Owning a car in Singapore is an expensive endeavour. From the market value of the vehicle to fuel, parking, and all the extra taxes, it can easily cost a couple hundred thousand over 10 years.
But if you’re wondering just where Singapore stands compared with the rest of the world, we’ll break down the cost of car ownership today. We’ll compare the affordability of owning a car in different countries — specifically, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, and the US.
A Few Assumptions Here…
We’re going to use the Toyota Corolla for our calculations since it’s the most popular model globally. With over 44 million sold worldwide, it’s a good reference point. Think of it like a good ol’ Big Mac substitute, if you will.
Unsurprisingly, Singapore is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy any car, while the cheapest place to buy your Toyota Corolla is – again no surprise – Japan. Read on to learn more.
Car Ownership in Singapore
A Toyota Corolla Altis costs S$103,888 to S$110,888 depending on the submodel and dealership. Each year, you can expect to fork out S$1,500 to S$2,500 a year for car insurance if you’re a brand new driver. Add on around S$500-600 for servicing/maintenance costs and S$742 in road tax.
In Singapore, the cost of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) is factored into a car’s advertised price. A limited number of new COEs are available each year via an open bidding system. Currently, COEs for cars with over 97kW or a 1.6-litre engine is around S$40,000.
Fuel costs are the most significant ongoing expense for drivers in Singapore. Annually, the average car will log about 17,500 km, which means monthly fuel costs of about S$200 to S$250. This works out to be at least S$2,400 a year.
Parking on private property is generally free for residents. You’ll have to pay for parking at Housing Development Board (HDB) car parks and commercial buildings though. Drivers can buy HDB season parking for between $90 and $120 a month (or S$1,080-1,440), depending on whether it’s kerb-side or sheltered parking.
Car Ownership in Japan
Cars in Japan are relatively cheap. You can easily find a used car with a navigation system, backup camera, and all sorts of other features for under S$3,000. That’s partially because of Japan’s licensing system for used vehicles: it’s cheaper to buy a new car every few years rather than keep an old car on the road for too long.
Japan’s vehicle legislative system is set up to benefit the local consumer the most, so you can buy a brand new Toyota Corolla for S$16,191. But even though the cars are relatively affordable, owning a car in Japan becomes expensive due to the mandatory bi-annual inspections, mandatory insurance, automobile taxes, and parking fees.
There are quite a number of taxes to pay when buying a car in Japan. These are:
- Car acquisition tax: This is a 5% tax of the purchase price of the car and is payable at the time of purchase
- Automobile tax: This is an annual tax for owning a car. Every April, an invoice for this tax is sent directly to the owner’s home address. Tax rates depend on the size of the engine
- Weight tax: This tax is calculated based on the weight of the car. It’s payable at the time of the bi-annual vehicle inspection
Japanese cars are known to be highly fuel-efficient. A typical car in Japan gets an average of 6,030 km per year, which uses roughly 266 litres of petrol. This works out to be only S$514 per year.
Japan requires proof of a parking spot or a garage when drivers want to buy a car.
A parking spot can cost around S$112 monthly (or S$1,344 per year) on the outskirts of larger cities with around 300,000 people.
Cities like Tokyo can run you from S$271 to S$1,356 monthly just to have a place to park your car (S$3,252-16,272 per year). Some smaller cities don’t require you to pay anything monthly to park.
Car Ownership in Malaysia
The Toyota Corolla Altis is a popular choice for Malaysian customers. The Corolla Altis is available in 3 types: 1.8E (S$38,695), 1.8G (S$39,662) and 2.0V (S$44,492).
Car prices are nearly 2.5 times cheaper in Malaysia compared to Singapore.
Still, Malaysians often complain of high car prices in the country due to the included excise duty. In fact, KL is the fifth most expensive city to buy a new mid-size car compared to 54 other cities across the globe, according to one report.
The high price point is possibly due to the country’s national policy of keeping imported cars pricey with taxes to help local car manufacturers compete in the market.
Despite the high cost of cars, Malaysians are on a roll when it comes to car ownership: the number of Malaysians using vehicles is projected to increase 1.4 times to 31 million by 2030.
Malaysia is also cheap when it comes to petrol prices. You can expect to spend S$485 on petrol per year.
Parking costs in Malaysia vary, but they are generally reasonable. Those working in the city centre can expect to pay S$64/month (S$768/year) for a spot at the parking bay.
Car Ownership in Australia
In Australia, the Toyota Corolla is available from S$23,895 to S$35,645 for the latest 2021 range of models in Hatchback and Sedan body types. The made-in-Japan Corolla has been Australia’s top-selling vehicle (that’s not a ute truck) for several years.
While car prices include GST and luxury car tax when applicable, they often omit a bunch of on-road charges. The most common of these are stamp duty, registration, compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance, and dealer delivery charges.
Stamp duty is a state-based tax determined by the value of a car. It can vary widely depending on your jurisdiction, and some offer reduced rates for fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles.
Increases in fuel prices have contributed the most to the rising car ownership costs. The average weekly cost in major cities around Australia was S$76.23, which works out to about S$3,963 per year.
Australia’s parking costs are among the highest in the world. The latest Parkopedia 2019 Global Parking Index report found that the average daily price of off-street parking (aka car parks) in Australia is S$40.52. That works out to be a whopping $14,789.80 a year.
Their on-street (metred) parking is a bit more forgivable, at S$5.82 on average for two hours.
Car Ownership in California, USA
In 2019, Toyota sold 166,214 Corollas in the USA, making it the 11th most popular passenger vehicle.
Starting at S$21,900, the Corolla is the second-most affordable model in Toyota America’s range. But unlike most countries, the US doesn’t advertise car prices with sales tax. This is mainly because of the different sales tax rates imposed by states, counties, and cities.
In California, the sales tax on new and used vehicles is 7.25%, meaning the Corolla range starts from S$23,487 before factoring in on-road costs.
California has the nation’s most expensive gas prices. In a typical year, Americans drive almost 22,000km annually. This totals at least S$3,517 in fuel expenses each year.
Parking does not come cheap in California either. Drivers in the larger U.S. cities spent more than S$4,069 a year for parking. According to one study, drivers in Los Angeles, California, spent almost S$6,782 in parking-related expenses.
In Short: Car Ownership in Singapore vs Other Countries
|Price of Car + Taxes
|Fuel (per year)
|Parking (per year)
Singapore remains one of the most expensive cities in the world to own a car. Due to the limited road space, the government has opted for various vehicle ownership controls that bump up the prices.
That said, it isn’t a cakewalk to own a car elsewhere even if the purchase prices of the vehicles are lower. Parking, fuel, and other maintenance and emergency costs can make it an expensive affair to maintain.