Many people around the world own a car and rely on these amazing machines for transportation daily.
Since the creation of the first car, a whole new vocabulary has evolved to explain how cars work, their different uses, and the names of their parts. By extension, another entirely new vocabulary has grown for traffic laws and guidelines.
Although cars are the same around the world, some names of their body parts/car related nouns change when using American English or British English. We will highlight these differences below.
An automotive is also known as a vehicle, car, auto or automobile.
These words are most often used to describe private passenger vehicles. Below we will list the most common names and descriptions of the various types of automotive.
We will further divide them into different groups also. (Since motorcycles also have different variations, we have excluded them from this post.)
Types of Automotives
- Coach Bus
- MPV – Multi-Purpose Vehicle
- Passenger Vehicle
- School Bus
- Big Rig
- Road Train
- City Car
- Crossover SUV
- Full Size / Large
- Large Family Car / Mid-size
- Small Family Car
Off-roaders and Utility Vehicles
- 4WD (Four Wheeled Drive)
- Pick-up Truck – In the United States, this is a common term used for what other countries might call an SUV or 4WD. Not all pickup trucks can be used off-road on sand and mud.
- SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle)
- Grand Saloon
- Sports Car
The part of the car body that covers the engine and can be opened like a door to maintain the motor.
Normally the rear part of the car which opens to store luggage or other items.
These are what a vehicle sits on and spin to make the automotive move.
The enclosed space which the driver and passengers sit inside during transportation.
When the driver presses a button, usually near the steering wheel, the horn makes a very loud sound which alerts other drivers to them.
The front window which a driver looks through to see the road ahead.
A wheel which is stored inside the car somewhere to replace a tire if it should get damaged.
Motorised arms with rubbers strips that move back and forth over the windshield when it is raining to wipe away water.
These mirrors are on the outside of the car. One is next to the driver and the other next to the front passenger. They allow the driver to see what is beside and behind them.
Installed on the inside of the windshield between the driver and passenger; the rear-view mirror helps the driver to see what is directly behind him.
On the front and rear of a vehicle, below the lights, are long panels called bumpers. These protect the car from minor bumps and hits from other cars or objects.
Hand Brake/Parking Brake
A lever or small foot pedal that engages the brakes manually to stop a vehicle from moving when it is stationary.
There are some common words used to describe the shape of the car also. Some of these words are also the same as the type seen above. Below are the most commonly used terms around the world.
A compact car is a tiny car. Usually, it is common to see in the major cities as they are easy to park in small spaces, use very little gas and don’t cost too much to buy. They have smaller engines and are not capable of high speeds in general.
This type of car does exactly as its name means, it converts. The roof covering the passengers is designed to lift off and fold away into the rear of the car. Convertibles are much more common among sports cars and roadsters.
We could describe this car as a smaller version of a sports car. Normally they have two doors, and the rear of the roof has an attractive design which joins it to the rear of the car giving it a sporty look. Some coupes have high powered engines and would be considered sports cars.
Most vehicles have a boot (British English) or trunk (American English) for storage at the rear. The rear window of the car is usually separate from the trunk/boot door.
A hatchback, however, includes the rear window in the trunk/boot door and will ultimately open up the back of the car. Typically hatchbacks are small vehicles also with two or four passenger doors.
Most famous people will arrive at a party or big event in a big Limosouine. It is usually a luxury car that has been made very long to fit more people inside its luxury interior.
It may have a small fridge for drinks, televisions and other items not typically found in other cars. Even the seats may run along the length of the car instead of across it.
Its name is a play on words, these frequently large cars and like small trucks that have an open area behind the Passenger cab to carry large items and move them from place to place. They ‘pickup’ a load and transport it, thus earning them the name Pickup.
In some countries, it is more commonly called a Ute which is short for a Utility vehicle.
This car’s shape is probably the most recognizable around the world. It has four doors a bonnet (British English) or hood (American English) at the front covering the engine and a flat boot or trunk at the rear.
A Sports Utility Vehicle(SUV) come in many sizes and sometimes different shapes. These are a cross between medium to large family cars and Four Wheel Drives or Offroaders. They are sometimes called All Terrain Vehicles too and have are like large wagons.
