Can we afford a car in Singapore?

13 09 2009
Used Toyota Corolla Altis 2006

Used Toyota Corolla Altis 2006 $39,000 !!!

There are 28,000 + taxis in Singapore on an island smaller than Montreal and a population of 4.5 million.  Think about it for a second…There are 10,000 + yellow cabs in New-York City (Manhattan) for a population of 11 million!

The subway system in Singapore is simply fantastic, easy and breezy, while the overall public transportation works like a Swiss clock.  By the way, did you know that all buses of Singapore have televisions to entertain the passengers and the looped program shows sketches from the Just For Laughs Festival of Montreal!!!  Yes, when you get caught in a candid camera sketch in Montreal, we see you in Singapore on our way to work.  HOW COOL IS THAT!

Singaporeans also rave about the Cirque du Soleil show that they saw last, but this is no surprise as they are popular on a global scale.

The buses of Singapore are big double deckers with advertising on it.  Since Singapore has no billboards (except for 5 strategic spots on the island) the buses are the moving advertising giants.  At any street corner you are bound to see an ALDO bus or a La Senza Girl showing her best side.  Yes, the home grown Quebec, Canadian brands are becoming very global and are making it big in Asia (I know, I know, La Senza has been purchased by Victoria’s secret and is now American but it is still a home grown brand).

There is also a bakery that claims to have the closest imitation of the Montreal bagel and our corner store sells the Montreal Spices to make your steaks perfect.  Make sure you look on both sides when you cross the streets of Singapore, because you may be hit by a crazy delivery boy on a motorcycle from Canadian Pizza.

What does all this have to do with owning a car? Not much, except for the part on the taxi and public transportation efficiency, the rest is just fun facts.

The thing is, for the last two years we resisted owning a car in Singapore.  if you ever come here, you will notice the large number of Mercedes, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMW’s, Porsches, Bentleys and all other luxurious brands you know.  You will judge the wealth by your standards and your price references and form an opinion.  Well… Let me set the record straight.  In Singapore cars are outrageously expensive: A BMW 320 is in the range of $175,000, a Porsche close to $600,000 and a high end Ferrari sells for $1.2 million!  And the price of the car is not the end of it; you have the road taxes that are according to the size of your engine.  Yes, in Singapore, size does matter!

The road tax for a Ferrari is $5000 a year and the speed limit, controlled by photo radar across the city-country, is between 70Km-90Km.  Lots of status on the street, but not lots of worn tires; hence when you come to Singapore and you see the thousands of Ferraris, Lamborginis, Porshes and other luxurious brands, store your opinions and pull out your wealth calculator.

Then I got a call from my sister Claire who casually told me that her husband was looking at perhaps selling his Aston Martin in Montreal for around $150K ($115 cdn).

I thought it was a real bargain, but no thank you Claire, it is an expensive car for the 2 weeks we would be in Canada (I knew she was joking).

By the way Claire, do you know how much you would get for the Aston in Singapore (if it was a right driver seat)?

No Helene, how much? Well, according to the second hand web site I am looking at, around $700,000!

So now you understand why for 2 years we took taxis, and taxis and taxis.  The problem with taxis is that it forbids any spontaneous decisions. You decide on something and often cannot change your mind along the way and when you have no cars, you cannot get up and go for a ride in Malaysia to get away from the island fever. The problem with taxis is that you feel often like you are a tourist and you don’t belong.  This is of course to our Canadian standards and way of living.  The reality is that I have a car since I am 16 years old and never was a day without it.  To me it represents freedom of movements, it is my little space where I can put the music I choose and sing to it if I want and it means that I could leave my rollerblades or camera in the trunk (remember we live in safe Singapore) and decide where and when we will go do something fun and improvised. We can also change our mind along the way, no problem!

Still the decision of leaving the taxi world to own a car was very hard to make because the scheme of owning a car in Singapore is so complicated when you are a foreigner who was not born and raised to understand this pricing and total cost of ownership structure.  You feel intimidated by the amount of information you need to learn depending on the year of the car and the licence fee/buy back price included in your car.  It changes according to the year of the car, the cylinder size, the model and a ton of other info.   It was created by the ministry of transportation to limit the number of cars on the road.  A car in Singapore has a right to licence of 10 years and must be scrapped after (resold to Malaysia, or other Asia countries, by a reseller structure or special permits only).  The right to license is set by an auction because each year the price will change depending on the offer and demand. It can be $3000 some years and reach $50,000 to $75000 other years; and this weight is included in the total price of a car. How much are parking spaces? How much is the road tax? What is the total cost of ownership in Singapore; this is very intimidating for foreigners, while Singaporeans seem to master this scheme by heart.

Then came an opportunity!  A couple leaving for few months in New-York who wanted to rent their car for the 2 month period!

The first few days that we sat in the driver’s seat, we were hooked again: Freedom of movement and instant fun decisions were back in our lives and yes, after only few hours of getting back the feeling of car ownership, we had taken the decision: We are buying our own.

But as mentioned above, the load of information we need to know to buy a car in Singapore is impressive and intimidating. Pierre spent a good week discovering information and searching for the perfect car.

