August 07, 2005


I have recently been in the market for a car. While I'm not too knowledgeable about cars, I have been thinking for some time about what a car means to someone and how it defines a person. There are so many factors to consider, but perhaps the first thing that I began thinking about was deciding between an import or a local model. They both have their pros and cons.

I find these days that a lot of my friends have decided to go with imports. Most of the people I know who imported were highly pragmatic people, with no intention of portraying a certain image with their car. They just wanted to have a car to go from one place to another, and not have their lives defined by it. Many of them have been with their cars for some time now, and while there are the occasional problems (often because foreign cars may not be well accustomed to local roads and weather conditions), they have never complained. The cars are reliable, safe, and have their own inner beauty.

At the same time, the foreign car has certain limitations. Often, they tend to be more expensive. While the cost of materials may be cheaper, when you add in the freight and other charges, it adds up. Whenever anything goes wrong with the car, it can often be a very expensive task to get things back in shape. Also, they often have certain quirks that cannot be dealt with appropriately in North America. Sometimes the part you need can only be found back at the manufacturer abroad; that makes maintenance quite expensive. Granted, they generally need less maintenance overall.

As for North American cars, the options are much more limited. To find a good domestic car is not an easy endeavour, but it may be worth the effort in the long run. Domestic models tend to be built for the surrounding environment, thus often making them more suitable for many people. The initial purchase of these cars tend to be cheaper, informed advice is more readily available regarding their particularities, and parts are generally cheaper. If anything goes considerably wrong, you would not need to go far for service.

While the cost of parts may be cheaper, these cars tend to need maintenance more often. In many ways, they tend to be more expensive even though the initial purchase cost may be less. Sometimes these machines are built more for style and image than performance, which becomes noticeable after some time. Even then, people I know with these cars end up spending even more money on maintaining the style than on ensuring decent performance.

One friend of mine frequently urges me to go with a North American car in order to support the local market. Too often, he says, people go out and buy foreign cars and then the North American market suffers. He reminds me that people living abroad don't buy North American cars much, so if we don't support our own local economy, the entire system will suffer as a whole.

I've also received advice going the other way, that a foreign car is the best option. One friend keeps on telling me that if I went ahead and settled with a foreign car, I'd be much happier for it. He reminded me that owning a North American car would make it difficult to spend my money on things important to me, since so much would end up going into maintaining the car. I recently even visited a foreign dealership where salespeople worked very hard on convincing me of the benefits of their machines, though nothing I saw then interested me.

In my family, I've seen both. My eldest brother has settled comfortably with a North American Cavalier, while my two other brothers have foreign cars. Overall, they all seem really happy with their cars, so I guess it really just depends on one's own personality. At this point, I have no idea which option would be better for me.


  1. One thing about foreign cars, unfortunately, is that 0% financing isn't usually available (unless it's Hyundai I think). With North American cars, they have promotions such as that periodically which are nice. However, I love my Toyota Camry and quite frankly, Japanese (and other foreign) cars rock...

  2. I suppose. I'm surprised though that you missed the whole point entirely.

  3. I didn't miss your point... I simply decided to comment about the financing issue when it comes to foreign cars and the fact that I love my Toyota Camry. :)

  4. Financing. What a metaphor.

    If I find a local car that I simply adore, but it's kind of a new-age concept car (with most of the features of a classic model that I look for), should I try it? I'm particularly afraid of how I'll be looked at as a trendsetter--that I've forgotten the importance of good handling. For this I might not go through the dealership anyway, this is one I just found on the open road.

  5. I think picking up a car on the open road would be a better idea were it not for the threat of getting hit by oncoming traffic.

  6. Whether or not to buy from a dealership is one of the most debated items when it comes to car purchase. On one hand, you're never quite sure if you're getting a full and honest story from the salespeople. You'll get a short test drive period, with the salesperson sitting right beside you, and be asked to make a decision based on that. Cars found on the open road, however, offer more flexibility as you can drive around all you want and no one really minds. But, in my opinion, the best cars are virtually impossible to find on the side of the road. No good dealership would simply leave their best cars unattended on the side of the road. Cars found on the road often have had previous owners, (who left them there), so with this option, you'd have to be okay with a used model.

    I'm not saying it's impossible to find a well-maintained, low-mileage car in excellent condition on the open road. It may be, and if so, it could be a great deal. But I think one reason why people shop at the dealership is to minimize the risks associated with second-hand cars.

  7. Thanks for the advice, loyal readers. Nevertheless, I don't think I have the courage or motivation to look for cars left on the open road.

    In completely unrelated news, I bought a car last week.

    Completely unrelated news.

  8. Hahaha..I can't believe it took me so long to finally read this post, even though Viqar Bhai had been telling me about it for ages (possibly because he knows that my Mom has been trying hard to get my brother and me to each get ourselves a nice car for quite awhile now).

    At any rate, I can definitely related to what Faraz is going through...I keep asking myself the same questions about foreign vs local. I'm slightly less concerned about the dealership vs open road issue, because I think there are plenty of great cars to be found either way, if you're patient and go into the car market with an open heart.

    Interestingly, I have also brought up Faraz' brothers in my discussions with my own parents about the benefits associated with each kind of car.

    I think, personally speaking, that if I could find a local car that had a foreign office (so that I could send my kids to visit the foreign office once in awhile to get exposed to the foreign country) I would be pretty happy. Of course, I would want the local car to have some of the key features that make the foreign cars so great, such a good understanding of the foreign country's driving habits and workmanship, the foreign country's specific blend of fuels and fuel additives, and of course the in-car read-outs should be equally proficient in English and the foreign country language.

    Well, I just hope and pray that great guys like Faraz do find the perfect car for them Insh'llah.

  9. wow, what a flattering metaphor, i can't blv you STILL don't have a car after all that sweet talk.....

  10. I think I'm catching on to your style :)

    You write well though Masha Allah. When i started reading it, I said to myself, "alright, lemi learn something about cars from a guy". Like, lierally cars. Boy, was I wrong!

  11. If you're a guy that knows nothing or very little about cars your best bet is to drive a car that doesn't give you trouble. That would be foreign cars. You can get much further with a foreign car than a local. Local as you said is cheaper to begin with and other than that i see nothing more to it. They don't even look at all that!

    The down side to a foreign car is it's more expensive to fix...true if you're driving a BMW. True, it's probably more than a local but nothing crazy expensive. My uncle is a mechanic and he says if it weren't for the local cars he'd be outta business!

    I'm personally a toyota kinda sista..but my family luvs Honda. Both are beautiful in style, performance, and price ain't too shabby. Least it doesn't depreciate as fast! If your budget can afford it, hands down foreign cars are by far better!