Used car of the week : Buying a Cheap Beater Car

Vishy76’s must-read thread on Beater Cars

As Vishy76 said, beater cars are the unsung heroes of the automotive world, providing reliable transportation at an affordable price point. In these Covid-19 times, such cars are even more important as income levels are low and public transport is a strict no-no. So, if your family member needs to travel safely & you’re short on cash, beater cars are the saviours! These are rides which you can pick up for less than the cost of the latest iPhone 12.

Positives:

  • Cheap to buy! Less money than a flagship iPhone or Macbook
  • Wide variety of cars! Plenty of Altos, i10s, Corollas, Civics, Jeeps, Nanos, Gypsys available
  • Simple mechanicals = easy to fix. Buy the right model & you’ll enjoy decent reliability
  • Cheap to maintain. Parts & repairs are usually inexpensive
  • No stress about parking in suspect neighbourhoods, dents from cabbies, rough usage etc.
  • Your other, nicer car will be better maintained as this beater is used for all the dirty work
  • Safer than 2-wheels, especially given our road & weather conditions
  • Nostalgic value as someone in the family would have owned one in their lifetime
  • Borrower-friendly! You can hand these over to friends / family instead of your more expensive car
  • Some cheap ones can be fun to drive too – Civic, Brio, Etios 1.5 & more

Negatives:

  • Cheap beaters will be old & outdated
  • Low cost nature & basic quality. Not something you’ll look forward to
  • Cheap car image will be a deterrent for many. Some neighbours will think you’re broke
  • Negligible features & safety kit. Best used in a limited manner (not long distance)
  • Niggles & issues are expected. You’ll need to keep an FNG ready for repairs, rust etc.
  • Sourcing parts may be troublesome for some models
  • Performance & driving experience will be rudimentary in most cases
  • If you buy something really old, the RC needs to be renewed every 5 years
  • Your family members might be unwilling to drive or travel in them

Related Threads:

  • vishy76’s article on beater cars
  • Leoshashi’s 2000 Maruti 800 DX 5-Speed
  • Aditya’s 10-year old Corolla
  • confused.geek’s 14-year old Alto
  • paragsachania’s 2.55L km WagonR F10D
  • silverado’s Tata Nano
  • swamyzen’s 1.91L km Maruti Zen
  • noopster’s 2006 Maruti Swift

Mod Potential:

Don’t modify them. These cars are old; instead of spending any money on modifications, use the moolah for making them mechanically sweeter & tighter (e.g. repair / replace worn-out parts, body work).

Availability:

Plentiful! You can buy excellent beater cars for any budget. I bought a lovely Maruti 800 for 40,000 bucks and am extremely happy with it. Under a lakh, you’ll see Altos & i10s in decent shape. You can also get some fantastic beaters for 1.xx lakh, like a Corolla, Swift or Civic. 3 lakhs? You are the king of beater cars then & can get your hands on some truly sweet sedans. Of course, “low budget” is a relative term – I know of many luxury car owners who keep a 6-lakh rupee 1st-gen Innova as the beater of their house. The Ambanis use Endeavours as beaters!

Just be sure to buy a car that ages well, has a good track record of reliability & has parts available in the open market. Avoid duds, flops, unreliable models & European cars.

You might need to account for the green tax payment (Rs. 3450) if not paid by the owner of the car. Check out some of the examples on sale here.

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