Yes, public transport in Singapore is awesome. Yet for most people, there’s nothing like having a car for you to use whenever, wherever. You can buy a car, of course, if you don’t mind burning a hole in your wallet. The alternative is to choose car rental instead.
Whether you’re a Singaporean who would rather rent a car than buy, or an expat who has just arrived in Singapore and want your own transport, here’s a guide to renting a car in Singapore.
- Why rent a car in Singapore?
- Are you eligible to rent a car?
- Car rental vs car leasing
- Car rental companies in Singapore
- What are car rental prices like in Singapore?
- Cheapest car rental rates – comparison of sample prices
- Things to check before you rent
- Understanding your car rental contract & insurance
- Final tips on how to maximise your car rental dollar
1. Why rent a car in Singapore?
You don’t have enough upfront cash
After a home, a car is the next biggest ticket item in Singapore. Expect to spend anything from $100,000 (that’s the lower end) for a brand new car.
Because of local car loan laws, you can only borrow between 60% and 70% of the price of the car to be repaid over seven years. This means you need to have at least $30,000 to $40,000 of cash at hand. Not everyone has that kind of money lying around.
What’s more, the six figures you fork out don’t cover the car insurance, servicing and maintenance, and road tax. Add these to the car loan repayment and it’ll cost you a minimum of around $1,270 a month to own the car, whether you use it every day or not.
Renting allows you to pay for only what you use. The monthly cost of renting a car usually begins at around $1,400 a month. It is higher than what you would pay if you had bought the car.
|Owning a car||Renting a car|
|Cash downpayment||$30,000 to $40,000||–|
|Monthly cost||$1,270 (loan repayment, insurance, servicing, maintenance, road tax)||$1,400|
You need a car in the short term
If you’re only in Singapore for a short while – weeks, months, a few years – renting saves you the hassle that comes with buying and then selling your car.
Rental is also a great option for locals who are in between cars – your new car hasn’t arrived and your old car’s COE has expired or you’ve sold if off. Perhaps you plan to stop driving soon (you’re retiring or going abroad for good) and no longer have your own car. Renting is a solution.
You fancy a fancy ride
This may seem a frivolous reason but it is a reason nonetheless. Renting gives you the chance to drive different cars, even luxury ones, without the cost commitment required.
Imagine this: a Maserati Gran Turismo will set you back by almost $600,000 (the price of a decent sized resale HDB flat!). But for just $500, you could zip around in one and be king of the road for a day.
2. Are you eligible to rent a car in Singapore?
Basic age limits
With most car rental companies here, you need to be 23 before they will rent you a car. Some places allow you to rent one if you are 21 and above.
On the other end of the age spectrum, most places will only rent to you if you are under 70 years of age. In some places, if you’re between 70 and 74, you have to pay an extra charge to rent a car.
Requirements for expatriates
You will need a valid driving licence in English, or an International Driver’s Licence from your home country or the Automobile Association of Singapore. This will allow you to drive in Singapore for up to 12 months.
If you want to carry on driving here beyond one year, you will need to convert to a Singapore driving licence. This will require you to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT) which tests your knowledge of the Singapore Highway Code and the traffic rules of the country. Applications must be made in person at these driving test centres:
- Singapore Safety Driving Centre (2 Woodlands Industrial Park E4)
- Bukit Batok Driving Centre (815 Bukit Batok West Ave 5)
- Comfort Driving Centre (205 Ubi Ave 4)
It’ll cost you $50 (conversion) + $7 (basic theory book) + $6.50 (test).
Probation Driver (or “P” plate) rules
If you have not celebrated the first year of earning your driver’s licence, you are a Probation Driver. For foreigners, you’re considered a “P” plate driver if it has not been 12 months since you converted your foreign licence into a Singapore one.
There are well over 150 car rental companies in Singapore but only a few will rent to Probation Drivers. These are:
- AKA Car Rental Singapore
- Asia Express Car Rental Singapore
New drivers are statistically more at risk of meeting with an accident. Accidents make the car insurance more expensive. Since the rental companies absorb the cost of repairs and maintenance as well, the risk Probation Drivers present are just too great.
Some car rental companies have age and experience requirements for certain types of cars.
To rent some supercars like a Porsche or a Maserati at Ace Drive, you need to be between 29 and 65 years old, and have at least five years’ driving experience.
For some BMWs, Mercedes Benzs, Volvos and Audis, you need to be between 23 and 65 years old, and have three years’ of driving experience.
3. Car rental vs car leasing in Singapore
In the world of car rental, there’s a difference between rental and leasing. Rental tends to be more short-term – a day to a few weeks. Leasing is long-term, anything from a few months to even years.
