New Delhi: Now that Indian buyers can choose from some 80 different models of cars and SUV’s with over 200 variations of engines and fittings, buyers are more confused than ever.

Murad Ali Baig, auto expert & columnist

We constantly hear the lament of how simple things were 20 years ago with barely three cars to choose from. It is easy to forget that these choices usually came with condemnations of their being too noisy, unreliable, uncomfortable and ugly. They were also accused of being fuel guzzlers or too small in size.

Auto scribes are religiously buttonholed at every meeting, flooded with earnest queries on what car to buy, how do the features compare and/ or whether it is worth the price tag it carries.

The essential facts that potential buyers should know are that all modern cars are pretty good today because the stiff competition will not allow any bad product to survive. All modern engines are fuel efficient and the fuel consumption mainly depends on the weight of the car. So if you buy a big heavy car you must be willing to pay for the fuel.

Modern cars are very reliable and overhauls are now almost unheard of. They seldom need more than routine servicing and the inevitable repairs from minor or major accidents that do take place are not really the fault of any car per se. Maintenance is normally cheap though repairs of all modern cars can be costly with high tech and complex lights and other replacement parts.

These are however, small differences. Some cars are more comfortable for family use while others have better handling for the sporty minded. Some engines are quick and racy while others are smooth and silky. Some cars have classic styling while others have funky modern looks but this is usually a matter of personal taste or fashion. The interiors in terms of comfort, style, quality and features can also be different.

The bigger differences should however be noted. Some cars definitely offer better after sales service and spare parts support than others. These make a big difference in small towns but the number of dealers covering any big town are roughly similar for most brands, although since the dealers are different, you need to deal with one which enjoys a good reputation. The resale value is also a very major consideration and this is usually based on the totality of all the plus and minus points of every company and its brands.

Your choice of a car can be influenced by the tempting offers that are endless on offer. Trade-in schemes for your old car with loyalty bonuses can be seductive. Also on offer can be free music systems, alloy wheels, leather seats and other accessories. Free or low interest insurance or loan schemes seem attractive even if they are really nothing but disguised discounts especially since finance and insurance companies have rather standard rates. Recently a lot many car companies have been offering huge outright discounts of Rs50,000 or more.

Faced with such tempting offers many buyers tend to rush in for a new car after just two or three years. They want to pension off existing models long before they need any major repairs and sometimes even before their have worn out their first set of tyres.

This can be quite confusing. A sensible buyer should first clearly and objectively define his needs. If he travels long distances, a bigger car with a diesel engine will be the obvious choice. If travel is for short distance commuting, a small hatchback will make parking and traffic much easier. At the same time we have seen and rightfully so, that a big family will prefer a bigger car. Adventure travelers should typically opt for an SUV.

And if prestige is an important consideration, a big and swanky car will be a clear choice. In each of the cases, one should always go in for a slightly better car than one can afford so that one can continue to retain a sense of pride in the car one has chosen to own and drive.

Murad Ali Baig is one of India’s foremost auto experts. Feedback to his column can be sent at