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TLC for Cars — Here’s what it Means

TLC for Cars — Here’s what it Means

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TLC is the name of a girl group that was particularly popular in the 1990s although you can still catch their performances today.

It’s also an abbreviation that can be used in a number of different contexts.

One of those contexts is descriptions of used cars for sale.

Shopping for a car can leave you at wit’s end as you try to figure out the lingo and decide if what’s being offered is a good deal or not.

We can’t help you decide what to buy, but after you read this post, you’ll know what to look out for if you encounter “TLC” in a car advertisement.

What does”TLC” mean for cars?

“TLC” stands for “tender loving care.” When it comes to cars, it is usually phrased as “needs TLC” and is a way of saying that a used car is not in very good shape and will need a lot of work. Of course, the listing might also say the car has had a lot of TLC, which means it has been well cared for.

What you can expect from a car that needs TLC

If you’re looking for a car on a budget and you see one in your price range that says it needs TLC, you may wonder what exactly you can expect.

You are dead right if you think that “needs TLC” might not be great news.

But as to what you can expect, it varies. If you are lucky, the problems might be mainly cosmetic.

It’s possible that the owner did not keep the interior and exterior of the car very clean or that it has dents and scratches.

If you are willing to clean it and put up with a banged-up vehicle, this might be fine for you.

However, “TLC” can also indicate that the car has not been well-maintained in other ways.

For example, it may need an oil change or other fluids may need to be replaced. The brake pads or other parts of the car might have worn out.

The car might need new tires, or one or more lights may be burned out.

“TLC” doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t work at all, and it usually doesn’t mean that the car is dangerous to drive although you should be certain about this before you get behind the wheel.

However, it does mean that you are probably going to have to spend some money to get the car in good shape again.

“Needs TLC” is a way of letting you know that while the vehicle may only be a few years old or have low mileage, it is not in the condition you would otherwise expect from a similar vehicle. 

The good thing about seeing this in a listing is that at least it lets you know that the seller is being honest about the car’s condition. It’s better to find out about the bad bits before you buy than after!

When “TLC” is positive

Of course, an owner selling a vehicle might also use “TLC” in a positive way although this is somewhat less common.

When you see in a car listing that the vehicle has had plenty of TLC, you can feel more confident that you would be purchasing a car that is clean and well-maintained.

Examples of “TLC” in a car listing

Here is an example of how you might see “TLC” included in a listing for a car:

For sale, 2015 Honda CR-V EX-L. 25,382 miles on odometer. Black interior, brown exterior. 32 MPG highway miles. Non-smoker, only 1 owner. Can provide maintenance records. Good first car. Needs TLC. Price is negotiable.

Here’s how “TLC” might be used in an ad in a positive way:

2016 Nissan Versa for sale. Odometer: 60,000 miles. White exterior, black interior. Great condition, received lots of TLC. Gets 40 MPG highway, 31 city. Comfortable, drives great. Willing to negotiate price.


When you see the words “needs TLC” in a listing for a car, the best thing you should do is proceed with caution.

The car may turn out to be a good deal anyway, particularly if you are someone who knows a fair bit about vehicles and enjoys doing maintenance on them.

A car that needs TLC could also be a good deal if you are planning to fix it up and sell it on.

On the other hand, if you are seeking a reliable vehicle that you want to just be able get into and drive away without worry, look for one that doesn’t need TLC–or an ad that promises the car has received a lot of TLC.