Thursday, September 11, 2008

Waiting and Deciding on a Car

The one part of foreign service life that can be tricky to navigate is owning a car. Country import restrictions dictate what kind you can ship into the country. Some countries have restrictions on the age of the car, not allowing cars older than two years. Some right-side drive countries will not let you import a left-side drive car. And in some of those countries, it is not a safe choice to bring a left-side drive car!

Our last car was the leased Mighty Mazda 5. We decided not to purchase the car at the end of the lease but to transfer the lease to another FSO, who was in Washington D.C. for training. We made this decision mainly because India is a right-hand drive country.

Prior to leaving, we researched purchasing a right-side drive car from a handful of Japanese export companies. Some that were recommended by other FSOs included: Papera Traders Ltd., Autorec and These companies have a decent inventory at a good price. The shipping is comparable to the cost-construct amount.

Another option for purchasing a car is from other diplomats at post, including diplomats from other countries. It is not uncommon for a -buy my car- email to be sent around the diplomatic community when someone is leaving. Larger posts have ads in their CLO newsletters. Many CLOs will add you to their email newsletter list prior to arriving.

The State Department does allow you to store a car in the U.S., but this will preclude you from shipping another one to post. You can only do one. I remember one livelines discussion well, someone was trying to decide if they should keep their current car in storage and arrange for post transportation locally. The best response was to evaluate how much value the car will lose sitting in storage. Is it better to sell it now two years younger or wait to see if you can use it two years later while you pay for a different car or transportation at post?

We decided to wait until we arrived in Kolkata to decide on a car. If you are single or without kids you may be able to get by with taxis, the metro and autorickshaws. They are a good deal. But it has come time for us to get a car.

Taking a look at the local car market as well, Tatas and some other Indian brands are more expensive than we expected; except for the classic and grand Ambassador. About the price of a Vespa scooter in the U.S., the car is looking like a great option for us. Thank you India!

Image from Hindustan Motors


Mitzi and Jerry said...

We bought a car here this past spring. As we looked around, people told us not to get an Ambassador because it is hard to drive (unless you plan on having a full-time driver) and the resale value is very low. Also, the ride is not that smooth. However, things may have changed between then and now.

Seems like it is just you, your spouse and child. Have you considered a WagonR?

It is just my husband and me here (on a tight budget) so we opted for an Alto and we are very happy with it.

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Mitzi and Jerry! We will take a look at the Alto. Enjoy your stay in South Asia!