Car Ownership Or Car-Sharing? The Breakdown [Chills 36 with GetGo]

*Read on to find out how you can enjoy 90% off your first drive with GetGo!*

We see them on the streets everyday. Everyone wants one but only some get to own them. Cars – Did you know the cost of car ownership is not just Certificate Of Entitlement (COE), purchase price, fuel, and parking? Are you 100% sure you are ready for car ownership, or should you be owning a car in the first place?

In this week’s episode of Chills with TFC, together with the managing director and co-founder of GetGo, Toh Ting Feng, we dive deep into the breakdown of car ownership costs and if it’s gonna butter up your finances or make a hole in it by owning one. Join us as we also open discussions on the present and future states of transportation, locally and globally. Are you prepared for the upcoming change? Find out more from this episode!

From fossil to solar, the way we power our vehicles is ever changing. With technological advancements such as infotainment systems, the way we experience our drive changes. With AI in the mix, change in the way of how our vehicles operate is inevitable.

As listeners of TFC, you can enjoy 90% off your first drive with GetGo (capped at $9, valid till 16 Oct 2021) with promo code TFC90OFF or through this link: https://bit.ly/3tD8DUG 

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podcast Transcript

Andrew: People have been saying that buying a car in Singapore is really expensive. Fortunately, there are different modes of transport for you to move around. One of them is car sharing services. In this episode, we are going to compare car sharing with owning a car and using private hire vehicles. Along the way, you’ll get some tips on how to save money on your transports. We’re also going to imagine the future of transport and it is going to be completely different from the world we have right now, so ride along with us! 

Expand Full Transcript

Hello, my name is Andrew, and welcome to another Chills with TFC session. In this series, we’ll hope to bring on interesting and relevant people to help us learn better from various perspectives. Life is not always about learning from the people you agree with. Different perspectives shape us to be more well-rounded in our thinking. 

So in our pursuit of the life we love, while managing our finances as well. Our guest for today is going to help us break down the costs of owning a car in Singapore, understand the car sharing business, and talk about how to save money on your transport by using different options. Let’s welcome managing director and co-founder of GetGo, Ting Feng. 

Let’s break down the cost of owning a car in Singapore. 

Ting Feng: I think Singapore is one of the most expensive places to own a car in the world. Everyone knows that. In Singapore, the government imposes controls on how many cars we can have on the roads. The way they control is via the COE system, Certificate Of Entitlement. I think in the most recent COE bidding exercise, the COE for CAT A car which is the smallest category was around $48,000 and this COE allows you to own the car for a period of 10 years. This means that if you were to buy a new car in Singapore, like a new Mazda 3 economy size sedan, it will cost you in the ballpark of around $100,000. That’s a brand new car. 

Maybe you don’t need a brand new car, so you go for a car that’s perhaps four to five years old. I’ll use that as an example. A car that’s four to five years old Mazda 3 for example, will cost anywhere between $55,000 to $60,000. That’s the price of the asset, but when you look at what is the cost of owning the car, what you really look at for the most part is depreciation.

Andrew: Some may not call it an asset. It’s like… The moment you buy it, the moment you open the door… starts depreciating from that point. 

Ting Feng: It is an asset, but it’s a depreciating asset. It has capital value, you can still resell it but the amount of money you can resell gets lesser and lesser over the years. How you calculate the depreciation? You look at how much the car will cost you and at the end of useful life. Let’s say at the end of five years when you sell it, how much money you can get back? If I buy a car for $55,000 for example, after five years when the COE runs out, I can dispose it for $5,000. It costs me $50,000 over five years. That’s $10,000 a year just to own the car. 

On top of that, you have insurance. Insurance costs probably around $1,500 a year. You have maintenance, let’s put it a couple of hundred… $500. You have parking, HDB season parking cover carpark is $120 a month. That’s another thousand for a year and you have interest… because most people when they buy a car, they don’t fork out $55,000. They will take a loan. The loan interest on that, roughly is around $1000, $2000 a year. When you add that all up plus petrol, the monthly cost of ownership for an average economy Japanese sedan in Singapore is anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 to own the car. 

