Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Cars and Corona

There is no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, which has shattered all facets of our lives and instituted a new world order or, to use an overused phrase, ‘a new normal.’ With lockdowns still in place in several parts of the country, minimal public transport and restricted movement expected to continue, the question everyone is asking is: ‘How do I get safely from point A to point B?’ We answer this, and other questions that are topmost on people’s minds.

Should you switch from public to private transport?

With public transport ground to a halt in most parts of the country, you don’t really have a choice though there are skeletal bus services and a few trains operational. But it is highly recommended to stay away from public transport. Despite the promise of regular sanitation and social distancing measures, it is almost impossible to avoid being in close proximity to your fellow commuters, which sharply increases the risk of getting infected by the virus. Travelling in your own car or on your bike is far safer. In fact, a personal car is a safe haven but you still have to take precautions.

The trouble is that if everyone ditches public transport for their own set of wheels, our already congested roads will choke, but the new work-from-home culture could offset that risk.

Is this the best time to buy a car?

This is a good time as any to buy a set of wheels, especially when public transport isn’t a great option. Car sales are down by half and car makers are struggling to attract buyers. But don’t expect big discounts because this huge drop in demand has been accompanied by a drop in supply. Plants are still not running with a full workforce and travel restrictions have made it a logistical challenge to get cars to showrooms.

a person standing in front of a car

© Provided by Hindustan Times

Car sellers have introduced measures for disinfecting your car before delivery ()

However, there are always deals to be availed and carmakers across the board are waving carrots in the form of attractive finance schemes, deferment of repayment and longer term loans allowing lower EMIs. Prospective car buyers should make the most of these initiatives as these were hard to come by before the pandemic.

Would it be wiser to buy a used car or even subscribe?

When saving every rupee is the prudent thing to do, buying a used car makes a lot of sense because it costs so much less. This is especially true right now because the move to BS6 this April pushed up the prices of new cars significantly and widened the gap with used (BS4) cars. So for those on a tighter budget, it’s worthwhile scoping out the used car market.

Those who don’t want the financial burden of owning a car can look at various subscription options

However, it’s not easy to find a good used car because many owners have put off plans to buy a new car and hence have no need to trade in their existing car.

Those who don’t want the financial burden of owning a car can look at the various subscription options that have popped up. You can get a wide choice of cars with a monthly subscription plan from several service providers or the company itself. All you have to do is, pay a monthly fee and enjoy your car for the agreed tenure.

Could a new car be carrying the coronavirus?

Theoretically, yes. If the surfaces of the new car have been contaminated by an infected person, the virus may stick around on steel and plastic surfaces for as long as 72 hours according to some studies. While it is debatable how infectious these are, car sellers have introduced measures for disinfecting your car before delivery. Even the test drive vehicles and showroom cars are being disinfected to allay the fears of new car buyers.

Can you travel by road?

Driving your own car is by far the safest way to travel. There’s no fear of being next to an unknown person and you are cocooned nicely in your cabin. But there are lots of restrictions when travelling long distances, which vary from state to state. So, venture out only if you need to and have the necessary paperwork.

Keep those wheels turning.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much-loved auto journalists in India, and is Editor of Autocar India

Sunday Drive appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, August 23, 2020

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