Wednesday, December 8, 2010

COE Simply Singaporean? - Your Jaw Will Drop With A Dollar-to-Dollar Comparison

One of the biggest news items to come out of Singapore today, is the latest COE bidding results. Even the experts didn't predict such a huge increase. For small cars (1600cc and below), the price is now S$47,604. For cars above 1600cc, it's a whopping S$62,502.

For local Singaporeans, COE is something everyone's used to. But couple the cost with the already very inflated price for a motor vehicle, perhaps it's difficult to comprehend how this stacks up dollar-for-dollar (or - pardon the pun, pound-for-pound) against the price of a car in other countries.

Firstly, a couple of disclaimers:

1. I have always firmly believed that it wouldn't be appropriate to (publically) compare cost of living between Singapore and Australia. When a foreigner moves into a new country, it's important to take the good with the bad. There's no point complaining for example, that the cost of beef is two or three times that of down under... because then I could flip it and say that the cost of prawns is one-third of what you'd be paying in Australia. The list is endless. However, with the enormous discrepency in motor vehicle pricing, especially with the latest COE results, the comparisons I'm about to draw are merely to put the cost of owning a car in Singapore into some perspective - as the title says, this will make your jaw drop to the floor.

2. When making the observations and providing the costs and statistics, many may very well say that with the exchange rate difference and the current strength of the Australian dollar, that there is not a true apples to apples comparison. This would be true to some extent, but I must point out that one should think of the numbers in terms of median household income in relation to the cost of the vehicles in each country. This in fact, not only supports what I am trying to convey, but makes the numbers all the more scarier again... especially when you take into account the very seemingly high 'luxury' tax placed on the high-end vehicles in Australia.

To all non-Singaporeans or those that are not aware, the COE is somewhat 'uniquely Singaporean' (although there are variants of the process in other cities and countries across the globe). I won't even try to explain the complexities of it in this article. So in an attempt to simplify, COE is an acronym for 'Certificate Of Entitlement'. It is a certificate that needs to be attached to every motorized vehicle in Singapore, and has a 10-year validity. The cost of the COE is variable based on a number of factors, and the process to attain one is through a bi-monthly bidding process (not too unlike an auction). In order to drive a car in Singapore, one must have a valid COE attached to their vehicle, so one should consider the cost as a requirement before the value of the car is even taken into account. It's my understanding that one of the major reasons behind the COE and the bidding process, is to ensure that the number of vehicles on the road is limited to a manageable number - remember, Singapore is only relatively small and has quite a large population density. Therefore, at each bidding event, there is a strict quota on the number of cars for whuch the COE can be purchased. As with any auction or procurement event, demand and supply play a big part - the less there is of something and the more people trying to buy it, there will generally be a direct correlation to a price increase.

OK, so that's the background - now for some quick numbers before I fulfill my promise and shock you enough to make your jaw drop...

Firstly, I have extracted the numbers from the OneMotoring website for the >1600cc category COE bidding events, starting with the first one in January, 2009. The reason I have chosen this particular category, is because our car (Toyota Wish) is a 1.8L - on the chart below, you can see when we purchased our car in August 2009 (signified by a red coloured marker)... I can safely say that we were relatively lucky to buy when we did, because we were tempted at the time to perhaps hold off until the prices came down - in actual fact, the cost has increased dramatically.

Toyota Wish

The first chart is the COE price from January, 2009 through to the last bidding just today.

The second chart is the quota of cars available at each bidding through the same period (note a correlation)?

With COE included (around S$16,000 at the time), we bought our Toyota Wish for approximately $80,000 (on the road)... NB: road tax is around $1,000 a year for this size car.

Now, after a little bit of research, here's the shock factor!! Get ready for it...

Hypothetically, if the COE at that time in August last year when we bought our car was what it is now, the total cost to purchase would have been in excess of $126,000.

Let's see what our money and the money of other successful COE bidders today could buy in Australia!!!

For the cost of the COE alone (before you even look at the car price), you could have bought either:

A BMW 320d Lifestyle Sedan (on the road, registered and including luxury tax):

320d lifestyle sedan


A Mercedes C220 CDI C-Class Sedan (on the road, registered and including luxury tax):

Mercedes Benz C-Class c220 CDI

But wait - there's much more!! For the price of a Toyota Wish on the road and including today's COE price, you could have bought either:

A BMW 330d Convertible (on the road, registered and including luxury tax):

BMW 330d Convertible


A Mercedes E250 CDI Cabriolet Coupe (on the road, registered and including luxury tax):

Mercedes E-class E-250 CDI

Still not surprising enough... then check this out!!

If your choice is to buy a car in the 1600cc category and less, then for the cost of your COE ($47,604), you could have bought any THREE of the following small cars in Australia, drive away, on the road (this is just a sample - there are many more manufacturers and models available)... that's right, no need to reach for the glasses - you read my words correctly... ANY THREE OF THE FOLLOWING CARS:

2011 Nissan Versa:


2010 Pontiac G3:


2010 Toyota Yaris:


2010 Chevrolet Aveo:


2011 Ford Fiesta:


Just a reminder - this is for the price of the Certificate of Entitlement to own and drive a car in Singapore only... you haven't even looked at the price of motor vehicles yet.... Which three did you choose?? :)



Anonymous said...

Different way of paying your taxes - direct income tax in Oz and indirect thru cars in SG. The govt is still the ultimate winner.

Elaine said...

LOL price of Category B COE is even higher than my car price (OMV + PARF + COE) after 1.5 yr. Luckily I got my car in mid 2009.

Sigh. Leaves me wondering, I would have to drive and maintain my car nicely for 10 years. Who knows, 10 years later, we will be looking at 100k for category A COE.

Stan the Man said...

Elaine, you are almost claivoyvant. In 2013, it is now $76k for Cat A and $87k for Cat B. Let's see what the next 6 years take us