Is there a word for a car that always breaks down and may need to be replaced?. It could be an adjective or a noun:

Joe's car is such a {noun}, he really should think about buying a new one

Joe's got an {adjective} car, he really should think about buying a better one

  • Hi Rani. The tag "single-word-requests" requires an example sentence. based on your request for either an adjective or a noun I've made up some example sentences. Please feel free to change them if you prefer something different.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:57
  • There's nothing in this question that says anything about being old.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 13:00

5 Answers 5


A junker. It's a junk car, on its last legs.

  • 1
    Is it slang? I cannot find it OALD oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/…
    – Rani2Add
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:55
  • 2
    Daniel - Welcome to ELU. Please note that this site expects references where possible; please take a look at the other answers on this page for examples and consider editing your answer with similar information.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:59
  • @Rani2Add: From your own link: "This word or phrase is not in this dictionary, but is in the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary." Changing the search to American English on the site yields results: "an old car that is in bad condition"
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 9:10

A lemon is a vehicle (often new) that is found to have several manufacturing defects which may affect the safety, value or use of the vehicle. Any vehicle with numerous, severe issues can be termed a lemon and, by extension, so can any product with flaws too great or severe to serve its purpose.

  • I need a more suitable word for an old car that always breaks down after years of usage
    – Rani2Add
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:46
  • 3
    @Rani2Add: You're correct that a lemon is not usually an old car, but your question never mentions that the car needs to be old. You might want to add that to your question.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:47
  • 2
    @Rani2Add Then have look at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decrepit_car Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 9:15

In British English, such a car is an old banger.

This applies to any car well past its prime. The term has been in use more or less since the invention of the car. It is said to derive from the propensity of old vehicles to backfire.


One word you can use is jalopy, though OED lists it as informal:


An old car in a dilapidated condition.

‘his father got worried about him driving that old jalopy—it wasn't safe’

  • I recognise this term, but I have never heard it except on US television shows. I live in the UK. Perhaps this is a US term only?
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 9:00
  • 1
    @AndyT: Possibly, if this site is to be believed: "a theory is that it is derived from a non-Spanish pronunciation of Jalapa, Mexico. It seems that, during the 1920's, many decrepit automobiles were shipped from New Orleans to scrapyards in Jalapa. The theory is that some of the dock hands or crew members who did not speak English began naming these broken-down autos after their destination and the name eventually morphed into our current jalopy." (Off-topic factoid: jalapeños are also named after Jalapa)
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 9:05
  • @AndyT Curious. I (from the UK) pictured it as a sort of quaint English word from the early 20C – think the film Genevieve or Jeeves and Wooster – and was expecting someone from the US to never have heard of it.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 11:16
  • @TripeHound: Arguably, 1920's workmen's slang from the US has a similar air of quaintness due to its age.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 11:23

Since it hasn't been suggested yet, consider heap

: a large, disordered pile of things

: a great number or large amount of something

: an old car that is in poor condition

Source: M-W

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.