The Strategic Retreat

Cost of a car in Singapore

Pit Stop F1 Singapore

I spent the better part of 2013 in Singapore which I believe gives me a unique perspective on the misunderstood City-State. The word ‘unique’ gets tossed around a lot these days but I think it may be true in this case. There are plenty of foreigners in Singapore but not the bearded aimless types who spend many months there, it’s just too expensive. Why stay in Singapore for a year when you can stay in Thailand for 5 for the same amount of money? People like me don’t live in Singapore, fact. Due to this unique perspective I hope to recount many of my Singapore adventures as my site progresses and my ability to paint a story grows but for now I’ll just give a little background. That background is; Singapore is mad expensive.

If I had to sum up Singapore in as few words as possible they would be; Hot, expensive, no drugs. Today I’ll convey one facet of how expensive it is by showing how much it costs to own a car. And when I say “own” a car I really mean, ‘have the right to drive a car for 10 years’. A lot of people who are unfamiliar with Singapore don’t really have a concept of what people mean why they say “it’s expensive to drive a car in Singapore”. So let’s break it down. Let’s take the most popular non-truck auto in the U.S. and compare what it will cost you in the U.S. versus Singapore.

kisses blown at F1 Singapore


The Toyota Camry is the best selling passenger vehicle in the U.S. It has a MSRP of about $22,500. Not cheap but not super luxurious either. That’s excluding tax, title and license. The bulk of those costs are state sales tax. The price above MSRP will go up about $150-$200 in a state like Oregon to nearly $2,000 in a state like California.

Total Cost: Between $22,650 and $24,500, depending on which state you purchase the car in.

stop light in Chiang Mai


The OMV(Open market value) for a 2014 Toyota Camry in Singapore is $S28,000 which is roughly $22,000 US dollars. That includes the cost to buy the car and get it shipped to Singapore. Now lets start applying taxes and fees.

Excise Duty

20% on all imported cars, which is all cars since Singapore doesn’t make any. So that’s an additional $4,000 added to the price of the car.

GST Goods and services Tax

This is a 7% tax that’s added to most things in Singapore, it’s pretty much a sales tax. This will be added to the OMV + excise duty. Adding about $1,850. $28,250 in total

Registration Fee and license plate

The registration fee is $S140(about $110) and the license plate is only $S25, not too bad at all. This one totally seems reasonable.

Additional Registration Fee

But wait, there’s more. The ARF is a 3 tiered tax based off the OMV. For the first $20K of OMV the tax is 100%, the next $30K is 140% and anything above $50K is 180%. For the Camry that means a fee of around $24,600. Bringing the total up to $52,850.

This is definitely the low end of ARF since the OMV barely goes above the first fee tier, if we were comparing a car with an OMV of $S100,000 the ARF would be $S152,000.

COE Certificate of Entitlement

A COE lets you drive your car for 10 years. It’s not renewable and, for a variety of reasons, you won’t be driving your car after 10 years. It basically turns your car into a 10 year lease you can sell for scrap after your 10 years is up. The current cost of a COE? About $S78,000($61,600)

Total Cost That brings us up to about $114,400, roughly $S145,000 in Singapore dollars.

That is 5 times the cost of the same vehicle in the United States and that price only gives a Singaporean the right to use that car for 10 years. It’s easy to see why there’s little sympathy for Michael Fay getting slapped on the bottom after vandalizing cars. People who pay more for 10 years of driving than people in the Midwest do for owning a home tend to value their cars a great deal.

F1 Singapore

Additional fees:

Road Tax
Road tax: Is based off the size of the engine and runs from about $150 (under 600 cc engine) to over $1,500(over 3,000 cc) every 6 months. With the average cost being in the middle of those two extremes. For the Camry the Road Tax comes out to right around $S1,000 every 6 months, roughly $1,600 a year.

ERP Electronic Road Pricing

ERP is an additional charge for driving on certain roads, this cost can change based on time of day. This is done to decrease congestion. This is paid via a cash card in the in-vehicle unit. The IU is present in every car in Singapore and automatically charges your cash card when you use these roads. The IU also auto-charges when using parking garages.


Petrol in Singapore is over $S2 a litter, which works out to $6-$7 per gallon, roughly twice what gas costs in the U.S. Taxes and duties account for about 30% of the price of gas in Singapore.

Porsche race at F1 Singapore
In addition to the high cost there is a limited number of COEs. Currently only 1 in 8 Singaporeans own a car. If all of Singapore suddenly became rich, that wouldn’t change things much. The number of COEs is set by VQS. The Vehicle quota system decides how many cars can be on the road. It increases little, year to year, and this number determines the number of COEs that will be handed out each year, basically the COE numbers are; decommissioned vehicles, plus or minus an increase in road space and increase or decrease in taxis and work vehicles.

Since only 1 in 8 people can have a car, those cars tend to be nice. I couldn’t walk my Ang mo self to Tanglin without seeing a few supercars. And I sure as hell didn’t see any Toyota Camrys intermixed with them. It’s a bit comical to me that a City-State only 30 miles wide with a speed limit of 40 MPH is packed with race cars. Race cars that can’t be raced seem so tragic. I guess people need to show off their status wherever they can, especially when they’re trapped in a tiny heated box with no hope of escape. Such is Singapore.

About Jeff Penman

Jeff is a classically underemployed philosopher and MBA student, Singapore trivia champion, seeker of happiness, truth and the perfect sandwich. He once survived for 4 months in a lean-to on the side of college housing with only a fishing license.