What happens if you own the car, but you only use it on the weekends? How many times can you drive on the weekend? Four or five times, that makes 20 trips a month and that means that the cost of each trip is probably somewhere close to $70, $80. That is the cost of owning a car and then using it for around 20 times a month.

Andrew: Divided by per trip. 

Ting Feng: Divide per trip because it’s all about using the car. Of course, if you use it a hundred times a month. Obviously… Please own a car because you use it every day, three or four trips for your work or whatever. 

Andrew: Obviously dividing the cost per trip, it’s a logical, functional way of measuring the costs, but there’s emotional aspects. I really like driving for example, or it’s just the convenience of any time I can go down to my carpark and drive my car out to wherever I want to go. Those are harder to calculate. 

Ting Feng: Yes, that’s right. Eventually… maybe… There will still be 50% of people who want to own cars and can afford to own cars. What about the rest of the people? They can’t afford it or don’t want to commit to hefty financial commitment. You raised a good point. Availability is one very important factor, and that’s part of our mission as well. 

Part of our mission is to get to an operational scale, whereby you won’t feel anxious that you’re not able to get a car. Furthermore, we also allow people to book the car in advance. Most longer trips, you know you’re going to make the trips. It’s not,” I suddenly feel like driving out today”. Some people are like that and obviously we fulfill their need, go for a spin. But sometimes we’d be like, “I need to fetch my mom for a medical appointment this Saturday at 9:00 PM.” or, “I’m bringing my girlfriend out to Changi Coastal Settlement at 7:00 PM on Saturday night.” You can make an advanced booking, so you have no fear of the car not being available. At the same time, we are adding more and more cars to the field. 

Andrew: Well, convenience is definitely very important. I also agree with you on the total cost of ownership. We all know it’s expensive to get a car in Singapore. If you can afford it, just by all means go ahead if you want to drive. But for many of us, I can afford it, but is it worth it? 

Ting Feng: Exactly, and it’s about personal finances. Like you said earlier on, the car is an asset but it’s a depreciating asset. If I were to rewind, 15, 20 years ago… if I had a car sharing service, I may have delayed my decision to buy a car. There comes a point in time where you may need to, or want to have a car, but previously, there weren’t alternatives. But now, there’s an alternative. You can use a car sharing service flexibly. You can save your salary, income and invest in real assets that generate a return and not just to depreciate. 

I think that’s why we also appeal a lot to the younger generation. When we look at our user demographics, actually more than 50% of our users are below 35. It’s a mixture of not being able to afford a car and not wanting to buy a car. This is a big movement in which you guys are part of, FIRE right? Financial Independence, Retire Early. You guys talk a lot about it and… Earlier we talk about total cost of ownership of the car, but you don’t forget there’s also the downpayment. The downpayment is 30%. That’s $15,000 or even call it $10,000. If you put it into a diversified equity fund, you earn 7-10%. That’s your money growing instead of sitting in the carpark empty, 80% of the time. From the personal finance point of view, we believe that we can let people have their cake and eat it. You can have the freedom of driving, yet you don’t need to put in half your income into it. 

Andrew: What are the choices we have? Like you drive your own car, we have ride sharing services and we have private hire vehicles for transport. That’s about it. The available choices we have right now?

Ting Feng: Yes. If you look at Singapore pre pandemic, actually they were on 10 million trips a day, commuting trips. Around 70% of that happens on public transportation, 7 million trips. This is your MRT, bus… people going to work, people going to school. Very predictable frequent routes and maybe longer distance. Public transport will always be here to stay for these type of trips and you have ride hailing and taxis. Pre pandemic, it was around a million trips a day and taxis are on demand service. That’s what they really fulfill. If you need to go from one place to another place on demand, short distance, it makes sense. That will be here to stay as well. 

