Saying that cars are not cheap to own in Singapore is an understatement. COE premiums, insurance, fuel and related costs only add to the already very expensive price tag on the car itself, so any saving is welcome. Here are some ways you can make owning a car in Singapore a bit less expensive.
1. Buy a common brand/model
While it may be enticing to get an exotic, rarely seen model, if reducing costs is your priority, going for a more common car is better. For these cars, there are more independent mechanics and more places you can buy spare parts from. They will be on discount more often and they will be easier to find. This means you get to shop around, both for parts and labour prices and this also means that higher competitiveness makes dealers and workshops keep lower prices.
2. Buy a car with a smaller engine
The term ‘smaller engine’ means different things for different people, but there are some milestones that bring the costs down. For example, COE price for cars with engines whose displacement is 1.6 L or lower like the Honda Vezel 1.5X or Honda Shuttle 1.5G are usually cheaper than cars with bigger engine displacements. Road taxes will also be cheaper for these cars.
Smaller engines also usually use less fuel and they are generally more affordable to maintain. Aside from the generally lower prices, they also have fewer parts than engines with more cylinders, they need more oil for regular maintenance and their filters are also often larger and more expensive, or you can even need more than one.
3. Try one-stop shops
There are some businesses, like Vin’s Automotive, that offer comprehensive service for pretty much everything you may need. You can buy cars here, have them serviced, get financing and insurance, buy parts through us.
In many cases, doing all these in one place can end up being cheaper than shopping around. These kinds of businesses will do their best to keep you as a regular customer and that can include additional perks, lower rates and overall better service.
4. Buy a car with lower emissions rating
CEVS, or Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme, in Singapore says that if your car’s carbon emissions are under 135 g of CO2 per km, you can qualify for a rebate which can be very significant, from a few thousand SGD to up to SGD 30,000.
5. Buy a used car
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Used cars are significantly cheaper than new ones and you will also lose less money on resale. At just three years old, many cars will cost about 60-70% of their price when they were new. At our prices, that is a huge discount.
Of course, new cars will have their advantages, but with such a price difference and at just three years old, you will have more than enough money left over to fix anything that needs to get fixed.
If you opt for a used car, make sure it is examined by an expert before you buy it. You want to avoid any potential mechanical or electrical issues or hidden costs.
6. Drive sensibly
Cars waste most fuel while accelerating and standing in gridlocks. While there is not much you can do about traffic jams, if you are forced to drive in the busiest hours, you can in fact save a lot of fuel by accelerating and braking in a more sensible way.
Keep your distance from the car in front which will give you time to coast in gear more often and brake with less force. This will save your brakes and also make you spend more time driving with your foot off the throttle pedal. This is when most engines spend literally no fuel at all.
You will also be able to accelerate moderately and make a better use of the fuel. If you drive in a way that you accelerate aggressively to stay close to the car in front and then brake hard to slow down as soon as that car slows down, you will constantly spend more fuel than you need.
And the difference is more than significant. On hard accelerations, depending on the engine, cars can use more than 50 L per 100 km. While this is extreme, even if you have a smaller engine, harder acceleration will greatly increase your petrol consumption.
If you keep a steady speed on the open road and spend more time coasting in gear in the city, you can make a significant difference and get very close to the advertised consumption figures.
7. Buy cheaper fuel
This is not advice that you will often get and it is one that we would rarely give to anyone, but if we talk about savings, there is a good reason why you would want to do this. Of course, MAKE SURE you buy the lowest octane level that your owner’s manual recommends. Do NOT go under that level of quality.
Higher-octane fuel burns with more consistency. That is its main benefit. Lower octane fuels burn with less control so they can produce knock in which case the engine computer will retard ignition timing to prevent engine damage. This will affect the performance of your vehicle a bit.
However, if you want to spend less money, performance won’t be the first thing on your mind, so you can safely spend less money on fuel per litre. Just make sure you don’t go for lower quality than the manufacturer deems safe.
8. Get a petrol card
Petrol cards reduce the costs of petrol, so make sure you get one. Do your research to see which cards give the best discounts for the fuel and stations you use most often and you can save up to 20% on fuel with special promos.
9. Buy tyres with low rolling resistance
If reducing driving costs is your priority, then it is safe to assume you are not a performance driver. In this case, instead of buying tyres with improved grip and a wider footprint, you can go for a more eco-friendly solution.
Tyres with low rolling resistance are designed to save fuel and reduce emissions by helping the engine do its job with less effort. Another benefit is that most low resistance tyres are made by good manufacturers, so you will not have trouble finding good tyres.
While the savings are not massive at first sight, cumulative gains can be more than significant, especially if you drive a lot.
10. Spend as much as necessary on maintenance
I know, we are talking about saving money, not spending it, but proper and regular maintenance is very important and it can save you money in the long run. There are numerous examples of this, but we will use the most common one, just to show you how important this is – engine oil and filter changes.
If you are late with oil and filter changes, you can cause serious issues with your engine and oil changes are both cheaper and less troublesome than a bad engine.
Similarly, if you opt for a worse quality of oil than the manufacturer proposes, your engine can have serious issues. Saving a few dollars per litre of oil is definitely not worth it. While there are many examples of wrong oils used, one of the most famous ones is the old, first generation of the VW Touareg with R5 or V10 engines. If wrong oil was used, these very expensive machines were notorious for breaking very soon.
More modern smaller engines with turbochargers are also more sensitive, so make sure you use oil and other parts according to the manufacturer’s specification.
Do save money, but do not go cheap with your maintenance. While owning a car in Singapore is by no means cheap, following this advice can make it a lot more affordable.