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New to the driver's seat? Here's everything you need to know before buying your first car!


Your first sleepover at a friend's place. Your first paycheck. The first solo trip. Your first pet. Attending your first concert. The list of experiences that can match the excitement of buying your first car, is a short one. If you are a motorhead, you would understand that any occasion is a great occasion to buy a car. However, if you are just getting started, there are a few things to know before buying a car for the first time. 

In this comprehensive car buying guide, we'll take a closer look at some of the most essential tips and insights tailored for first-time car buyers in India. From simplifying the nuances of the car buying process to offering valuable advice for those stepping into the world of four-wheelers for the first time, we've got you covered. Buckle up as we take the driving seat on this epic journey through the winding roads of buying your first car!


Car Buying Guide: Tips to Find the Right Car For You


New or used? Petrol, diesel, or electric? Cheap or expensive? Hatchback, sedan, or SUV? Finding the right car for you can feel overwhelming, but with some careful planning and research, you can land the perfect vehicle for your needs and budget.

In the following sections, we'll take a closer look at these factors to help you navigate the journey with ease.


New Vs. Used


Choosing between a new car and an old car can be tricky as both come with a set of advantages and disadvantages. The needs and preferences of different individuals, safety, affordability, reliability, fuel efficiency, depreciation, and environmental impact are some of the factors that can influence your decision to choose between an old or new car.

New cars, with their higher initial purchase price, come loaded with latest features, immediate availability, and the unmistakable scent of a brand-new car interior. While new cars may face steeper initial depreciation, they make up for it with their warranty, reliability, and the scope for a better resale value.

From state-of-the-art safety features to entertainment systems that redefine the drive, new models offer an experience that is hard to replicate. On the other hand, pre-owned cars have their own set of advantages, including a significantly lower upfront cost and a slower depreciation. 

However, for those who crave luxury and comfort with a side of cutting-edge technologies, a new car remains an unrivalled choice. After all, buying a new car isn't just a transaction; it's the first milestone on a journey filled with crafty innovation and unparalleled joy at every turn.


Petrol, Diesel, Electric, or Hybrid?


Deciding between petrol, diesel, electric, or hybrid cars can be overwhelming in today's diverse and ever-changing market. While petrol and diesel-powered vehicles have had a stronghold over the market for a long time, electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming the need of the hour.

In India, where approximately 4 million passenger vehicles hit the roads each year, the dynamics are changing. Diesel, once a dominant choice at 52% in 2013-14, has seen a decline, now holding a modest 18% market share in 2023. On the other hand, petrol cars have surged to 68%, leaping from 42% in 2014.

When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), they're still finding their footing in the Indian market, making up less than three percent of total vehicle sales. However, the government is eyeing a substantial increase, targeting a 30% share for EVs by the end of this decade. So, as you navigate the car market, consider not just the present but the evolving future of vehicle technology.


Here's a breakdown of each fuel type to help you make an informed choice:


Fuel TypeProsCons
PetrolLower initial cost compared to diesel and electricLower fuel efficiency compared to diesel and hybrids
Widespread availability of fuel stationsHigher running costs due to fluctuating fuel prices
Relatively lower maintenance costLower environmental impact compared to diesel but is higher than electric
DieselHigher fuel efficiency than petrol, leading to lower running costsHigher initial purchase price compared to petrol
Higher torque and pulling power, ideal for hilly terrain and towingDiesel fuel price fluctuates significantly and tends to be higher
Longer engine life compared to petrol cars in some casesHigher emissions and a larger negative environmental impact
ElectricZero tailpipe emissions, significantly reducing environmental impactLimited range and charging infrastructure in many parts of India
Lower running costs due to lower electricity pricesHigher initial cost compared to petrol and diesel cars
Government incentives and subsidies promoting electric car adoptionLonger charging times compared to fueling petrol or diesel vehicles
HybridCombines the benefits of both electric and petrol/diesel enginesHigher initial cost than petrol and diesel cars
Lower emissions and environmental impact compared to petrol and dieselMaintenance costs can be higher due to the complex hybrid technology
Offers a higher range than electric cars due to the backup engineNot as environmentally friendly as fully electric vehicles


Hatchback, Sedan, SUV, Coupe or Convertible?


The ideal car body type depends on your needs, priorities, and lifestyle. It is recommended to consider factors like budget, passenger space, cargo capacity, fuel efficiency, driving style, and personal preferences when making your decision. Let's take a look at some of the most popular car body types:




Hatchbacks are small, fuel-efficient, and easy to manoeuvre, making them ideal for city driving and parking. They offer a practical and adequate cargo area, suitable for daily errands and weekend trips. A wide variety of models and features are available, catering to different needs and budgets. Maruti Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Grand i10 Nios, and Tata Tiago are some of the most popular hatchbacks in India. 


