Car ownership in Singapore

A recent video produced by “Talking Point” garnered quite a bit of lively discussion among the local community.

This has always been a topic of discussion and a somewhat controversial topic. However, perhaps what might have reopened this discussion is the statistics in the latest report –

On average, these households earn a monthly income of S$3,000, and data from the Singapore Department of Statistics (Singstat) show that 16.3 per cent of them own at least one car.

We all know how freaking expensive cars are expensive in Singapore and for those household income that falls lower than a certain threshold, it is no wonder that this created some snippets for discussion.

The following graphical representation shows a pretty good breakdown of the cost of car ownership in Singapore


Well, everyone has their own circumstance and financial situation. I guess we can’t say whether each decision is right or wrong as I understand that sometimes the level of convenience of having a car perhaps far outweigh the cost of owning one (although some might argue on the reliability of the public transport system these days….).

I guess for both Dave and I, we could probably still afford a car if we would like to set some money aside for this but having said that, we thought that it probably don’t make sense for us to own a car at this junction.

What about driving to work? – Both Dave and I work in town, and we take a premium bus service to work. Well, one might argue that it makes sense for us to drive to work since our workplace is so near (I know a few friends who do that.) However, navigating the morning traffic, cost of parking in town, plus the ERP, this is going to add up quite substantially. For the premium bus service, we are currently paying around $9 one way for both of us. This is definitely not cheap but we figured that it is still cheaper overall than driving to work. Also, since none of us is driving, we can still take a couple of winks on the bus. If either one of us is driving, it means that we will need to concentrate on the road.

Isn’t it more convenient with a toddler and now a baby in tow? – I do not deny that owning a car is probably more convenient for couples with young children or those with elderly in the family. You have the car boot which can store the stroller and barang barang and whatever other crap that you need for the little ones. However, with Ally, we went around taking a lot of public transport (she loves to take the buses and trains) and also Grab (especially for further locations or when the kid needs to take a nap). And since both of us work on weekdays, weekends are the only time when we travel with kids. Even if we do get a weekend car, the utilisation still doesn’t justify the cost of owning a car.

Also, most importantly, we find that driving in Singapore to be an extremely frustrating experience. Firstly, the jam on the roads, even on weekends is extremely annoying. In addition, parking tends to be a problem as well (I am sure this is something that many will identify with). Thirdly, driving is an activity that requires a lot of concentration. With a toddler and baby now to handle, you can imagine that sucks up quite a bit of attention and energy from us. So when it comes to taking the wheel, we would require cup of coffee to “wake us up” before driving. But if we are taking grab or taxi, we could probably just rest in the passenger seat.

Will we say no to car ownership in Singapore? To be honest, we don’t know. With COE prices increasing as the government aim for a more car-lite Singapore, we are not convinced that we should get one at this point in time or anytime in the near future. Of course if circumstances change, we might reconsider.

But for now, we are happy to be able to get by without one.


8 thoughts on “Car ownership in Singapore

  1. Great post. I agree with most of your points. What do you think about “red plates’? Are they a reasonable option for weekenders?


    • You do get some rebates if you buy the “off peak cars”, which are also the “red plates”. I guess that varies for individuals. For us, we do not think that the cost of owning an off-peak car is worth it because of the low rate of utilisation. You can only drive between 7am – 7pm on weekdays which is not practical for us, and also only usage on weekends.


  2. Hi Kate, I am going to be a mom soon in May. And i am just wondering when you take a Grab car with an infant (till baby is less than a year old) do you bring your own car seat along? or are the drivers usually ok with you just carrying baby during the ride? my husband and i have been thinking about whether we should get a car, but it does not really make sense for our current lifestyle needs. Besides needing the car for our baby who will be coming soon. let me know. Thank you 🙂


    • Hi Liwern, congratulations to you and your family! Exciting times ahead 😊. With regards to your query, we do not take grab car anymore. We mainly commute via grab taxi. This is because private cars are sometimes skeptical of ferrying passengers with infant as in case of accidents, insurance coverage doesn’t cover them for that. In addition, taxis are about the only mode of transport that you can get by without a car seat even for infants and young children.


  3. Do you ever use a car sharing service? I live in Canada where owning a car isn’t expensive but it isn’t cheap. Two years ago my 2005 car was wearing out so I sold it and joined my local car share. I used to spend about $200 a month just for insurance, parking and one tank of gas. I didn’t use the car that much when it was running. Now my car share costs are about $60 a month in the winter and $15 in the summer. I don’t have to worry about repairs, insurance or gas. Also I can choose all kinds of different types of vehicles based on what ever task I need to do. I even used the cargo van to move a few years ago.

    I figured that last year I spent about $600 in transportation. That’s biking (I have two bikes, a “good” bike for summer and a “winter” bike for the other messy seasons), bus rides and the car share. I did spend a lot of money getting some major repairs done on the two bikes so for 2018 I hope to only spend $400 for the year on transportation.


    • Yes, recently the government has introduced an electric car sharing service at certain locations. This is still a relatively new concept and fairly recent so we are also interested to see if it will take traction here.


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