Public transport in Singapore is awesome and all, but there are times when you’d REALLY rather not deal with it. Such as when you have to corral your kids, your parents, and 10 bags of bak kwa to visit some relative’s house in the far reaches of Bukit Panjang.
Even if owning a car is something you’d never consider, it does make total sense to rent one for scenarios like these. (Which is why demand for car rental spikes during occasions like Chinese New Year and Hari Raya!)
If it’s your first time renting a car in Singapore, here’s the complete guide to your car rental options, sample rental rates and everything else you need to know.
Also watch: Renting a Car for CNY 2019 – How Costly Is It Really?
- Which are the reputable car rental companies in Singapore?
- What are short-term car rental rates like?
- What are the rates like for car leasing or long-term car rental?
- What eligibility requirements & licenses do you need to rent a car?
- What’s included in the car rental package?
- Can you drive your rental car to Malaysia?
- What should you check before you drive away with the car?
- What’s the best way to pay your car rental bill?
- Are there any alternatives to car rental companies?
Which are the reputable car rental companies in Singapore?
Generally, car rental companies here can be split into 3 categories: international companies (brand names like Hertz and Avis), local car rental companies (like Lion City Rentals), and the car manufacturers/distributors themselves.
International car rental companies: These would be familiar brand names if your main experience with car rental is while travelling. But of course, they can be pretty expensive.
Local car rental companies: Singapore car rental companies tend to be cheaper than their global counterparts, though it ultimately depends on the availability of the make and model you want. Some of the bigger local firms are:
- All Trust Leasing
- Asia Express Car Rental
- Eazi Car Leasing
- Lion City Rentals
- My Car Rental
- Swee Seng Leasing
Car manufacturers/distributors: If you already have a specific make or model in mind and don’t want to have to sort through other types, you can go straight to the car brand or distributor:
Finally, there are also marketplaces and comparison sites where you can find car rental companies based on your budget. Think of them as the MoneySmart of car rentals. Try:
What are short-term car rental rates in Singapore like?
There are a few factors that affect car rental rates in Singapore: the type/size of car you’re renting, its make & model, car rental duration, and any peak surcharge (if applicable).
Here’s a rough gauge of how rental rates differ depending on the type of car you want. Goes without saying that the larger the vehicle, the more expensive it is… with the exception of luxury sedans, sports cars and the like.
|Car type||Rental rates||Type of usage|
|5-seater basic sedan||$50/day onwards||Personal|
|7- / 8-seater MPV /SUV||$150 to $200/day||Family|
|Passenger van||$110 to $500/day||Business (transporting goods or people)|
|Luxury branded car||$200 to $950/day||Special occasions (e.g. proposal, wedding)|
The shorter the rental duration, the higher the cost. For example, a company might quote you $70 to rent a Toyota Altis for a day, but $220 for 5 days (= $44/day).
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). Here’s how much they charge for 1 week rental:
|Car rental company||1 week rental for sedan (Toyota Altis or similar)||1 week rental for MPV (Mitsubishi Space Wagon or similar)|
|All Trust||$450 & up||$720 & up|
|Hertz||$630 to $840||$1,400|
|Avis||$896.90||$1268.32 & up|
Note that these prices are before any holiday/peak surcharge. Rentals over high-demand periods like CNY or Hari Raya can double (or more than double!) in price.
For example, Drive.SG has a landing page of Hari Raya packages, which typically require you to lock in 6 or 7 days’ rental. The cheapest of these is $774 for 7 days – which you’ll realise is way more expensive than some of the regular rental rates offered above.
These”Hari Raya bundles” conveniently hide peak period surcharges and the high daily rates that the car rental companies charge.
What about long-term car rental, i.e. car leasing?
If you’re looking to rent a car for anything more than a month, that’s considered car leasing rather than car rental, and there’s a different pricing structure.
Car leasing is cheaper if you go for a one-year contract or longer. For example, a Toyota Altis might cost $1,600/month for rental, but if you commit to a one-year contract, the rate is lowered to $1,500/month instead.
Here are some sample monthly car rental rates with a minimum commitment period of 1 year:
|Car rental company||1 month rental for sedan (Toyota Altis or similar)||1 month rental for MPV (Mitsubishi Space Wagon or similar)|
|All Trust||From $1,500||$2,000 & up|
|Hertz||$1,600 to $2,200||$3,000 & up|
|Eazi||$2,000||$2,000 to $2,800|
However, 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.
What eligibility requirements & licenses do you need to rent a car in Singapore?
Before you take the next step, first you need to make sure you’re eligible to rent a car in Singapore.
Age limits: Most car rental companies require you to be at least 23 years old, and at most 69 years old. There are a couple of companies that will rent to those who are 70 to 74 years old, but it’ll cost more.
Probation driver (“P” plate): If you’re still a “P” plate driver, i.e. you’re in your first year of obtaining your driving license, you’ll be rejected by most of the car rental companies in Singapore. You can try your luck with Asia Express and AKA Car Rental, though.
Expat requirements: If you’re a foreigner, you need to present either a valid driving license in English or an International Driving Permit. This allows you to drive in Singapore for up to 12 months.
Once that time frame expires, you need to convert it to a Singapore driving license. Conversion costs $50 but you’ll need to pay for and take the basic theory test to test your understanding of Singapore traffic rules as well.
Other special requirements: Some car rental companies have age and experience requirements for certain types of cars. For example, you need to be between 23 and 65 years old and have 3 years’ driving experience to rent some BMWs, Mercedes Benzs, Volvos and Audis.
What’s included in the car rental package?
Rental rates vary quite a lot. Not all of it is because of brand differentiation – sometimes it’s also because the more expensive packages include bells and whistles, like extra insurance coverage.
Car rental packages typically include the following (found in the terms of your contract):
- Rental amount
- Duration of the rental
- Amount of security deposit
- Payment schedule
- Insurance coverage (including additional named drivers, if any, and the excess)
- Emergency breakdown contact
- Termination penalties
- Limitations, if any (e.g. caps on driving mileage, restrictions on entry into Malaysia)
If you’re not a car owner, you should probably brush up on some car insurance 101 because the insurance coverage bit is quite important. Some terms to know are:
- Named driver(s): If the rental car is for communal use – say, you and your spouse – make sure both drivers are “named” in the contract, or else you might not be insured when the other person is driving the car.
- Excess (or deductible): This is the amount you pay when there’s any cost you want to claim. For example, the workshop charges you $1,000 for repairing the car. If the contract’s “excess” is $300, you pay that amount and the insurance company pays $700. Excess is especially high for cars going into Malaysia.
- Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): By default, if anything happens to the rental car, the company will pass the costs to you – obviously, right? But if you opt for a LDW or CDW, you can block that from happening, usually by paying more upfront.
- 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.
Don’t forget that you’ll most likely need to put down a security deposit (typically $200 to $500) when you rent the car. This will be fully returned when you return the car, provided it’s undamaged and you haven’t breached any terms of the contract.
Can you drive the rental car to Malaysia?
Not all rental companies allow you to take their cars to Malaysia.
Some have special packages for cars that can be driven across the Causeway, while others will 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.
What else should you check before you drive away with the car?
Before you drive off with your temporary car, there are a couple of other things you might want to look out for – after you’re satisfied with the terms of the contract.
The first is the age of the car. Check the year it was registered. Newer cars usually 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.
What’s the best way to pay your car rental bill?
It goes without saying that, if the car rental company lets you pay with credit card, you should use the optimal credit card for earning rebates or rewards points/miles.
Car rental companies seldom have partnerships with banks, so you’re better off getting a “general” cashback credit card like the Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback card or HSBC Advance credit card, which will get you 1.5% cashback. That’s $12 back, if you’re getting an $800 rental package.
Alternatively, you can pay with a miles credit card like the BOC Elite Miles card, which gives you 1.5 miles per $1 spent locally. So you’d earn 1,200 miles to put towards your next holiday.
If you are a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer member, the airline has partner car rental companies (like Hertz, Avis and EuropCar) that will allow you to earn up to 500 KrisFlyer miles per rental as well.
Are there any alternatives to car rental companies?
If you’re balking at having to spend close to one grand just to be able to transport your family this Chinese New Year, there are a couple of other options for you to consider.
First, look into car sharing companies like Tribe Car, Smove and BlueSG. This is only good for extremely short rentals (we’re talking about hours here) because car sharing companies charge by the hour – some by the minute.
The supposedly convenient 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 across the island, allowing you to pick one up from near where you are. (Theoretically, anyway. Whether you can actually find one when you need it remains to be seen.)
Despite advertising attractive rental rates, car sharing isn’t really that cheap – expect to pay at least $40 for a block of 2 hours.
The other option is to rent from private car owners. Yup, I’m talking about going on good old Carousell and chatting up people who’ve posted their personal cars for rent.
If you’re wondering about the legality of this practice, it’s 100% legal – but only on specific days:
|Legal rental window||Start||End|
|Weekend||Friday, 7pm||Monday, 7am|
|Public holiday||Eve of PH, 7pm||First working day after PH, 7am|
This is good for very short-term rentals and it can be cheaper, depending on your negotiation skills. 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.
Most private car owners’ car insurance also won’t cover you, since you’re not the owner or one of the named drivers. So, bear in mind the financial risk of driving without insurance coverage.
Have you ever rented a car in Singapore? Tell us about your experience!