Short-term car rental
The shorter the rental duration, the higher the cost. So, while it may cost you $70 to rent a Toyota Altis for a day, the same car will cost less per day if you decide to rent it for the whole week or for a month.
|Commitment period||Car rental rate for Toyota Altis|
Rentals over holiday periods are also higher. For example, renting a Toyota Altis for seven days during the Hari Raya season will cost $980. On any other days, it would cost less than half that: $420.
In most places, you will need to put down a security deposit when you rent a car. It is usually between $200 and $500. Some companies even insist that this be paid in cash. The money is returned to you when you bring the car back undamaged or without violating the agreement of the rental.
There are companies that offer zero-deposit rentals, though:
- Advance Car Rental
- AKA Car Rental Singapore
Long-term car lease
Long-term leases are cheaper if you go for a one-year contract or longer. The Toyota Altis which would have cost you $1,600 to rent for month will only cost $1,500 a month if you rent the car for a whole year.
If you want to make that kind of commitment, you have to be careful that you really need the car for that long. Breaking the lease will incur penalty costs. In some cases, it can be as much as 200% of the remaining cost of the contract. Gulp!
4. Car rental companies in Singapore
International car rental companies
There are several international brand names in car rental that can be found in Singapore. They are familiar and trusted, especially if you are well-travelled or have come from abroad. But they may not always be the cheapest options.
- Budget Car Rental
- Enterprise Car Rental
- Europcar Car Rental
Local car rental companies
Singapore car rental companies tend to be more cost-effective. For example, you can rent a Mazda 3 or Mazda 6 for $70 and $130 a day respectively from local car rental company Eazi, whereas a Mazda CX5 will set you back $148.50 a day from international brand Budget Car Rental.
- All Trust Leasing
- Asia Express
- Eazi Car Leasing
- Lion City Rentals
- My Car Rental
- Swee Seng Leasing
Other car companies to consider
Several car companies now rent out their cars. Daimler Fleet Management, for example, rents out their Mercedes. Kah Motor Rental & Leasing rents out their Hondas. Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and even Porsche are other car companies that have jumped onto the rental bandwagon.
This is perfect if you are particular about the make or model of your rental car and don’t want to have to sort through other types just to find your dream rental.
Renting from private owners
In Singapore, private car owners are allowed to rent out their cars only on certain days:
- weekends from Friday 7pm to the following Monday 7am
- eve of public holidays from 7pm to 7am the first working day following the holiday
This is good for very short-term rentals and it can be cheaper. For example, you can rent a Honda Stream for $55 a day instead of $110 at a car rental company.
The downside to this is that there isn’t usually a contract to bind the transaction. A lack of legal documentation is not a biggie if nothing goes wrong. But if something were to go awry, you have nothing to protect you.
You are also never very sure that the person’s insurance plan will cover you. Most of them might not, so you have to check.
Car sharing in Singapore
Another cheap car rental option, if you’re looking for extremely short rentals (just hours), is car sharing. Yes, it’s a thing in Singapore now. Some of the key car sharing startups are:
Car sharing is great for parents who need to ferry their kids or run errands, shift workers, as well as those who want to dabble in driving for Grab.
The nice thing about car sharing is that you don’t have to go to the company to pick up or drop off the car. Instead, the cars are parked in various neighbourhoods across the island, allowing you to pick one up from near where you are.
And, since these are newcomers to the market, you can snag a cheap deal easily. For example, Tribecar lets you use a Toyota Altis for between $2.14 (super off-peak) and $6.96 (peak) an hour.
And BlueSG, Singapore’s first electric car sharing company, has a monthly subscription plan that’s costs $15 a month. Alternatively, you can opt to pay per use at $0.50 per minute.
5. What are car rental prices like in Singapore?
The make, model and size of a car have factor into rental price. So, think carefully how you want to use that car so you don’t pay for more than what you need.
|Type of usage||Recommended car||Rental price|
|Personal (basic)||5-seater sedan||From $50/day|
|Personal (to impress)||Stylish continental car e.g. Porsche Boxter Tiptronic||From $500/day|
|Family||7- or 8-seater MPVs and SUVs||$150 to $200/day|
|Business (transporting goods or people)||Passenger van||From $110 to $500/day|
|Special occasions (e.g. proposal, wedding)||Branded luxury car e.g. BMW 730i, Porsche 911 Carrera 4S||From $200 to $950/day|
|Luxury limo||Chrysler 300 Super Stretch (with chauffeur)||$350 for single ride
|Travel (e.g.driving to Malaysia)||See notes below||$90 to $150/day|
Not all rental companies allow you to take their cars to Malaysia. Others have special packages for cars that can be driven across the Causeway. Some levy a surcharge ($20 to $50) depending on how far away in Malaysia you intend to travel to. Decide if you want to drive out of the country when you rent or lease, then make sure your contract meets your needs.
