In the last two posts I had shared why I love cars and do not think taking a car loan is such a good idea. Let me share in this post about my own experiences of how I went about it. A lot of what will be written here are personal situation and preferences.
I came to Delhi in the year 1988 after completing my post graduation from IIM Calcutta. Over the next 5 years, I had no real need for a car as I was quite happy to use autos and chartered buses in Delhi, also my jobs entailed a fair bit of travel. It was only when I got married to Lipi in November 1993 that I felt the need of a car. Fortunately the job which I joined in mid 1994, gave me a car for use and, though there was a change of job in between, this continued till 1998 when I took up a job in Chennai. Though both Lipi and I were working in Delhi, the salaries those days were quite low and as such it would have been a stretch for us to buy a car with our own money. With both our children being born in that period, it was a boon to have a job giving a car as a perquisite – relatively rate in those days. It was only a Maruti 800 but it served the purpose and choices were few then.
The shift to Chennai was good for me overall in terms of rewards but the job did not give a car as a perquisite to people who were not at a VP level. As I was only a GM then, I needed to buy a car before shifting my family from Delhi. The conflict I had then was whether to go for a car like a Maruti 800 AC which I could pay on my own or take a higher end model for which I needed to take some loan. As Lipi was giving up her job with our shift to Chennai, a loan did not seem like a great idea. However, I wanted to get a Maruti Zen VX costing about 4.2 lacs in 1998. Even with the Gratuity money from Lipi we were still short by about 1.5 lacs. I bridged this by a loan for 1 year that cost me only 6000 Rs in interest as there was some special rates for the company.
Zen was a great car and I loved driving it all around Tamil Nadu, with my family and also my parents and in-laws when they visited us every year. I was quite happy with it but with children growing up and my getting a job as a CEO in 2001, it seemed that a change was in order. The number and choices of cars in the Indian market had also increased dramatically by then. I settled for a Hyundai Accent GTX which would cost about 8 lacs on the road. After trading in the Zen VX, this amount came to about 5.5 lacs. By that time my compensation was at a higher level and we were able to foot the bill on our own. We bought the car in September 2002 and it really served us well for over a decade.
Our shift to Hyderabad in 2007 end was a good one for the family and after settling down, we wanted to look at the possibility of buying a higher end car. This time, as the company had provided a driver to me, we did not want to sell the Hyundai Accent. After a lot of search and decisions we narrowed it down to Toyota Corolla Altis which was costing about 14 lacs on the road in 2009. Once again, I was able to pay it off directly. Over the next few years having the car and a driver made our lives considerably easier, both in terms of travel within and outside Hyderabad. We kept the Accent car till my daughter Rinki started her college as it was useful in taking her to the coaching classes etc.
In my last corporate role till December 2014, I again had a car from the company along with a driver. This resulted in a fairly low running of my own car, in fact it has done only about 25000 Kms in the 7 year period. The advantage is that it is relatively new and in really good shape, thanks to the Toyota quality. Though I am in no hurry to replace it, if we shift out of Hyderabad that may be a logical point to look at it.
What have these cars meant to me? Well, happiness of possession and loads of good memories are the first things that come to mind. All the travels that we have undertaken are fond memories. Notable of these are the trips from Chennai to Pondicherry, our travel through Karnataka culminating at Hampi, beaches of Karnataka, drives from Hyderabad to Bangalore etc.
A car may or may not make economic sense but these cars of mine have definitely enriched my life immeasurably and continue to do so even today.