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How To Buy Your First Car In Sri Lanka. Don’t Make The Same Mistakes I Made!

How to buy your first car in Sri Lanka. Don’t make the same mistakes I made!

I was frustrated for a long time. This was one year since I graduated from university and started working. Every day I used to go to work by bus. One and half hours in the morning and one hour in the evening. I hated it. Cramped among others who are just like me; trying to find some space to root my feet; sweat dripping down my freshly ironed shirt; headphones tangling in handbags and coming out of my ear; holding water dripping umbrellas and getting “threatening” looks from passengers; listening to “bus songs” speakers that are worse than loudspeakers; I hated going to work on the bus.

I decided that this has to stop. I decided that somehow I’m going to buy a car to end this misery. I spoke to my friend who is working at BOC and inquired about getting a personal loan. He requested several documents. I submitted them and got 1.5 million rupees as a loan. (Getting a personal loan is always a good choice rather than getting a lease. Why? Because the interest rates on Personal loans are lower than leasing interest rates. Also when you’re leasing a vehicle, the owner of the vehicle is going to be the leasing company. Not you.)

First mistake I made

I sorted money first but ignored looking for potential cars. That was the first mistake I made. One can argue that having money in your hand before purchasing a car is always better. There is a valid point to that. But in my case, things started going south.

Two months went by and I couldn’t find a car that I liked. So for two months, I had to pay the installment without having a car. This put me under unnecessary pressure to purchase a car ASAP.

Second mistake I made

I made the purchasing decision too soon. One thing is I got fed up searching and visiting different car owners. (If you’re planning to buy a used car, you need to visit the owners and check out the condition of the car. This can be tedious and frustrating.)

Also because of the “self-imposed” financial pressure, I bought the car too soon. If it was a brand new car, things would have been fine. But I bought a secondhand (fourth-hand to be exact!) car from a car sale in Bambalapitiya.

Despite everyone (including my parents, brother, girlfriend) asking me to look for more options, I went and bought a Perodua Kelisa (because I’m a hothead who doesn’t want to listen to anyone!)

What happened next?

I went with a friend to get the car from the dealer. Everything was fine. The owner of the dealership prayed for the keys and handed them to me. I thought, wow! These guys are quite religious and I felt like I’m in good hands. I drove off with my friend and to celebrate it, we decided to head out for lunch. When we came back, my friend couldn’t unlock the car. There was something wrong with the lock! It’s almost like opening a safe. You have to put the key in but pull about 2mm back and turn it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t open. (Now don’t come and steal my car!)

I thought, ok. It’s probably nothing. Just a small glitch. I’ll be able to fix that.

After a week I was driving for work on a Monday morning and I was happily listening to a podcast in the traffic. This was on Diyawanna bridge. Suddenly the car stopped. I tried igniting but it wasn’t starting. I started panicking. I was in the middle of morning traffic. I didn’t know what to do. Drivers behind me being typical Sri Lankans started honking. I put the gear in neutral and got out of the car and started pushing. No one came to help me! After all, what can they do? Get out of their vehicles and push my car? That would lead to more traffic and more honking (always getting in the shoes of others).

Finally, a guy who was on a bike with his girlfriend started pushing my car (while he was still on the bike). Somehow I managed to take the car off the road.

Fortunately, there was a garage nearby and I found a mechanic. He diagnosed the problem. A sensor was gone. Got it fixed after spending a big amount. Another week smoothly went by.

After a week, I was driving for work a little late than usual. Believe me, when I say this, my car again stopped in the same place! On the same bridge! I can’t even remember what was wrong.

how to buy your first car in sri lanka

Ever since then, there have been numerous problems and I had to spend a fortune to fix them. I even fell into more debt because of the repairs. The garage guys became so close to me that they even started sharing Awurudu snacks with me (Aluwa and Kawum to be exact!).

It’s been more than two years since I bought my first car now.

Why did I decide to write about this?

