Late Bloomers and Laydowns: Old-School Car Sales Lingo

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When car shopping, be it new or used, it’s good to know what car salespeople are talking about when they use their own special lingo.  This updated “lingo” column now includes new car dealers, too, at the request of my readers.

Of all the car columns I’ve written over the years, I’ve received lots of mail on columns written about special car lingo. This new column includes lingo used at new car dealers in addition to used car operations, so here we go with the explanation of common terms used at car dealerships.

Additionally, in no way am I insinuating that all car sales people are untrustworthy or dishonest. Matter of fact, most of the places I’ve visited in my over 40 years of working with car people are very trustworthy. Still, with my readers best interests at heart, here’s a new lesson in slang that’s spoken at new and used car dealers across the country, both good and bad.
“Buried” or “Upside Down” – a customer who owes more money than a car is worth that they are trading.
“Back End Buyer” – a customer who buys everything a finance officer offers during the final paper signing process, including life insurance. Many dealers make big profits in the finance room. Also known as an “Upsell” customer.
“Bare” – paint that is beginning to fade.
“Bondo Wagon” – vehicle with rust problems repaired cosmetically with lots of plastic filler.
“Cancer” – a vehicle with rust problems.
“Dud” or “Back Lot Special” – a car with little or no real value.
“Fresh Badge” or “New Sticker” – Car with new state inspection.
“Full Shot” – A vehicle that has been completely rebuilt following a crash.
“Gear Banger” or “Stick” – Manual transmission equipped vehicles.
“Late Bloomer” or “Back Door Trader” – this customer presents his trade-in only after he negotiates a “no trade” price. The dealer then gives him a wholesale price for his trade, much to the buyer’s chagrin.
“Hail Hauler” – a car that has body damage due to hail.
“Into the Holdback” – when a dealer sells a car below invoice, he is into the “holdback,” which is a set amount the manufacturer pays the dealer usually quarterly for inventory purchased and for each new car sold. Few consumers know about the dealer holdback, but it is the reason dealers sometimes sell below “dealer invoice.” Most dealers, however, will not negotiate this holdback amount with a customer, as they would be eliminating their built-in profit, which is usually about 2.5-percent of the invoice.
“Leaker” – A moon roof or t-top that leaks when it rains.
“Laydown” or “Easy Sell” – customer who buys a car without negotiating price.
“Plain Janer,” “Farm Truck” or “Rubbernose” – car or truck with few or no options.
“Put To Sleep” – Customer who paid too much for his/her car.
“Ringer” or “Hot” – a stolen vehicle with incorrect vehicle identification number (VIN).
“Slider” – Power sunroof.
“Spare Is In The Wrapper” – A spare tire that has never been used.
“Six Banger” or “Four Banger” – A six or four cylinder engine, respectively.
“Stranger” – a person who buys a new car but never returns for any type of service or an out of towner.
“Spinner” or “Bad Ticker” – a vehicle with a rolled back mileage odometer.
“Stroker,” “Be Back” or “Tire Kicker” – a person on the lot who looks with no intention of buying and always says they’ll “be back.”
“Stiff,” “B.C.”  or “Credit Queen/King” – a person who wants to buy but has a horrible credit rating.
“Sneakers,” “Rubber” or “Paws” – the tires.
“Tight,” “Diamond” or “Cherry” – Vehicle in excellent condition.
“The Up” – the next customer assigned to a salesman who has to “get up” to assist.
“The Whole Nine Yards” – A car equipped with every option available.
“50-50” Warranty – Agreement between buyer and seller where each assumes half of the cost of repair that occurs within the used car warranty limit.
“Warranty King (or Queen) – an owner who always expects everything should be covered under the new car warranty…regardless of the fact the car is out of warranty.
With this knowledge you’ll know you’re at the wrong place when you hear the salesman say to his associate that you’re a noted “back end buyer” and you’re trade-in is “cherry” and that you are a perfect candidate to buy the late model “spinner” because you’re a “laydown” who was “put to sleep” the last time you bought a car at a competing dealer. You can then quickly leave and visit a quality, honest used or new car dealer, of which most are.
(Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now, and other GateHouse Media publications. He welcomes reader input on collector cars, auto nostalgia or old time motorsports at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18840 or email


Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla