I am in need of a word to describe an old, bad conditioned car that is yet still running.

  • Ragged came to my mind, but it seems to be inappropriate for things not related to clothing.
  • Wrecked is also not what I'd like to use.

However, this shall be used in a work of literature, so a neat paraphrase would be fine.

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    "clunker" comes to my mind.
    – JimmyB
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 9:35
  • 2
    @LittleEva I have never heard the term "raggledy" (AmE, not sure what A-AEnglish is though). I HAVE frequently heard "raggedy" (and it's intensive form "raggedy-ass") Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:15
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    Your examples are adjectives; lots of answers have suggested nouns. Could you clarify if nouns are also acceptable, or do you require an adjective? Additionally, is slang appropriate for your intended use, or should slang be avoided? Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 15:30
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    @Harrison Paine - African-American English informal "raggledy", "raggledy-assed"
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 18:17
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    If you can use more of a phrase, I might recommend "looks like it's held together with bailing wire and duct tape, and running on prayers and borrowed time" :)
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:02

22 Answers 22


Somewhat old fashioned, and not an adjective like your examples, but a noun, jalopy:

  • (Informal) An old, dilapidated motor vehicle, especially an automobile. (AHD)

Comments below suggest adding the following:

Usage example: "We hopped in the jalopy and rattled off to town."

Competitors: Words like junker, heap, and clunker are probably also heard more frequently in the New York than in the south. Jalopy has the advantage of unambiguously denoting an automobile without additional context, which is unlikely to be true of the other words.

Regional note: While it is true that jalopy originated in the USA, it appears to have been adopted in the UK as well, perhaps owing to the American military presence coinciding with the word's peak in popularity. Also note that jalopy has not been surpassed by junker or clunker in either British or American English, according to ngrams, though it must be noted that this does not reflect the spoken language:


American English

British English

Archaic: If we take archaic to mean having the characteristics of the language of the past and surviving chiefly in specialized uses (m-w.com) then yes, "jalopy" is archaic, as "somewhat old-fashioned" was intended to indicate. However, a list of archaic words found at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/archaic-words-american consists mostly of words that are far less familiar than "jalopy." It appears to be a question of where we draw the line.

It is also possible that jalopy is enjoying a revival, as evidenced by the popular culture references mentioned in the comments.

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    I haven't heard "jalopy" in probably 40 years (it was a term my grandmother's generation used). I would regard it as archaic in modern vernacular.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:01
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    @HotLicks - you obviously never listened to "Car Talk" on NPR...
    – Floris
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:13
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    @phoog - I notice you're in NY. Down in the Southern states, we usually hear the term "junker", "heap" or "clunker". You may want to add those for a more complete answer. You may also want to specify that this is American English and not British. The term "jalopy" seems to have originated in 1920's America.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:25
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    @Floris - Considering that one of the Magliozzi brothers is the same age I am and the other is dead, I consider that proof of my statement.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 21:58
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    @HotLicks fwiw, Google Ngrams shows "jalopy" to be more popular than both "junker" and "clunker", and has shown pretty steady usage (no significant decline) since the 1960s. There was a big decline for 'jalopy' from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, but since then it has stayed in fairly constant usage. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – nohat
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 8:06


noun, British informal

An old car in poor condition: they’ve only got an old banger

More example sentences:

On a family visit to Windsor Safari Park just to get used to his new car, a jumpy old banger with steering wheel stick-shift gears, Ron was flagged down by a policeman.

They are not supposed to be working but their entrepreneurial skills include buying old bangers at the car market and fixing them up for resale.

You can amplify your meaning with the adjective clapped-out:


adjective, British informal

(of machinery or appliances) worn-out; dilapidated.


'These same emissions zones will also catch clapped-out old bangers and poorly-maintained lorries and vans.'

  • 2
    'Clapped-out' looks a good adjective to me. Technically, I suppose it's two words, but you may want to consider including? Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 8:19
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    Interestingly the OED definition says 'unable to work or operate' yet all the OED examples imply ongoing usage: 'A group of Bradford friends are planning an ambitious 3,222 mile charity crusade around the UK - in a set of four clapped-out old Ford Fiestas.' - oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/clapped-out Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 9:00
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    "clapped out" means pretty much out of order, but still running anyway despite all logic and reason. For how much longer, is not specified... It's also appropriately onomatopoetic, they sound like they're clapping when you rev them. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 11:36
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    @TusharRaj I checked and Cambridge, McMillan and Longman all define as 'sort of working'. Collins implies that too. :) Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 11:36
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    @JulieCarter: I was going by the quoted Oxford definition. I eat my words. +1 for the Doctor.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:04

You might consider one of the many slang words for such a car -- hooptie, junker, clunker, beater, etc.