Obviously, when you use a point to point service like ride hailing, the cost are high. Taxi rides are not cheap. Grab rides are not cheap during certain hours, right? Why? Because you need someone to drive you. Your driver needs to earn money on that service. When you do longer trips and multi-stop trips, that’s when point to point services may not make as much sense. If I need to travel during peak hour, or if we need to travel a long distance, or I need to go for multiple spots, that’s when the cost of point to point adds up. That’s where car-sharing can come in as an alternative. 

We believe that car-sharing can help to fulfill a small proportion of the use cases of ride hailing but we’re not here to take over ride space and really the last part of it… is people who own cars. I believe if I’m not wrong… Again, pre pandemic, 600,000 cars, there were around one to 2 million private car trips in Singapore, that means people driving their own cars. That averages out to be about two trips a day. But obviously, a lot is driven by people who really drive the car around the whole day: your property agents, insurance agents, financial advisors, sales people. 

What we’re really going for is a more significant slice of that market. If you say… replace 20% of the privately owned car trips with car sharing trips. That’s already 200,000 trips a day. Hopefully by doing so, we can reduce the number of cars that are wanted and needed on the roads in the first place. 

Andrew: Environmental concerns. 

Ting Feng: Environmentally friendly because the production of a car does have a carbon footprint. Research has shown that for a mature car sharing service, each car sharing vehicle can potentially replace 5-12 vehicles. That’s what we hope to do. By convincing people that they don’t need to own cars. We hope to be in line with the government’s goals of reducing car ownership, and yet still maintaining that flexibility and the freedom for people.

Andrew: It depends on the use case. You’re saying that, if you want to go for a ride sharing service, probably you are running some errands like you need to go from point A to point B to point C, different places, if you need to carry bulky items. 

Ting Feng: Yes, that’s right. For car-sharing, a typical use case… need to go to supermarket, and supermarket, you don’t spend very long period shopping, maybe one, two hours. But it’s a two way trip and you want to have the ability to bring someone along and store things. That is one use case for us. 

Another use case for us is, when you want to go somewhere far away for dinner. If you want to take a Grab at seven o’clock from Punggol to Changi, maybe $25-$30. Two ways, $50-$60. Why not rent a car? Car-sharing? You can rent it for three hours, pay $40 and you have the car with you all the way and you’re driving yourself. 

And lastly, there is also some people, they use it for business. If I run a small e-commerce business, I want to do some deliveries. You can also use the car. Of course, you can also rent the van. There’re many, many options, but these are some of the use cases that we see in our service. 

Andrew: What I can take away is that it really depends on your intention for the day. What do you want to achieve? Your objective? Maybe go for the ride sharing instead of just getting the car?

Ting Feng: They are complementary. If you know what you’re going to do and how long you’re going to need it for, and you appreciate having a vehicle you can take more people and you can leave quickly when you are done, then car-sharing may be the use case. If your days is a bit more dynamic, you don’t know what time you’re going to be done or when you’re going to need a vehicle, then maybe ride hailing is useful. 

Andrew: You know the transportation market very well. In this industry, where are the companies investing in this space?

Ting Feng: In transportation, in general? Obviously, the biggest success so far is Grab, right? Grab started out as a ride hailing company, point to point on demand. I actually used to work at Grab when Grab was competing heavily with Uber. But obviously, Grab has now a much bigger appetite, right? They’re going into food delivery, they’re going to finances and all that.

Another category that is quite big, a lot investment from the tech angle going into is car classifieds, helping dealers buy and sell cars and advertising. You have SgCarMart.com, there is Carro… Big news today, they raised a whole bunch of money. There’s also Carousell who’s also going into motorbikes… 

Andrew: Selling cars. 

Ting Feng: … selling cars and all that. That’s a big market, but that’s still the ownership market. They are helping people buy and sell and own cars and helping the dealers along the way. In terms of car sharing, I think the largest player is obviously BlueSG. BlueSG, they have electric vehicles. They had government support and they’d been around for a couple of years. They are the ones who are quite large in this space. Of course, there are some other car-sharing players. 