Ideal For: City commuters, small families, budget-conscious buyers, first-time car buyers



  • Lower initial purchase price and running costs compared to larger cars
  • Smaller size and engine contribute to better fuel economy
  • The compact size makes them ideal for navigating tight spaces and city streets
  • Foldable rear seats provide additional cargo space for luggage or larger items
  • Available in various sizes, styles, and features to suit different preferences
  • Affordable and easy to handle, making them a good choice for new drivers



  • Smaller interiors can feel cramped for passengers and cargo, especially for taller individuals or families
  • May not convey the same road presence as larger sedans or SUVs
  • Trunk space is smaller than sedans, limiting its practicality for long journeys or frequent cargo hauling




Sedans offer a comfortable and spacious interior with ample legroom and headroom for passengers. They provide a smooth and stable ride, making them ideal for long journeys. Sedans boast an upscale and aesthetic image. Additionally, they have larger trunk spaces than hatchbacks, allowing for more luggage and larger items. Some of the most popular sedans in India include cars like Maruti Suzuki Dzire, Honda City, and Hyundai Verna.


Ideal For: Urban commuters, families, long-distance travellers, first-time car buyers



  • Ample room for passengers to sit comfortably, even on long journeys
  • Offers a comfortable and stable driving experience, ideal for long-distance travel.
  • Provides ample space for luggage and larger items, suitable for family trips or frequent cargo hauling
  • Available in various sizes, engine options, and features to cater to different needs and preferences



  • Larger size and engine contribute to lower fuel economy compared to hatchbacks
  • Can be difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces and parking areas due to their larger size
  • Maintenance is typically higher compared to smaller car types




SUVs offer a high seating position, providing good visibility and a commanding view of the road. They have spacious and versatile interiors with ample seating and cargo capacity, making them ideal for families and outdoor adventures. They offer enhanced safety features and excellent off-road capability. Maruti Suzuki Brezza, Hyundai Creta, and Tata Nexon are among some of the most popular SUVs in India.


Ideal For: Families, adventure enthusiasts, multi-terrain driving, safety-conscious buyers, first-time car buyers



  • Elevated seating position offers a clear view of the road and surroundings, enhancing safety and awareness
  • Provides ample space for passengers and cargo, making it suitable for families and outdoor activities
  • Some models offer excellent off-road capabilities and towing capacity, making them ideal for adventurous users
  • Higher-end models are equipped with driver-assistance systems and crash protection technology, enhancing overall safety



  • Large size and powerful engines contribute to lower fuel economy compared to smaller cars
  • Can be difficult to navigate through tight spaces and parking areas due to their larger size
  • SUVs typically have higher initial purchase and running costs compared to other car types
  • Insurance premiums are often higher due to their larger size and safety features




Coupes offer a sleek and sporty design with a low profile and aerodynamic lines. They have a lower centre of gravity for better handling and cornering, resulting in a more engaging driving experience. Coupes are fun and exciting to drive, often offering powerful engines and advanced driving technologies. Most coupes come equipped with premium features and luxurious interiors. Some of the most popular coupe cars in India include the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, the Jaguar F-type, and the Audi RS5 Sportback. 


Ideal For: Adventure enthusiasts, sports car aficionados, performance car enthusiasts



  • Sleek and stylish appearance, often attracting attention and admiration
  • A lower centre of gravity and powerful engines provide a thrilling ride
  • Many coupes offer premium features and luxurious interiors for a comfortable and refined driving experience
  • Offer a distinctive and individualistic look, setting themselves apart from other car types



  • Small interior with limited legroom and headroom, making them impractical for families or frequent passengers
  • Small cargo area due to the sloping roofline, limiting their suitability for bulky items or large luggage
  • Limited space and cramped seating can be uncomfortable for long journeys, especially for taller individuals
  • Coupes typically have a higher initial purchase price and maintenance costs compared to other car types




Convertibles offer the unique experience of open-air driving, providing a sense of freedom and connection with the environment. They come in various models and styles, ranging from sporty roadsters to luxury grand touring cars. Some models offer retractable hardtops or soft tops, providing both open-air enjoyment and weather protection. The Mini Cooper Convertible S, Porsche 718, and the Mahindra Thar LX Convertible are among some of the most popular convertibles in India.


Ideal For: Open-air-driving enthusiasts, warm-weather conditions, individuals seeking a unique driving experience



  • Enjoyable experience of driving with the roof down, allowing for fresh air and a close connection with the environment
  • Attractive and stylish appearance that stands out and draws attention
  • The open roof creates a feeling of increased openness and space, even with a smaller interior



  • Vulnerable to rain, snow, and other weather conditions when the roof is down.
  • Complex convertible roof mechanisms contribute to higher purchase price and maintenance costs
  • The lack of a permanent roof structure can compromise safety compared to closed-top cars
  • Increased wind noise when driving with the roof down can be disruptive and uncomfortable


Transmission: Manual or Automatic?


