You auto not say that

We love cars. The way they look, the way they sound. The way they make us feel when we hit the open road. Yet, as great as cars are, sometimes vehicle-related terms aren’t always positive. In fact, we’ve heard several we really don’t like much at all. Here’s a short list of six terms we hope you’ll tap the brakes on using so you can steer clear of them and not connect our favorite mode of transportation with anything negative.

1) Asleep at the wheel

We don’t know what could be worse than this. Falling asleep at the wheel can be deadly in the literal sense. So, drink some coffee and turn up the air conditioning. Wake up! Of course, the figurative definition isn’t much better. “In its literal meaning this would be extremely dangerous, but used as a driving idiom it refers to someone not paying attention or not being alert. If you are asleep at the wheel, you’re not fully aware of what is happening around you.”1

2) Backseat Driver

Okay, this is literally kind of impossible. Unless you’re really tall or you’re driving a tiller fire truck. But in its figurative sense, it’s mostly not nice. It’s an unflattering label for an unhelpful passenger who thinks they’re the best driver in the car – even though, you know, they’re not driving. In a best case, such unwanted advice might cause you to roll your eyes. In the worst case, it’s a huge distraction and can lead to some spectacular arguments.2

3) Driving blind

We’d like to see this. Except we’re sure it wouldn’t end well for anyone involved. In real life, it’s impossible for someone who’s blind to drive an automobile. In the figurative sense, though, it just means it’s really hard to move forward. You might say when you don’t have enough information or perhaps you can’t see what is ahead of you in life, you are driving blind. So, let’s all drink some more coffee and keep our eyes on the future so we’re not operating this way!1

4) My way or the highway

We actually like this one a little bit, even though it’s not nice. It sounds like the person you’re talking to has two choices. But they really don’t. It’s an ultimatum that rarely ends well for both parties involved. The only true option is to agree and do as I say (my way) or go away (the highway). That’s a fairly extreme option, and one that isn’t always reasonable or even practical. So, we’ll stick with this being not especially nice and encourage you not to use it (much).1

5) Spare tire

In a vehicle, having a spare tire is a good thing. In fact, it’s not very smart to go without having a spare. (Now where did we leave that lug wrench?) In a figurative sense, though, who are you calling fat? It means someone has a few extra pounds around the midsection. Medically, it’s described as “a roll of fat around the waist.”1 That’s not something we suggest you ever say to someone else. So, let’s leave the spare in the trunk and not bring up this saying unless you’ve got a flat (not fat).3

6) Throw under the bus

If you throw someone under a bus, we’re pretty sure that’s a felony in every state. And if it’s not, it probably should be. It’s definitely not a kind way to treat anyone. The throwing part is bad enough, and near a bus? In a figurative sense, it means to scapegoat someone else. It’s still not nice, but it’s a little better than committing a crime. We don’t think you should unfairly blame anyone else for something, but at least it’s not aggravated battery.3

If you ever have questions, concerns or comments, chat with us directly through the DealerPortal or call our Dealer Operations Group at 1-855-4EXETER (855-439-3837).

1 Suhaya, Geraldine. (Feb. 12, 2022). Improving your English. Driving idioms: Emphasize your point with these expressions about driving. Retrieved from:

2 Sheldon, Andrew. (May 23, 2022). Your AAA Today. The Origins of Popular Car Idioms and Expressions. Retrieved from:

3 Merriam-Webster. (No date). Words at Play. 8 Words and Phrases from the Road. Retrieved from:

About Exeter
Exeter Finance LLC is a non-prime auto finance company headquartered in Irving, Texas. The company partners with franchised and independent auto dealers throughout the country to make car ownership a reality for consumers. For more information, call our Dealer Operations Group at 1-855-4EXETER (855-439-3837).

Category: Industry