But for us, I think by the end of the year, we should be the largest car sharing platform in Singapore. That’s our goal. I would say we are investing quite heavily in car sharing, going into the car sharing ecosystem. Yeah. 

Andrew: That’s your focus right? 

Ting Feng: Yes, that’s right. 

Andrew: Talk about electric vehicles. What do you think is the future of that? 

Ting Feng: I think it’s a mega trend. With the environmental concerns on one hand and the developments in battery technology, I think electric vehicles are really the future. The electric vehicles need to be a part of an ecosystem. You need infrastructure and you also need the cars themselves. 

What happened this year is we see the government pushing very hard on the infrastructure. They want to build 60,000 charging points in Singapore, so the infrastructure is going to be there. Now what remains to be catalyzed is really the car themselves, because there are not that many options for affordable electric vehicles. The government made some changes in COE and road tax and all that so I think that will help adoption. Over the next few years, we will see exponential adoption of EVs and it is in our plans also to put EVs on our fleet, but only when the time’s right. But it’s a matter of when, it’s not a matter of if. 

Andrew: Okay, so you definitely see it coming. 

Ting Feng: Definitely see it coming. 

Andrew: How do you position yourself? You know, like you need to be part of the charging points, of… about the whole grid and infrastructure. You’ve got to start investing early. 

Ting Feng: We are an asset-light service so what we do is we connect the cars to the drivers. We don’t own the cars. Similarly, we don’t have to own the charging infrastructure. What we do is we will look for like-minded partners who are in the infrastructure space, who own electric cars to come together, put the infrastructure and the cars on our platform. What we do is we help them find people to use and utilize them. That is our strategy. 

We are already in talks and now we have made good relationships with different people within the ecosystem: charging infrastructure players, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and with the people who make the cars, the car makers as well as fleet owners. That’s how we intend to be part of this electrification journey. 

Andrew: But it’s still this part we haven’t spoken about, one part of it, which is last mile service, right? You know, electric scooters or even bikes. How does it fit into the whole picture, including getting on a ride sharing and then using a scooter to get your final location? How does it piece together?

Ting Feng: I think last mile micro mobility is interesting. Maybe three, four years back, we had this big wave of bike sharing companies. First of all, I think active mobility and car sharing are complementary because ultimately, you need to get to the car. Of course, we try and put the car as near our users as possible. We literally put it in your carpark downstairs. 

But for people who are a bit further away, they can use their skate scooter or the foldable bike and get to our cars then they can drive and then they can use it to get back. It’s perfectly complementary. In Singapore, I think people can generally afford micro mobility, right? Skate scooter or foldable bike isn’t that expensive of an asset and it’s healthy. People who are keen to use that they will typically buy one.

Andrew: I think they have to take tests nowadays. 

Ting Feng: That’s for PMDs (Personal Mobility Devices), which is a different category because PMDs are a bit more dangerous. They have lithium ion batteries. Those are heavily regulated now. You can only use those on Park Connecters, so the use cases have severely dropped.

Andrew: You don’t see that many around.

Ting Feng: You don’t see that many around. There was a period in time, maybe… 

Andrew: They are everywhere. 

Ting Feng: And obviously, most people use it responsibly, but there are some who don’t use it responsibly.

Andrew: Yeah, black sheep. You can hear it from a distance away… the techno songs playing, you know a PMD is coming. 

Ting Feng: Yes, that’s right. We believe that active mobility in general is complementary with car sharing and the car itself is really to bring you across a large distance… you, your family or your friends and maybe the things you want to carry along with you. So even if I have a picnic with family. You can’t skate scooter to all the way… to over there. 

Andrew: You’ll be very tired. 

Ting Feng: Yeah, so then that’s where the car comes in. 

Andrew: And I need the convenience of being able to put that skate scooter anywhere… put it on a car or find a parking lot to put it in or scan a QR code or something.

