Monday, July 23, 2012

Going Local (Part 3)

I have been meaning to blog about this for a while now but life keeps happening and I get distracted. So let me do this before something else distracts me.

You can’t import left-hand drive vehicles in India any more, so if you want to have a car here, you either have to find a right-hand drive to import or buy one locally. We opted to buy one here and bought an Indian car. It’s a 2010 Tata Safari complete with several Delhi dings, for good measure. We bought it from a leaving diplomat, who advertised it in India Ink, the weekly newsletter issued by the Embassy Community Liaison Office. The seller had bought the car new when he got to India two years earlier.


We didn’t absolutely have to have a car and went back and forth for a while before pulling the trigger on the purchase because it’s a large expense and we don’t like those. Plus, we knew we’d be living on the compound, so Paul would walk to work and we wouldn’t need to use it every day but after using cabs for a month, several things became painfully obvious to me. First, Delhi is not a stroller-friendly city, so even if something is close, walking is not always viable because sometimes there are no sidewalks, the curbs are often very high and there are rarely ramps. That and traffic is crazy, so you take your life (and your kids’) into your hands every time you cross a busy street. Second, there’s no way to secure your child in a taxi. They often have no seatbelts in the back seat and you can’t put your car seat in them. Third, not all taxi drivers are helpful. Sometimes, I’d have the toddler, the stroller, a diaper bag, my purse and groceries and the driver wouldn’t even help take the stuff out of the trunk. So, as adventurous as I’d like to think I am, I got tired of that and we bought a car.

To be honest, the Tata Safari wasn’t our first choice. Initially, we wanted to buy a Japanese car because they are reliable, spacious and very popular here. We had our eyes on Toyota Innova, which is like the Toyota Sienna in the US (read a minivan – yes, we have gone to the dark side of minivan ownership (gasp!)). Unfortunately, those run $20,000+ relatively new and we didn’t want to spend that much on a car that we were going to own for two years. So we decided to relax our criteria a bit and see what pops up.

This beauty caught our attention because it was just two years old and substantially less expensive. The seller was asking for $12,000 but we were able to negotiate down to $10,000. It’s a seven-seater, which was attractive to us because we knew we’d have visitors, though the last two seats face each other as opposed to forward and don’t seem to have seat belts (strange?). We weren’t crazy about the color because who buys a black car in hot Delhi but the price seemed right and we didn’t have to get a loan to buy it, which was a biggie for us.  It has leather seats and a DVD player with two screens in the back seat, which the kids love.

We did a little research before buying it and are aware that it won’t hold it’s value as well as some Japanese, European or US cars but we decided we can live with that for two years and at that price. So far it’s been good to us with a couple of minor exceptions: the A/C has a hard time cooling the car after sitting in the hot Delhi sun for a while (on 110 F+ days), and one of the DVD screens has been acting up but other than that we are reasonably happy with our purchase. Now, if only I could say that about our driver… but that’s a whole different story…


  1. Thank you so much for this post! Chris and I were originally going to go no-car after our experience selling ours in Chengdu but in the last few weeks we've come around to realizing that having a car will help us make sure we get off compound as much as possible instead of hanging out at home because it's easier. Hope the driver drama works out soon!

    1. You have a point there, Dani! Even with all the driver drama, I find myself going out a lot more often than I would if we didn't have the car. It's just much easier than the cabs. Of course, that also means I have been shopping a lot but we live in India, if I don't shop, I am not doing it right, right?!


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