Those who regularly drive into Malaysia say it’s best not to go there in too fancy a car because that invites car thefts. Also, go with bigger cars because they’re sturdier and can weather rougher roads as well as hold up better in any accident. If you’re going as a family, a Toyota Estima ($135 to $150 a day), Honda Odyssey or Honda Stream (both $90 a day) are good choices.
6. Which is cheapest? Sample car rental rates comparison
So which car rental company is cheapest? The results differ slightly depending on the type of car you want, and the commitment period.
To get some sample rates, we looked at 3 local car rental companies (All Trust, Asia Express and Eazi) and 3 international ones (Avis, Budget and Hertz). The results are ranked from cheapest to most expensive.
Car rental rates for basic sedan (Toyota Altis or similar)
|Car rental company||Weekly rental rate||Monthly rental rate (1 year commitment)|
|All Trust||From $450||From $1,500|
|Hertz||$630 to $840||$1,600 to $2,200|
|Avis||$896.90||$2,670 ($1,819 corporate account*)|
Car rental rates for MPV (Mitsubishi Space Wagon or similar)
|Car rental company||Weekly rental rate||Monthly rental rate (1 year commitment)|
|Eazi||–||$2,000 to $2,800|
|All Trust||From $720||From $2,000|
|Avis||From $1268.32||$3,900 ($2,568 for corporate account*)|
*corporate account = register using your company’s name but charged to your personal account
As you can see, rental rates vary quite a lot. What’s not captured here is what’s included in the package. Typically, the more expensive packages include extra benefits like insurance coverage to make it worth the extra dollars.
Don’t care about where you rent from, as long as you get the best deal? Then head to a car rental comparison site or an all-in-one website. Think of them as MoneySmart for car rentals rather than financial products. They let you compare cars and costs across different companies all at once.
7. Things to check before you rent
Beyond the price, model and make, there are a couple of other things you might want to look out for when you rent your car.
The first is the age of the car. Check the year it was registered. Newer cars cost more. But more importantly, the year of its registration will tell you the price of the COE that year. If the COE was high, it would add to the cost of the car.
Then, there’s the mileage. The age of the car is not always an accurate indication of how much it’s been used. In Singapore, the average car travels between 20,000 and 25,000 kilometres a year. The more it has travelled, the more worn out the car would be, regardless of age.
Don’t forget to check your rental car thoroughly before renting, because you are liable for any damage discovered when you return it.
8. Understanding your car rental contract & insurance
Once you’ve selected the car you want and are ready to ink the deal, read the terms of your contract carefully. Look out for:
- rental amount
- payment schedule
- duration of the rental
- amount of security deposit
- insurance coverage including additional named drivers if any and the excess
- emergency breakdown contact
- termination penalties
- limitations if any (caps on driving mileage, restrictions on entry into Malaysia)
There are different types of insurance coverage available when you rent a car. To make a more informed decision, you need to know these terms.
Comprehensive insurance: Most car rental companies offer this. It covers damage to others, and to you and your rental car.
Third party insurance: This covers damage to others (person or property) in an accident that is your fault but not to you or your rental car.
Named driver: If your rental car is meant for communal use, make sure the other driver is added to the contract and insurance coverage.
Excess (or deductible): The fixed amount you pay when there is a claim against your rental vehicle. So, if your excess is $300 and the cost of the repair or replacement is $1,000, you have to pay the first $300 and the insurance company pays the rest. If the cost is less than the excess, then you just pay the cost alone. Excess is especially high for cars going into Malaysia.
Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) or Collison Damage Waiver (CDW): Technically, neither is really a form of car insurance. But both protect you like an insurance would. Car rental companies are the insurance holders of the cars they rent out. If anything happens, they are liable. However, they can pass this liability to you when you rent the car. And they often do. When this happens, you have to pay the excess.
The LDW or CDW, then, offers you some protection here. The LDW covers you should your rental be damaged in an accident or because of mischief such as vandalism. The CDW covers you when your rental is involved in an accident you caused.
Theft Protection Insurance: If your rental car or part of it gets stolen, you’re liable again for the cost of the replacement. This insurance can lower the liability to a small excess payment.
9. Bonus tips to make car rental worth your money
Use the right credit card: If your rental bill is big, you can earn points or rebates while you spend. Not every car rental company lets you pay using your credit card, though. You need to check.
Earn KrisFlyer miles: If you are a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer member, the airline has car rental companies it partners that will allow you to earn up to 500 KrisFlyer miles per rental. Since you’re renting, why not earn some miles along the way?
Have you ever rented a car in Singapore? Tell us about your experience!
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