Ting Feng: Yes, that’s right. That’s right. So it all comes together. It’s really an ecosystem, right? Yeah. 

Andrew: Let’s look further into the future. What do think is the future of transportation? Let’s talk about robo taxis, full self-driving, all the futuristic things. What do you see? 

Ting Feng: If you look, let’s say 20, 30 years down, I think first of all, transport would be all automated.

Andrew: You believe in that? 

Ting Feng: I believe in that. I believe it will take a while because level 5 autonomy is not so straightforward. 

Andrew: Define it for us, level 5 autonomy. 

Ting Feng: Level 5 is like fully autonomous. You have a car that can drive you around in the live city-like environment. 

Andrew: So I’m in a car, I can get on a meeting. I can play games. I can read a book. 

Ting Feng: Yes, you don’t have to do anything, hands-free driving. That will take a while to come, but it will come eventually and when that comes, basically frees up more human capital. We don’t need drivers anymore, either to drive themselves or to drive other people. 

Andrew: The way you phrase it, ‘frees up human capital’… because for some people they will think that drivers are going to be obsolete. An entire industry is going to be wiped out, loss of jobs and all that. 

Ting Feng: Yes. The jobs will go away. Obviously, our people can upscale into other things, right? That is the goal. That is the vision. Even if you’re not a professional driver, you will save time by being able to do other things in the car. We see that coming, but not so soon. Obviously, all these vehicles will be electric. You have fleets of autonomous vehicles, together with autonomous trains, together with autonomous buses and that will form the future ecosystem. People will still need a way to access these vehicles.

That’s where people like us… if we develop expertise in managing a fleet of vehicles while we will continue to provide the service. You can choose to drive or you can choose for the car to drive yourself and all car makers will try to move towards that eventually.

Andrew: Paint the picture together with me based on what you believe. Today, I’m going to work. I call a car on my app. It comes. No driver. The door opens. I get in. I go for my meeting or I listen to some meditation music, whatever. I’m free to do whatever I want or if I want, I can choose to drive because there’s always the joy of driving for some people.

Ting Feng: That’s right. 

Andrew: And you’re saying autonomous trains and autonomous… 

Ting Feng: Yeah, I mean a lot of our MRT is now autonomous. They only have a staff in there in case of emergencies, but because trains run on schedule, right? So a lot of public transport… a lot of rail networks are either semi or fully autonomous already. The next one to go is buses.

Of course, I think for buses, a lot of the trials are around controlled environments within a certain campus where there are no other cars. So they’re trialing with autonomous buses. That will come next, but they will come by zone. For full autonomy across the entire city, that’s going to take a while. 

Andrew: You are guesstimating, 10 years, 20 years? 

Ting Feng: It’s always hard to guesstimate because suddenly things can change overnight, right? Based on what we see now, I would say at least 10, if not 15 years for full autonomy. 

Andrew: It’s possible that no drivers on the road. It’s all self-driven. When there’s free time, there will be like apps in your car… 

Ting Feng: If you look at some of the designs, the car will look completely different. You won’t have four seats all facing front. You have seats facing each other. 

Andrew: Four seats playing mahjong! 

Ting Feng: It’s like a meeting in a car, you can play mahjong in the car and you can admire the scenery. They will be designed more like trains eventually, where you have people facing each other and you can do stuff. You can have a big infotainment system. Tesla’s already have the giant screen and Tesla offers some level of autonomy on the highways and stuff like that. That is the future. 

Ultimately, the point of transportation is to transport humans so you still need that good human to vehicle interface for you to access the vehicles, for you to dictate when you want it, where you want to go. Of course, the vehicle and the technology will take care of the driving and the routing and all that. That’s the future, but yes, it will still take a while to come. 

Andrew: As you and I are describing this future, I’m not sure if I am excited, hopeful, optimistic, or you know, like you can’t imagine, or you don’t want it. Different people react differently to technological changes, right? 

