Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 32, Tuesday, January 6, 2004







NEW cars are supposed to be the most money wasting investment. This is because they have very high initial depreciation. You can buy a brand new Corolla today for twelve lakhs and in four years time it is worth about half of that. That money could have grown by leaps and bounds but that is better left to finance experts.

Buying new cars is a great way to lose a hell lot of money. Of course if everyone thought that way then there would be no used cars around. Luckily people do have money to throw about and spend on new cars so just about anyone else can later buy it at the price of dirt. Well, rather expensive dirt at that.

The good thing is that in most countries new cars are introduced into the market around end of summer or August. People tired of their old cars sell them off and dealers will not stock them so it ends up coming to our shores. You end up having a wide variety of cars available for your picking.

So what exactly are reconditioned cars? Well, technically these are pre owned cars that were put through lot of checks to make sure these are not defective. What's wrong is easily righted. What you get is a second hand car repaired to nearly mint condition. Sounds good in theory but that still does not mean you will get a great deal. Some cars may have been abused a little more than others. Some dealers may try to fob these off onto you. So how do you spot that which will break your heart and your wallet in years to come? Sounds like a bad romantic relationship, eh?

Learn to "read" the paint or get someone along who knows how to do it. Most cars that come here are resprayed and some are done rather poorly. Dents are patched up and the bad paint job will literally wash off after a few months to a couple of years. Check to see that the body is generally free of dents. A badly dented door might push too hard against the window leaving ugly white scratches that build up over time as you raise and lower the windows. Of course minor dents will help you to knock down the price a little. Original colour other than white adds value to the car. Metallic paints are bets value. Do not be fooled by looks. Generally a car that looks good has been pampered but this may not be the case all the time.

Even if it looks a little beat up the most important thing is to have solid mechanicals. Start the car and listen to the engine note. If you can take it for a drive then the engine note should be smooth without any scrapes, rattles, pings, grinds and squeaks. Get a trusted mechanic to verify. A little white smoke on a cold day is normal but if it continues like a chain smoker on holiday then look elsewhere. If you are really set on the car then have it raised on a lift in a service station and have the underside checked as well for major bumps.

One of the common tricks of selling is to show the customer that the car is dripping water for its exhaust tip. This means that the engine is in great condition and is burning very efficiently. Some rare dealers put water soaked sponges in the tips or even just pour some water to create that effect.

You might also want to check out the air conditioner but do so on a warm day. A bad cooler will not be able to warm the car quickly enough under the sun.

Check the suspension by pushing down on each corner. It should not be bouncing up and down. Either the shock absorbers are busted or you need to lose a lot of weight.

Also while on a drive brake a little hard keeping the car straight. Normally it should stop in a straight and liner motion. If you end up veering to one side and running down some pedestrians you just might need work on the suspension setup.

So now that you know how to look for your car what do you have on offer? There are two ways to go about it. Either you take the practical way that will probably get you something ugly but efficient or go for what you heart desires. You follow either your head or your heart.

First of all lets dispel a myth. Here you get a mild warning that the following couple of lines may sound like gibberish to anyone else other than a car nut. Toyotas are NOT the best car around except for the fact that parts are cheap and readily available. In a similar level Honda family cars are more fun to drive as they are a little more involving. You get more feedback form the steering. Now that is done and over with lets get on with business.

The most popular small cars available used to be available were the Toyota Starlets but the production was stopped recently and you will find a few remaining cars at some of the showrooms in the city. 98 models cost about 5.5 lakhs. It a nice hatchback good for tight parking spots in apartment buildings. It is also dead boring to drive so you can look for the souped up version called Glanza. This comes with two doors, a 130 horsepower 1300cc turbo-charged engine with stiffer suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. For such a tiny car that's a hot configuration. You can find one for 9 lakhs in Satmasjid Road. Looks hot too.

The next in line to small cars is the Corsa offering a compact size, great fuel efficiency and costs about 6.5-7 lakhs. Then the small cars tend to get bigger with the post 2001 Toyota Corolla hatchback that looks a whole lot more interesting than its full-length version in the guise of taxicabs. These come in 1500cc engines and cost about 9.5 lakhs. Of course the Corolla happens to be a favourite so you can find just about everything for it including aftermakret accessories like spoilers, sideskirts, clear lens light etc. Next in line come the Toyota Carinas, Coronas. These are the same cars with slightly different body styling. The '99 model cars cost about 8.5 lakhs with al the electric gizmos. The post 2000 models are the ones in a new shape that resembles a sleek and slightly tall bug. Don't get me wrong, these look great and cost about 13-14 lakhs. The new shapes also come with new names: Alion and Premio. If you want performance look for some of the Carina GTs. There are a few in the city with six speed manual gearboxes and these offering blistering performance. If your heart does all the speaking or rather it starts shouting then you just might want to check out a new car called the Toyota Wills. It is a short hatchback with razor sharp styling. It has tiny windows, red highlighted interior dials and headlights, taillights designed as if they were scowling. It has a smooth 1500 cc engine and costs 12.5-1330 lakhs. Its steroid pumped appearance is second to none.

If your wish is to stuff the kids, wife and in-laws along with the chicken, rice and fish all packed into one screaming heap then you might want something with a little extra space. Toyota Corolla station wagons cost about 4-4.5 lakhs or else there is the Toyota LiteAce microbuses. There are two variants of the latter. The basic version comes with only a single AC and power steering and costs 7 lakhs for a 1800 cc. 10-16 lakhs is the price for the fancy versions generally known as Noah. These have dual Acs and all kinds of gadgets from power everything to CD changers, cruise control, multiple sunroofs and DVD players.

So far that has been our regular fare. Now for something a little more interesting. A Toyota Mark II is sleek and powerful with a 2500cc engine, all imaginable gadgets and a price tag of 23 lakhs. That's about half that of the original price. Some of the showrooms offer late model Mercedes Benz at around 30-50 lakhs. You can find some very well equipped C and S classes that cost more than twice the amount when new.

SUVSs include late model Pajeros that can be had from anywhere between 16-24 lakhs. The mini Pajeros are about 15 lakhs. More popular are the 99-2000 Prados with fully loaded kit including useless things like navigation control (useless for our country). 2001 and later models cost 36-38 lakhs and come with a 2700 cc engine. These have much sharper styling and come with the contemporary clear lens headlamps which are becoming a bit too copied.

If performance is what you are after one of the best sportscars for your money right now is the new Toyota Celica. The post 2000 model will cost about 14-16 lakhs with an 1800 cc engine and a 0-100kmph time of about 8 seconds. There is a '98 black convertible in Stamasjid Road for 21 lakhs. If this land if dirt ad dust you're better off saving the extra lakhs and buying the newer hardtop model. In family cars a great performer is the Alteza with a 2000cc engine and an average price tag of 14-15 lakhs for '99 models. If retro is what makes you hurt skip a beat then check out the new Beetles that are around 14 lakh and come with a front mounted 2000 cc engine. Not quite your traditional Beetle but it's a great poser.

Yes, so far most cars mentioned have been Toyotas. An honourable mention would be that of the 1993-96 Honda Civic. It has a 1500 cc engine and the engine revs higher than any other car of the same category. You can almost burn the roads and there is a huge array of bodykits available. 8.5 will get you a very good model.

So now you know what, how and where to get what you want. Don't forget that the prices are exclusive of the registration fees that are 30 thousand taka upwards.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny, Photo: Zahidul I Khan



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