Why I renewed my COE for another 10 years

When I wrote last month about a potentially life-changing decision I had to make as my Toyota Wish approached its year of no return, many readers e-mailed to offer suggestions.

Some said I should just get a new Wish, but most made a case for the Mazda MX-5. "Time to live a little," chorused the latter group - and quite persuasively too.

But without exception, everyone wanted to know what my final decision would be. Friends, acquaintances and contacts inquired. Even strangers walked up to me in public to ask. So I feel duty-bound to write a follow-up.

Dear readers, I have renewed my car's COE for another 10 years. And it feels good.

I paid the prevailing quota premium of about $58,000, which was 90 per cent of the total price I bore for the car when it was brand new.

The economists among you will appreciate the decision. Over 20 years, the annual depreciation of my dependable MPV - which still drives exceptionally well - works out to be just a little more than $6,000.

Even with the road tax surcharges, potentially higher insurance premiums, more frequent inspections and the wear-and-tear items I would need to replace, the depreciation would not exceed $7,500.

The rate for a new car would be more than $10,000.

Call me Scrooge if you like, but having an old car is liberating. I don't have to sweat over minor dinks and dents. And having two new drivers in the house, dinks and dents are almost unavoidable.

A new car, while appealing, enslaves you. It demands a certain level of attention. On that score, I agree with a line in Professor Kishore Mahbubani's opinion piece last month which said we should not worship our cars. (It is the only line in the column which I agree with, but that's another story.)

The other strong motivator for me to pick COE renewal over other options was the ridiculous price scrap car dealers were quoting for my ride.

The best I got was $800, which was back in August. By December, it had fallen to $300. To me, that was plain insulting.

While driving a car beyond its 10th year may seem novel in Singapore, it is not unusual at all in other countries.

Even in consumeristic America, where you can buy a car on a month's salary, the average age of cars is 11.5 years, according to research firm IHS Automotive. In Europe, the average is close to 10, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

In Singapore, the average is six, with 84 per cent of cars below 10 years of age and nearly 25 per cent below five years old. As recently as 2007, the average age of cars here was 2.7 years.

Now, you don't have to be Al Gore to see that that is an enormous waste of resources. Not only that, the early scrappage of cars has a huge impact on the environment. It may not be measurable on a country level, but it contributes to the growing global carbon footprint nonetheless.

And rising sea levels affects everybody. Especially if you live in a low-lying place surrounded by water.

Now I know what some of you are thinking - if you are such a greenie, why don't you take public transport? Well, I do take public transport occasionally.

And the thing is, public transport may not be as green as advocates make it out to be. Consider the low average occupancy of buses and the huge engines they lug. On a per- passenger trip basis, a 1.6-litre car with four onboard is possibly more efficient than a bus.

But enough of this rationalisation. COE prices fell in the latest tender this week, and will continue to trend downwards for at least another 18 months.

Who knows? That MX-5 may still be an option down the road.

See also: Experts concerned as motorbike COEs rise to record high

This article was first published on Jan 9, 2016.
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