Do You Need A Car In Singapore?

Do You Need A Car In Singapore?

Abel and I bought a brand new car this weekend. It was a shot-gun decision to be honest. We decided to go ahead with it when the news came up about Singapore’s new ruling to cut the growth of new cars to 0% (it was like.. 0.2% previously??) in 2018. *nervous laughter* We pretty much panicked. Our current car, a lovely Hyundai Avante and our first car as a married couple, is due Jan 2019. That meant that we would be affected by the 0% ruling and might not be able to afford a new car when the time came.

For my non-Singaporean readers, let me explain why this is such a huge problem. See, brand new cars in Singapore cost upwards from $75K. Used cars can cost anything from $30K upwards depending on the make, model and the numbers of years left on the COE (Certificate of Entitlement). 

Wtf is a COE? Well kids, a Certificate of Entitlement is something you need to own a car in Singapore. It allows you to own a car for 10 years, and when you buy a new car, you bid for one. When you buy a used car, you also purchase the number of years left on the car. e.g. Our Hyundai Avante has three years left on its COE, and we bought it in 2016, that’s why it’s due in 2019. If you need more information about COEs, read -> here.

The big problem is that the government is cutting down the growth of COEs. Fewer COEs mean bidding wars, mean prices will shoot up and being able to afford a car will be close to impossible. You can read about this stuff here. Also, there’s a new carbon emissions tax so that’s going to affect prices too. *starts hyperventilating*

I know, I know. It’s terrible to be so dependent on a car and to splash out so much cash, but that’s why I’m a mixed bag of emotions now. I’m questioning my decision to shell out close to 90K for a brand new car when really, our finances should be focused on our upcoming flat. *screams into pillow*

Okay, calm down Amanda.

Whatever the case is, Abel and I are set for December’s COE bidding. With the help of Daniel and his lovely wife Yi Yao, (soon to be parents!) we purchased a gorgeous Kia Cerato K3 in Gravity Blue:

I’m not going to go into the prices, but just know it was an affordable car (in terms of Singapore’s pricing), a bread-and-butter type with a downpayment of 30% and a seven-year loan. A long commitment, but one we’re willing to follow through with.

Seven years?! I mean… do you REALLY need a car in Singapore?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that it really depends on your lifestyle and your family’s needs.

Singapore’s not like Perth where bus stops are represented by tiny orange and green sticks plunged into the ground and buses are scheduled to arrive once every hour. Or, horrors! – like other far-flung countries where it takes 20 minutes to get to your closest neighbour.

Singapore is small. Grab, Uber and taxis are aplenty and despite the constant breakdowns, our trains and buses are infinitely more efficient and comfortable than subway systems in cities like New York or London. (We lose out to Hong Kong and Japan though, but that’s fine.)

In fact, the longest ride I’d ever taken was from Pioneer to Tampines (a two-hour train ride, joy!) and it wasn’t as hellish as I imagined. A good book, downloaded Netflix episodes or whatever helps you while time away, should get you through the commute without much fuss.

What I’m trying to say is that cars are not necessary. Singapore offers plenty of transportation options and if you’re lucky enough to stay in the heart of the city, you might not even need to use transport much. There’s also a matter of cost. Even with surge pricing during peak hours, Grab, Uber and taxis are still WAY more affordable than cars. In fact, someone did the math – which I think was very useful and admirable, (come I clap for you) but also a slow and painful burn for assholes like myself who have bought cars for less than stellar reasons.

As a millennial, I recognise that I have even less reason to purchase a car because a) I can’t even park at my office, I work in the CBD, so even if I park in a public carpark prices start at $1.20 per half hour. That’s $22 for a full work day! b) I don’t have kids, so the only little ones I can use as an excuse for purchasing the car are my toes – I don’t want them to be stepped on. c) I’m young, it’s not like I have trouble standing for ages at a time on the train or on the bus. d) I currently stay a two-minute walk from the new Bedok North station along the downtown line. It takes me just 30 minutes to get to work. When I move to Punggol… no wait, nope. Punggol can’t be defended.

Which leads me to WHY I wanted to buy a car in the first place.

In 2014 Abel and I were contemplating our HDB flat options. A resale was out because it was too soon and Abel didn’t want to be burdened by it so early in our lives. He was earning a pittance coiling cables and I had just started my job at SPH magazines. Plus applying for a BTO early in our careers meant a shit ton of grants. Unfortunately, the sales launches available were in godforsaken places like Woodlands, Sengkang, Fern-freaking-vale and of course, Punggol. Abel, who already is a Punggolian (Punggolite? They both sound stupid af.) jumped at it. I, your homie from the East of Singapore, refused. I finally compromised by saying that if he’s going make me stay at the end of the world, he better agree to buy a damn car.

He agreed.

We got married, I moved into his house in Punggol and we bought our first baby, the Hyundai Avante, or as Abel affectionally calls him, Avantageous. (Yes, I know cars are supposed to be female, but Avantageous feels like a boy.) Over the past two years we’ve had him, I think Abel’s really fallen in love with the car. In fact, he drives the car way more often than me, he cleans it… loves it… I sit there like a provincial lady of leisure, driven around by my husband. The car has really become a part of our life. It sends us to work, we drive it home after work, it sends Hachi to his grooming appointments, takes us out for family trips to marina barrage and a whole slew of places I know I’d hardly go without a car. The longer we owned it, the more dependent we became on it, and that’s how it all ended up in this mess.

It started as a small conversation about what would happen once the car had to be scrapped. We’d both throw out options, get another used car, extend the COE… blah blah blah. But then it got real so quickly when the ruling came out. Avantageous had to be scrapped soon, our house in Punggol was looming ahead of us, and we had gotten so used to having a car. I couldn’t even imagine taking Nibong (really?! NIBONG? It is Malay Feather Palm by the way.) LRT station to Punggol station then making my way to work from there every morning.

The more I write, the more everything sounds like a lousy reason to buy a car. Just sad excuses. I started out hoping that writing this blog post would help me find meaning in having bought a car, but honestly, Abel and I just wanted it because we’re used to the luxury of a car and of having the freedom of going wherever, whenever at our own pace.

And yes, it is a liability, it depreciates in value every year, but in terms of quality of life and helping keep our little two persons, one dog family together, it’s doing a bang up job and its role is irreplaceable. We stay with my grandmother now, and the car is OUR space that we have for ourselves, and for that I’m grateful.

The only thing I think I probably learnt is just how fortunate I am to be one of the people in Singapore to be able to afford a car. Abel and I might be a little low on funds for the beginning of 2018 (we also planned a trip to New York and Orlando, Florida, for March so everything just clashes spectacularly) but as he said while I was panicking, and that’s why I love my husband, “It’s okay babe. I’m thankful that you are thinking of our financial future 🙂 Yes it’ll be tough for awhile but I believe if we are prudent we’ll be okay”. My voice of calm in a storm, and the one in the family who really knows when to buckle down when necessary. Together he and I can do anything.

Except run a marathon. We hate running.

I’m excited about my new car, excited about the challenges it’ll bring, the new places we’ll visit, and how long we can go without Hachi damaging the leather. Hahahaha

Ultimately, if you’re stuck in the dilemma of whether to buy a car or not, the most important question to ask yourself is you’re able to afford the financial burden, and to sort out your priorities in life before realising how important, or not important, it is to you.

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