February 2009
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How to select your first car ?

You have never owned a car in your life and are now at a point where you are considering the purchase of your first car. This is a big step for most people in India an aspiration that probably is a close second to owning a house. Most times people first buy a car and then go on to owning a house.

You need to/want to buy your first car for one of the following top 10 reasons:

  1. You are beginning your work life and there is pressure from family to avoid buying/riding a two wheeler
  2. You were taking public transport but for some health reasons cannot continue using it or the routes have changed
  3. Your Company has cut back on pick-up/drop
  4. Your home/workplace has changed and it is too far for a two wheeler and public transport is not feasible
  5. You are getting married
  6. You are expecting a baby
  7. It  has become affordable for you
  8. You will be Getting/Got a promotion
  9. You are now getting a vehicle purchase/lease/maintenance allowance with tax benefits
  10. You have aged/ailing parents/in-laws who will be staying with you and cannot take them around by other means of transport

You have your reasons for purchasing a vehicle. What should you buy is determined mainly by your finances and by your requirements. If you are not clear on your requirements this post will help you clarify your requirements. This post will not pick the vehicle for you as that is something you will have to do based on your specific situation.

If you have little or no prior car driving experience (days in driving school don’t count) and live in a crowded city and with a limited budget you are better off going in for a good used car to learn your driving in. If you are particular about reliability go for a certified used car. If your budget allows it you should go in for a new car but here again I would suggest a compact hatchback to start. Upgrade whenever you are comfortable with driving and do so in a time frame that you don’t lose money on the sale.

If you have sufficient driving experience and your budget permits you should go in for the vehicle that best matches your requirements.

What  you should consider while making the decision:

·         What is your budget for purchase and what is your annual budget for maintenance & insurance?

·         Do you need to take a loan? If so how much money do you need to keep ready from your side and how much will the loan cover?

·         Do you mind buying a used car or do you prefer a new one? (Check:

·         Will you drive or have a driver? (If you plan to keep a driver you would be looking for good front passenger side comfort and rear seat comfort and space, rugged build and good mileage while if you would be driving it yourself driving comfort would be of first importance)

·         Do you have any special requirements or needs (very tall or short driver or a physical disability requiring a hand controlled vehicle)? (Some manufacturers build custom hand controlled vehicles with automatic gear shifters that allow people with disabilities to drive a car easily.

·         How many passengers would you need to carry frequently? For example if you may be the primary driver during the week but on weekends you would like to ferry along the entire family of 5/6/7 people on outings. If you have a small number you may be able to do with a hatchback or a entry level compact sedan but if you have a large family you may need to look at SUVs/MUVs.

·         How much and where will you be driving? (If you will be driving a lot then it may make sense to look for a vehicle that runs on diesel or is a petrol car allowing the use of petrol and LPG or CNG or a petrol electric hybrid. If your travel is limited then a petrol would do just as well since the vehicle would be cheaper and wouldn’t warrant the higher initial purchase price)

·         Do you have space to park the vehicle of your choice easily and safely? (you may need to choose a smaller vehicle if your parking spot doesn’t allow a large vehicle)

·         How important is looks, colors, features, safety, performance, ease of driving, space, payload, mileage, maintenance cost, ASS (After Sales Service) to you?

·         Do you have a preferred brand you want to buy? If you like a certain brand you may have a more positive view of vehicles of that brand – it also makes sense to test drive vehicles from their competitors as well for you may be pleasantly surprised.

·         What features are must haves for you and what are nice to have?

What is considered essential in a vehicle these days?

If you ask me I will list driving comfort, good visibility all around , AC/ heater, power windows (at-least front two) and central locking, internally adjustable ORVMs, CD/Mp3 player with radio,5 speed gearbox and seating space for 4 people(with seatbelts for all) with room for some luggage(foldable rear seats where available are almost mandatory) would be the bare minimum requirements. Any vehicle that comes with added safety features is recommended over vehicles of the same price that do not carry the same features.

What are nice to have features?

Safety features like ABS and Airbags would be highest on the list of nice to have followed by rear defogger, rear wiper, Remote keyless entry, tachometer and fog lamps, adjustable seat height & steering wheel ,alloy wheels, storage space for small items and bottles, under seat storage, cup holders, provision for speakers, tilt seats at the rear, split-folding-seats at the rear. This list is endless since there are many optional features available on todays vehicles.

When buying new:

·         Make sure you have read up as much as you can from the manufacturer website and from enthusiast forums like Team-BHP and also magazines which have detailed test drive reports of the vehicles you are interested in. Only when you are fully informed should you go to a dealer.

·         Check with multiple dealers for the same brand if you have such a choice in your city

·         Negotiate the price and accessories

·         Buy when there are good deals available if you can wait and walk away if you are being pressurized by the dealer

·         Accessorize but with limits and aesthetically(

·         Service should be easily available /(someone )

·         24 hr help lines a must

·         Avoid non popular colors/models as later resale may be affected

·         Ask if there are special edition versions with more features than regular ones at a discounted price

·         Wait for reviews of new models to come out before you run out and buy. You don’t want to be the tester for your own new vehicle.  Six months after launch is a good time to hope a majority of initial quality issues of a new launch are fixed.

·         Be cautious of dealers selling you their demo-vehicles as new vehicles.

When buying pre-owned (used):

·         Avoid cars modified beyond recognition or with illegal modifications

·         Cars with more than 15k km per year/unless you are getting a really good deal and you know the vehicle checks out fine mechanically

·         Without legal papers ( you will have trouble with papers for very old cars.)

·         Without legal emission compliant features

·         Think twice before going in for C/D class cars with high parts cost/parts availability issues

·         Think several times before choosing vehicles painted to colors other than what is mentioned on the Registration

·         Think several times before going in for vehicles whose manufacturers are no longer in business (getting spares and service may be an issue – you may get a really good deal on the vehicle though)

·         Cars registered out of your residential state may require a re-registration and life-taxes to be paid again


This blog has the following resources for new car purchase:

Indian OEM Websites,

Popular Used Car Portals

& India Auto Magazines – Please refer to them to review your options and make your selection.




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