Probably I don’t know anything about cars more than you. But during these two years, I have learned a thing or two that would save you from some painful experiences in the future. For a long time, I kept these things to myself but I decided to share them with you. Hopefully, this post will help you to not make the same mistakes I made.

This is the post I wish I would have read before purchasing my car.

Brand new is always better

If you can buy a brand new car from a reputed dealer, please go for it. Even though a brand new car is expensive than a used car, you will have peace of mind that’s way better than trying to shave off few thousands.

Brand new cars come with warranties and a lot of free services which will save you from future troubles and headaches. So if you have the financial capacity, I say go with a brand new car. Like always!

Used cars are also good

This does not mean that you shouldn’t buy a used car. Sri Lankan used car market is huge and there are enough and more used cars in really good condition. But when buying a used car, you should not make the same mistakes I made. So following tips are for people who are planning to buy used cars.

Go with someone who knows about vehicles

When I started looking for cars, most of the time, I went alone. Imagine a guy who looks younger than his age (I’m not a narcissist. Many have said that I look younger for my age), wearing shorts and negotiating cars. When you look younger, most tend to take advantage of you. Even if you would like to believe otherwise, that’s just the way things are.

When I bought my car, I went with my brother. Both of us didn’t know jacksh*t about cars. We had no idea what to look for in a car. We were so caught up on B.S. seller told us that we reserved the car on the same day!

It comes down to trust. You can’t trust anyone. They may be God worshiping, tree-hugging humble Jacks but do not trust them.

Go with a person who knows about vehicles. Not your “know it all uncle” who believes that he knows about cars, planes, and spaceships. Find a person who really knows about cars. They would know exactly what to look for. If it’s a car repairman, that’s even better.

Remember. If you’re taking one thing out of this post, it should be this. Go with a person who knows about cars.

Don’t be afraid of the seller

Some car owners can be really rude and mean. Don’t worry about those guys. If you feel like you need to test drive, ask for it. If they refuse, don’t buy from them. Find someone else. If your mechanic wants to check the insides of the car, don’t hesitate to ask the owner whether they can bring the car to your preferred garage. If they are hesitant, you know that they got something to hide!

You’re going to make one of your biggest life decisions. It’s not like purchasing a book. It’s a huge investment for you and you need to know that you’re making the right choice. So don’t give a sh*t if they are not complying with your needs. Go find another car.

Don’t hesitate to negotiate the price

I know. Most of us hate negotiating right? You don’t want to rock that boat, do you? Forget all your fears and doubts about negotiating. Your job is not to make the seller happy. Your job is making YOU happy. Be prepared to always negotiate the price. Keep in mind that the car that you’re planning to buy is not the only car in the world. If the seller doesn’t come to your price, be prepared to walk away.

Formalities are always better

If you are satisfied with a vehicle, the first thing you should do is reserve the car. Now, most will ask to pay about Rs. 10,000 or more to reserve the vehicle. If you don’t buy it, the seller gets to keep the money. That’s only fair because if you don’t buy, seller misses other opportunities.

When you’re reserving the car, always get a letter signed by the seller that you have paid Rs. XXX to reserve that particular vehicle. Don’t forget to mention the vehicle number, owner’s address, ID No and the usual on the letter.

Even in other situations, always deal with legal documents. All these will be solved if you go with a person who knows about buying and selling vehicles.

Check the ownership of the vehicle

When you’re searching for a car online, you will come across brokers who are trying to sell cars that don’t belong to them. It’s always good to check the ownership of the car. So how do you do that? Every vehicle has a pink sheet that’s offered by the Department of Motor Traffic in Sri Lanka. Many refer to this as the “vehicle book” (don’t expect a book. It’s only a sheet of paper.) It has all the information about previous and current owners.

If they said that there has been only one previous owner but you see 3 more owners in the “vehicle book” you know what to do. You can check the ownership of a vehicle on Motor Traffic Department website too.

