Nearside and offside of a car

We’ve put together this simple guide to ensure you’ll always remember which way round nearside and offside are. Trust us, this will help massively next time you need to replace a light, mirror or any other part which is located on both sides of your car.


The near side is the side nearest to the kerb. This is also abbreviated to ‘N/S’. In the UK this is also known as the passenger side.


The off side is the side away from the kerb. This is also abbreviated to ‘O/S’. In the UK this is also known as the driver side.We’ve all heard of nearside and offside of a car, and some of us even know which is which. But does anyone know why these terms got invented when we already had the universal and much more simple “left” and “right”? 

I’ve had a quick google, but the results all seem to defining the terms using varying degrees of confusion, rather than explaining why anyone would invent such a system in the first place.

Now I’ve spent enough time with mechanics to know that confusion about this sort of thing is exactly what you look for before slipping an extra 80% to the bill for reconditioning the frimblebleem housing and cranocking the rumble guides*, but other than that what was wrong with left and right?

I’ve asked people about this, and they all say that left and right is confusing because no one knows whether you mean left as you look at the car** or left as you sit in the car. And I could understand it if those same people got confused about which side the steering wheel is on in a LHD car, which they don’t. It’s the left side, obviously. 

Now nearside is obviously the side nearest the driver kerb, but which is the nearside of a GDM but UK registered E30 M3 parked facing on-coming traffic in Paris? Whatever the answer I’m pretty sure it’ll be defined in terms of left and right, so why introduce such a ridiculous pair of terms?

I’ve heard people blaming the people who make cars for this deliberate confusion, but the fact is that the car industry has been using the international standard of left and right for decades. It’s simpler, because you don’t have to label half the parts in your factory wrong depending on which country the car they get fitted to will finally end up in. This is why OEM parts are labeled with little Ls and Rs.

So, nearside and offside:
– Terms invented to create confusion in order to make simple things seem more complex and therefore make money from them?
– Terms left over from horse-riding/sailing/fishing that somehow still get crammed in to the vocabulary despite not being relevant?
– Terms that are actually simpler the using left or right, but for reasons that are too complex to explain to people who don’t already understand them (such as people trying to order a spare wing for a Mustang parked upside down in a garage in Okinawa at 05:59 of 30th July 1978***)?
– Something else.

Over to the enormo-brains of PH to clear this up. I can’t hear or read either term without thinking someones about to charge me 500 quid for bleeding the chassis fluid and rotating my brakes.

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