Sources: Urban Dictionary and The Free Dictionary.

  • 5
    +1 hooptie and beater are new words for me, so I clicked on the links...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 13:41
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    Clunker is good in American English. Natives might recall the "Cash for Clunkers" program a few years back, where the government offered small financial incentives to turn old, fuel-inefficient cars into the govt, since newer models nearly all have better mileage than their equivalents from decades ago.
    – thelr
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 19:10
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    I know we are not voting, but beater was the first term that came to mind for me. We also use the term to apply to bicycles in similar shape as in "Train station beater" which is a cheap or old bike kept locked up at a train station - the implication being that replacing it occasionally is cheaper/easier than finding a more secure place to store a bike (midwest, USA).
    – Tony Adams
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 16:22
  • "Beater" is also the only word in any of these answers which I would use. "Hooptie" is a sub-category of beater to me: a hooptie is a luxury car which is at least 20 years old, and in poor enough condition to be a beater.
    – Eric Dand
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 22:46

In Australia, a poorly maintained/rusty car is called a "bomb" or a "bomby car" and described as "bomby".

'Look at that bomby Falcon - it's the rustiest thing I've ever seen!'

'Wow, that red Corolla's an absolute bomb!'

From Wikipedia:

In Australian slang the terms rust bucket, 'bunky', old bomb, paddock basher or bomb are used to refer to old, rusty and/or rundown cars.



(Australia/New Zealand, slang) an old or dilapidated motorcar

Source: Collins English Dictionary

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    It's an excellent point that Bomb is AusE ... Banger is BrE and Junker is AmE.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 6:39

Here's a noun that can fit your description: rattletrap

From Merriam Webster:

something (such as a car) that is old, noisy, and not in good condition

  • Please cite the source of your link/quoted definition somewhere in the body of this answer.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 18:24
  • Well it's a quoted definition from the link on rattletrap
    – Jaro
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 7:42

Here in Australia, we use the term "shitbox" (a slang) to refer to cars that are in bad condition, or cars that are just bad.

Mate, my car's a shitbox. Barely gets to the local pub before she shits herself.

Before you flame me for profanity (if you even consider that word profanity in this day and age), here's a link to an official rally that is run here in Australia. http://www.shitboxrally.com.au/

  • 1
    awesome mate. the best answer :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 6:40
  • Formula 1's Olivier Panis used this word to describe the Morris Marina in an episode of Top Gear. youtube.com/watch?v=tJ4yP9BIkII Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 13:50

Battered comes to mind.

old, used a lot, and not in very good condition

a battered old car

That's the actual example from Oxford

A cursory synonym search didn't yield many words applicaple to cars, except this (sort of):


(Especially of a house or vehicle) in a state of severe disrepair: a ramshackle cottage

I'd go with battered, though.

  • In AmE we would not use "ramshackle" to describe a car, "battered" is so-so. +1 for an answer with definitions, citations and links. They seem quite rare these days. :-(
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:53
  • @LittleEva: That's what I thought. Hence the 'sort of'. And re-recommendation of battered. (Which isn't just so-so, but perfect, IMO)
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:56
  • Yes. But not in the senses you'd expect.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 8:00
  • 1
    See for yourself
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 8:01
  • It's difficult to see how "some adjectives" can be an answer to the question "what word is used for a [junker] in such and such country?".
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 6:40


an untidy or dilapidated place or vehicle.
"they climbed back in the heap and headed home"

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    + 1 That's a good one. Can you link to your sources? Is this a particularly British English usage? Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:26
  • Sadly my original source is usage. That the dictionary also lists it in their example but beyond that, I'm not having much luck finding it using google's ngram viewer... trying to come up with a short phrase that also maintains context is hard.
    – aslum
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:30
  • @EleventhDoctor It's not idiomatic British English; the link is to Oxford Dictionaries' American site. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 15:56

decrepit (adj.):

worn out or ruined, because of age or neglect

'a row of decrepit houses'

Source: ODO

Some information on the 'decrepit car' is given through Wikipedia

Using two words will give you an 'old banger' (noun:British informal):

an old car in poor condition

'they've only got an old banger'

Source: ODO



3 informal An untidy or dilapidated place or vehicle:

Oxford Dictionaries Online

or beater:

4 North American informal An old or dilapidated vehicle.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

My 1940 Ford Fordor that is mostly original parts is a survivor, but that term is used only by hot rod enthusiasts.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU, Craig. Please notice the improvements I've made to your answer. We'd like you to maintain that as a minimum standard for any answers you post in the future.
    – ScotM
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:13
  • +1 for the answer I see post-edit.
    – user98990
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 22:59

Flivver comes to mind also beside modern slang terms. The use of jalopy superseded flivver over time but flivver has this nostalgic feel.

