Tips to buy a used car in India
I never thought I would think about buying a used car in India. I was a looking at buying a car, and a new one at that. I started thinking in terms of buying a bigger, better hatch and I did not want a ‘Tall Boy’. The most visible (bigger, better) hatches on the road (in no particular order, mind you) were the Hyundai i10, Maruti Swift, VW Polo, Fiat Grand Punto, Ford Figo, Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz. I was not sold on the ‘diesel makes more sense’ argument, hence was looking primarily at petrol cars. The Polo, Punto, i20, Jazz variants I felt were too expensive and I was not particularly impressed by Maruti, except for the resale value and the ‘kitna deti hai’ part. Read about too many rattles and niggles on not-very-old Swifts.
That’s when I got hooked onto a website called Team-BHP. I absolutely loved the discussions going on in the forums of that site and it increased and corroborated a lot about my knowledge about cars in India. That’s what planted the thought of buying a used car into my mind. Reading so many threads about the same partly convinced me about at least having a look at used cars, in addition to new cars. That’s what opened up a whole new segment of cars that wouldn’t have factored into my budget earlier. Most impressive was this thread which was like a pictorial invitation to fulfill my wet dreams about cars at just the right price: The Best (used) Enthusiast cars for 6 lakh rupees! Or less Of course, all these were indicative prices in Mumbai, where the supply of cars is huge and the prices low (as opposed to South India, or Hyderabad). But the bug was firmly planted.
I did go through a lot more threads in the forums and gathered what to look for in a used car and how to do the inspection. I started going through a lot of the classifieds that I came across both online and in the newspapers. I found that in this online era, the best places to find classifieds from individuals (not dealers) still remains the local newspaper (sadly), but Sulekha.com, Team-BHP classifieds do come close. Visiting used car dealers and franchises like Maruti True Value and Mahindra First Choice and Dr. Car also gives you a lot of options but prices do tend to be a bit higher than what individuals quote. Some dealers provide a few free services or maintenance services along with certified multi point Pre Delivery Checks for vehicles. An excellent site to check the indicative values of used cars in various cities is CarWale.com.
Some lessons I learnt while hunting for used cars are summarized here:
1. Never trust the seller (especially dealer) at face value. Check and analyze the car yourself. Individuals have a tendency to hype their car’s performance, fuel efficiency and comfort, while dealers’ over-hype can range from blatant misinformation to outright lies.
2. Avoid brokers as much as possible.
3. Never trust the odometer reading on a car at a dealer’s lot. It is almost always been tampered with (yes, even the electronic ones) to show a lower reading. Always judge a car by Test Driving (TD) it and getting a feel of it.
4. When going to see a car, take a comprehensive check-list and if possible, another friend or a trusted partner. At least one of you must me fairly knowledgeable about cars. If none of you is, then preferably, take a trusted mechanic. I used to take my wife with me, she would check the rear seat comfort and/or problems and I would check the front seat and driving :)
5. As far as possible, inspect the car during daylight.
6. Ask lots of questions about the car. You can tell if the owner actually knows and cares for the car or not just by noticing the way the seller responds to your questions.
7. Check all the papers and documents of the car. If the seller poses as the owner and is actually just a broker, he will have a transfer form already signed by the original owner. Beware of such deals.
8. Go ahead with further dealings about the car only if you are genuinely happy about the car. You are under no obligation to buy a car just because the seller is pressurizing you. You can always back out of the deal and look for another car.
9. Always get the car thoroughly checked by a mechanic before agreeing to buy the car. Twice I had been enamored enough to almost buy the car then and there, but my sense prevailed and I got it checked by a mechanic. Both times, the inspection revealed that the car had been involved in an accident and many parts had been welded or changed. In one of the cases, service history of the car at the authorized service station (A.S.S) revealed that the car had undergone repairs of more than a lac!
10. Finding a used car takes time, sometimes months, so start looking early and be patient.
11. Sometimes when you find a decent, well maintained car, from a trustworthy owner, which passes all your TDs and mechanic checks and one which you would really like to own, you should be ready to pay a little premium (5k to 20k depending upon condition) over the current market price/value, especially if you plan to keep the car for a long time. Such cars are hard to come by and its not worth losing the car for a small amount of money.
These and a lot more tips and caveats have been discussed in the myriad threads of Team-BHP. There is another excellent forum geared towards tips for motoring in India, http://gearheads.in Although I have not frequented this one as much as I have Team-BHP, GearHeads.in has a lot of useful tips and interesting topics to help sort out your motoring queries.
Hope these tips help someone in getting the car of their dreams at just the right price.