Be cautious about car sales

There are so many ways to advertise a car these days. If an owner wants to sell a vehicle, they can simply advertise it and sell it. Then why would they hand over there car to a car sale and lose a huge amount as sales commission?

There are only two reasons that can explain this. The owner doesn’t want to go through the hassle of selling a car or the owner has been unable to sell his car on his own. If it’s the first reason, you’re in safe hands. But if it’s the second reason, you need to know that there is something wrong with the car. So always go with a mechanic to check the condition of a car if you’re buying it from a car sale. Don’t make an exception.

Don’t rush your decision

If you’re considering buying a used car, don’t rush your decision. Take enough time to find a car that you think is suitable. After all, the time you spend searching for a good car is an investment for the future. It will save you from future troubles that you don’t want to deal with.

Don’t deal with cash. Always use a bank

When you’re buying or selling a car, don’t do cash transactions. Imagine you’re paying Rs. 2.5 million with cash. What if the seller tells you that he/she didn’t receive it? Then you’re fu*ked! Same goes for sellers. Imagine a real high roller comes you and pay cold hard cash. What if that’s fake money? It’s always good to do bank transactions when you’re dealing with large amounts of cash. That way, at least the bank has a record.

Always go to the authorized agent for repairs and services

Everyone thinks that authorized agents charge more than “normal” garages. So to save a couple of bucks, we go to the village garage.

Let me ask a question? How many vehicle models are there in Sri Lanka? Even if you take just one brand like Honda, there are more than 50 Honda models. Even under a single brand like Honda, the car models are going to be different from one another. Different parts, different engines, different features. Even based on the manufactured year, certain things are going to change. That’s just for Honda. There are more than 100 car brands in Sri Lanka. Do you think your village garage guy will know to repair each and every car on the road? He is too generalized. When it comes to your car, you don’t need generalized opinions. You need someone who has a specified knowledge about your car.

On the other hand, when you go to the authorized agent, their employees are fully trained to repair your vehicle. They know all the features and parts. They know the differences between each manufactured years. Simply put, they know everything about your car. Even if it cost you a bit more, you can be assured that you’re in safe hands with the agent.

I also found that agent’s charges were less than the “normal” garages.

That’s it for now

If you have made the same mistakes like I did, don’t be hard on yourself. Sometimes sh*t happens for no reason and all humans make mistakes. We just made a little too big mistake. That’s all.

Because of what happened to me, I got to share my experience with you and hopefully, this will help you to make a more educated decision than I did. See, after all, it had a good ending.

No matter what, I love my car. I call her Little Kelisa (it’s a Perodua Kelisa) and I feel so grateful for her. I sometimes talk to her as if she is a “real” person. My girlfriend hates it but I know that she loves Little Kelisa too. Feeling a little emotional right now so I’m going to stop here.

Did you enjoy this post? If you got anything out of this post, don’t forget to comment and let me know. If you have a similar experience, don’t hesitate comment and share your story. You may be doing a favor to people just like you who are planning to purchase a car.

If you know anyone who is planning to buy their first car, share this post with them.

Finally, if you’re still reading this, I’m so grateful for you. Give yourself a pat on the back because most don’t even have the patience to read an article these days. Till we meet again, so long.

Disclaimer: This article does not mean that Perodua Kelisa is a bad car. In fact, Perodua Kelisa is one of the best automatic budget cars out there. It’s just that the car seller tricked me into buying a car which was in bad condition. So in case if you’re planning to buy a Perodua Kelisa, don’t even hesitate. Just go ahead and buy the car. Consider my advice and check the condition of the car first. That applies to any car despite their brand and model. This disclaimer is for anyone who might misunderstand me. Don’t misunderstand me and come to unnecessary conclusions. Chill. 

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Nishan De Silva

Nishan De Silva

Nishan is the founder of He is a life enthusiast who loves reading and eating. His ambition is to travel 100 countries before dying (even though he hasn't been out of the country yet!)

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