…and not end up with a lemon
Buying your first car and that too on a budget? It is an exciting endeavour a lot like asking out your crush for the first time in high school. It is just as fraught with sanity threatening dangers. But we have you covered here. You are most likely looking into the second hand or the reconditioned market. The latter is just another fancy name for 'second hand' where the difference is that the cars are in better shape for a higher price. All our car people suggest these 10 steps to avoid purchasing a regret.
1. Don't buy a car
This is Bangladesh. Only three kinds of people buy cars: those who have an unhealthy passion for it, those who need it as a display of status and those who actually need it for conveyance. The last reason is moot as we don't have roads. Whatever narrow footpaths we have left are filled with parked cars people have nowhere to drive. Then there are the open air barbeque pits created out of cars because our two main political parties have not realised that Tom & Jerry is just a cartoon and not to be tried out in real life. Their repartees include bricks and bricks are not very good for the overall health of car windows. Also, we have plenty of rickshaws. If you're happy now, you're moving to the recipe section of Star Lifestyle. But you still want a car, right?
2. Research against your needs
Will you carry other adults in the back seat? Or do you need to squeeze into a tight parking space every night? Or do you want a fast car that makes you smile every time you see it? Once you've settled on the why, start looking into the what.
First rule for first timers is to go for simplicity. You're buying an old, used car. It is like a rekindled romance with an old flame. There will be issues no matter how good things look on the surface. So research the car. Ask others who owned it. Browsing forums that deal with specific brands is a great way to get deep insights.
Find out weak points, typical repair issues. Case in point, I joined a Nissan forum that told me how to fix a rattling timing chain for less than Tk2000 when a mechanic suggested a Taka 20K engine rebuild. I changed a small chain guide and also the mechanic.
3. Buy a horse cart
Buy simple. Older the car, avoid fancy options like cruise control or a rear mounted jacuzzi. In Bangladesh, avoid sunroof equipped older cars. They can leak and you won't find an easy source to replace the seal. You can't go wrong with a horse and a cart because of the limited amount of parts that can break down.
4. Write your budget on a stone and strap it around your chest
You're looking at a small hatchback that has a small engine, seats four adults and has low running costs. And then you spot a bright blue Trueno with pop up headlights and you're suddenly busy wiping drool with your shirt sleeve. I've been there.
Set a budget, stick to it. As the proverb goes, 'cars are redder on the other side of the budget'. Or in my case, 'bluer'. Any and all second hand purchases will require you to set aside a minimum of Taka 50K for repairs that could happen anywhere within 10 days to 10 months. No old car is sold in perfect condition. Some are but you'll never hear of those because those change hands between friends or a parent to child. That and the cost of ownership name transfer that starts from roughly Taka 15k. Add those numbers to whatever you're willing to spend on the basic cost of purchase. Then reduce the amount by ten percent. That should be your target.
5. Calculate your cost per month
If you're buying reconditioned, you're probably taking out a loan. How much of a loan payment per month can you live with? On top of that there is the average cost of ownership associated with fuel, maintenance and in Bangladesh, chauffeur salary. Add to that the yearly road tax and the advance income tax (AIT). The lowest AIT you can pay now is Taka 15k per annum for sub 1600cc cars and road tax of nearly Taka 6000. All that gives you an average per month cost. You can buy a car outright for five lakhs but the monthly cost might break you depending on what you've bought.
6. Ignore your heart
The most important thing you need to learn is to walk away. If you're getting excited, walk away. If the seller is too pushy but you like the car, walk away. If the car is being offered by Salma Hayek, take her phone number and walk away.
Excitement isn't good for deals. Impulse buys usually end in tears. I bought a Honda one once because it was low, pretty and low again. Many mechanics had learned their trade through this. It worked well but only on certain Tuesdays and if the weather was cool and Nando's was offering a discount. The car and I parted ways quicker than a Hollywood celebrity marriage.
7. Take your mechanic
A trusted mechanic can tell you exactly how many of their children's schooling you will be able to pay for by owning a particular car of your choice.
8. The sun is your friend
If the car owner is only available at night, avoid. If the car owner asks you to come see the ride in a dark, narrow alleyway, avoid. If the owner is either Kim Jong-un or in politics, avoid. This is not just for your own safety. All cars look great in the dark. Night time is nature's Photoshop. It wipes away blemishes. For the same reason, avoid rainy days. You want to see the car and all its dents, scrapes and dead goats still stuck to the under carriage.
9. Read the owner
Sometimes the owner will be able to involuntarily give you clues as to how they have treated the car. You want a babied car, not one used as a rental. If the owner refuses to answer too many questions, then leave. You shouldn't NOT ask questions. Many people will tell you they will fix an issue that you have pointed out AFTER you buy it. That's the kind of person who has left many other things unattended.
I once went to look at a car that was beautiful. But the owner told me it irritated him when people pointed out flaws in his car because his car was perfect. He didn't want to hear from me that his power steering rack was faulty causing the car to dangerously veer across the road.
10. The paperwork
So you've found a car you like and it doesn't have mould people growing out of the fungus under the carpet. Time to deal with the paperwork. First step is to verify that the papers are accurate. BRTA does a check but it is much more advisable to do a police check against the chassis and registration number. And finally read and re-read the contract.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
If you have queries, mail our car guys at [email protected]