Vehicle Glossary

Here at Northgate, we have compiled this comprehensive vehicle glossary to that you can easily understand all the terminology thrown around in the automotive industry. Get in touch if there any terms you come across which we haven't covered in the list below.


Also known as an Anti-Lock Braking System, this feature prevents brakes from locking up when a driver brakes heavily. In effect, the vehicle will come to a halt in the shortest time possible but the driver will still maintain full control of the steering.

Adaptive Cruise Control
Operated using a laser or radar sensing system, this technology works to automatically slow or bring a vehicle to a halt in order to prevent front-end collisions.

Additional Drivers
These are any other individuals who will be operating the vehicle that has been hired other than the person who has made the reservation. Hire companies should be made aware of all additional drivers.

Vehicles which are aerodynamic stand out for being able to offer increased performance and reduce wind noise while in transit.

Aftermarket Accessory
Aftermarket accessories will not come with the vehicle as standard but can be purchased and installed after the vehicle has been manufactured.

Airbags will be deployed in the event of a major impact, with the cushions instantly filling with air and working to reduce the chances of a vehicle’s occupants making contact with any of the interior surfaces.

Air Brakes
Operated by compressed air, air brakes are common on heavy-duty trucks.

Air Conditioning (AC/Air Con)
A vehicle’s air conditioning system will use a chilled air flow in order to quickly cool the cabin.

Alloy Wheels
This is the term for any roadworthy wheel that is made of anything other than steel. Aluminium is a common type of alloy wheel.

All-Season Tyres
These types of tyres are able to deliver appropriate traction when driving a vehicle through snow, but refrain from wearing too quickly once used on dry roads.

In order to charge a vehicle's battery, the alternator will convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Anti-Roll Bar
This steel rod or tube will be found connected to a vehicle suspension system and works to rest a vehicle from rolling or swaying. As a result, they are ideal for improving the handling of a vehicle.

This vertical roof support can be found between the windshield of a vehicle and the front edge of the front side window.

Application Fee
This will be an initial fee that will be payable once you’ve signed a finance agreement. It’s often levied by a finance company.

Short for Annual Percentage Rate, this is the true rate of interest that you will pay on a finance agreement.

Auxiliary Input (Audio)
This enables a peripheral media player to become connected to a vehicle’s entertainment system.

Short for all-wheel drive, these types of vehicles sees power being provided to all four wheels of the vehicle.


Usually found between the front and rear doors of many vehicles, the B-pillar is important for being a vertical roof support structure.

Balloon Payment
At the end of a finance agreement, a final payment may be required. This is known as a balloon payment.

Barn Doors
These are large rear doors found on a van which open outwards from the vehicle.

Base Price
This is the price of a vehicle ahead of any options, destination fee, dealer advertising fee or any other costs are added.

Bed Length Measurement
This is the length of the inside of a pickup truck’s cargo box, with the measurement going from the front wall to the face of the closed tailgate.

Blind Spot
This is an area behind and to both sides of a vehicle that drivers can find hard to see when only using their side or rear-view mirrors.

Body Style
A body style of a vehicle relates to the type of exterior shell or shape that it has been designed with. Examples include hatchback and coupe.

This is the partition which is found between the load area of a van and its cab. There are various setups of bulkheads, including grille/mesh fitted, half-height, full-height and windowed.


This is the area of a van where the driver and passengers sit.

Cancellation Waiver Protection
Also known as CWP, take this out to protect against paying a cancellation charge that some companies will levy if you cancel your vehicle hire within 24-hours of collection.

Central Locking System
This system applies to vehicles with power door locks and will lock or unlock all doors at once.

A component of the vehicle’s drivetrain, the clutch is found between the engine and transmission and is used to both engage and disengage the transmission from the engine whenever a shift in gears occurs.

CO2 Emissions
The amount of carbon dioxide pollution that is expelled from a vehicle’s exhaust pipe, measured in grams per kilometre.

Collision Damage Insurance
Take out this insurance to see your liability for damaged caused to the rental vehicle being relinquished in the event that it is involved in a collision. Such a waiver is limited to a certain amount and usually excludes glass, any form of towing and tyres.

Collision Damage Waiver
An optional charge that can be paid daily or weekly, which results in your excess contribution being reduced in the event of an accident on the road.

Congestion Charge
Certain cities will require you to pay a fee in order to drive your vehicle on its roads — this is known as a congestion charge.

Contract Hire
This type of financial agreement will see you hire a van for a specific amount of time and then return it to the dealership at the end of this period.

Cruise Control
This device enables the driver to set a vehicle to travel at a chosen speed.

One of a series of chambers found in a vehicle’s engine where the process of combustion is able to take place.


Daytime Running Lights
These are lights which switch on whenever a vehicle is running.

