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As new cars become more technologically advanced, vehicles also become more complicated. The experts at Edmunds broke down some of the important terms that new cars use, such as make, model, trims, and body style.

New car make and model terminology, plus body styles

Understanding new car lingo with Edmunds
Understanding new car lingo with Edmunds | Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

Edmunds started off fairly simple with the “make” and “model” terminology. When it comes to new cars, the “make” of a vehicle is the name brand. This would be Toyota, Subaru, and Mazda, for instance. The “model” of a car would be the name of the particular vehicle from those brands. That would be something like the Kia Telluride or the Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck.

The body of a vehicle is something referred to as the “style.” This usually indicates if a vehicle is a sedan, coupe, truck, or SUV. This is important because a vehicle can have two different body styles in the same make, model, and trim level. For instance, the Honda Civic can come in a sedan or a hatchback version, both of which are quite different.

New cars have a variety of trim levels and packages

A trim level is a way for automakers to distinguish between different features on the same vehicle. For instance, the entry-level trim level of a car is referred to as the “base model.” As the trim levels go up, more features are added to the features of the base car.

Trim levels have terminology like SE, Limited, Sport, Grand Touring, and similar terms. These are not uniform across the board and can basically be made up to suit the needs of the brand. For instance, the new Lucid electric vehicle is called the “Air.” It comes in the Pure, Touring, Grand Touring, and Lucid Air Dream Edition. Names like “LE” and “Limited” just don’t fit the brand. One positive thing is that brands usually keep these trim levels the same across the brand. So the SEL trim on a Ford car will always be higher than the S trim.

Finally, packages are other additional options buyers can add to the car. A popular one might be the technology package that can add better screens, upgraded navigation, or other safety features. Some trucks will have an off-road package that allows people to adventure off the beaten path with bigger tires or a better tow rating. A cold weather package might offer all-weather floor mats and heated backseats for those in colder climates. These packages can also come in vague names so it is best to check the automakers website to check what is or is not included.

It’s all about the options and packages!

“Options” on a vehicle are what set one car apart from another. These are items that don’t come standard on every car, but can be ordered that was should you need it. These can be comfort items like a heated steering wheel or air conditioned seats. Other options are things like a sparkly paint or a sunroof. These are not standard on vehicles but can be ordered from the factory that way.

Depending on the brand, some offer less options than others. Edmunds says an automaker like Honda doesn’t offer too many options outside of the trim levels. Higher-end automakers like Porsche encourage buyers to customize the vehicle all the way though. Most brands will try to sell vehicles that have a variety of important features that will help it sell faster, but not necessarily will set it apart.

Once you learn all of the basic terminology, picking out a car that has everything you need is easier. If all else fails, check the automakers website to confirm that your new car has everything you need. If not, you can always order one that has all of the bells and whistles.


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