In an ideal world, our public transport system would work perfectly, everybody would be able to skip merrily from their homes to the nearest MRT station in less than ten minutes, and Give-way Glenda and Move-in Martin would beam down on commuters as they did their part to make the ride pleasant for all. Then everyone in the MRT carriage would join hands and sing Heal the World.
In reality, things are quite different. Now, we’re not saying the public transport system is all bad. The expanded MRT network has shortened travelling time and raised accessibility for many. But for people in certain situations—such as those with multiple young children or old people with mobility issues in the family, trying to get around without a car makes every day a struggle.
Here are four situations where forking out the money for a car might actually be worth it.
You have multiple kids who all need a ride to school
In the government’s drive to encourage Singaporeans to have more kids, they might want to consider the problems parents with multiple children face in trying to get all of them to school in the morning.
The school bus service is one of the easier and more economical ways for parents without cars to send their kids to school. While school bus fees can vary wildly depending on the school, distance, school bus operator and whether they need transport one or two ways, parents are looking at paying around $50 to more than $150 per month. This might sound reasonable, but if you have two or three kids you’re literally paying hundreds of dollars a month just to get them to school.
In addition, school kids these days have to stay back frequently for remedial lessons, CCAs and whatnot. School bus services may charge an extra fee to send them home later, and there are some that do not offer a later send-home slot, which means that each time the kid misses his ride home it still has to be paid for.
A parent with multiple kids who need to get to school might find it more economical to just buy a crappy car to use until the kids are old enough to take public transport to school. That way, they can drop the kids off at school and then drive to work themselves.
Of course, given the costs of operating a car, it would probably still be more expensive to drive than to make the entire family rely on school buses and public transport. But assuming the kids are still young enough to have to be chaperoned to school and it would take too long to do so by bus/MRT, it might actually be cheaper to get a car than to drop them off by Uber every day before continuing on to work.
You have to ferry around elderly family members with mobility issues
Public transport is infinitely more difficult to navigate when you’ve got mobility issues or are wheelchair bound. If you have an elderly family member who needs to be ferried around constantly (such as in the case of frequent medical visits), doing so by public transport is going to be very stressful.
It gets even worse when you yourself have to commute from work to home to the clinic/hospital and back. Unless all your destinations are close to MRT stations, you’re looking at spending hours on public transport without a car. That’s even before you start worrying about getting the wheelchair onboard during peak hour. The alternative is to use UberASSIST everywhere, but this becomes less cost effective the more trips you have to make per week.
You have a sales job or are a freelance private tutor
If you are a real estate agent, insurance agent or freelance private tutor, not having your own vehicle is a big hindrance. Having to take public transport everywhere greatly reduces the number of clients you can see each day and will reduce your income.
Let’s say you get a second hand car for which your loan repayments are about $1,000 a month. Now, assuming you have 4 or 5 appointments per day, you could be saving yourself at least 3 to 4 hours on public transport every single day. With that extra time, you could work more and earn more, or concentrate on having a life outside the MRT. You may feel that $1,000 is not a high price to pay if it’s saving you 60 to 80 hours a month.
One relatively economical alternative is to get a motorcycle licence. If you don’t have to ferry your clients around, you’ll get to greatly cut the cost of commuting without having to pay ridiculous car prices. This may not however be the most comfortable option during monsoon season.
You live very far from work and your home and/or workplace is very inaccessible
Singapore is a small island, but every now and then life deals some people a crappy hand of cards, and they’re forced to travel from their home in Senja to a job in Changi Business Park (according to gothere.sg, that’s a journey that would take you 72 minutes one way by LRT and MRT). That’s 2 hours and 24 minutes every day wasted on public transport.
If that’s the case for you and you are earning enough to refuse to waste more than 1/8 of your waking hours on public transport, you have two options: to buy a car, or to rent a home closer to your workplace.
You want to first calculate the cost of taking Uber or taxis to work every day and compare them with driving and parking every day. For the guy travelling from Senja to Changi Business Park every day, it’s going to cost him more than $30 to take a cab each way—that’s at least $1,200 a month, in which case buying a car might make financial sense.
Again, there might be cheaper solutions that can help you save time without costing as much—as crazy at it sounds, even renting a room closer to work might be cheaper than buying a car, especially if your workplace isn’t in the CBD. There’s also the motorcycle option which, for the guy commuting from Senja to Changi Business Park, would save about 1 hour 20 minutes a day.
Have you ever found yourself in one of the above situations and how did you cope? Tell us in the comments!