Halloween may be over, but there’s still a lot for Singaporeans to be afraid of. Take transport, for example. Surprisingly, it’s not the usual suspects making you lose control of your bowel movements – there’s actually going to be a public transport fare reduction next month, and COE prices have dropped to their lowest levels in years. No, the real transport monster this time are second-hand cars.
What’s so scary about second hand cars?
Well, firstly, while second hand cars might be worth buying because they’re cheaper, you still have to set aside more than $1,000 each month just to afford one. And if you get an older car, it may be like choosing to live with a vampire or a zombie – way past the expiry date, and your life is always in danger.
Secondly, there are some frightening second hand car dealers out there. Last year, a fly-by-night parallel importer called Volks Auto escaped with $3.6 million in deposits. And even though not all parallel importers are out to scam you, there are still things you need to beware of. For example, some of them help you skirt around car loan restrictions but often, these supposed “money saving” hacks actually lead to some negative long-term consequences.
Oh, you’re not scared yet? Want to know the real horror of second-hand cars?
So, you think you’re tough, you’ve done your homework, you’re financially prepared and you’ve researched reputable second hand car dealers. You imagine there’s nothing that can frighten you in the haunted house of the second hand car market.
But when you drive away from the dealer, you don’t realise that your “new” second hand car has been… modified.
Wah lau, thought what… if my car is modified I can see what. I just won’t buy it
Sure, you say that now. But not all modifications are obvious. In fact, you’d be surprised how many types of illegal modifications are not immediately found in a casual inspection. We look at just two kinds:
Not surprisingly, most illegal modifications involve head lamps. For example, while most vehicles come with factory-fitted High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps, some second hand cars might have “upgraded” HID lamps that have a higher (and illegal) wattage or don’t have the required auto-levelling function. While these “better” lamps do help improve your visibility when driving at night, they’re illegal because of the danger they pose to other motorists.
You will need to check that the lamp kits installed in your second hand car are from the factory and meet LTA’s standards before you make your purchase.
If your second hand car’s previous owner was a flamboyant playboy or was stuck in the Sparks and Fire Disco era, then there’s a pretty high chance your car has some illegally installed decorative lamps. Wiper washer LEDs, undercarriage neon lights, vehicle interior neon lights, flashing decorative lights, the list goes on. The one thing these decorative lamps have in common? They’re all illegal.
If your second hand car has these lamps and you buy it, you may be liable to face a maximum Court fine of $1,000 or 3 months imprisonment upon conviction. And who wants to get in trouble for modifications they didn’t even make?
Come on lah, this is Singapore leh. All these illegal mods, no one will make lah.
Okay, assuming that’s true. Do you know that even legal mods can get you in trouble? Let me clarify, I’m not talking about the LTA and the Courts here. I’m talking about your car insurance.
Even though the modifications are legal and “harmless”, just having modifications on your car could actually void your insurance! That’s right. Some insurance companies out there have such specific details in their policies that even the most insignificant of modifications are a game changer.
For example, that sunroof you’re enjoying? Perfectly legal. Not a part of the vehicle’s original design? That could void your insurance. That spoiler that gives your car a more aerodynamic look? Perfectly legal. Not a part of the vehicle’s original design. Again, your car insurance policy may not be valid as a result.
Say you get into a tiny accident. Your insurance company notices that you have upgraded rims that make your car “pop”. Even though your rims aren’t related to the accident at all, if the policy specifies that any modifications to the car voids the insurance, you’re stuck. It’s not fair, but that’s the way insurance companies work.
So the next time you’re planning to buy a second hand car, it doesn’t hurt to do a thorough check and make sure that its free of modifications, legal or otherwise. Alternatively, get a car insurance policy that isn’t so… easy to void.
Have you ever got in trouble due to car modifications? We want to hear from you.
Personal finance tips delivered to your inbox!
Receive news, subscriber-exclusive promotions and guides on how to become smarter with money.
We promise never to spam you!