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Sunday, April 29, 2012

First time car buyer FAQs

Some friends and relatives occasionally seek my inputs on buying a car. While I’m no industry expert in this matter and own no car of my own, I’ve been able to give some advise, based on my experience of driving different cars and reading industry happenings. In this post, I’m collating some of the frequently asked questions related to car purchase.

How much should I spend on a car?
One can buy a car for an amount anything from INR 50k (a used ambassador) to 20 crores (A koenigseggagera). Right amount to spend depends on one’s disposable income and purpose of buying a car. I propose spending as little as possible on the car. The thought "It'll be an one time investment-let me extend my budget by few lakhs" won't really work, as you tend to get bored and will aspire for a better car after few years. Your car might boost your ego for sometime and get some status symbol, but be aware that if your financials are not strong, money spent on car (insurance, fuel, maintenance etc) will make you wonder if you'll be better off without a car

Diesel or Petrol?
Petrol cars are cheaper, better powered and often come with offers. However, ever increasing price of petrol and huge price difference between petrol and diesel has tilted the favor towards diesel. Don't succumb for diesel pressure if your usage doesn't justify it. Diesel cars are almost at par with petrol ones in terms of durability and maintenance. If you’re not deterred by couple of extra lakhs and fuel savings can justify the price difference , go for diesel

Used or New?
Used petrol cars are now available for high bargain. Instead of buying a new hatchback, a used sedan might be a better bet, if you intend to use it for couple of years and then upgrade. Cars often suffer scratches and dents- if it is likely to cause heartbreaks to you, better be comfortable with a used car for a while. However, be careful from where you buy your used car.

Should I go for an SUV?
Adventure crazy souls crave for SUVs and boast of 4x4 capabilities of their vehicle. Yes, SUVs are bigger, more powerful and are better capable of handling bad roads. But unless your usage pattern demands an SUV, investing in a 15 lakh SUV when you could have managed with a 7 lakh sedan can make you regret your decision. SUVs cost more- so more down payment and higher EMI. SUV’s insurance premium will be more, so every year you’ll spend twice the amount of a sedan in insurance premium. SUVs need more space to drive and park, so not really ideal in city, SUVs give less mileage than normal cars, so spend more on fuel. SO unless your driving involves bad roads, long drives (with a large group) etc, buying a SUV and using it for office commute is not a wise decision.

Should I go for 4x4?
All wheel drive or 4x4 is nice to have. It gives slightly better ability to handle muddy/sandy terrain in which wheels are likely to be stuck. 4x4 gives more confidence to the driver compared to 4x2, while negotiating an unfavorable terrain. However, understand that 4x4 s are not invincible (Watch this video) There’ll be terrains even 4 wheel drive vehicles can’t negotiate. 4x4 variants cost extra money, they’ll have additional mechanics and electrical that add weight and reduce fuel efficiency. And you won’t need 4x4 for every day driving. Over 70% of SUVs sold are 4x2 variants and only 30% are 4x4 variants. Unless you plan frequent trips into forests or villages or sand dunes, not having 4x4 won’t make a huge difference. Validate your need to justify this extra spend.

This car is better or that?
There’s no definite answer to questions that compare two cars. Because everything boils down to an individual’s requirements and preferences. Design of a car is very subjective. Usage pattern and expectation from the vehicle can make the difference between a good choice and a bad choice.

How many cc/PS/bhp we should go far?
There’s no simple formula to relate engine specifications and decide if they are good or bad. Petrol engines are usually lighter and can produce more power per cc. Diesel engines are heavier, so despite higher cc count, power output can be lower. Similarly a lower CC engine can be made to deliver higher power using booster/turbo technologies. If the vehicle is smaller, lesser power is adequate, while bigger vehicles would need higher power. More the power, less will be the fuel efficiency. While overpriced imported cars have engines that have as much as 500 horses or more, we’ll never be using so much power on road in India, unless you get to drive them in a racetrack or completely isolated highway. For a normal city car, about 70PS is fairly adequate. 90PS or more is desirable for bigger cars and for those keen on highway driving. For SUVs, 7 seaters, 100PS or more will give excellent pulling power and triple digit speeds, even when the car is fully loaded with people. 150+ PS may help you touch 200kmph when road permits. Then there’s a concept of torque, power to weight ratio, gear ratio and other things. A more sensible approach will be to have extended test drives in your shortlisted cars, to validate it meets your expectations.
What else I should worry about?
If you’re in a transferable job, you will incur extra expense if you've to use your car in a new state. (you've to pay fresh taxes). In such cases, selling off your car and buying new one at next state makes more sense. So don't spend a fortune on cars

Know how much you'll be spending on your car- insurance, maintenance, fuel, toll fee, interest etc. Don't succumb to peer/family pressure and buy an expensive car, if your income levels can't support it.

Related: Diesel dilemma * Buying vs renting a car * Safe driving tips * Fuel saving tips *

2 comments :

Tata Safari Storme said...

Petrol cars are cheaper, better powered and often come with offers.If you want suv tan best option for you is tata safari storme

Sushil Cherian(Zimbly Cars) said...

Very useful post on how to select your first car. I had done a similar one a while ago http://cars.zimbly.com/2009/02/how-to-select-your-first-car/ and also another one on what to think about when upgrading from an existing vehicle: http://cars.zimbly.com/2009/03/when-upgrading-your-existing-car/