Have Car, Will Travel
By Everlyn Lee

What do expatriates need to know when buying a private vehicle in Singapore? Read on to find out.

With Singapore’s extensive and relatively inexpensive public transport network, owning a private vehicle is not always a necessity. However, the added value of convenience coupled with Singapore’s navigable roads make for easy driving, explaining why there are more than half a million cars to-date zipping around on the island state’s expressways.

Although the process of buying a car is not always hassle-free, the benefits of having private transport well outweigh the cost and effort incurred.

Driving licences
First and foremost, you need a valid driving licence. You do not have to convert your foreign driving licence to a Singapore driving licence if you will be staying for less than 12 months. However, you will need to obtain an International Driving Permit if your licence is not in English.

If you wish to continue driving after staying in Singapore for more than 12 months, you will have to convert your licence. You will be required to take the Basic Theory Test. This is the same test taken by all drivers in Singapore, and it is meant to assess your familiarity with the local traffic rules and Highway Code. You can apply for the conversion at selected driving test centres after passing this test.

If you wish to continue driving after a year in Singapore, you will have to convert your licence. You will be required to take the Basic Theory Test. This test is taken by all drivers in Singapore; it assesses your familiarity with local traffic rules and the Highway Code. You can apply to convert your licence at selected driving test centres after passing this test.

Importing a car
There are three ways to get a car in Singapore – via import, purchase, or rental.

Importing a car is unlikely to be a viable option, considering the costs involved. You will have to pay a customs duty of 20% for bringing in a car from overseas. In addition, you will have to pay a Goods and Services Tax of 7% of the total value of the cost price of the car, on top of insurance and freight costs.

All cars in Singapore must first be registered with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) Vehicle & Transit Licensing Division before they can be used. The car must meet several registration, safety and emission standards, and must be less than three years old. The age of a used vehicle is determined from its date of first registration in a foreign country. If that is unavailable, the age will be calculated from the date of manufacture.

The manufacturer must also certify modifications made to your car, and the car must pass an inspection at an authorised inspection centre, which requires another round of tedious paperwork. A further surcharge of S$10,000 is payable for each imported used car registered in Singapore.

Buying a car
Singapore is a small country with limited road space, and several measures have been implemented over the years to prevent traffic congestion.

Chief among these is the Vehicle Quota System. Under this system, LTA sets a quota for new vehicles allowed for registration, while market forces determine the price of owning a vehicle. The number of new cars allowed for a given year is administered through the monthly release of Certificates of Entitlement (COEs).

Basically, this means you must first make a successful bid for a COE before you can register a new car. There are a few different categories of COEs, but the ones that are relevant to prospective car owners are Categories A and B. Category A refers to cars with engine capacities of 1,600cc and below, while cars in Category B have engine capacities of 1,601cc and above.

COE Open Bidding exercises are held twice a month, usually lasting for three working days each time. You can submit a bid through a car agent or at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), provided that you have sufficient funds in your bank account. After indicating the maximum amount that you are willing to pay, the bank will deduct a bid deposit of S$10,000 from your bank account. A successful bidder will need to pay the lowest successful bid price, also known as the quota premium.

Due to the market forces of demand and supply, COE prices vary from month to month.

Month of Bidding Exercise

Vehicle Category

Category A

Category B

1st

2nd

1st

2nd

Bidding

Bidding

Bidding

Bidding

October 2008

Quota Premium ($)

$13,801

$10,989

$14,400

$7,589

November 2008

Quota Premium ($)

$10,455

$2

$8,301

$4,889

December 2008

Quota Premium($)

$7,721

$6,200

$6,501

$2,656

January 2009

Quota Premium($)

$5,001

$2,693

$3,089

$200

February 2009

Quota Premium($)

$1,020

(N.A.)

$689

(N.A.)

After securing a COE, vehicle entitlement is valid for 10 years from the date of registration of your car. But before you have a car to call your own, you will have to sign a sales contract. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions stated in the contract before you sign it.

Other related costs
Other than the COE, the total basic cost of a car includes Goods and Services Tax, a registration fee of S$140, the average Open Market Value (OMV), Custom Duty (20% of OMV), and an additional registration fee (110% of OMV). The OMV is assessed by the Singapore Customs. It includes price, freight, insurance and all other charges incurred during the sale and delivery of a car to Singapore.

