Crazy costs of owning a used car

Looking at the online used cars market (sgcarmart) has been frustrating. Depreciation of used cars with one or two years left in their COE went at an average of $1,000 a month. This means I lose $1000 a month to own the used car. This is before adding the driving costs of insurance, road tax, petrol, repairs and maintenance. You wait and you wait and it does not get better. The prices of used cars went north. The costs of owning a used car in Singapore is crazy.

Was it ever like that in the past? I do not know. I drove a church van from 1985-2004, nearly ten years, so I never had to look at the car market. Only about ten years ago the church paid about $60,000 for a Hyundai Matrix. Today that amount is a wee short of paying for the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) – the permission to use a new car in Singapore for ten years.

But God answers prayer. He did say, Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you.

Help came to me in the grace I have received from God to cope with using public transport. I admit it is tough during peak hours in the MRT and I avoid this whenever I can. So I was able to take the train or the bus to the church office or to Trinity Theological College library. His grace and my umbrella and short sleeve cotton shirts were sufficient.

Help also came in the form of friends who went on overseas vacations for one to six weeks and let me use their cars – a blessed convenience indeed. Thank God for that. Once an American missionary, James Creasman went back to USA, and let me use his Toyota Picnic for several weeks since its COE had not expired and that covered a busy December period when I needed a car badly, bless his heart, and bless the Lord o my soul.

My champagne Nissan Latio for the next few months.
My champagne Nissan Latio for the next few months.

Help came recently through a cell leader and friend Sunny Chong. He had been actively helping me to look out for a used car. One of his colleagues Andrew had a Nissan Latio with a COE that runs till mid-November. His daughter bought a new continental car and transferred her Mistsubishi Lancer to him since it had two years of COE left to run. He wanted to sell his car to dealers and they gave him low prices. Sunny suggested he sell it to me for an additional sweetener. Throw in the transfer fees, insurance and the sums show a depreciation of half of $1000. I was thankful for this blessing. It is God’s answer to mysearch and prayer. Does God care about such down to earth matters? Yes the God who is attentive to sparrows, lilies and grass that grows and dries up on the same day does care about COE and second hand cars. And God cares for the big picture too of course – world peace, poverty, natural disasters and human conflicts – everything serious and global.

For now I am just thankful I can go into my Latio and drive to wherever I need to tomorrow. As to whether I should extend the COE by another five years or pay a ransom for an eight year old car or go back to public transport, I have put it in God’s hands. Today’s worries are sufficient, and I do not want to add tomorrow’s fears to today’s list of concerns.

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From car to public transport

At the Chinese Garden MRT before peak hours
At the Chinese Garden MRT at 7.50am on Tuesday morning

With the cost of buying and owning a car in Singapore inching upwards with every month more car owners have had to give up their independence and mobility and become users of public transport. I had to do so and have been taking public transport for the past two months. The jury is still out, but my tentative feel is that our public transport system is good. The MRT and the buses are clean and effective and they do get you from one place to another in comfort and safety if not on schedule. However the peak hours can be suffocatingly crowded. Of course this can be alleviated by timing your trips earlier or later. It has been 30 years since I have to depend on public transport so much. By the grace of God my transition has been mainly positive. There are several things that have happened to me and I have made several observations during this transition:

My daughter had to teach me the tactics of positioning to increase your chances of getting a seat on the MRT.

I have walked more and perspired more than when I had a car.

The huge fans at the MRT stations are my favourite things about the MRT stations.

I now prefer short-sleeved cotton shirts for comfort.

I carry a small black umbrella in my bag for sunshine as well as rain. I find it cuts off 60%

Daughter mentoring father on MRT tactics
Daughter mentoring father on tactics

of the heat and I perspire less.

I deliberately walk slowly.

Planning to leave much earlier for trips is something I am getting used to.

Review of sermons before preaching on Sunday is now done in the MRT on the way to the service.

Getting a taxi on Sunday can be difficult unless you book them.

Taking a taxi when it’s necessary is something I need to get used to as I am not used to spending that kind of money.

I have recently decided to stop carrying my laptop to office unless it is absolutely necessary. Its too heavy. The Samsung tablet is my companion and I am going to try working from an external hard disk on an extra laptop in the office.

My backpack can be full and heavy at times, especially when I borrow or return books from Trinity library.

I feel loved and humbled with the numerous offers to give me a lift, some even going the second and third mile to do that.

The transition made me consider alternative modes of transport like the Brompton, a foldable portable bike allowed by MRT and buses.The LTA has ruled out electric stand scooters.

I cannot go nearest where I want, and when I want, and at the speed I want, like when I had a car to use. Public transport tells me, You can only go thus far and by this time.

Each time I hear the “TEENH” in the MRT turnstile it is my Money Rapidly Taken (MRT).

On the whole I am amazed at my rapid adjustment during my transition to public transport. God gives the grace. He has given me a grateful heart. Thank God also for the smart phone. And also for times to be quiet before Him as you stand in the train. This is a transition many in Singapore will have to make. Most retirees will have to give up their cars and adjust too. God gives us the grace.

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