There are many common words in Spanish that are not said the same in all Spanish-speaking countries, and this is the case with the word “car”. The universal and generally understood translation is automóvil, but Spanish speakers use a different word in everyday life. And the term they use is different depending on the region and country.
Let’s take a look at all the ways to say car in Spanish in each region, so you can sound extra local no matter which Spanish-speaking country you visit.
Car in Spanish at a Glance
All the ways to say car in Spanish
First, we have automóvil , the most formal way of saying “car” in Spanish. This word is understood in every Spanish-speaking country, although you will not necessarily hear it in everyday speech. It’s a nice default one to have in your back pocket. It may make you sound formal, but you will definitely be understood.
So how do you say “car” in Spanish in an informal context? The most widespread colloquial way of saying “car” is carro . However, note that in some parts of the world carro can also mean “cart”, like for an animal or a shopping cart.
This word is widely used in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and most Central American countries. Not only is it the most used widely-used on a country basis, it’s also very easy to remember.
Countries that use carro for car
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Costa Rica
- Puerto Rico
Note that even within countries there are differences in which word is used. For example, while carro is used in many parts of Mexico, coche is most frequently used in Mexico City.
Coche is primarily used in Spain. and nobody would say carro or auto. However, Spain is not the only place where you’ll hear coche ; it is also used in Argentina and in central Mexico, mainly in Mexico City.
Countries that use coche for car
Auto , an abbreviated version of automóvil is the most common way of saying “car” in South America, mainly in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay. If you say carro in these countries, people might think you are talking about a shopping cart or a horse carriage!
On the other hand, in Perú, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, both carro and auto are used to refer to car in Spanish.
Countries that use auto for car
- Dominican Republic
Other Useful Car-related Vocabulary
Although there are a few ways of saying car in Spanish in every country, you don’t really need to worry about memorizing them all. If you find yourself traveling around South America and accidentally use a different word for car you don’t need to fret. Based on the context, people will understand what you mean. Especially since people watch Spanish media from different countries, each country generally will know what you mean. The benefit of using the normal term in that country or region is that you will come across as more local!