Based on these components, the total basic cost of a Toyota Camry 2.0 registered In January 2009 was S$61,466, a figure excluding miscellaneous fees such as radio licence fees and number plate bidding.

Costs that you will incur when you start driving in Singapore include Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), road taxes, and parking fees. Implemented to alleviate traffic jams during peak hours, ERP is an electronic road pricing system based on a pay-per-use principle. Each time you drive through a gantry where the system is in operation, ERP charges will be automatically deducted from your CashCard, which should be inserted into the In-vehicle Unit installed in your car.

ERP rates vary for different modes of transport, time belts and days of the week. For passenger cars, rates range from S$0.50 to S$5.00 on the Pan-Island Expressway on weekday mornings, S$0.50 to S$1.00 at Orchard Road on Saturdays, and S$0.50 to S$2.00 in the rest of the Central Business District, also on Saturdays.

For more information about the locations and rates of various gantries island-wide, visit www.onemotoring.com.sg

As for road tax, the amount you pay depends on the engine capacity of your vehicle. For example, based on LTA's road tax formula for petrol-driven cars, a car with an engine capacity of 1,600cc will incur a road tax of S$808.45 a year. In comparison, the road tax for a 2,000 cc car will be S$1,319.05.

Parking fees vary depending on the location and day of the week, but are generally higher for downtown areas on weekends. Parking coupons come in various denominations, namely S$0.50, $1,00, and $2.00 (for overnight parking only) per coupon.

When it comes to fuel, 98-octane petrol is the most popular and expensive type in Singapore. However, most cars do not need such high-density fuel, and are likely to do just fine with 92- or 95-octane petrol. Choosing a low-density fuel can save you up to hundreds of dollars each month.

Renting a car
You can choose to rent a vehicle if you want to drive, but don’t wish to buy your own car. Under LTA's Private Car Rental Scheme, you can have a car at your disposal from Friday evenings to Monday mornings. To search for available rental vehicles, you can browse through the local newspapers or contact organisations such as VICOM Ltd or NTUC Income Car Co-op, which runs a popular car-sharing scheme.

COE Bidding Results

Cost for cars registered in January 2009 (www.onemotoring.com.sg)

Make

 

Model

CC

Average OMV

Custom Duty
(20%
OMV)

GST (7%)

ARF (110%
OMV)

Regn Fee

COE (Jan 09
1st Bidding)

Total Basic Cost

Selling Price Quoted
by Authorised Distributors

Without COE

With COE

KIA

PICANTO 1.1A

1,086

8,545

1,709

718

8,545

140

5,001

24,658

33,779

39,779

HONDA

CIVIC 1.6L 5MT

1,595

23,272

4,654

1,955

23,272

140

5,001

58,294

65,800

69,300

MITSUBISHI

LANCER 1.6A

1,584

13,633

2,727

1,145

13,633

140

5,001

36,279

45,988

46,988

TOYOTA

CAMRY 2.0 AUTO ABS AIRBAG

1,998

25,498

5,100

2,142

25,498

140

3,089

61,466

78,488

79,488

NISSAN

CEFIRO 3.5

3,498

31,649

6,330

2,659

31,649

140

3,089

75,515

91,000

100,000

Useful contacts
Land Transport Authority
http://www.lta.gov.sg/
Tel:  1800 2255 582 (1800 CALL LTA)
Address: 1 Hampshire Road, Singapore 219428

Singapore Police Force – Driving in Singapore
http://driving-in-singapore.spf.gov.sg/services/Driving_in_Singapore/index.htm
Traffic Police Department
Tel: 6547 0000
Fax: 6547 4900
Address : 10 Ubi Avenue 3 Singapore 408865

Automobile Association Of Singapore (Head Office)
www.aas.com.sg/
Tel: 6333 8811
Fax: 6733 5094
Address: 336 River Valley Road #03-00 AAS Centre Singapore 238366

OneMotoring
www.onemotoring.com.sg
This is the largest one-stop online portal for all matters pertaining to motoring and road transport in Singapore.