Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Car Sharing In Singapore

I personally do not own a car and do not see any current and future need to own one in Singapore. We live in a 25 km to 45 km city anyway. Everywhere is within reach with a very good transportation system of trains and busses and relatively cheap taxi rides and it is many times cheaper and shorter to take a train, bus or taxi to central places instead of going there by your own car and looking for a place to park. But this is of course not the only reason: cars are expensive here.  We have this thing called COE (Certificate of Entitlement). It is a program designed to limit car ownership and hence the number of vehicles on the country's roads. COE system requires residents of Singapore to bid for the right to buy a motor vehicle, with the number of certificates restricted. And many bid as if they cannot live a single day more without a car, even COE prices are on the roof. Well, crashed passed the roof to the sky actually. COE is now 4 times where it was just 3 years ago! And a 1.6 litre Japanese Sedan costs 100,000 SGD+ now. Yes, I am not joking.

Back in my country they are already expensive compared to USA but still car ownership is at least twice expensive here which physiologically prevents me to buy one even if I can effort to have one. Many car owners will not agree but truth is truth: A car is just a non-essential, ridiculously expensive item in Singapore. Majority knows this and stays away from buying one. So do not think that we mostly own BMW's here when you hear that BMW is the top selling brand. It is simply we majority do not own a car.

But this does not mean that there aren’t any times where a car is better than public transport. You just do not need to own a car to enjoy a car. Car sharing in Singapore is very well established and conveniently available when you need a car. It brings the services of a car without its really annoying problems: high loans to pay, finding a place to park, insurance, repairs, etc.

What is car sharing? Car sharing is sharing a car among a group of people. This is usually coordinated by a car sharing company that takes care of the headaches of a car like insurance, parking, upgrading while you only enjoy its service. As far as I know there are 3 car sharing companies in Singapore:  Car Club, WhizzCar and KahShare.  The cars from these companies are available in many HDB estates. And since car ownership is now beyond the reach of many they are increasing their car numbers.

According to KahShare web site those who rides less than 10,000 KM per year or not more than twice a week can benefit:

"A wide range of drivers can benefit from our innovative KahShare solution. Those who drive less than 10,000 km a year, or less than twice a week will find the flexibility of the KahShare system invaluable. For people who sometimes need a second car, or choose not to purchase a car at all, KahShare provides a vehicle for their occasional driving needs. Companies can also benefit from the KahShare experience, with a choice of alternate fleet cars and transport for sales staff."

How convenient is car sharing? According to a typical user it is very convenient:

“The best thing about car sharing is its flexibility, in terms of when and where I can get the car.” says a 47 years old Singaporean user. “I live in Pasir Ris where 3 Car Club locations are. In nearby Tampines, there are four or five. So it is very easy for me to get to a car.”[1]

But how frequent he fails to get a car? He says he only fails when he books at the last minute. Director and shareholder of Car Club Lai Meng conducted a study on their 65 cars in their fleet and average annual distance covered by the cars is 20,700 KM, not very different than a privately owned car: "Each shared car serves 25 drivers compared to 1 or 2 served by a privately owned car".[1]

Another very interesting and unique car sharing concept is peer-to-peer car sharing. In this model, the car sharing company do not own cars but facilitates a market where private car owners can rent their cars out to others when they are not using them. Singapore based peer-to-peer iCarClub just does this with some of the cheapest car rental rates in Singapore. iCarClub is Asia's first peer to peer car sharing market which let's private car owners to rent out their cars to others. Peer-to-peer car sharing thus lets a car owner to make money by renting his car, a big big liability in Singapore, while he/she is not using it.

[1] - Car Sharing Singapore Back In The Fast Lane - The Straits Times


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  2. Totally agree with this vote for car sharing, or pooling. It's heartbreaking to see cars with single occupants when you could ferry multiple people for only marginally more petrol or diesel, saving money, and saving the environment too.

    On a related note I see that DirectAsia.com has brought out low mileage car insurance for those who do not drive so much in a year. So you are rewarded with cheaper insurance if you are someone who drives less.

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