Costs associated with car ownership in Singapore

Cars are a status symbol in many countries, and Singapore is no exception. Being the country with the highest car prices in the world, sometimes I walk around Millenia Walk area and wonder how people are able to afford their rides, especially when I see Lamborghinis and Ferraris which can cost upwards of a million dollars here. 

But purchase price is not the end of the story. You still have other costs like insurance, petrol, road tax, season parking, tolls, fines… 

There’s a saying which goes : Your car is your second biggest investment after your home.

This statement is probably true only in Singapore. So let’s break down the costs associated with having your second biggest investment (as at May 2019). 

We are referring to buying a brand new car. 

1. Car price

By Law, you can only borrow up to 70% of the price of the car. So if you are buying a car in the $100,000 range (which is in the range of the Toyota Sienta, Honda Shuttle, Honda Civic) - then you have to cough up at least $30,000 in cash. 

Not only that, if you are taking a 7 year loan, your instalments add up to about $900 per month - for a normal, Japanese family car. For continental makes like Audi, BMW and Mercedes - we are looking at monthly instalments double that amount. Nice car, even nicer prices.

And don’t forget - you’re paying this much every month for a machine that is depreciating every day.

2. Road Tax

The tax you pay (on top of the one you already paid for your car) - to use the roads. Road tax in Singapore is dependent on your car’s engine capacity, so the bigger your engine - the more road tax you’ll pay.

For a regular Toyota Corolla sedan with a 1.6 litre engine (which I believe is a very common engine size in Singapore), the road tax is a pretty manageable $744 per year. 

But what if you fancy driving a mean looking Ford Mustang GT with a 5 litre engine? That will set you back $5436 per year, or $453 per month!

3. Fuel 

Without it, your car is pretty much a useless hunk of metal sitting in the carpark. Fuel prices in Singapore are not wallet friendly either - at $2.31 per litre for regular Ron 95 petrol, it costs $115.50 to fill up a normal Japanese sedan’s fuel tank of 50 litres. 

If you’re feeling like Lewis Hamilton and wanna go fast, filling up your car with premium Shell V-Power petrol will cost you $2.88 per litre, of $144 for a full tank. 

4. Insurance 

Insurance is to protect you from going broke in the event of an accident, and also the other parties involved. Car insurance in Singapore is dependent on a variety of factors such as the car being insured, age of driver, car type etc. 

If you are in your mid 20s, driving a regular Mazda 3, then insurance will set you back about $2000+ per year. If you are in your mid 20s and are thinking of driving a continental car like an Audi A4, then it costs $3,000+.

Yes, the driver’s age plays a big part in car insurance, since the insurance companies deem younger drivers to be higher risk, which is probably backed by historical records and road traffic accident statistics.

Pretty expensive, considering you’re paying for something you hope you don’t ever need.

5. Parking and Tolls

Season parking in a HDB costs $110. If you work in the CBD, be prepared to pay upwards of $400 - $500 per month just to keep your car sitting there. Not forgetting that there aren’t too many places in Singapore with free parking, so you’ll probably spend at least $20/week when parking at malls, etc. if you go out with friends/family often.  

Oh, and don’t forget ERP. 

6. Maintenance

Depending on your driving pattern (fast and furious vs calm and steady), your car (e.g turbo vs non-turbo) and the car’s age, your maintenance schedule and cost will vary. For new cars, there are dealers who may throw in a free service.

But maintenance itself means more than just changing your engine oil. You also have to factor in wear and tear on your tires, brake pads, spark plugs and more. If you do not maintain your car regularly, it can cause more serious problems down the line and you may end up forking out more money. This is especially true for continental cars (trust me - I’ve been there)

7. Fines

I was pretty happy when I got a letter from the Traffic Police congratulating me for being a good driver, since I did not get any demerit points for the first 5 years since getting my license. But together with that letter, came another letter where I got saman-ed $70 for a crossing a double white line. Ironic.

But I wasn't too affected by it, because if you are driving, you have to understand that getting fined for traffic violations is part and parcel of it. It is inevitable unless you are a super duper careful driver who is aware of all road rules, which in reality none of us are.

Fines can range from $70 to a few hundred dollars depending on what traffic rule you broke, so always have some money set aside to pay such fines.

8. Accidents

Yes, I know I mentioned insurance earlier, and it’s supposed to protect you blablabla. But there may be instances where you get into a minor accident, where your bumper gets damaged, or a headlight gets knocked out. In such cases, you may choose to settle privately, i.e you and the other party agree on an amount to cover the repairs, and not get the insurance company involved.

Such repairs can cost a few hundred dollars, but of course this varies depending on what needs to be fixed, and the severity of the damage.

With that, I hope you are able to get a better picture of the costs associated with owning a car in Singapore. It is pretty expensive as you can see, but that does not mean you shouldn’t get a car. For some people, their lifestyle requires a car, such as those with a big family, those who drive to Malaysia often, those working odd hours or at ulu places, etc. So think wisely before getting into a huge commitment !

Alternatively, you can always rent or lease a car first to ‘test water’ before getting your own.