A Rocky Road Ahead: The Tough Realities for today’s young Car Enthusiasts in Singapore

It wasn’t easy being an automotive fan when I was a young, overweight boy growing up in neighborhood schools as my strange obsession with machines so out of reach naturally led to constant ridicule from my peers. Yet, I think I was lucky.

Lucky because I spent my primary and secondary schooling days in the glorious 80s and 90s. Which meant that after wasting no time joining the workforce after the army (and through sheer effort, perseverance, plenty of luck and a small loan from my amazing girlfriend), I was smack right in the middle of 2008 and 2009 when the sums added up to allow me to buy my very own set of wheels.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention. The years 2008 and 2009 are rather significant. Because for us car-owning, car-loving geeks in Singapore, those were the glory days when COEs dropped to levels so low, rumours were going on about how the Government might even consider scrapping the entire system altogether.

Alas, as we now know, that never came to pass. Quite the opposite in fact.

Today, our Transport Minister S. Iswaran told Parliament that as a one-off exercise, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) “will bring forward and redistribute the supply from five-year COEs due to expire in the next projected supply peak”.

Essentially increasing the supply of certificates of entitlement (COEs) by 24 per cent for smaller, less powerful cars (Category A) and 15 per cent for bigger, more powerful cars (Category B) for the current three-month quota period until July.

While it might seem like a sign of relief to the general public, those of us with a tad more vested interest in the matter will understand that such a measure will only serve to sully any chances of a steep increase in COEs quotas in the near future and as such, all hopes of a significant drop in COE prices. It seems to us that the powers that be are happy with COE levels hovering where they are now and have no interest in curtailing what had led to such a dramatic rise.

If you are a young enthusiast in Singapore dreaming of one day owning a fun new performance car, I feel for you.

Add to that, massive increases in taxes for what many consider their dream cars now mean that even when used, those dreams will no longer be attainable for the vast majority.

It doesn’t stop there, with OMVs for many of these beauties now capped at 60k, it would logically make little sense to deregister them, meaning that the majority of these cars will have their COEs renewed once they hit the 10 year mark, which means even less COEs will return to the pool the next decade, which, you guessed it, will only mean even higher premiums for COEs.

If you are a young enthusiast in Singapore dreaming of one day owning a fun used performance car, I feel for you.

What about cars that have been registered way before these recent rules were implemented? Well, a quick glance through our local automotive classifieds will be more than enough to show you what happens to the resale market when the price of a base-spec Toyota Altis is now asking for over S$160,000.

It’s not all local forces at play here of course, with the advent of social media, the hype surrounding certain makes and models of old performance machines have led to a series of “taxes” laid on.

“JDM tax”, “Tofu tax”, “Initial D tax”, “Mighty car mods tax”, they all basically mean the same thing, astronomical prices increases on cars that just a couple of years ago no one would even bother to even look at.

It’s not all the internets fault of course, the pivot towards SUVs have also contributed to this calamity as the world suffered from years upon years when automotive manufacturers thumbed their collective noses at enthusiasts who were literally begging for the affordable, attainable fun legends we grew up loving. But nein, it was all for nought. To rub salt into our wounds, Mitsubishi even brought out their new Eclipse as an SUV. Today, Mitsubishi is a shadow of its once glorious self and they really only have themselves to blame.

And so, with manufacturers no longer building brand new fun sports cars for a period of time, the market for used fun sports cars naturally (with the help of social media) blew the F up and along with that, dragging up the prices for pretty much everything else with a remote chance of being a “classic”. And in a country where such cars are especially rare, you don’t need to be a genius to know what has happened.

Things are starting to change of course, we Toyota leading the charge with their GR Yaris, GR Corolla and Supra, but then, you’d have to contend with their equally charged up brand new prices.

If you are a young enthusiast in Singapore dreaming of one day owning a fun classic performance car, I feel for you.

So, where do we go from here? It’s a tough one to answer. As covered in the media recently and I’m sure plenty of us have talked about it, we all know who are the ones driving up the prices of COE fast and furiously, and I’m sure we all know (even if some might not want to admit it) why nothing is being done or even mentioned about curtailing these car-sharing companies and other PHV registered vehicles. As mentioned once again by our transport minister, “we must expect the long-term trajectory for COE prices to be upwards“. In short, don’t expect COEs to ever come down, and don’t expect the current Goverment to ever be kind to your car-loving dreams.

With so many obstacles now neatly in place, It is going to be a painful, rocky road ahead for all car-lovers.

And so, if you are a young enthusiast in Singapore, I feel for you and hope that you will also get lucky one day. I’m afraid with the way things are, mine might be running out come December 2026.


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