For a couple of years, we survived quite well in Singapore just getting around using the world-class public transport system (MRT - Mass Rapid Transit). The island is small enough that nearly every corner is accessible via this railway... and if it's not, then a short bus ride or a reasonably-priced taxi will take you the remaining distance (taxis here are around 1/6 - or even less - of the cost of those in Australia).
Since buying our car, it has soon become obvious that the extra mobility and freedom is well worth the money... I can now walk straight to the carpark with our trolley full of shopping, drop it in the boot ('trunk' for all my American readers) and head straight home.
Don't get me wrong - there is a huge difference when buying a car in Singapore to buying a car in many other countries... in Australia, a vehicle purchase is an investment; in Singapore it's more of a lifestyle decision... let me explain...
The initial up-front cost is higher in Singapore for starters, then to help keep control of the number of vehicles on the road, one has to purchase a COE (certificate of entitlement). The COE is available through an LTA (Land Transport Authority) bidding process, and depending on the quota of COEs available and the demand for vehicle registrations, the price can fluctuate (quite dramatically). The COE has a validity period of 10-years. There are two bidding periods each month. So whereas a person might buy a car in Australia using a car loan or lease over a 5-year period, they can usually resell their car on the second-hand market or trade it in for a new car when the time is right - the value of the vehicle becomes like an 'equity'. In Singapore, it is common for a person to purchase the car on a 10-year loan and at the end of the 10-years when the COE has expired, actually 'trash' the car. This leads to very few older vehicles on the road - which is a good thing.
Putting it in 'dollars per month' terms, based on the price of the vehicle and COE, one can enjoy a very reasonable car on a 5-year loan with repayments of around A$500 per month. The same (or similar) car in Singapore may cost almost S$1,000 per month over a 10-year period.
The choices one needs to make are actually quite many and can be complicated - for example, do I want to buy from a parallel importer or do I want to buy directly from the manufacturer? Do I want to buy the COE outright at the time I buy the car, or would I prefer to seal the deal on a 'guaranteed bids' COE deal (with or without 'top up', and is there a rebate if COE drops below a certain amount)... etc, etc...
OK - here's what we did, and after much research and shopping around it was the best deal (for us) at the time. We bought through Hua Yang - parallel importer - with guaranteed COE in 4-bids with no top ups. This meant that the price of the total deal was fixed regardless of the COE fluctuation (which was extremely high then) and we would be sure to get the car within about a maximum of 8-weeks (four bidding exercises - two per month). The other reason we opted for Hua Yang was the 'extra add-on features' that we received for the same cost as other places (with no extras)... we also got reverse camera, leather seats and interior, window tinting, 'pearl white' (non standard) metallic colour, integrated DVD system and screen, extra 9" screen in the rear, sports rims, and a few other features.
The car is a Toyota Wish - 7-seater 'station wagon' we would call it in Australia. Just large enough for our family here and those vacationing :p
We couldn't be happier with our purchase and the service and support we received from Hua Yang!!
For some background information, the historical COE bidding results (2005-2009) can be found here... you will see that the cost to purchase COE for a '1600cc and above' car (category B) was just $200 in the second round of bidding in January, 2009... throughout the 4-bid period we were waiting for our car, it fluctuated from $18,501 to $19,289... we secured ours on the 3rd-bid (2nd round in August) at $16,290. Very interesting process to say the least...
In short, public transport in Singapore is top-notch and very affordable, but if you want the extra mobility and flexibility and can afford it - why not buy a car?? - one word of warning - watch out for other cars not indicating when turning, parking or changing lanes :D