Imagine you’re buying a 1:18 scale model of a car. The process is uncannily similar to that of buying the same car scaled up to full-size for real roads, along with a much bigger price tag, a working engine, hardworking human occupants and all.
Firstly, prepare a shortlist of scale model cars on your radar, based on your budget. If you can only spend a maximum of $100 on that new collectible for your display cabinet, there’s no need to look at the more expensive models.
The same principle applies if you budget $100k for a 1:1 scale car (with 30-40 percent in cash for the downpayment).
Secondly, select a hobby shop or department store which is reputable, well-stocked with the latest products and staffed by knowledgeable folks.
When buying an actual car, pick an established retailer with the same attributes. If it’s a household name which has been in business for decades, with countless customers over the years, even better (and even safer for the car buyer).
Thirdly, do your homework before pounding the pavement in search of your next toy – big or small.
Read the relevant reviews and comparison tests (online/digital and offline/print), troll Internet forums for local “user reports” (perhaps with a pinch of salt, because the users in question could be biased), and talk to friends and relatives who own (or used to own) the same makes/models as the ones you’re considering.
You should also brush up on essential vehicle technology and today’s in-car infotainment systems, so you’ll know exactly what the salesman is saying/selling. Despite the bright ceiling lights and shiny sheet metal in the showroom, a blur sotong could still be in the dark.
And do bone up on the two most important acronyms for new car buyers in the coming months – CEVS and VES. The Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) will be replaced by the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) on 1 January 2018.
In a nutshell, far fewer passenger car models in Singapore will be eligible for tax rebates which reduce their prices, while numerous models (not replaced by cleaner-running alternatives which are probably petrol-powered) will be penalised with VES surcharges which add $10,000 or $20,000 to the base cost of the car.
It all boils down to the same golden question: How much is the car? In this case, inclusive of COE, VES (rebate or surcharge), GST and whatnot.
After all, the affordability of a big ticket item shouldn’t be mired in the nitty-gritty of taxes, dollars and sense.
At the end of the day, especially during the COE bidding week, be sensible when shopping for a car. You’re not getting a 1:18 scale model.
Sign on the dotted line only after you have ticked all the boxes that matter the most to you, such as value for money (bang for the buck if you’re a motoring enthusiast), equipment (excitement if you’re a petrolhead), space (pace if you like to drive fast), versatility (vitality if you love energetic performance on the road) and fuel efficiency.
Brand loyalty is another factor to consider. Repeat customers are good for any business, but they ought to be good to themselves, too, by getting the best deal from the dealership. Requests for a higher trade-in value, complimentary accessories, petrol vouchers and more/better freebies are reasonable.
Singapore’s foremost motoring journalist gives 13 tips for car buyers.