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We can't run away from the fact that cars are expensive in Singapore but with these eight tips, keeping your car running on the road doesn't have to be a costly affair.

Category: Car Ownership Advice


I have a friend who is all set on buying his first car. Aside from his limited knowledge on scrap values, which include PARF and COE rebates, he seems adamant that it be something cool, and not an average bread and butter car, despite the higher maintenance costs involved.

It is easy to forget the maintenance costs, especially when the pride of owning a car gets in the way. For first-time owners, the cost of purchasing a car may only seem like the only cost required. But there are more costs in running a car aside from just buying it. Simply put, running it can be cheaper if you know how to.

Here then lies eight important tips for running a car on a budget.

1. Fill up with the correct fuel

Certain manufacturers specify that their cars run on a certain grade of petrol, or at least a minimum grade. Although it is good that you follow it and not fill your car up with a grade lower, there is no absolute need to be filling up with a higher RON rating than what is recommended.

The performance benefits of filling up higher grade petrol is only good if your car requires it

For example, the minimum RON rating for a Subaru Forester XT is 95. On the other hand, the minimum RON rating for the Mitsubishi Attrage is 92. But for the Suzuki Swift Sport, the minimum RON rating is 98.

Expensive, higher grade petrol might be a nice treat for your car like ice-cream is to kids, but it is only nice if your wallet is happy, too.

2. Petrol cards

Finding the correct combination of loyalty, as well as debit/credit cards will save you money at the pump. Usually, loyalty cards are free to register, and you earn points for every tank filled.

Each petrol station has its own preferred debit/credit cards to use in conjunction with their loyalty cards

For example, if you pump at SPC and use their SPC&U loyalty card, you get 10% off petrol. But couple it with a POSB Everyday card, you get a 5% discount on top. An even better option would be using the SPC&U card with UOB's One Card, which gives you a total of up to 24% in discounts at the pump.

Shell, on the other hand, gives you a 5% instant discount, and using their Escape card gives you another 5%. Couple it with the Citibank Cash Back Card, and you'll get 8% in cash back, too.


3. Pumping the correct tyre pressure

Air is free and usually ready available at petrol stations around Singapore, so there's no reason to cheap out on it. Tyre pressures below your manufacturer's recommendation will result in more wear, as well as higher rolling resistance, which leads to an increase in your car's fuel consumption. The correct figures can be found pasted on your door sill, but if you can't find it, there's always the manual.

The air pressure in your tyres usually variates according to the road temperature as well as how much you've driven. Through these expansions and contractions, it is normal that you may lose some air. It's always good to check the pressure in all tyres once every two weeks.

Air is free, so don't skimp on getting the correct tyre pressure

4. Wash your car yourself

Being properly groomed is part and parcel of being presentable. Especially if you're around a judgemental lot, a clean car is pretty important.

Although you have to pay for a car wash, you can always do it yourself. A cleaner surface allows for lesser air resistance, which will equate to lesser resistance that the car has to deal with, giving you better mileage. You'll get a good workout while you're at it, too.

In some places, you'll have to pay for water usage. But the amount of times you can wash it yourself compared to one single trip to the groomers cannot be disregarded.

Aside from the saving money, washing your own car gives you a good workout

Keeping a pack of tissues in the car, as well as a bottle of water, can also help you get rid of bird droppings, tree sap as well as other sticky stuff before it bakes under the hot sun and eats into your paint. The only way to bring the paint back to its former glory will be an expensive visit to the detailer, or a new coat of paint.
5. Drive efficiently

Sometimes, if your car has higher fuel consumption, it's probably your right foot that's doing the damage. Remember to be smooth with the throttle, and avoid any unnecessary braking.

Anticipate traffic slow-downs, and coast through traffic jams as much as you can. Constantly driving like every red light is a start of a drag race may win you street cred but the added fuel consumption, and also the wear and tear involved from the added stresses on the car's drivetrain may not be worth it in the long run.

With the advent of GPS coupled with traffic information, the ability to find out which is the best route before you begin your journey is much easier now. Always remember to check the route if it's laden with traffic, road works or diversions.

Having a light foot helps in getting good fuel consumption figures

Shorter routes may save you time, but if they are filled with traffic lights, you'll be wasting precious fuel. The less stops you make, the better.

6. Save on insurance

We won't suggest that you get rid of your insurance coverage (which is illegal in Singapore). Comprehensive coverage is ideal, but always check the fine print. You may be insured more than you actually need.

The fine print includes additional paid extras such as personal accident benefits for passengers, or liability from passenger negligence. This is all great, but if you don't ferry passengers around, or they're not a rowdy bunch that requires insurance from tearing up your interior, you're good without them.

Understanding what is covered in your insurance premium helps you weed out the ones you don't need

If you're set as the only driver of your vehicle, having only yourself insured as the named driver to the car may save you some cash, instead of having named drivers who rarely, or don't ever drive your car.


7. Servicing

Although having a set schedule to change vital components such as your brakes or tyres is important, having them on your air-con filter isn't. There is no absolute need to change your oil earlier than what your manufacturer recommends unless, of course, your daily route involves taking a couple of laps around Sepang.

With that, having a good understanding of what makes your car work may actually help you save money on the general up-keep of your car.

An example would be knowing the correct engine oil that's being used for your car, which can be found in your manual. If you can source the oil yourself, you'd save a bit of money as you’ll just have to pay for labour at your preferred workshop.

Knowing the correct oil specifications for your car is important

Check if your engine is running efficiently, too. Checking things like spark plugs and the air filter is always good, as having a clogged filter or worn out plugs would result in poor fuel economy, as the engine isn't running optimally.

Take note of your fluid levels across the car, it may be the first warning sign that a major issue is at hand - or if there was a major issue to begin with.

For example, an engine that goes through engine oil faster than it goes through a tank of fuel could mean you have worn engine seals. But automatic transmissions are known to run rough when they're low on transmission fluid and changing the fluid may just be the solution.

8. Do-It-Yourself

There are many things on your car that require the expert hands of a mechanic, but there are some things you can do yourself. For instance, some cars may have air-con filters that are easily accessible, as well as others such as your wiper fluid and wiper blades.

Some things can be done yourself, so you don't have to spend money for experienced hands to do it

You can start by having a good understanding of what parts are scheduled to be changed, which should be available in your car manual.

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