At first you look for the type of cars you enjoyed in your own country: I missed my Volvo and Pierre the Beemer. After few days of research we knew that this life style was way above our concept of spending money.  A BMW is, second hand-3 to 5 years old, no less than $150-250,000 depending on the series!! I could not stop thinking of Eddy and Claire who were about to sell their almost new Aston Martin for the same price in Montreal!  Opportunities are considered opportunities only if you are at the right place.  Let’s not forget in the prices mentioned, that the yearly road tax in Singapore varies according to the power of your car.  A luxury powerful car can easily be between $3,000 to $4,000 a year alone and the insurance premium; A FORTUNE!

So we settled for a Toyota Corolla Altis 2006, which cost us the bargain price of $39,000.  It runs very well while bringing us from point A to point B at 70-80K an hour; the same speed and time as all the Lamborghinis, Mercedes and Ferraris that surrounds us on the highway.  All you need to complete the purchase is a cash card for electronic debit, a system that is used for paying Pay Tolls, fines or any parking in the city.  With a cash card, that you recharge every couple of weeks, any gates and doors open miraculously without any interventions from your part.  Why is this system not found everywhere else in the world? Sorry, cannot help you on this one, I just know that it is an amazing system.

My friend Pauline is back in Singapore after a couple of months of vacation in Montreal and of course, the first thing we talked about was our cars.

-So Pauline, you too bought a car?

-Yes, yes Helene,  Patrick and I bought a Honda Civic?


-Are you crazy, we could not afford a new one, so we bought a 3 year old car for $55,000!

The car salesmen wanted to sell us a Porsche for $500,000 but we told him we would think about it.  He said that we should buy it now because it was a deal!!!

Wow! I never thought I would feel lucky to have found a Toyota or Honda in Singapore while considering an Aston Martin in Canada DIRT CHEAP!

At the same time my other phone rang; it was my sister Claire

–       Bonjour Helene,

–       Hey sis, how are you?

–       Well, I am afraid I have bad news, the Aston Martin is gone

–       Well Claire it was a little dream in our heart but not a reality. So, you sold it?

–       No, it was stolen by a guy who was test driving it with the intention of buying it… or so he said.

–       Oh my God, wasn’t Eddy on board with him?

–       …Yes but after the road test they both got out of the car to clinch the deal but the guy asked Eddy to give him a few more explanations so he sat back in the car as Eddy was standing next to him with the door open and the guy just took off like in the movies!

–       OH MY GOD!

–       The police said that at least 4 luxury cars were stolen at the exact same location this summer the same way (same MO) and approximately 60 around Montreal by what seem to be an organized network!

–       You guys must be devastated!

–       We are a bit shocked since we were not even convinced that we wanted to sell it anymore.  The police say they are usually rapidly shipped to the middle east.

-Hmmm!  Perhaps it will transit in the port of Singapore!!! I could just use our little cash card to go get it! In Singapore I could leave it out with doors unlock and no one would dare touch it.

Ring…. Ring…


Helene, its Claire speaking

Hello sis, what is new?

They found the Aston Martin and it is now getting a pampering check-up at Decarie Motors.

What do you mean by “they found the Aston”

Well Imagine!… that a police officer was doing some training on containers with the RCMP at the port and saw the Aston sitting pretty in one of the containers waiting to be shipped overseas!!

WOW! What a story !  So the Aston Martin WAS at the port…just the WRONG port! I fantasized that it would be in SINGAPORE!  I guess I will never be in the same city as this Aston.

Ciao sis and have a great ride!

P.S.  ANYONE INTERESTED IN this DIRT CHEAP  impeccable ASTON MARTIN? …no thieves please!  :)))

Hélène Blanchette
This is shown as an example of the pricing in Singapore and is not the photo or the exact model of Eddy’s car. Eddy has a Vantage

Aston Martin DB9

Aston Martin DB9 photo gallery
10 photos available
Background Info
Vehicle type Sports Built in United Kingdom
Release year 2004 Facelifts done
Booked a new car? Get a better trade-in price here!
Submodel Price Instalment  Engine cap Detailed info
Coupe 6.0 (A)
(w/o COE)
No Change
$6,778 /mth 5935cc Specs Features
Volante 6.0 (A)
(w/o COE)
No Change
$7,200 /mth 5935cc Specs Features
Here is Eddy’s car




4 responses

28 09 2009
Kevin Luo

Just read your blog. Congratulation for
1. having a happy life with your piere
2. and having Toyota Corolla Altis
u r real singaporean right now.

for chapter on ‘asia girls’, did Tim say he wanted to dump current girlfriend and find a one in China? unfortunately he won’t get a visa. Haaa
I am more than happy to host you and Pierre in Beijing, do make a plan ah..

1 10 2009

Hello Kevin
Thought that you could not read my blog in China?? Tim has been single for a very long time so he does demonstrate “yellow fever” symptom. 🙂

Thank you for the invitation and we will act on it.

17 03 2010

Hi! I just found your blog while googling around. I live in Brazil, and here the cars are also verry expensive because of the taxes! I suppose they cost the same as in Singapore, or so… Keep up the nice blog!

22 03 2010

Thank you Albert and yes taxes are the cause but also the limited number of cars allowed on the road makes the right to drive licence (included in the price of the cars) a big weight as well. I does work, there are 700,000 cars in Singapore including the 30,000 taxis and not one more 🙂
Thank you for your comment.

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