Ting Feng: I think it would be a great advancement. I believe that because, first of all, It’ll be much more efficient in terms of using our resources. Climate wise, I think it will be better for the climate because there’re less emissions… all these autonomous vehicles will be electric.

Secondly, we will be a more efficient road network. I don’t think we need as many roads anymore and we don’t need as many cars. Road space, if you research… I can’t remember what the number is, it takes up a ridiculous percentage of our Singapore land space and so if you move towards autonomous, you can save a lot of land space as well. 

The last thing, like I said, it really frees up human capital. For those people who opt to drive, they can drive for pleasure. But if you just need to get from point A to point B, let the machine take care of it for you.

Andrew: I hope you’ve learnt something useful today and I truly appreciate that you took time off to better your life with The Financial Coconut. Knowledge is that much more powerful and interesting when shared, debated and discussed. Join our community Telegram group, follow us on our socials, sign up for our weekly newsletter. Everything is in the description. 

If you love us and want to help us grow, definitely share the podcast with your friends and on your socials. For more information, check out TheFinancialCoconut.Com. With that, have a great day ahead. Stay tuned next week and remember: personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.

I do have three questions that I have for you. What is one core life principle that you hold closely to? 

Ting Feng: For me, I believe in… that one should always be, trying to add value to whatever thing you’re working on or whatever relationships you have. I have this philosophy of… what you get out of something, be it a relationship or project or work, it’s almost always proportional to what you put into it. I believe in that. 

Be it in my personal life, my friendships or my work, I always try to be of value add. You always try to be positive, putting in effort, giving advice and making the endeavour of the relationship better. That’s one of my principles. 

Andrew: Always be adding value. 

Ting Feng: That’s right, and then you couple that with having a bias for action. It means to do something. Do something positive, ideally do something and that something is positive. 

Andrew: Yeah and fine tune a bit. Don’t just add value, but do something. 

Ting Feng: Yeah, do something. Some people think about adding value, but if you don’t do, it’s just all in your head. Always take that first step. Always think of doing something positive and take that first step, be it for yourself, for your relationships, for your investment, for your work. So I think that’s one of my principles.

Andrew: We’re a finance podcast so what is one piece of personal finance advice that you feel needs to be shared more often? 

Ting Feng: One advice I have is don’t just save money, but invest because when you save money, it’s cash. Cash gets eroded by inflation but when you invest then you let that money compound for you. But a lot of people have a barrier towards investing… it’s scary. It’s complex. 

I have another philosophy is just to keep things simple and just take small steps. Small steps, keep it simple, invest in the 60:40 equity bond portfolio or whatever. But just take that first step and ideally automate it every month. Invest $50, $100, whatever amount it is. It is good. Do that first investment and get it automated. That’s how as individuals and young working adults, you can build capital base for yourself. You let capital work for you on top of your own human capital.

Don’t think too much. Sometimes people overthink their investment decisions even though they’re just getting started and the overthinking becomes a barrier. So invest, get started. Do something small.

Andrew: Last question I have for you today: which part of the life are you giving additional focus to right now? 

Ting Feng: I have a family, I’m married with two young kids. I try to make sure that I put a lot of my energy and my time into building that relationship with my wife and my kids despite work and GetGo taking up a lot of my time. Like I said, what you put into something is going to get out of it.

If you want to have a close relationship with your loved ones, you have to put in the effort. Nothing replaces that effort and the time. I try and do that while also doing the same thing at work as well. At work, my philosophy is people are everything, right? Any business, any product is driven by the people that make it happen.

I try to invest in the relationships at work, developing and grooming my teammates, and helping them achieve more as well. These are the areas that I’m really focusing a lot of energy on. 

Andrew: [Indiscernible]… everything like value add, but in this case, your family or people working together with… 

Ting Feng: That’s how I’m value adding now. 

Andrew: Yep. Thats all I have for you today. Thank you. Thanks very much. 

Ting Feng: Thank you for having me on the podcast.

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