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Old 30th November 2020, 20:47   #46
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

A great thread, I always ensure this advice is given but many seldom follow due to the stigma of getting a 'used' car. Especially, if the car is the first purchase in the family.

I learnt to drive in my Grandpa's WagonR and my friend's I10. But sadly, the actual dent I managed to put was in my own new Figo within a week of purchase by reversing it into an electric post. :( The pain of denting a new car is very real and traumatizing.

The WagonR still chugs on in the family after 12 years, with my cousin brother learning to drive now! The car is a little beaten up, but is always a reliable and forgiving car.

For some reason, I always felt the Maruti's are very forgiving than other brand cars. It could just me but I mostly recommend the bare-basic second hand Maruti's as a starter car. Less electronics, lesser distraction and easy to understand the mechanicals. Spares are never an issue, which is a must if you are looking for a very cheap learner car.

The challenge with the Figo was that you really need to understand the ground clearance, the speed breaker test, etc. and was a nightmare in Kerala roads. These things make it difficult for a newbie to understand and can be costly to repair too.
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Old 30th November 2020, 21:14   #47
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Wholeheartedly agree! I cut my teeth on our knackered old Ford Ikon when I was 18. Suffice to say at that age I had my fair share of knocks driving, including the one that totalled the car. All that being said, I adored it. Felt like a right of passage, with it's dodgy HVAC, rattle prone interiors, suspension that had long given up the ghost, and absolute plethora of junk accumulated in the boot. But it felt mine and the steering and gearbox were a treat.
Other things that worked in its favour was the fact that over the years the engine had got to the point, it really no longer had that josh the car was famous for anymore. Instead the power delivery curve was very linear and the slope of said power delivery curve was let's say quite flat. Which meant I got to grips with accelerating or planning overtakes and managing my gears rather well, with no untoward late power surges to scupper both my day and whatever unfortunate soul was in the impact path.

So blackwasp I can't agree enough with you.
  1. It kept me honest as a young driver (see above about the predictable power delivery)
  2. Taught me how to park (those familiar with Park Street in Cal will know, I had tuition there 3 days a week and drove myself, having to park in the afternoon. Delightfully one day both the AC and power steering broke down. In May. I got sent home from tuition because I stank like a billy goat)
  3. Broke down so often I kept a little fold out stool in the boot to just sit on while I waited for my parents to come pick me up
  4. The lack of some creature comforts meant I felt like I was getting to know the nuts and bolts of the car
  5. Often I quite literally had to learn, given its propensity for break downs and punctures, I ended up becoming quite good with simple repair tasks that otherwise I wouldn't have known about or deigned to do if I had a nicer car. In fact to this day I quite enjoy the simplicity of changing a tire.
  6. I still to this day miss how incredible the steering and gearbox felt on that Ikon
  7. I had some octogenarians who really shouldn't have been allowed out without a minder let alone at the wheel of an old Mahindra jeep, rip my front bumper clean off. As a kid no one took my side even though I was stationary when it happened. Had to simply lift it up, stick it in the backseat, go about my day and weather the storm when dad found out later that evening..

In fact to this day, whenever I return home, I'm happiest pootling about town in our simple old Santro Xing. I adore that thing and its mechanical simplicity and now I understand why my parents were so loathe to give away each of their first cars too (1988 M800 and 1990 Omni for mum and dad respectively).
Funnily enough my cousin got an i10 Nios Asta spec as his first car earlier this year, something that my parents and I were aghast at initially. To all three of us it felt alien that your first car can be that nice, it's almost like it Has to be a beater car. And it Has to be cheap and/or second hand.
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Old 30th November 2020, 21:15   #48
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

When I read the opening post of this thread, I started shaking my head in disagreement. Then I read rest of the posts, and now I feel like the the odd man out.

Nonetheless, here are my two cents:

When I decided to purchase my first car, I didn't know how to drive. Like many BHPians here, everyone suggested me to buy a used Maruti 800 or something similar, and if at all I want to buy a new one then don't go beyond a Wagon R or Santro.

None of these advices made sense to me I had my eyes fixed on the Grand i10. It had a feature list second to none and a lot of segment firsts. I learnt everything related to a car on this and I am now closing on 1 lakh kms in 5 years. During this time I have driven a lot of different cars, let it be short city drives or long trips to the mountains. I never faced difficulty in handling those cars.