A flivver is an American slang term used during the early part of the 20th century to refer to any small car that gave a rough ride, esp. one that is small, inexpensive, and old. A contemporary term was a "Tin Lizzy" (referring to a Ford Model T). Wikipedia

enter image description here
Chevy, old American car. Habana, Cuba - Wiktionary

It is an outdated term itself but it is still used, especially in novels.

From "The Wild Years" by Ernest Hemingway (1962):

The luge is the Swiss flivver.

Flivver is also used for cheap and old aeroplanes. The Ford Flivver was a single-seat aircraft introduced by Henry Ford as the "Model T of the Air".

enter image description here

  • Bravo! Wonderful nostalgic / archaic choice. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:37

An Embarassment of Choices (For Describing an Embarrasing Car)

There are many terms you might use for a decrepit car1

Numerous slang terms are used to describe such cars, which vary by country and region, including hoopty, jalopy, shed, clunker, lemon, banger, bomb, beater, rust bucket, voodoo, wreck, or rattletrap.

More Colorful Choices

Another possible term is bucket of bolts2

a machine which is old run-down, or worn out

another possibility is death trap2

Man, we had to ride in this old car to get to the mall. Things were clanking and the breaks were like almost gone on the thing. That car was nothing more than a death trap, and I am surprised we made it there and back in one piece.

1From Wikipedia

2From Urban Dictionary



It's a niche British English use for a cheap knockabout car.

Pistonheads.com run a weekly Shed of the week article: http://www.pistonheads.com/regulars/ph-features-sheds

  • run-down

: in very bad condition because of age or lack of care



All of my cars in the '70s were "beaters." Aka "rust-buckets" or "heaps." And a few were quite literally possible "deathtraps." (Like the one that dropped a tie rod in a.m. rush-hour traffic on a 4-lane highway; or the engine fire in the middle of the night, on a rural desert road; to fondly recall a couple.) These were the most common names we used for our "junkers" in the Midwest US at the time. A bit of trivia - Average cost: $100-150. Average lifespan: 6-9 months. Money back at the junkyard: $50.


"beater car" is the term I use for my old beat up backup/don't care where I park/leave it car.


An old kronk, a clapped-out motor are my favourites. More over at Wikipedia.

  • Yes, but we used to spell it as old cronk. Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 18:23

I live in the city, and I hear it particularly from older guys, but may I suggest


Noun hoopty (plural hoopties)

(slang) an old, worn-out car.

(Source: Wiktionary)

Usage: "Your hoopty's missin a hubcap, man!" If I remember correctly, it's got origins in Detriot, but someone might have to check me on that.


If you're trying to describe a car that only looks old and worn out but still runs well, consider rat rod: a style of antique car restoration which leaves rust and other effects of time unaltered, or even simulates them.


'dilapidated vehicle' is the best that I can think of. Cheers!


I like lemon:

something that is useless because it fails to work or to work properly:

I soon realized the van was a lemon.


In Cars 2 they use the word lemon many times to describe old rusty cars that malfunction all the time:

The world turned their backs on cars like us. They stopped manufacturing us, stopped making our parts. The only thing they haven't stopped doing is laughing at us. They've called us terrible names: jalopy, rust bucket, heap, clunker, junker, beater, wreck, rattletrap...lemon.


  • 1
    It's far more common for the tag "lemon" to be applied to a new car than an old one. (And the Cars movies are a poor reference, being oriented to children under about age 12, and often using synthetic dialects.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 18:02
  • I just like the movie and the word, pray, good sir, don't be a party poop :)
    – A.P.
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 18:11



  1. Worn out from long use or neglect; dilapidated.

  2. Shabbily dressed because of poverty; seedy.

Source: American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.

Down-at-the-heel cars

Source: Kiplinger's Personal Finance (1951)


: Worn out by long travel on roads, or (figuratively) in a damaged or depleted state due to constant or prolonged usage or exertion.

Mark Anthony, The Dark Remains, Bantam Spectra (2001), ISBN 0553579355, page 10: Now that they were close, Lirith could see the vehicles were more than a little roadworn: wood cracked, gilt peeled, and dust flecked sun-faded paint.

Source: Wiktionary

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