This is the reduction of a vehicle’s value as a result of its age, condition and mileage.

This is a lump sum that can be put down at the start of a vehicle hire in order to reduce the monthly costs.

The components of a vehicle that enables it to move forward and backward.


Electronic Brake Assist
Also known as EBA, this presents a van with extra brake pressure so that it can stop in the shortest distance possible in the event of an emergency.

Electronic Stability Programme
Also known as ESP, this technology works to prevent a driver from losing control of their vehicle by stopping a skid from occurring.

Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility requirements account for certain criteria which a person must meet in order to be able to hire a vehicle.

This is the value of a used vehicle that is remaining after subtracting the outstanding loan balance from its market value.

Excess Mileage
This is any mileage that is above the amount that had been agreed when setting up the vehicle hire contract.


Factory Standard
This is the basic design and the options which make up an entry-level vehicle.

These can provide a vehicle with an additional rack in the event that they are fitted to the side of the vehicle.


GAP Insurance
This type of insurance will cover against losses which arise in the event that a write-off is insufficient to clear the outstanding finance of an agreement.

An important feature of the front of a vehicle as it enables air to reach the radiator.

Gross Train Weight
Also known as GTW, this is the maximum weight allowed for both the vehicle and any trailer that is being towed — loads included.

Gross Vehicle Weight
Also known as GVW, this is the maximum weight allowed when the fuel, driver, passengers and any load being carried is measured.

Ground Clearance
This is a measurement of distance between the ground and the lowest point of a vehicle’s chassis.

Guaranteed Minimum Future Value
Also known as GMFV or the Optional Final Payment, this is the amount that a vehicle will be worth once a vehicle hire period comes to an end. It is a protection against any potential drop in used vehicle values.


Handling Fees
This is a small charge that might be presented to cover for paperwork and processing.

Hire Purchase
Also known as HP, this type of payment allows someone to purchase a vehicle but then cover the costs in a series of regular installments. They are able to use the vehicle during this period of payment.


Load Space
The amount of space that is available for carrying goods within a vehicle.

Load Width
The width of the space available for carrying goods within a vehicle. There are two measurements usually given for load width:

  • The minimum load width — this is the distance between the vehicle’s wheel arches.
  • The maximum load width — this is the distance between the vehicle’s walls.


Manufacturers Recommended Price Residual Value
Also known as MRP, this is a prediction of a vehicle’s value when an agreement comes to an end. It is often estimated at the beginning of a vehicle hire agreement.


Optional Extras
These are additional items which can be added to a vehicle that you hire.


Payload Capacity
This is the maximum weight of goods that a vehicle can transport.

Personal Contract Purchase
Also known as PCP, this type of vehicle hire allows a customer to drive a vehicle by paying a set amount each month over a fixed term. At the end of the agreement, the customer can decide to either purchase the vehicle for a previously agreed total cost or return the vehicle to the dealership.

Ply Lining
When a vehicle is manufactured with built-in plywood features — shelving, for example — it will be detailed as having ply lining.

Power Assisted Steering
Also known as PAS, this system assists in the steering of a vehicle so to make it easier to maneuver.


Residual Value
This is the value of a vehicle at the conclusion of a set period of time.

Roller Doors
These are doors fitted to a vehicle which slide vertically.


Service, Maintenance & Repair
Also known as SMR, this type of package covers all of the mechanical and technical attention required by a fleet vehicle. Routine servicing, replacement tyres and unexpected repairs all often fall under this banner.

Side-Loading Doors
These are sliding doors which are specifically fitted to the side of a vehicle.

A vehicle’s suspension system works to suspend the frame, body and engine above the wheels. It is made up of dampers, hydraulics, links, roll bars, shock absorbers, sprints, struts and wishbones.


This panel is found at the rear of most vans and work to prevent goods from falling out of the back of the vehicle’s load area. A tailgate can be hinged at either the bottom or the top of the vehicle.

Tail Lift
A common feature of Luton vans, a tail lift is a hydraulic platform which is used in order to carry goods from the ground to the height of the load area.

Turning Circle
This is the smallest circular turn that a vehicle is able to make. A turning circle can be measured between walls (using the letter ‘w’) or kerb-to-kerb (using the letter ‘k’).


This is the distance measured between the centre of a vehicle’s front wheel and the centre of its rear wheel.

Whole Life Cost
Also known as WLC, this is the total cost that will be incurred in order to run a vehicle over a defined period of time. Deprecation, fuel and servicing are all covered within this figure.

With Maintenance
When this is included in a finance agreement, it means that repairs, servicing and tyre replacement are all covered.


Vehicle Excise Duty
Also known as VED, this is the rate that UK motorists will pay to the government in order to drive a vehicle on the country’s roads. The price of VED is set depending on the amount of CO2 which a vehicle emits.