So, I am more than happy with my decision. Afterall, I didn't buy a Ferrari for my first car
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Old 30th November 2020, 21:49   #49
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

I too learned to drive on the humble Maruti 800. Although I eagerly wanted to drive our Creta, my father and uncle told me to practice on the 800 before moving up. Me being me just wanted to drive regardless of the car so happily practiced on the 800 for a decent period of time. I was lucky enough to not dent it or run into any sort of dangerous situation. I'm glad that I practiced on the 800 and was able to develop my driving before moving on to bigger cars, I would be heart broken if there was even a small scratch on the Creta. Eventually, when I was allowed to drive the Creta it was a whole another world from the difference in power, dimension, and steering feel. Initially, the greater dimensions of the Creta did give me a bit of trouble on day 1 but I was able to easily get used to it the next day. Learning what to expect when moving to a larger car also made it easier for me when I got to drive bigger cars like the Innova for example. However, one car I struggled getting used to, despite driving it for a decent amount of time, was the last-gen Mahindra Thar. The one I was driving had larger and wider off-road wheels and I simply couldn't get used to its dimensions and had to be extra attentive on narrow roads. Fortunately, my father never let me drive the Thar in traffic or on busy roads.
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Old 30th November 2020, 21:49   #50
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

Agree on most points but small cars also tend to be unsafe and that is a problem for me. Definitely a small car with limited usage in the city for a newbie makes sense.

As for myself I started with a M800, 1st gen Swift and now drive a Jetta. But this is also how the cars were upgraded in the family and it was not a car specifically bought with the purpose of being a first car.
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Old 30th November 2020, 22:24   #51
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

It is always good to climb the ladder as stated in the post. Begin from a humble ride and work your way into more powerful rides. It also helps one to appreciate the ride and much more about life.

But, I don't think many households will allow the purchase of a used car for learning driving. It is fine if there exists a humble ride at home. Else it is always going to be a grand purchase within one's own financial limit.

However for bikes it is always nice to begin from 150 cc or below and get a hold of the whole biking experience before graduating into the superbike league.
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Old 30th November 2020, 22:45   #52
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Absolute gem of a thread!
At the moment, I and my mom are learning to drive in a 2000 M800 4Speed. Being a 20 y/o car, I must admit that it's relatively niggle-free and suited for learners . Having been interested in cars ever since I saw them on the streets as a child, little to none theoretical introduction was needed to get me started on my quest of driving. The only things I needed to develop were spatial awareness of the vehicle and clutch control. The rest is all about practicing on all kinds of roads- big or small, empty or congested to develop the required muscle memory for all kinds of situation.

We've planned on buying a cheap beater (under 1lakh) once training ends. My mom justifies the purchase as a medium to hone our skills and as a way of getting from point A to B (sharply contradicting with my requirement of a FTD car for an enthusiast). The following options are shortlisted :
1. MS Zen MPFI
My choice as a sub 50k FTD vehicle (G10BB engine, 750kg kerb weight. What more? Finding one with valid documents is a hassle though)
2. MS Swift Gen1
My choice (1.3 petrol, more premium than Zen) A bit over-budget as clean examples start from 1.2lakhs
3. Hyundai Santro Zip/Xing
Mutual choice. Sub 40k (My only concerns are FE and how does it compare to the Zen)
4. MS WagonR
Mom's choice. (She likes the tallboy ergonomics. I hate the 3cyl engine)

The search is slowed down by the fact that AC and PS is mandatory as my mom needs a car with a light steering. We both still have around a month of training left and I gauge that's enough time to look for a decent example that suits our budget and needs. Looking forward to owning a beater.
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Old 30th November 2020, 23:04   #53
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

