• buy a used car to tour india

Ask Me Anything: Should I Buy a Used Car to Tour India?

I sometimes share e-mails under the tag “ask me anything“. I get a lot of very similar e-mails which means there are a lot of people out there thinking the same questions. Why not address them to everyone? You can search more like these by clicking that link above.

I got the most interesting e-mail from two girls coming to backpack India:

“…planning a four month trip to India from July – October. I was just wondering what you thought about buying a used car for the 4 months instead of getting busses and trains? If you think it’s a good idea, too much driving, safer or too expensive? “

omni, india, expat, driving in india, taxi

First, I told her she was ballsy as shit to consider this option!

Second, I told her she totally should not buy an old car.

So, here’s my two cents on why buying an old car isn’t good for travel in India:

1. Driving in India is stressful, best to be avoid when traveling is stressful enough. Why stress more?

2. Filling petrol is expensive. The car the petrol will be a lot. Plus time getting lost will waste petrol.

3. You’ll get lost. A lot.

4. Buses and trains are SO inexpensive. You can take a Volvo instead of local bus and a 2AC train instead of sleeper and be fine.

5. Police problems: crossing state borders without proper plates, driving without Indian license, insurance problems, paying bribes just to drive because they can…

6. Getting ripped off buying the car, the car breaking, repair costs, getting ripped off during repairs (welcome to my life with my Omni! lol we didn’t get ripped off buying, but repairs we’ve gotten screwed)

omni, india, expat, driving in india,

7. It’s so hot, you’ll need AC and it’s not so cheap to find a used AC car.

8. Do you know the Indian road rules? It takes a long time to learn how to deal with cows, scooters, no traffic laws, roundabouts which are totally ignored, and more.

omni, india, expat, driving in india, cows

9. Legally as a foreigner, I’m not sure you can buy and insure a car. Even my car, although paid for, is not technically- it’s an Indian friends and I’m borrowing it so to speak.

10. That time when you and your travel buddy are argueing over directions or that you need to pay the other back for petrol, you could be sleeping on a cozy train instead instead of a hotel (saving on room for the night as well) waking up where you want to be, hassle-free.

Now, here’s my two cents on when it does make sense to buy an old car!

If you’re going to be in ONE state only, you have an international drivers license, you have the cash to buy a used car (at least 1,000 USD), you are a good confident driver, you know you’ll be needing wheels everyday, you are staying in a place (like Goa) where taxis are insanely priced and renting a scooter is cheaper, you can’t ride a scooter, or you’re going to be in India a while… these are times getting a car makes sense.

Ben’s omni (that I share) cost about 1000 bucks. It breaks, but it works and has been in our care for two years. We need a car and any expat in India should get their own set of wheels, even if only a bike.


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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Journeyfemme November 12, 2015 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Hey Rachel! We really like your blog and inspiring travel posts, and would be so happy if you’d consider becoming one of our Journeyfemmes :) Journeyfemme.com is an online community for and by female travelers, all contributing and sharing travel memories. Check it out, and feel free to drop us a line on [email protected] if you have any further questions :)

  2. Usman Idrisi November 12, 2015 at 12:05 pm - Reply


    I think you can buy or get a car on rent there is new company (zoomcar) in India who started renting car business as in US but you can get the car only in Metro cities but you can get a all India permit from them, the company is running by foreigner’s.

    Second: Getting a second hand car is not easy for outsider if you have a known person in India they can help you getting good car which have low maintenance, all you need to do it invest more money like atleast 5k Dolors and after using it for you 2-4 months holiday sell it back there are many online classified website in like olx and others from where you can buy and sell.

    The legality you need to learn from the Internet about the driving licences and other documents.

  3. Fernando November 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Other than the rest of the issues you point out, Rachel, I think No. 1 is the most important.

    Having seen what traffic is like in India, I’d not recommend anyone to try to drive themselves around.
    Chances are, even if your readers initially decide to go ahead with their plan, they’ll change their mind as soon as they get out of the airport terminal and see all that chaos on the roads!

    • Rachel Jones November 13, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      Yeah, I think safety is important .. not to say the buses are much safer but at least the driver knows the road rules

  4. Soumen Bhowmick November 12, 2015 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Renting a commercial car with all India permit or Zoom cars are indeed very budget friendly for a long tour. If travelling in a group of 4 or six, renting a caravan/motorhome/RV is also another option….this way one can travel beyond the destinations really…no need to look out for hotels and deals and even better one can stop wherever they want and enjoy the beautiful scenery. With devices like Map my India, no fear of getting lost either.

  5. Betsy November 13, 2015 at 5:26 am - Reply

    Hey! I agree that buying a car is a little crazy. Even though if everything works out I am going to travel around India on a motorcycle, however, I will be with an India and an expat who has been in India a while. I did read a book about traveling around India titled Never Mind the Bullocks: One Girl’s `10,000 KM Adventure Around India in the World’s Cheapest Car by Vanessa Able. I would suggest reading that and see what you think about her experience. Yes she breaks down, she gets lost, and all of the things Rachel touches on in her post. Take a train, plane, or bus!
    Happy Journeys.

    • Rachel Jones November 13, 2015 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      sounds interesting, i’ll have to check that out! have fun on the bike, hope it doesn’t hurt your bum too much haha! I don’t ride one but Ben has one and when I’m on the back, I get tired after a couple hours. it’s really popular to tour india via bike, so i must be a wimp :)

  6. Jayshree Makadia July 29, 2016 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Yes, eventually taking used car be too risky for long journeys. It’s better to avoid the used cars or old cars for long journey in India. As it was my personal experience when we all friends went for outing with the car that was too old and also used. It suddenly stopped on the middle of the road. Luckily there was a garage where we wasted an hour or 2 for solving the issue.

  7. Barry Schofield October 25, 2017 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Oh boy!! After reading the tons of stories about how white foreigners get ripped off everywhere in India from paying 3 times more for chai to 10 times more for seeing monuments to 3.5 times more for taxis, I am actually beginning to develop a sneaking admiration for Indians. They are sure getting back at the white world for the colonial oppression, but doing it in a non-violent way!


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