More Singaporeans own at least two cars

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Aug 24, 2010
More Singaporeans own at least two cars

More than 34,000 people with more than one car to their names
By Cheryl Ong & Maria Almenoar

This may be the world's most expensive place to own a car, but it is not stopping more people from buying a second one or even a third.

Land Transport Authority (LTA) figures show 6.8 per cent of car owners here have two or more cars, up from 5.5 per cent just four years ago. This translates into 34,226 people with more than one car to their names as of June.

This has caused a crunch on the number of parking spaces available.

It is not just the well-off who own more than one car. Parking spaces in the car parks in Housing Board estates are also getting hard to come by. Increasingly, residents have to park farther away from their flats or park illegally.

When the HDB looked into complaints over this, it found 36,370 households owning more than one car - 60 per cent more than in 2006, when 22,700 did.

Transport researcher Lee Der Horng of the National University of Singapore said the trend is a sign that people have come to see a car as a necessity, not a luxury.

He said he had expected the demand for cars to fall, given the Government's drive to promote public transport and the expected hike in certificate of entitlement (COE) prices because of the limited supply of COEs available now.

He said: 'If people believe in this lifestyle of having more cars, to satisfy that, they'll convince themselves that the price of a COE is an acceptable percentage of their disposable income.'

He added that this suggested the Government's message to people to use public transport may not be getting through.

COE premiums now stand at $30,000 to $40,000, higher than in recent years, when they dipped below $20,000; but they are still cheaper now than when they hit $100,000 back in the 1990s.

Car dealers and owners cite a slew of reasons people have more than one car: Couples may each need their own car to get to work, or a non-working spouse may need one for errands.

And then there are parents who register a second car in their names but let their children drive it, to save on insurance premiums for newer drivers.

Sometimes, people buy another car because they can. Take for example a man who indulges himself with a second car, usually a sports car, said managing director Eddie Loo of used-car dealership Car Times.

Another factor is the launch of cheaper China-made cars, which make for affordable second cars.

The HDB said it will add 5,000 more parking spaces to the existing 500,000 in the next three years to ease the squeeze.

Pasir Ris resident C. Ong, 23, drives her family's second car, which her father bought when she started her studies in Nanyang Technological University.

Parking spaces are scarce by the time she gets home in the evening though she has a season parking ticket, so she sometimes parks illegally and risks a fine.

Sembawang resident Valerie Toh, 23, also an undergraduate, said her parents each drive their own car and see their wheels as a necessity. Parking spaces are a rare find after 6pm, but they put up with it, she said.

Those who own just one car are also vexed. Engineer Henry Chew, 38, of Tampines Street 71, said the multi-storey car park near his block is always nearly full by 10pm on weekdays.

The squeeze is on in condominiums and private estates too; some condo managements have resorted to making residents ballot for spaces or charging them for a second parking spot.

In a private estate in Lorong Marzuki last week, cars were parked on both sides of a road with double yellow lines. To avoid parking fines, residents parked just outside their gates, so motorists using the road had to inch their way forward.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport and an MP for Sembawang GRC, suggested raising carpark charges, which Associate Professor Lee said may work to discourage people from driving to work or downtown.

A survey last month, comparing parking charges across 145 cities, found Asia's most expensive parking spaces in Tokyo and Hong Kong - at $74 and $38 a day respectively.

It costs an average of $29 a day to park in prime areas such as Shenton Way and Orchard Road.

Prof Lee said that in the suburbs, parking charges could be pegged to the number of cars one owns, with multi-car owners paying higher rates.

But Ms Lee Bee Wah, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, doubts this will work. She said: 'If residents spend so much on a car, they'll pay for parking even if it's expensive. The solution is twofold - we have to improve public transport and manage the car population.'

This means ensuring that even private estates are served by buses and trains, and further reducing the supply of COEs.

'If people think public transport is more affordable and efficient, they will consider it a more viable alternative to buying a car,' she said.

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