Buying a pre-owned car is a rational choice in the face of Singapore’s high car prices, but doing so is not without its pitfalls.
Second-hand cars are a perfectly viable (some say sensible) route to car ownership in Singapore.
Not only can you get a vehicle that’s in good working condition, you can also avoid the dreaded depreciation, which is most pronounced during the first or first two years of the vehicle’s lifespan.
And all that at a fraction of the price too!
Another reason to buy second-hand: It allows you to get the car you want at a discount, which means you might be able to afford a pre-owned version of that high-end sports car you’ve been lusting after.
You can also think of it as taking over a vehicle that has been “battle-tested” by the previous owner, with all the kinks worked out.
While it’s an attractive concept (especially given the sky-high car prices in Singapore), buying second-hand cars isn’t completely without its pitfalls.
Here’s what you need to know about buying a second-hand car in Singapore.
What to look out for when buying a second-hand car
How old is the car?
COEs in Singapore last 10 years, so the vast majority of pre-owned cars are somewhere in that age range. When choosing a used car, you’ll want to go with the Goldilocks option - not too new, and not too old either.
Newer used cars (in the one- to two-year-old range) tend to command a higher price, as their owners will try to bank on the fact that they’re still “new”, and that the vehicle is still in perfect working condition.
Cars that are approaching the end of their COE period, on the other hand, (i.e., seven years or older) will have prices that are more reflective of their lifespan, which you may find more palatable. However, depending on the car’s mileage and usage history, you could find yourself facing an unexpected issue, and having to spend extra money to get it fixed.
Hence, as a general rule, cars that are sitting in the three to seven years old bracket are generally favoured by second-hand drivers.
What’s the mileage of the car?
If the age of the car speaks to its outer aesthetics, then the mileage is all about its condition under the hood.
Mileage tells you how many kilometres the car has been driven, which gives you an idea of the wear and tear suffered by its engine and internal components. This metric, coupled with the maintenance and servicing history (see next point), will help you decide if the asking price is worth it.
The car’s mileage is just as important as its registration date (some would say even more so). Afterall, a five-year-old car that spends most of its time sitting pretty in the owner’s garage is likely to be in better condition than a three-year-old one that has covered every single road and expressway in Singapore multiple times over.
What’s the servicing history?
Car manufacturers have a recommended schedule for servicing their vehicles, which may be based on mileage or time elapsed. (For example, it’s good to change your engine oil every 10,000 km or twice a year).
Hence, when considering a used car, it’s good to check on its servicing history, based on its age and mileage. If the frequency of the servicing deviates too far, it could be a cause for concern.
Also, pay attention to the maintenance and service reports for the vehicle. If you see a repeated pattern of fixes for a particular issue, there’s a chance you might have to confront the same problem somewhere down the road. (Or, you know, go on a gremlin-hunting mission.)
What are the accident records (if any)?
The seller may understandably be reluctant to share such information with you, but it’s important to know if the vehicle you’re considering for purchase had been in an accident before. Knowing the full facts can help you avoid purchasing a problematic car.
If you find the owner or dealer being less than forthcoming, try checking insurance records for a fuller picture.
What do the warning lights say?
Another often overlooked source to check is the car’s dashboard panel.
Such panels are designed to provide status updates to important car components at a glance, so you might be tempted to give it just the quick once-over.
However, doing so may cause you to miss noticing any missing or blinking lights - which could be a clue telling you there’s something about the car you need to pay attention to.
5 popular used car brands and models in Singapore
|Brand and model||Engine capacity||Selling price*||Depreciation (per year)|
|Honda Fit 1.3L A||1.3 L||S$47,000 (approx. 3 years old)||S$6,746|
|Volkswagen Scirocco GP 1.4 TSI||1.4 L||S$56,000 (approx. 6 years old||S$11,084|
|Honda Civic 1.6A VTI||1.6 L||S$66,880 (approx. 5 years old)||S$10,860|
|Nissan X-trail 2.0 CVT 4WD||2.0 L||S$72,800 (approx. 4.5 years old)||S$11,338|
|Mercedes Benz SLK 200 Kompressor A||1.8 L||S$76,000 (approx. 2 years old)||S$9,413|
*Sources: motorist.sg, speedomotoring.com.sg
Honda Fit 1.3L A
A sporty hatchback known for its compact size and nimble handling, the Honda Fit is a popular choice among many Singaporean families.
This is surely due to its generous storage capacity belying its small form, which can be further enhanced by its multiple seating configurations.
A great choice whether you’re looking to pack your buddies in for a road trip or to ferry a multi-generational household around.
Volkswagen Scirocco GP 1.4 TSI
The Volkswagen Scirocco GP 1.4 TSI features a supercharged engine, 7-speed gearbox and smooth power delivery, befitting its status as a budget-friendly racer.
This updated model also has the stylings to fit its sporty ambitions, with gauges that sit in individual binnacles, and auxiliary meters for boost pressure, elapsed time and oil temperature that is sure to get the Fast and Furious crew breathing heavy.
Adding to the sleekness are the redesigned air-con vents, which now sit flush with the dashboard. Tasteful use of metal applique adds a dynamic flourish to complete the look.
If you’ve been wanting to get behind the wheels of a sports racer, but can’t quite bear to pay full price, this second-hand model should make for a satisfying compromise.
Honda Civic 1.6A VTI
Another popular car among Singaporean drivers is the Honda Civic, which has long captured imaginations for being a mid-sized sedan with power to spare.
The 1.6A VTI variant however wins fans for another reason: it’s built more for sensible driving rather than full-throttle action, but in return, rewards with great fuel economy somewhere in the range of 15km per litre.
A fun family vehicle that offers fuel efficiency underneath that trademark Civic look.
Nissan X-trail 2.0 CVT 4WD
The Nissan X-trail is a well-rounded SUV with plenty of storage and seating, equally comfortable prowling the city streets, or exploring wild terrain.
It has an optional third-row, which means it can seat up to seven people comfortably and safely, or transport large amounts of cargo. Meanwhile, its four-wheel-drive capabilities offer smoothness, power and control even in off-road conditions.
An SUV made for those who work in the city but are prone to impromptu road trips once the weekend approaches.
Mercedes Benz SLK 200 Kompressor A
As noted in the opening of this article, one of the biggest reasons to buy a second-hand car is the chance to drive a model that would otherwise be out of your price range.
If you’ve always wanted a top-tier luxury vehicle, why not consider a pre-owned Mercedes Benz SLK 200 Kompressor A?
The vehicle’s trademark exaggerated bonnet evokes jet-fighter vibes, which is a fitting motif for the top-of-the-world feeling you’ll get when you drive off with a pre-owned model at a fraction of the original selling price.
Whichever model you go for, if you’re ready to take the plunge on a second-hand car, be sure to keep yourself and your car protected with a reliable car insurance plan.
Read these next:
How To Scrap Your Car, And How Much Money You’ll Get Back
5 Best Car Insurance Plans in Singapore (July 2021)
How Much Does It Truly Cost To Maintain A Car In Singapore?
How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Car In Singapore?
A Depreciation Cost Guide For First-Time Car Owners