Quote:
Originally Posted by SgtGAWD View Post
Absolute gem of a thread!
At the moment, I and my mom are learning to drive in a 2000 M800 4Speed. Being a 20 y/o car, I must admit that it's relatively niggle-free and suited for learners . Having been interested in cars ever since I saw them on the streets as a child, little to none theoretical introduction was needed to get me started on my quest of driving. . Looking forward to owning a beater.
I see the swift as a suitable candidate. The first gen still looks contemporary today. I have no clue on the fuel efficiency of that thing though. But get a new set of light cases and a paint polish job, the car will look great. You can also the keep the 1st gen swift for some time as it doesn't look outdated even in 2020.
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Old 30th November 2020, 23:47   #54
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Originally Posted by TrackDay View Post
I see the swift as a suitable candidate. The first gen still looks contemporary today. I have no clue on the fuel efficiency of that thing though. But get a new set of light cases and a paint polish job, the car will look great. You can also the keep the 1st gen swift for some time as it doesn't look outdated even in 2020.
I agree. IMHO the Gen 1 looks miles better than current crop of Swifts. All it needs is a nice set of blacked out alloys. I'm on the lookout for VXIs under 1lakh but the chances seem slim. A ZXI would be expecting too much as not many were sold and they still command high resale value.
Even if I go with any other option for my first car, I can easily laterally upgrade to a Swift any day as the looks have and will continue to age graciously. Plus they'll get more pocket-friendly with time
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Old 1st December 2020, 00:21   #55
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As a youngster, I've been lucky to start my driving journey on a Hyundai Getz in India, because it was the smaller car in the garage, but the more premium one. While not the fastest, the 1.3 P was a brilliant engine with some amazing low-end torque. While it had no maintenance issues or niggles (thanks to the Hyundai reliability that is mostly absent today), it I learnt a lot by interacting with the manager & watching repairs in my FNG.

Come 2019, I got a job and bought myself an used 2012 Ford Fusion in the USA. This has given me the whole journey mentioned in this thread. I've had very few niggles, a small mishap (not an accident), learnt to clean & wax my own car etc. Buying a used car is definitely comes with a few good lessons.

I feel I'm ready to upgrade to a V6 before eventually jumping on to an BEV/HEV.

Last edited by landcruiser123 : 1st December 2020 at 00:23.
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Old 1st December 2020, 00:21   #56
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

Going through this thread, I see that most of us agree that learning on a basic new or a used beater if possible will make us better drivers in the long run.

But it is still unclear as to whether one should learn in a small car or big car. People learnt on 800 or Sierra or Jeep appear to have become experts in the long run.

So can we say that a used or basic car irrespective of size is good to choose? And yes, one needs to try on own for gaining skill.

And yes, I love Zen even now.
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Old 1st December 2020, 01:47   #57
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Unlike yours truly, who faced with this decision over 10 years ago, bought a new car, my wife is wise beyond her years, and has already figured out what took me 10 years. The peace of mind you get from driving a beater, especially if you're learning to drive is priceless. Initially I was planning to get her to learn to drive in the US, but after coughing up 600usd for a 10 hour class, I realized that India would be much cheaper. And I told her that at that cost, I could do a full repaint of the car, and asked her to scratch away, because learning to drive in the US was that much more expensive.

1 year later she has only 2 scratches despite taking the car out once a week, and now that plans have shifted to going back to India, she's adamant about driving a beater, and does not want a new car at all
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Old 1st December 2020, 09:39   #58
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

The points about repair and bodyshop expenses hold good for any car or for that matter any financial decision. It goes to the basic financial planning lesson (that Megan McArdle wrote in The Atlantic at that time) I learned during the 2008 economic crisis - you can indulge in a one time expense but always keep an eye on the recurring ones. A fat bonus check can go towards a down payment on your dream home or get you a BMW, but the EMI/repair expenses are going to come from your regular pay check. Remember that!
My first car was a Baleno that was going out of production and I got steep discounts. But I must say I never felt good about every single repair/body work on it.

Last edited by sramanat : 1st December 2020 at 09:42. Reason: add reference to my first car
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Old 1st December 2020, 10:10   #59
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I beg to differ. It really doesn't matter - I taught my wife to drive in my then 2L liter 120 bhp Cedia Sports. She had a license from a driving school but no practical experience.

She drove pretty well from the get go and had no dinks, no damages and no issues. In fact she started appreciating what a good car is from that experience.

The bonus is now she understands why I need a good car and isn't someone who judges a car by its back seat ride quality .

Last edited by reignofchaos : 1st December 2020 at 10:11.
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Old 1st December 2020, 10:23   #60
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Default Re: Why young & 1st-time drivers should start with a humble / cheap car

I learned driving on my friend's dad's ooold jeep with only 3 gears and without power steering. Both I and my friend were being taught by his dad who was a taxi driver. He especially taught us to drive on narrow roads, parking in tight spaces where you wouldn't think it can fit in. One thing is true, if you have managed to learn on it and drove it a couple of hundred KMs, you can drive a tank!!

Only issue I had when I bought my first car, Alto, was with the accelerator. On the granddad jeep, I had to floor the pedal to move it and here it was feather light and had to adjust it!
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