Car prices in Singapore are no small sum, but aside to the upfront costs, there are also regular car maintenance and servicing costs that you have to factor in when you own a car.
In order to lower car maintenance costs, there are a few things you can do. Here are 7 ways to lower car maintenance costs:
1. Save on premium petrol prices
These days, you can’t just go to a petrol station and say, “Uncle, top up,” not without the confused attendant asking, “Top up with what?” Because they have 98, 98 unleaded, super 98, etc.
But don’t pay more than necessary. Most Singaporeans don’t know that even standard petroleum’s thoroughly “cleaned”. It’s crammed with additives that prevent particles from damaging filters. And as for the octane number, it doesn’t directly indicate how fast or smooth your car will run.
Higher octane just lowers the probability of pre-ignition problems. For the 10% of you who know what that means, good luck on that next NASCAR rally. For the rest of us, let’s just say high octane matters only to high compression racing engines. According to major car brands like Audi and BMW, higher octane fuel is generally not required in Singapore.
2. Source car parts and accessories yourself
When you next visit the authorised service centre for car servicing, get the list of parts that need replacement.
Ask for “an invoice with a specific breakdown”. The invoice should state the exact name and model number of the parts needed. If you care to annoy the staff further, you can also find out which variants are permissible.
If you have time, you can head to a car part supplier to get quotes on the listed parts. You’ll often find price reductions of between 30% to 50%, because service centres have a mark-up. With the parts, you can get an independent workshop to make the replacements for you.
These days, car owners even turn to Taobao. Apparently, you can get window visors, air-con filters, sports pedals, bulbs, wipers and water hose from the China site. Read our Taobao guide if you need tips.
Note that China is right-hand drive, which means things like car mats will not fit in Singapore’s left-hand drive cars.
While it used to be that sourcing accessories yourself may cause you to forgo warranty claims from authorised motor dealers, in 2021 the rules have been relaxed and it’s no longer the case.
Whether buying in-store or online, make sure you do your homework and look for reputable car accessory shops. Check forums, reviews and star ratings to get the best car accessories and gadgets without getting scammed.
3. Make sure tyres are well-maintained
Your car’s tyres are like your legs. Without well-maintained tyres, you would be at a higher risk of car accidents. Make it a habit to check your tyre air pressure every once a month.
Most petrol stations would have a tyre pump and some are even fully digital. You can get the friendly uncle to help you if you are totally clueless.
While waiting for the air to pump, it’s a good time to check the treads on the tyres. Generally, in Singapore, car drivers change or rotate tyres every 2 years, or 40,000 km in mileage, whichever comes first.
As with car accessory shops, it’s good to check out reviews of car tyre shops before heading down to whatever’s nearby. Going to a good car tyre shop can be a learning experience in itself. Motorist.sg and SGCarMart have recommendations.
4. Compare car insurance rates using MoneySmart
Different insurers have different risk tolerances, and will calculate your premiums differently.
So insurer X might decide your accident from 10 years ago is a minor detail, whereas insurer Y might raise your premium 20% because of it. Likewise, different insurers have different preferences based on car models, the gender of the named driver(s), the age of the insured vehicle, etc.
The difference in premiums can amount to several hundred dollars a month. So make phone calls to all the insurers, and compare different quotes. Or you can just use a site like MoneySmart, which will do it for you.
Even if you already have an insurer, it’s good to check new offers at least once a year. You never known when something better might come up.
5. Make sure your car servicing is done right
Generally, it is recommended that you send your car for servicing every 100,000 km or every 5 years. This means that car servicing costs are recurring and you want to make sure that it is done right.
Just like Apple fans, most car owners are allergic to reading manuals. The manual specifies the checks and replacements that must be made, during each routine car servicing.
Make sure what the mechanics are doing (check their invoice) matches the car maker’s requirements. You want to make sure they’re doing everything that’s required and not doing additional but unnecessary routines.
Extra routines can amount to a difference of several hundred dollars. If you’re told they’re necessary, even when it’s not in the manual, get a second opinion.
If you want to be safe, stick with the authorised dealer’s servicing program. However, an independent workshop is sometimes cheaper and faster.
6. Learn the basics of car servicing so you can DIY
You don’t have to necessarily be able to change a fan belt or re-torque the tyres. Just learn the absolute basics, so you don’t need to pay a mechanic every time you:
- Check and change engine oil
- Install new spark plugs
- Top up brake fluid
- Clean the engine
- Pump air into car tyres
Remember, even if the work takes 10 minutes, workshops will charge you for the time. And if you correct these minor problems fast by doing it yourself, they won’t ever develop into something worse.
7. Clean your car regularly for fuel efficiency
A car is a private space where we are often tempted to store clothes, jackets and shoes. But doing so can greatly affect fuel efficiency. Having clutter in your car affects your fuel efficiency by 0.85 km per litre. It seems insignificant, but it could add up over the years of your car ownership.
Dirt, grime, salt, insects and pollution on the windshields and mirrors can reduce visibility, which can be dangerous for your safety.
And of course, keeping your car clean and tidy is a way to keep the resale value of the car, in case you need to sell it one day. Washing your car exterior with a car wash soap and wiping with a chamois towel helps to maintain the paintwork. Not having too many things in the car seat all the time can also reduce the wear and tear on the upholstery.
Maybe an easy way to remember cleaning your car is to time it together with your tyre care day as mentioned in point 3 and clean it once every month.
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