I was lucky to be able to buy my first car in 2007 at a low price thanks to the low COE.
And thanks to my blogging habit, you and I are able to reminiscent the journey in 2007 from these posts:
Good Ol’ Ride
My Chevrolet Optra “Magnum” has served me well. It’s generally very reliable – I never had a single breakdown on the road. Maybe because I faithfully visit the Alpine Motors authorised service centre to do my servicing every 10,000 km (I never miss any). I also “foolishly” let the centre change any parts that they advised that were wearing out instead of going to third party workshops for cheaper quotes. I suppose it really paid off for me.
Only a few incidents marred my car experience:
– Knocking sounds when I rode over humps during the first year. The problem was only identified and fixed after several servicing rounds.
– Car alarm triggers frequently under hot weather. Took several servicings over the years to reduce the occurrences.
– Battery died at my car park. Had to get my dad to come rescue me by jump-starting the battery.
– Engine oil warning indicator lit up. Turns out to be faulty sensor.
– Accident at CTE: car suddenly cut into my lane and I couldn’t stop on time, banged on the right passenger car door.
I was pretty happy with my car and never thought of replacing it till the end of life. Then last year, I was offered a 3-day test drive on the Volvo S60 T5. That tickled my desire to upgrade my car, though my car still had 2 years left back then.
This year, I decided to start the test drive early while waiting for the COE to fall further. The first destination was naturally, back to the Volvo showroom. I tried the V40 T2, but the rear legroom proved to be too small for my family liking. We tested the S60 T2 and everyone was happy with the performance, though I was not so comfortable about the S$135,999 price tag.
Over the next 2 weeks, we went on to test a few other cars like Chevrolet Cruze (for old time’s sake), Mazda 6 (the Mazda 3 rear seat is too small), and Volkswagen Jetta. We did not just test any car: we needed a car with adequate performance and good comfort, at the same time the price should be reasonable. Here are the reasons why we did not shortlist some car brands:
Toyota Altis – too common, don’t fancy the interior.
Kia, Hyundai, Renault – do not like brand perception.
Honda and Nissan – don’t like any of the sedan design.
BMW, Mercedes and Audi – beyond our budget, while the cheaper ones are too small.
As for the 4 cars we tested, here are my opinions:
Volvo S60 T2 $124,999 (ST Car@Expo price, non-guaranteed COE. Guaranteed COE price is S$136K)
– comfortable drive
– good cabin insulation and luxurious feel
– potential costly parts replacement due to premium gadgets
Chevrolet Cruze 1.4T $99,000 (April showroom price)
– interior is less stylish, generous plastic finishing
– engine is slightly less responsive
– doesn’t have the solid feel compared to my current Chevy
Mazda 6 2.0L standard $118,000 (April showroom price)
– luxurious interior design
– comfortable drive for me
– engine size too big which increases operating costs (road tax, insurance, petrol)
– wife felt the shock absorber was too stiff (SA says it’s tuned towards a sporty ride)
– pricey for a Japanese car (though the SA told us that Mazda should be compared to European cars)
– standard model features are worse off than Mazda 3 premium model which costs over $10k cheaper. To pay for the Mazda 6 premium model means top up more than $6k, pushing the price close to Volvo. Then might as well get Volvo.
Volkswagen Jetta Highline 1.4 TSI $111,800 (ST Car@Expo price, after bargain)
– responsive drive
– good balance of in-car gadgets which translates to potentially lower replacement costs
– family is satisfied with the interior size
– liked that the gear shifts up quickly at low RPM which saves petrol.
– free 3-year servicing and parts, 5-year gearbox transmission, 3-year free road-side assistance
– fearful of potential car problems, as VW has a bad reputation for reliability
– not the best-looking car
We were torn between Volvo and VW, but we decided that $13k difference is a lot for us, and the operating cost for VW is definitely lower, as Volvo has more electronic components. (post purchase, I was told informally that the $125K price for Volvo S60 T2 was unrealistic for the car dealer hence the chances of getting the car at that price is quite slim.)
The attitude of SA plays an important part too. The VW sales advisor was patient and calm, so we felt comfortable dealing with him (let me know if you want his contact). We did not expect to buy at the Car Expo, but when we saw him there, we chatted up with him and plus some of the additional offers given to us, we decided that literally – the price is right.
After signing the dotted line, to be honest, I felt rather sad. I like the Jetta, putting aside any quality reputation issues. But I still love my Optra and it is still working perfectly. I just sent for servicing in end March and spent $500 replacing several worn parts. But the servicing was worth it, for I felt an immediate performance improvement thereafter. It was as if the Chevy wanted to show me its potential after an overhaul. I really felt sad that I would be abandoning the Optra that I have been driving for over 8 years, clocking over 143,000 km, keeping me and my family safe and bringing me to places.
My struggle has always been: is this the right time to buy? Will car prices drop? I know it will drop over the next 12 months, but I reckon I would at probably save about $20k if I buy later, considering potential price drop ($15k), delayed car financing ($12k), offset by a lower car trade-in value (-$5k). But the other side of me says I should buy now and enjoy the new ride. Plus, the operating costs will be lower as my current car petrol consumption is really high – 8km per litre (12.5l per 100km).
After all, there is no zero-sum. When you buy new things, you spend money, but you also enjoy.
The anti-climatic thing about buying a new car in Singapore is that you do not get it immediately after “purchase”. Rather, you wait for a successful bid of COE, a certificate to entitle the ownership of a car in Singapore. We were lucky: VW managed to bid the COE at the first round.
After waiting almost 2 weeks for the successful bidding of the COE, I had to wait for another 3 weeks before we get to receive our new car. I had originally proposed an earlier date but VW cannot meet that date. So I had to seek the next auspicious date, and ended up delaying for another week. I think choosing a good date is important, just like choosing a date to move house, getting a car is a significant event. I’m sure even the car dealer want the car owner to have a smooth experience. I guess I should count my blessings: I have heard of car owners having to wait for months to finally receive their cars.
Letting Go of History
After weeks of waiting, I have gradually come to terms with the car purchase. The recent news of the easing on car financing is welcoming relief for me, as it means the demand of car purchase will go up over the next months. Besides, since I have already paid for the new car, I might as well enjoy it. After all, who doesn’t like new things? There is no doubt that the VW Jetta is a better car than the Chevrolet Optra. For me, it’s just nostalgia more than anything else. It reminds me of the recent Chevy commercial where a son went all out to find his Dad’s old 1965 Chevy Impala. The old car might not have all the gadgets, but it houses the history. My Chevy Optra has a piece of my life’s history. It was bought on the same year as my daughter’s birth. She grew up with it.
The VW Jetta may be a better car, but it will never be as special as the Chevy.