Running costs first-time car owners must consider

Buying your first car? Don't just calculate the down payment and monthly instalments. Here are the other costs you must also a factor in.
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For most of us, buying car is the second most expensive purchase after acquiring a home.

If it's your first car, then the outright cost is undoubtedly higher, since you don't have an existing vehicle to sell or trade-in to offset the price. However, the outright purchase price and subsequent monthly payments aren't the only expenses you need to factor in. Whether you've bought a new car or used one, there are numerous other related costs that come with vehicle ownership.

Here's what else you must consider.

Insurance

The annual premium for a comprehensive insurance policy can be quite a shocker for first-time owners, who do not enjoy the 50 per cent No-Claims Discount
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By law, every registered vehicle must have valid insurance. If the car you're eyeing is brand-new, your annual premium will cost more than that for a used vehicle.

Let's say you're a 30-year old single male who's had a driving licence for five years, and you plan to buy a brand-new Toyota Corolla Altis. The car will not be registered as an off-peak car, won't be modified, and will be driven between 12,000 and 18,000km annually.

According to Direct Asia, comprehensive insurance for a brand-new Toyota Corolla Altis Classic will cost $2,201.17 a year, or $168.39 a month. If you choose the least expensive, third-party only policy, the yearly premium is $1,385.52 or $115.43 monthly.

As new cars are bundled together with insurance, these figures should give you an idea of what to expect.

Road tax

On its own, the road tax for a 1.6-litre car doesn't seem like much, but since it's due after you renew your insurance, it can hurt 
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Annual road tax for the aforementioned Corolla Altis is relatively affordable at $741. You can also choose to pay $370 every six months instead.

Road tax and car insurance go hand-in-hand. You need to renew your insurance before you can renew your road tax. That can be a hefty sum to cover.

If we take the comprehensive insurance plan mentioned just now, you'll be paying $2,942.17 annually - just for insurance and road tax.

Season parking

Season parking in sheltered HDB carparks went up from $90 to $110, and you can expect further price increases in the future.
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Season parking at HDB multi-storey carparks is typically $110 a month. It's $80 a month for surface or roadside parking.

That may not seem like a lot until you multiply those amounts by 12. For sheltered carparks, that works out to $1,320 a year. Surface parking will cost you $960 annually.

Now, let's say you will own the car for five years. In that time, you would have spent $6,600 for sheltered season parking and $4,800 for surface parking.

CashCard top-ups

Signing up for a CashCard auto top-up service will help ensure you don't get caught at the carpark gantry with insufficient value.
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Season parking aside, you need to factor in parking charges at malls, buildings and unless your company provides or lets you claim it, your workplace.

Having a car means you will drive after work and on weekends for errands, groceries, and etc. For argument's sake, let's say you put $200 in your CashCard monthly.

Head over to Sgcarmart's Carpark & Parking Rates Guide to get a better idea of how much you'll need to budget.

Fuel

With petrol prices likely to continue rising, it's best to learn how to drive with a light right foot.
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Fuel, or in this case petrol, makes up a big chunk of your running costs. Since everyone's driving style and car usage varies, let's assume you will drive about 15,000km a year.

The Corolla Altis has a stated combined fuel economy of 15.6km/L. Not everyone can consistently achieve or better than figure, so let us assume, with traffic conditions, you average 12km/L.

At 12km/L, you will need 1,250 litres of petrol to cover 15,000km. RON 95 petrol at time of writing is $2.94 per litre before discounts.

Using these figures, your annual fuel bill would be $3,675.

ERP

Many ERP gantries remain switched off while others are charging lower rates, but realistically, we can't expect this to continue forever.
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How much you pay for ERP or electronic road pricing is determined not just by where you live and where you work, but also what time you drive to and from work.

To get a more exact figure, you can calculate your ERP cost by following this link to the Onemotoring page with an interactive map. You can click on the individual gantries to see how much ERP is levied at various times of the day.

Budgeting between $50 and $100 a month for ERP is a safe bet for most drivers, though.

Maintenance & servicing

Most servicing plans will cover items such as the engine oil and the oil filter, but other parts that need replacing may be chargeable.
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Many brand-new cars are bundled with either three-year or five-year servicing plans, which help take the sting out of this expense.

Bear in mind, however, that not all maintenance packages will result in free servicing, especially not when wear & tear parts need to be replaced. Labour charges may also apply.

After the bundled package runs out, a visit to the authorised dealer for regular servicing every six months could cost you between $200 to $300. You can check out third party workshops, which typically charge a lot less.

Some dealers offer owners the option of purchasing pre-paid maintenance packages. After paying the upfront fee, you'll be entitled to a set number of service visits, plus other benefits such as discounts on parts and labour.

Miscellaneous charges

You can't expect to own a car and not have to spend money on key things such as new tyres and wheel alignment - that's just unrealistic.
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Cost rundown

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To sum up, here are the running costs you could incur in a year of car ownership. This is only a ballpark figure, and remember, it does not include the monthly payments for the vehicle itself.

ALSO READ: A depreciation cost guide for first-time car owners

This article was first published in sgCarMart.