A wagon is the same as a Sedan however it has the rear design of a hatchback. It is, therefore, a larger version hatchback.
Many of the first vehicles built were powered by steam, later with electricity and then increasingly by combustible gases and liquids like Petroleum, Diesel or Natural Gas.
These types of fuels are the most common around the world. The engine used to burn these fuels is called an Internal Combustion Engine.
In recent years, growing environmental concerns, public awareness, manufacturing costs and competition has caused car makers to develop new vehicles with new or combined fuel sources. These developments again have created another set of words within the automotive industry.
The list below explains the most commonly used today; there are other lesser known sub categories within some of these types which, because they are not as common, we have left out on purpose.
Many larger vehicles like off-roaders, trucks, and buses are Diesel powered due to the high amount of energy released when burning this particular fuel.
In recent years, various manufacturers have built some diesel powered vehicles which claim to be more energy efficient and have less harmful emissions.
Fast becoming the emerging technology of the future, electric vehicles are becoming increasingly more popular and readily available to the general population.
Their electric engines are supposed to be cleaner, produce more power, have fewer moving parts, and produce little to no noxious gas emissions.
A hybrid powered car has two energy sources for its motor or motors. It may have an electric engine and another internal combustion motor which will work together or independently to reduce the cost of running the car.
These have been the stepping stone towards completely electric vehicles in recent years.
A turbo is not an engine, but rather a part added to an internal combustion motor which takes the gases coming out of the motor to compress more air and feed it back into it.
A turbo creates a more explosive effect of the fuel, generating more power very suddenly. We could compare the effect to when you blow on glowing coals of a fire, blow long and hard enough and the coals will burst into flames releasing more heat or energy.
Solar is a word we use to describe the light and heat energy that comes from the sun. Because it is natural and free, this has been called one of the best energy sources available.
However, to propel a car with this method is difficult and it is extremely limited. Solar panels are more commonly used to generate electricity from the sunlight, which would then charge the batteries of an electric car.
A motor that is supercharged has an additional part called a compressor which compresses or compacts air inside a small area.
This air is then fed into the internal combustion engine to increase the power produced just like a turbo. Unlike a turbo, a supercharger is driven by a pulley.
When a vehicle moves forward, we use the word, accelerates. A foot pedal called the Accelerator or Gas Pedal(American English) is usually pressed down by the driver to accelerate.
If it moves backward, we describe it as, reversing. Small white lights at the rear of the car switch on when reversing.
Slowing a vehicle down is done by a system referred to as the Brakes, and we describe the action as braking. Another foot pedal is used by the driver to do this.
Automotives have a system of gears to control their speed. When changing gear, we would say that we are changing gears or shifting (American English). A control stick next to the driver called the Gear Stick or Shifter(American English) is used to do this.
When shifting or changing gears, a foot pedal or other device engages a Clutch which allows the moving parts to join inside the motor without damaging each other.
There are two main types of gear drives, an Automatic Transmission, which changes gears by itself using a computer, or a Manual Transmission. A manual transmission depends on the driver pressing down on the clutch pedal, then changing gears or shifting before releasing the pedal.
At the front of every car are Headlights to illuminate the road in front of the car during the night times. At the rear are smaller red lights, Taillights, which help other drivers see the vehicle from behind also.
Next to the headlights and taillights are yellow/orange lights that flash when turning or changing lanes. These Indicators are switched on by the driver as needed.
In front of the driver is a circular control called the Steering Wheel, it is turned by the driver to point the car in the direction he/she wants to go.
Behind the steering wheel but normally in front of the driver still, is an Instrument Panel or Dashboard. These instruments tell the driver about the car like its speed or velocity, fuel status and other useful information needed.
A Horn makes a loud noise outside of the car to warn other drivers or draw attention. The driver can sound the horn by pressing a button on or near the steering wheel.
In reality, there are many other words and phrases used in the automotive industry, but we hope that you find this post covers the basic vocabulary needed.
If you think we have missed a necessary word or expression, please let us know with a comment below! As always your comments are most welcome, and we would love for you to check out our other posts too.