comfort becomes a priority for drivers.

Horsepower and Torque

Diagram that explains the physics of a "horsepower." © Martinvl / CC BY SA-3.0 Car Lingo 101 by Blog
Imperial horsepower, as was originally defined by James Watt.

Now we’re getting into the more technical aspects of automobiles. James Watt coined the term “horsepower.” His last name may look a little familiar if you know anything about electricity. Watt found that an average pony could do 22,000 foot-lbs of work in one minute. He then multiplied that number by 50% and got 33,000 foot-lbs of work. This, theoretically, equals the amount of work that a horse could do in one minute, hence horsepower. HowStuffWorks is better at explaining that technical differences between torque and horsepower. We’ll do our best and give you a short explanation below.

To understand horsepower, we also need to understandtorque. Torque, or “turning power,” is the rotational force required to rotate an object on an axis. You can see how this is useful for automobile performance measurement. Horsepower is dependent on torque. For example, 350 horsepower at 6500 revolution per minute (measurement of torque) means that after 6500 rpm, the engine can no longer produce any additional horsepower. This is the peak of the engine’s power. Long explanation, but it should clear up any confusion around this terminology.

The thought process behind horsepower is pretty random, but it has become the standard that we use when describing the power a car has!


This term comes up quite often and many have no idea what this is actually referring to. The cylinder of an engine is the space in which a piston travels. It works by compressing gas and air that flows into the cylinder. This allows for easier combustion and a more efficient engine. This combustion runs the engine and allows a vehicle to move. The relationship between a piston and cylinder is extremely important as it is responsible for the conversion of gasoline into energy, allowing the engine to run and a vehicle to move.

Gif of diagram that shows the relationship between a piston and a cylinder. © Jahobr / CC BY-SA 3.0 Car Lingo 101 by Blog


One of the most important parts of an engine is the piston. The piston compresses air and fuel to create combustion with the spark plug which runs the engine. If you want to know what a spark plug is, let us know on our social media pages linked at the bottom of this page! Without the relationship between the piston and cylinder, your car would not get far. Not all pistons are created equal either. There are dozens of different configurations and engines that change the relationship between the piston and cylinder to create different outcomes. These different configurations are necessary for fuel efficiency, performance, or a lack of space in the engine compartment. In the next paragraph, we talk about a few of the different configurations pistons and cylinders can be arranged.

Intake, compression, power, exhaust; these four words describe what makes a combustion engine work.

V6, V8, V16, W16, etc.

Picture of a BMW S65 4.0 L V8 engine. Car Lingo 101 by Blog
A German-powered BMW S65 4.0 L V8 engine.

This terminology is in use by manufacturers that want to flaunt it. For example, you won’t see any car makes bragging about it’s powerful V4 engine because V4 engines aren’t especially powerful. This is because the number that precedes the “V” refers to the number of cylinders that an engine has. The “V” represents the shape the pistons make in the engine. More cylinders means more power. The V6 is a six cylinder engine with cylinders in a “V” configuration with more power than a V4 engine. There is also performance engines that have 16 cylinders that create a “W” shape. These are W16 engines.

The letter represents the shape the engine makes and the number represents the number of cylinders in the engine.

This terminology is useful for describing the power of high-performance vehicles. Often car manufacturers will release “sport” versions of their economy cars for an additional cost and these often include a V6, or V8 engine instead of the basic 4-cylinder engine in the base model. Not all cars have V-shape engines. There are also in-line, and rotary among others, but that’s for a different blog!

“Cash for cars” is the premier used car buyer in the United States!

Cash for cars is a simple term with easy to follow logic. People, like yourself, reach out to car buyers, like us, that give them cash on the spot for their used car or vehicle. These car buyers take cars in any condition, any model, and they are the fastest way to sell a car. In fact, one of the biggest car buyers in the United States, simply known as, is built on the principle of fast and easy cash for any vehicle that is 2002 or newer!

Go to and get a competitive offer on your used car! They are the best in the business! They pick-up in 24 hours or less, and offer more than their competitors!

Want to Read More?

Read our next blog post about the pros and cons of having your car painted or having your car vinyl wrapped! The reasons for each are surprising!

You can also read our previous blog about the best cars from 2002 and forward here! Our picks might surprise you!

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