The best way to save money is not to own a car in Singapore. But I am not going to debate whether a car is necessary as I believe it is a very subjective matter. So let’s assume you already have a car and we examine ways to minimise the financial damage.
Do you really need to drive?
Please do not be mistaken. The question above means you have to consider other options than driving to your destination and not a contradiction to what I have said in the first paragraph. Sometimes, it may be more convenient to take public transport. For example, going to city or town area during weekends. You would expect traffic jams and full carparks. You would end up reaching your destination an hour earlier if you take the train. It is not about saving money in this case but time. Hence, ask whether you really need to drive.
Research on routes to take and ERP charge
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If you are not an experienced driver or if you are going to an unfamiliar place, you should research on the route. Nowadays, it is a norm to have a GPS in cars and you may well use it to guide you. But what if you are like me, still a caveman who does not see the need of a GPS in Singapore? If I have internet connection, I would use online aids like streetdirectory, google maps, or gothere. I prefer gothere as it not only shows the route, it also shows the parking and ERP charges that you will incur. The Government has also introduced their own version of map, OneMap. If I am on the go, I would use my trustworthy Street Directory (the physical book!).
Research and decide on carpark before travelling
Always make a habit to check the carparks around your destination. Sometimes you can find a cheaper alternative which is equally convenient and near to the venue. You can use SGCarMart Carpark Guide to help you. Of course, this is when you have the luxury of time prior to travel. But what if you are on the go? Personally, I have an Ipod Touch and I downloaded a free application, Carpark@SG, which does not need an internet connection to assess the rates. Deciding on a carpark before reaching the venue would also help you save time and reduce frustration, as you already ahve a clear idea of where you are going.
Put parking coupon
It is not worthwhile to test your luck. The fine goes up to $30 if you are caught. $30 can buy you 30 hours of parking ($1/hr rate). Does it make a good risk-reward ratio sense to cheat 1 hr for a potential loss of 30 hrs? You need to be lucky not to get caught for 30 hours to break even. What’s the odds? Would you do this kind of investment?
Use petrol discount cards and credit cards
Find a petrol station that is near your home or workplace. I find that all the brands are the same. One brand does not make it go faster or save more petrol than the other. Choose one brand and stick to it. Find out which credit card would give you the best discount and apply for it. The savings can be quite substantial over the long run.
$0.30, $3 and $6 car wash
If I have the time and do not feel lazy, I would personally wash my car. I wash it at the multi-storey carpark where it has a washing bay and water dispensing machine. It cost $0.30 for 1.5 pails of water which is enough for my small car. I would send the car for washing at the petrol station only when I think it is really dirty and necessary. I would try to utilise the $3 discount given for pumping petrol at SPC to offset the washing charges ($6). You should try to wash your car on your own as much as possible. It is a good workout especially if you do not exercise much. And you will know where the latest dings and dents you have made 🙂
Manage car speed, acceleration and braking
I find it no point of driving fast in Singapore. In fact, I think it is not possible. Before you can accelerate to high speed, you need to slow behind a car or stop at the traffic lights. Frequent and excessive acceleration and braking consume much more fuel than normal driving. The most efficient speed for best fuel economy ranges from 80-100km/h. Anything above would increase the drag force (wind resistance) exponentially. Physics says that drag force increase to the square of velocity. In simple terms, the faster you drive, there are more invisible horses pulling in the opposite direction. In simpler terms, drive around 80-100km/h where speed limit allows.
Find the most value for money car insurance
Car insurance is very competitive now. There are many options in the market and it is difficult for you to source for all the quotations. You can request for no obligation quotes here. Some insurance may be cheap but you have to take note of things like “excess”. For example one company may offer $200 less in premium but have an addition excess of $500. A $500 excess means you have to fork out the first $500 for repairs caused an accident. If you go for the cheaper alternative, you are assuming a higher risk. You know yourself best, a careful or reckless driver.
Good servicing and maintenance
You should regularly service your car to maintain road worthiness as prevention is better than cure. Personally, I service my car once every 6 months. A well-serviced car would yield many positive effects; your car feels nicer to drive; fuel economy remains stable; your car does not make funny noises; you would not get stuck in an expressway with an overheated engine and causing a traffic jam; most importantly, your brakes work when you need it.