Your driving habits and preferences play an important role when it comes to choosing between manual and automatic transmission as a first-time car buyer. If you'll primarily drive in traffic-heavy areas, the convenience of an automatic transmission may outweigh the engaging driving experience of a manual transmission.

However, if you prioritise control and fuel efficiency, a manual might be a better fit. Your budget also plays a role, as automatic cars tend to be slightly more expensive. You can always test-drive both types to see which feels more comfortable and natural for you.


Budget and the Cost of Ownership


Buying a car not only adds to the convenience, but it also comes with various expenses. To make an informed decision and manage your finances effectively, it is important to understand the costs associated with car ownership and decide on a budget. 

You can always use an online car ownership cost calculator that considers factors like purchase price, financing options, fuel consumption, insurance premiums, maintenance, and depreciation to estimate total cost.

While you're running the numbers, you should also consider initial costs (car price, financing, down payment, taxes, fees) and ongoing expenses (fuel, insurance, tolls, parking, maintenance, licensing).

Whether you're considering buying a new car, or have your eyes set on a pre-owned one, having a budget makes the decision-making process a lot easier.


Finance is the Way Forward!


Buying a car on loan is a practical and reasonable option for many individuals in India. Before you navigate the loan application and approval process, it is advisable to understand the eligibility criteria, gather the necessary documents, and compare the interest rates and loan terms.

It is recommended that you compare loan offers from different lenders, maintain a healthy credit score, and choose a reputable lender for a smooth buying experience. Remember, careful planning and research can help expedite your dreams of becoming a first-time car buyer. 

If you’re looking for financing options for a pre-owned car, CARS24 Financial Services gives you the freedom to customise your EMIs, and buy a car with zero down payment and ROIs starting at as low as 12% p.a. Check your eligibility now!


Test Drive


Now that you know all the things that you need to consider as a first-time car buyer, there is one more essential step – the test drive. It's the automotive equivalent of trying on a pair of shoes before making the purchase. Taking multiple test drives is important to ensure the car aligns with your driving preferences, comfort, and handling expectations.

During the test drive, pay attention to key aspects like steering response, braking efficiency, ride comfort, and cabin noise. Take the car through various road conditions to assess its performance comprehensively. 

Remember, a car might look perfect on paper, but the real connection happens on the road. So, buckle up, hit the road, and make sure your first car feels like the perfect fit before sealing the deal.


Things to Know Before Buying a Car For the First-time

  • Clearly outline your essential requirements versus desires to find a car that suits your lifestyle and needs
  • Research and understand the advantages and drawbacks of petrol, diesel, electric, and hybrid cars, aligning them with your driving patterns and environmental concerns
  • Assess your driving preferences and habits to choose between manual and automatic transmissions, considering both comfort and control
  • Weigh the benefits and drawbacks of new and pre-owned cars, considering aspects such as depreciation, customisation options, and overall value for money
  • Establish a comprehensive budget covering ongoing expenses like insurance, fuel, maintenance, and parking to make an informed financial decision
  • Use online tools to estimate the holistic cost of owning a car, factoring in financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and depreciation
  • Explore diverse financing options, and compare interest rates, terms, and eligibility criteria to secure a favourable deal
  • Test drive both manual and automatic transmissions to identify the one that aligns with your driving style and comfort preferences
  • Prioritise vehicles with advanced safety features, ensuring the well-being of yourself and your passengers
  • Assess the environmental impact of your chosen fuel type, keeping in mind the ecological footprint of petrol, diesel, electric, and hybrid cars
  • Anticipate your future needs and lifestyle changes to ensure the chosen car remains suitable in the long run
  • Consider the resale value of your selected car model to understand its retained worth over time
  • Opt for cars with robust warranty coverage and accessible service plans for a hassle-free ownership experience


The Bottom Line


So, there you have it! With these key insights and helpful tips, you're now equipped to start your journey as a first-time car buyer in India. Remember, this is just the beginning of an amazing adventure filled with open roads, endless possibilities, and countless memories waiting to be made.

Now that you're armed with knowledge, it's time to take the next step. Research, explore, compare, and test drive! Don't hesitate to seek advice from experts and experienced car owners. Make informed decisions, prioritise your needs, and choose the car that perfectly complements your lifestyle and aspirations.

Happy driving!




1. What is the 20-4-10 rule?

The 20-4-10 rule is a guideline for car buying, suggesting a minimum 20% down payment, financing for no more than 4 years, and total car expenses (including insurance and maintenance) not exceeding 10% of your gross income.

2. How do I choose the best car for myself?

To choose the best car, consider your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Evaluate factors like fuel type, body type, transmission, and ownership costs. Research thoroughly, test drive different models, and prioritise safety features that align with your preferences.

You decide who wins