A guide to buying car in Singapore

Due to strict car ownership rules, the easiest way to buy a car is through a dealer. For new cars, you’ll need to buy the car and a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), a permit to register a car.

If a car loan is required, the dealer may also introduce a banker to assess the finances involved. After the COE and loan amount is approved, the buyer and dealer finalise the transaction and register the car under the buyer’s name.

Cost of owning a car in Singapore:
A typical sedan costs between S$80,000 to S$150,000 including COE. Road tax is calculated based on the engine capacity, but expect to pay around S$2,000 per year. Insurance premiums also average out at S$1,300.

Cars are exempted from inspection for the first 2 years, and subject to biennial inspection from the 3rd to 10th year.

Petrol prices vary between S$2 to S$2.50. Parking rates start at S$0.60 and can reach as high as S$5 per 30 minutes in the CBD. Singapore employs electronic road pricing (ERP) along busy roads, and charges between S$0.50 to S$3 depending on area and time of day.

Where to buy a car in Singapore?
New cars can be test-driven and purchased at authorized dealers or parallel importers. Authorised dealers are usually more reliable, but parallel importers can offer better prices.

How to pay for the car?
Buying a car involves large sums of money paid upfront for the COE, taxes, insurance and the down-payment. Transferring these amounts from an overseas bank to a Singaporean bank account will incur expensive bank fees and poor exchange rates.

How can I register a car in Singapore?
A COE is a prerequisite to registering a new car. Introduced to control the vehicle population, there are only a limited quantity to be purchased through a bidding exercise held bi-monthly.

In most cases, the car dealer will bid for the COE on behalf of the buyer.

If you’re buying a second-hand car, the COE, road tax and insurance may already be included. Otherwise, the outstanding road tax and motor insurance must be purchased separately.

The final paperwork to complete registration can be done online by the dealer, or in-person at the LTA Customer Service Centre if preferred. A S$25 administrative fee will apply in this case.

Other important things to take note:
All Singapore registered cars should come equipped with an In-Vehicle Unit (IU) that reads the NETS stored value card, and is required for paying the tolls and charges at ERP and carpark gantries.

Newly qualified drivers should display a probation plate clearly on the windshield on the front and back of the car, as required by law.

For short-term visits, valid foreign driver licenses are accepted with an International Driving Permit (IDP). In the absence of an IDP, an official translation of the foreign license in English is required. Drivers from ASEAN member countries don’t need an IDP to drive in Singapore, though.

If you’re staying in Singapore for more than 12 months from the date of last entry, you’ll need to convert your foreign license to a Singaporean one.