You know it, I know it, and the WHOLE WORLD knows it – owning a car in Singapore is F*&^%$G expensive! It’s not enough that you must pay 4X-5X a car’s actual retail value because of COE, ARF, and numerous other taxes – you’ve also got to deal with equally ridiculous fuel and maintenance costs.
Maybe that’s why we have such a love/hate relationship with car ownership in Singapore. Because we love the “freedom” that comes with not being “hoarded” onto public transport like cattle, but we hate the huge cost that comes with owning a car.
While you can’t lower the cost of buying a car (unless you purchase a used one or pull off a GTA V-style heist), you CAN lower your fuel and maintenance costs with some cheap and simple tips.
Here’s what you CAN do to make driving less expensive that it already is:
1. Don’t Drive Like You’re Mad Max
The biggest way you can save money on petrol is to obey the speed limits and not drive like you’re reenacting the chase scene from the Road Warrior. That’s because for most cars, fuel economy starts to drop once you drive faster than 80km/h.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle and whether you’re driving in the city or on the expressway, your fuel economy can drop from 5% to 33%! So if you’re looking for the fastest way to cut down on your petrol costs, its simple – stop driving so fast!
2. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
Unless we get a flat while driving home, hardly any of us cares how inflated our tires are – we only care that they have enough air in them to get us where we want to go. But if you’re driving around with tires that aren’t inflated according to the sticker on your door jamb, your fuel economy will drop by about 3%.
Yeah, that’s a small number, but 3% added to a $4,000+ you currently pay on fuel isn’t. Also, if you’re tires are under/overinflated, you risk wearing out your tires even faster – and that’s NOT a cheap expense.
3. Replace Your Air Filter Regularly
Yet another neglected part of vehicle maintenance, your air filter keeps the flow of air to your engine free of debris (bugs, dirt, etc.). Of course, if you don’t change it at least every 24K kilometers, you’re going to end up with a car that accelerates as poorly as a computer with a couple of viruses (don’t worry, we won’t check your computer’s “history”).
Change out your air filter regularly so your engine can “breathe” properly to ensure better performance and acceleration.
4. Use Synthetic Engine Oil
Regular engine oil is dirt cheap, but this is one instance when something “inexpensive” is actually more expensive in the long run. The problem is that normal engine oil breaks down very fast, especially with city driving. And if you don’t change it at least every 4,800km/3 months, it’ll reduce your engine’s performance as its consistency becomes thicker.
Yeah, synthetic engine oil is a little more expensive, but it lasts up to 3X longer (16,000km/6 months) than normal engine oil because it contains additives that reduce friction, maintaining good engine performance. That means you’ll save an additional 2% on your fuel economy.
5. Don’t Idle If You’re Waiting For Someone
Idling, everyone does it right? But did you know that for every 30 minutes your car is waiting, your engine is sucking up 1-1.5 liters of petrol? That’s $0.03-$0.04 a minute you’re losing if you filled up with 98-octane fuel at $2.19 a liter.
And if you’re sitting in your car with the air conditioner on, the amount of fuel you’re wasting will get even higher. So if you really have to wait for someone, turn off your engine and open the windows– it’s Singapore, not Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, or Manila, you’ll be fine!
6. Drop the Extra Weight
Don’t get offended, I’m not talking about YOUR weight. I’m talking about all of that junk you have in your car’s back seat and boot. You’ll be amazed at what people drive around with… 25kg golf bags, sports equipment, magazines, NS gear, and other miscellaneous crap that can weigh down your vehicle – AND your fuel efficiency.
Weight affects the fuel economy of anything with an engine, and 45kg of rubbish in your car is enough lower your fuel efficiency a few percentage points. So dump the junk!
7. Use Performance Spark Plugs
If you don’t know what a spark plug is, or think it’s some kind of sci-fi weapon – I’m going to assume that you haven’t changed them out of your vehicle. Ideally, you’ll want to switch them out every 16,000km. However, I will say not EVERY vehicle needs them changed out, as some manufacturers (ex. Nissan) use “long-life” spark plugs that last as long as 160K kilometers.
But if your car isn’t in that category, you can change out your existing spark plugs for performance spark plugs that improve both your car’s performance and fuel efficiency by up to 3%.
8. Switch Off Your A/C In the City
*Sigh* I know I’m asking too much of you by advising you cut back on air conditioning for the sake of fuel economy – but unless it’s hazier than a marijuana addict’s bedroom, turning off the A/C and lowering your windows for city travel below 80km/h will save you more fuel compared to leaving the A/C on.
BUT, if you’re driving at speeds 80km/h and above, it’s actually more fuel efficient to leave you’re A/C on because leaving your windows down creates efficiency-reducing “drag” that hurts fuel economy.
9. Plan Your Route Well
What happens when you take off to work at the same time everyone else does? Exactly, you end up in a situation that looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie – car-to-car traffic that makes you feel like you can bicycle to work faster! And of course, your fuel economy is getting wrecked by the constant stopping and idling.
But if you plan your route well by avoiding congested areas or waking up earlier to avoid the rush, you’ll end up saving even more money on petrol.
10. Use Cruise Control on Long Drives
The great thing about cruise control is that you don’t have to worry about little changes in speed that can sap your car’s fuel economy – especially on long drives. With cruise control, all you have to do is press a button, and you’ll stay at exactly the speed you want until you hit the brake.
Otherwise, if you play it by “foot” you could actually end up speeding (See Point #1) without realizing it, losing even more fuel economy as you drive on to your destination. Follow us on Facebook as we show you other ways save on this expensive hobby in Singapore known as “driving”
Final Note: You can think of this as a Bonus #11 tip for saving petrol, but another way to save up to 18% on your petrol purchase is to use a credit card with great petrol discounts. Thankfully, you can find one easily on Smartcredit.sg.
Have any of these tips saved you save money on the cost of owning a car?
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