(Photo Credit: Toyota)
Even the youngest Millennials are now at the age where they'd be looking at settling down. Housing and marriage aside, a car is typically what most would aspire to acquire.
With cars as expensive as they are in the little red dot, this is not a decision to take lightly. You'll first have to figure out whether you a car is an actual need or just a want. You may be able to afford the initial downpayment, and even the monthly payments, but the expenditure doesn't stop there.
There are a plethora of other associated costs with car ownership. All things considered, if all factors point towards having your very own car, just which make and model should you actually buy?
What You Need Vs What You Want
Generally, we tend to think of cars as nothing more than white goods - a tool to bring us from Point A to Point B. But if you have petrol coursing through your veins, you'd know that a car is so much more than that.
It is a mechanical symphony that awakens your primal senses, the same senses that have been made numb by the monotony of life stressors. To a car enthusiast, therefore, a vehicle is an object to be cherished and enjoyed.
In the former scenario, a car could perhaps be a need. The latter would probably fall in the 'want' camp.
A tool is useful only if it fulfils its purpose. As such, if you need a vehicle, chances are that you have a growing family, or commute distances that render public transport inefficacious, you'll want a vehicle that has enough space and comfort.
If you're younger and are a huge petrolhead, you'll probably be fine sacrificing some cargo capacity or interior space for something with a touch more poke. You can possibly also purchase a car with a manual gearbox and a driven rear axle for some (legal) opposite lock fun.
Say you've already identified the one for you. How do you go about buying the car?
Buying The Car
There's something called COE to contend with. Even the most affordable economy cars fall just south of a $100,000, with pricetags no doubt inflated by the COE. It really has effectively done its job of discouraging (especially the middle class) to purchase cars.
Unless you desperately need your own vehicle to experience a big improvement to your quality of life, we'd suggest you wait till COE prices come down a smidge before pulling the trigger, as prices have been soaring to new highs.
With no silver spoon in sight, it is safe to say that the bulk of us do not have the financial flexibility to drop six digits on a new ride. Loans, therefore, offer the masses an avenue into car ownership. Legally, you can only take a loan of 70% maximum if the OMV is $20,000 or lower, 60% if it’s higher than $20,000.
As mentioned above, the downpayment is just one part of the equation. Add an annual interest rate of 2.5% on a new car, and 3% on a used car, and you'll soon realise that the costs add up very quickly. As a rule of thumb, try and keep your total car expenditure to roughly 30% of your monthly salary.
The "Hidden" Costs
Owning a car would mean contending with additional, “hidden” costs. These include maintenance items, as well as fuel, road tax and insurance costs.
We're not going to go in-depth into what each entails here (we've done an article on this very subject), but factors to keep in mind here are things such as real-world fuel economy, mechanical health of the example you're purchasing, and even the state of the parts support for your chosen ride.
Of course, no car buyer's guide is complete without mentioning car insurance. By law, you'll need valid insurance coverage to even drive your vehicle. It also shields you from exorbitant repair bills should you experience a mishap while driving.
For a good balance between coverage and affordability, we recommend Direct Asia. They allow customers to select optional benefits to complement their preferred insurance cover type. That way, it gives drivers the freedom to choose which benefits best suits their needs, without overpaying for features they won't use. Considering the times we live in today, it's important that you get the right car insurance.
Do note that several benefits are not offered if you are going for Third Party Only (TPO), or Third Party Fire and Theft (TPFT) policies. We have a guide to help you decide which policy is right for you!
So What Should My First Car Be?
If you've already done your research and have the cash to splash out on a car of your own, here are a couple of compelling options for you to consider!
GK Honda Jazz/Fit (2013 - 2020)
(Photo Credits: Honda)
These cars would have already cleared the worst of the depreciation (which tends to be the first two years of a new car's life!), and are a solid, reliable option for those seeking out their first car. Badged up as the Jazz in official import guise, and as the Fit for grey market offerings, these can be had in a variety of different drive train and trim level configurations.
Later Parallel Import cars even have a hybrid variant for maximum fuel savings. Regardless of model or variant, you'll get enough space inside for five adults, wrapped up in a smart-looking package that handles decently and with enough poke to spare. And this could be had for less than S$80,000 if you shop smartly!
J12 Nissan Qashqai (2021)
(Photo Credit: Nissan)
If you're after a futuristic-looking and rugged SUV, you could do much worse than with the new Nissan Qashqai. Unlike a lot of its other Japanese compatriots, the Qashqai isn't built in Thailand - Nissan opted to manufacture the Qashqai at its Sunderland factory in Britain.
Its European roots mean this car does cost more than other offerings from Asian automakers (it's S$135,000 at the time of writing), but what you get is a spacious interior with countless quirks and features, 430L of cargo capacity and a surprisingly peppy, turbocharged 1.4L inline-four engine.
CT9A/CT9W Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 (2005 - 2007)
(Photo Credits: Mitsubishi)
In recent years, a greater appreciation of modern classic JDM cars has led to a steady uptick in the prices of iconic noughties Japanese performance cars. Whilst a clean, unmolested example of an Evo 9 could be had to low to mid $100,000s just a couple of years ago, you're unlikely to find even a neglected example nowadays for any less than $160,000.
With its legendary 4G63 powerplant under the bonnet, is it any wonder that people are willing to shell out thick wads of cash for a car well into its second decade of existence? Barring the dated interior, this is a vehicle that is still ruthlessly competitive, all whilst offering the space and practicality of a four-door saloon!
It is also worth noting that if you're after more space, a JDM-only wagon variant is also available, and several units have been imported into Singapore.
XP17 Toyota Sienta (2015)
(Photo Credits: Toyota)
The Toyota Sienta is perhaps the most configurable of all the vehicles on our roads today. Distributed both by the official distributor, and a smattering of Parallel Importers, you can have the Sienta in no less than eight different trim levels, four different interior configurations, and three different powerplant options.
This is perhaps the best budget MPV for the money, priced at just $97,999 new. Used examples can be had for mid $70,000s, though it is worth noting that these, especially the PI units, are very popular fleet and private-hire cars, so do your due diligence and walk away from examples with suspiciously high mileage figures!
(Photo Credits: Mitsubishi)
In fairness though, there's no such thing as a textbook 'right' car. No two individuals are alike, and their wants, needs and budget will vary drastically.
Therefore, we suggest you actually take a careful look at your hypothetical use case and financial situation. Bearing in mind that owning a car means locking up funds that could have been used for other more pressing purposes, besides a depreciating asset.
Only when you're satisfied that the pros far outweigh the cons, should you pull the trigger and put a car on your figurative drive.
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