Renting/Leasing a car

A couple of commenters have asked me to write a little more in detail about the way leasing works here in Singapore.

*******I am happy to write about my experience, but remember as this post becomes dated things may change, or work differently with a different leasing agent.*******

Before we first moved to Singapore, we read about car ownership in one of those “So you’re moving to Singapore…” style guidebooks.  The book made it very clear that car ownership was for the extremely wealthy, and those on expat packages whose company would pay for the car.  We fit neither description, and the MRT/bus/cab situation was reasonable enough that we never really seriously considered buying a car.

It wasn’t until fairly recently, when I started talking to friends who had cars here in Singapore, that I realized there was another option besides ownership; leasing.  While we employed B, a car was still a financially irresponsible decision for our family, but after we fired her, it became a possibility.  When I began to do the math on how many cabs I was taking to get Ellie to school five days a week, gymnastics, violin, grocery runs, play dates, and general running around it began to look downright reasonable to lease a car.

How I did my research

I will confess to a certain level of laziness.  I contacted Avis, and asked my friends with cars how much they were paying.  When everyone gasped at how little a friend of mine was leasing for, I decided to contact her agent at the Hyundai dealership on Alexandra Road.

We initially took the car for a 4 day test drive at a daily rate, but they agreed that if we signed for a few months trial, the daily rate would count towards the first month’s lease.  Last week I signed a monthly trial for a few months, just to be sure.  This is a really big commitment, and we want to be completely sure before we sign a 1 or 2 year deal.

Terms of the lease

  • We pay a monthly fee to lease the car.  When we commit to a one or two year lease, that amount will either stay static to what we’re paying in our trial months (1 year lease) or decrease by about 100 SGD a month (2 year lease).
  • The leasing company covers—-Maintenance (including regularly scheduled maintenance and oil changes), Insurance, COE, roadside assistance in SG and Malaysia, road taxes
  • We pay for—gas, a deductible in the case of an accident (with a higher deductible should the accident happen in Malaysia), parking fees, the ERP (edited to thank commenters clarifying road tax vs erp)
  • During our lease period we can switch cars to another car in the same class at the same amount or to a higher end car should we wish.  We may not downgrade our car.

Gas

We are filling our tank about once a week (given that we’ve only had it for just under 2 weeks).  It costs around 80-90 SGD to fill it, with different gas stations offering different discounts for using specific cards.  We only have cards issued by GNB, which sadly is not one of the more popular discounters.  Gas runs just over 2 SGD a liter (6 USD per gallon) and our tank is 40ish liters (or 10 gallons).

It is true that the model we have drinks a bit more gas than the equivalent model to what we owned in the US, but there are no real Hybrid options for leasing right now, and the difference in our model versus a different model plus gas still make our Matrix the cheapest option for our family.

Parking/ERP

While in some parts of Singapore there is on street or public parking where you’ll need coupons (and I have some just in case), the majority of places I’ve been do electronic charging.  Your car has an electronic reader (IU unit) mounted on the dash on the driver’s side.  When you enter/exit a parking lot or enter an ERP road, it is scanned and the amount of money is deducted from your cash card.

Cash cards can be purchased at 7/11.  You can refill the amount of money on them at 7/11 and in many mall parking lots. I generally just leave mine in the IU, unless I have a voucher for free parking.  In those cases, you take out the cash card and insert your voucher into a secondary machine at the exit.

I look to average about 50 SGD a week in parking/ERP.  I know many people say that parking here is expensive, but I’m not sure what they’re comparing it to.  Suburban US life, where free parking is an automatic?  Or an urban American metric?  Compared to Boston/New York daily rates, parking is downright dirt cheap here.  I usually pay about 2-4 dollars to park at Ellie’s school (2.20 if I’m just doing a drop off or pick up…the 1 hour rate, or 4.20 if I stay for a meal or to do grocery shopping–the 2 hour rate).  In Boston, many parking garages start at 10+ per hour and in New York, it’s even higher (granted, both tend to top out at 20-30+ dollars after 4 hours for a 24 hour period, but…).

I’m going to address car seats in tomorrow’s post

What other questions/topics do you guys want to know about?

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13 Responses to Renting/Leasing a car

  1. DT says:

    ERP is more like a (per entry) road toll for the central business district, peak hours and expressway usage.

    Road tax is a separate, lump-sum collection done either 6 monthly or yearly. . Rates start at $600 per year for the smaller cars.

    If your leasing cost includes the road tax and is under S$1K per month, i would say that its a fantastic deal!

    • sg says:

      yes… ERP is more like toll charges and road tax is a bi-annual charge…

      it is industry practice to include the bi-annual road tax in the leasing cost… ie: the leasing company takes care of it…. (just for info, if you are curious how much the bi-annual road tax costs, it written on the blue label which all cars require to display on your windscreen… usually top corner on the passenger side of the car. you can even look at what other car owners are paying.. just go over to their cars to have a peek! haha.)

      so i would say for car leasing, you pay a fixed fee every mth and on top of that your variable expenses will be the “consumables” like parking, gas, car wash and toll charges etc…

    • Crystal says:

      Yes-ERP, not road tax. Thanks for clarifying–we don’t pay the road tax.

  2. sg says:

    if you are more “seasoned”… you can check out the classified ads section of the straits times.. there are MANY ads on car owners wanting to lease their cars for a monthly fee…. you can get better deals there but do note that they are mostly direct owners and/or small time dealers so you need to know what you are doing and that all the terms of leasing are crystal clear as you are not dealing with a big corporation with customer hotlines and proper dispute resolution processes etcc. everything is through personal negotiation.. so that is why i only recommend if you are more “seasoned” and once you get familiar with singapore…

  3. kirsten says:

    I think when Singaporeans talk about how expensive parking is they might be thinking about how much it used to cost, rather than how much it costs elsewhere.

    I remember when I was a kid we used to be able to pay for parking in coins instead of notes, and that if you had a $10 deduction everyone would gasp in shock.

    When I went to NZ I was scandalised by how much it costs to park in a building, only to move back home and realise that Singapore’s kind of become like that too.

    • Crystal says:

      That makes a lot of sense. In the suburbs of the US it doesn’t cost to park because there’s plenty of room to build giant parking lots. But in the city it’s a premium, so it costs money…often significant money, so this all seems ridiculously affordable. But I guess a lot of revenue that is generated by parking fees is taken on the front end here–the COE and so forth.

  4. KJ says:

    Until everyone gasped when I said how much our monthly lease was I didn’t know we were getting such a good deal!

    The other thing this complany offers is a replacement car for when yours is being serviced or fixed. I must have drifted off when this was being explained to us as I dropped the car for a service last week and then walked out and up the street to catch a cab home. My phone rang, and it was the leasing consultant (who was ona day off!) saying that the service people had called him and did I want I replacement car for the day!?

    Excellent customer service. I also learnt that arranging a service here for a leased car is not like Australia where we called the service people and handled it all ourselves. No, all I have to do is email/call the leasing consultant and he will sort it all out for me.

    I love this because it’s EASY. That’s the big reason we didn’t buy a car here – ‘cos I like EASY!

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  6. Liam O'Brien says:

    Why don’t you mentioned EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR LEASE DEAL COSTS AND WHAT MODEL OF CAR YOU HAVE? Until you do, this posting looks like a promo for leasing over buying. Last time I was in singapore, 4 years ago, I bought a second hand kia mpv with not much on the clock.. Cost us about $60,000, we got $33,000 when we sold it on our return home after 2 and a half years’ of use. There aren’t many lease deals that can match finding a good second hand deal.

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