Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of Cars and Cars

I have a rather luxurious family car below where I rarely drive. Most of the time, I drive my trusty 5 year old Japanese car (1.6 litre) for work or take the train when I go for trainings in town. Occasionally, I do drive my family car for errands when it is available. Often people who just got to know me will associate the car with me living in a bungalow or working in prestigious MNC. It seems that the car is an epitome of success, which is quite inconsistent with my current image. In the end, I have to clarify that I have a humble job, that car isn’t mine and I only stay in a HDB flat.

Honestly, sometimes driving this car leads to more embarrassment than awe as people who just knew me would probably be thinking why the hell you are driving this car when you are “supposed” to be taking a bus.

There are many cons in driving that car other than the above scenarios. I would be afraid while in my possession that it might be scratched, knocked or stolen. I have to be careful while going over the humps and struggle to remember the different functions that are supposed to “aid” in driving.

When should I be using cruise control these days when the expressways are as crowded as the car parks, 24/7?

I forgot to mention that I need to see a doctor to check for my hearing soon. There seems no difference between a Mark Levinson and a pioneer locally assembled car stereo system.

On the contrary, I feel a lot at ease driving my own LKK car. The leather seats seem seasoned to my butt, fitting them comfortably. The single CD player (not even MP3 player) never jams. The $50 full tank can last me for a good 10 days. Not to mention the $750 insurance premium and $769 road tax is easy on my pocket. The servicing cost me $100 every 9 months, nobody ever bothers to scratch my car since day 1 I bought it. I can floor the accelerator without feeling heartpain. Only God washes my car for me (quite often recently!).

Driving is a luxury only when you comfortably afford it. I guess I still can’t get used to spending things I rarely use and impressing people I don’t know.


Musicwhiz said...

Hmm, interesting post about cars. Post more when you can leh, your last post was 3 months ago haha!

What I can say is that a lot of people have pre-conceived notions of how certain people should behave, or what they should possess. It's stereotyping and its very prevalent in our society. For example, a manager "should" own a car or a director "should" live in a condo at least. If they don't then it creates a jarring effect due to the expectation gap in people, and so they shake their heads and wonder.

We should just let them wonder! There's no wrong or right in choosing the way we live and how we want to spend our money. Keeping up an image for image sake is tantamount to herd mentality; and can be seriously detrimental to your wallet.

Some people have expressed surprise that I am a manager, have a steady job, a baby and yet I do not own a car. More than 1 friend or colleague has remarked on this "unusual" phenomenon and asked me if I planned to get one. Some even went further to make "helpful" suggestions to get a second hand one, or OPC as it is cheaper. Although I appreciate the good intentions and helpful advice, I view this all as just a method for them to reconcile their expectations of how I should live my life with their view of me. Somehow people feel uncomfortable when others do not "fit the mould".

I have no problems with this though, and a car is the last thing on my mind with the soaring COE prices. Heck even 2nd hand and OPC can make you poorer by about $40,000 to $50,000.

So in conclusion, be happy with what you have and who you are. Don't let people dictate how you should live your life.


Sgbluechip said...

Yoz MW! Thanks for the speedy comments! Indeed, we somehow share the same thinking though we have never known each other personally. I do get people pointing me at my face saying I am VERY stingy because I do not spend on luxury items. Their tone seems to indicate that its a sin not to buy luxurious goods! What's wrong with a seiko watch when it can serve me as well as a Patek Philippe? In terms of design, functionality and durability, I see no value in spending 50x more!

But then again, a car in Singapore does improve quality of life vastly. As time is a precious commodity, having a car saves time and reduces discomfort of travelling.

The equation to me is spending money to buy time indirectly.

Folks will definitely win my admiration if they can do without a car for their entire lifetime despite being able to afford it comfortably.

Musicwhiz said...

Hi SgBlueChip,

And thanks for the speedy reply haha!

Well relating to what you said about using money to buy time, as in the case of owning a car to cut down on travel time, I have this to say. I often take the bus across Benjamin Shears bridge and along AYE, and the jams there at peak hour mean many cars are literally "stuck" for as long as my bus is. So we all end up "crawling" at the same pace and spending the same amount of time trying to get unstuck from the jams.

The difference however (to me) is that I get to relax and read a book/papers on the bus or listen to music to chill or even get some shut-eye, whereas in the car you have to literally be constantly vigilant for traffic and be ready to "inch along" when the jam moves (trust me I have a license and drove my parents' car before). So in terms of saving time, sometimes the bus may actually save you more time in the sense that it frees you to do other things like reading (gaining knowledge) or resting before you even get home.

Of course, the same probably cannot be said of the MRT which is packed like sardines. But lucky for me the bus I take is relatively empty though sometimes there is no room for sitting down.

I am of the view that a car does help to improve quality of life in Singapore, but it is not an absolute necessity if you are staying near the MRT station and have easy access to buses.

Just my 2-cents. :)

la papillion said...

Hi sbc,

ha ha, spore no need for a car. i think taking cab s is far less stressful :) no insurance, no parking, can sleep while travelling :p

hey, post more lah, u are missing in action :)

JW said...


Indeed, post more often leh :)

My gf's dad bought her a car. I drive my dad's car too. What I can say is, a car does help when we want to bring our folks (parents especially) to the doctor. My gf's mum has fainted before.

With the car, you can rush down to the nearest GP very fast. If you take a cab, you might have to wait, not to mention the walking to the main road to flag down the cab. Heck, an ambulance might be even slower than you!

When folks are old, what's short distance to us now may be a tiring journey for them, especially when they are sick. A car in this case serves as an extra insurance for the speediest way to dash home to tend to our parents, and bring them to the nearest clinic in the shortest amount of time possible. Money can never ever substitute family relationships.

PanzerGrenadier said...

Hi Sgbluechip

Singaporeans are still driven very much on the philosophy of "keeping up with the Lims, Muthus and Ahmads". We have a look good or die trying approach in discerning the meaning of life.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get out of the mindset of judging people based on their ride.

Ultimately a car is just another form of more expensive conveyance. But we tend to read too much into the social signalling that comes with driving a piece of metal that is made EXPENSIVE due to COE and ERP.

I want to get a class 2B licence so that I can learn to ride a bike when I retire to a lower cost ASEAN country :-)

If I learn it soon, may even buy a small bike to help in daily short commute from home to office that will probably take 10 minutes by motorbike but takes 30-35 minutes by bus due to waiting/travelling times.

Vincent said...

Nice sharing about cars.

A car will be good if it is sponsored (or partially subsidized) by the company and is used for work related purpose during the day. Or if there are young kids around, having car is really useful to ferry them around, especially now taking overcrowded public transport around Singapore is quite a chore.

I was also planning to get a car a few months back after needing to travel around Singapore more often for meetings. (I started learning driving recently cos of that). Initially it was pretty tough taking taxis, walking around trying to flag one and lugging heavy laptops around. But I came to realize one of the main benefits of public transport is that it can a good rest time during the transportation, can just take a nap or chat or listen to iPod. I have friends who drive to work find it to be a tiring process (especially if stuck in a jam).

Another reason that put me off from buying a car is the recent frequent occurrence of flooding and falling trees. There is also the inconvenience of maintaining a car. The regularly monthly/annual bills-inspection and so on.

So I find if there is no kids in the family, and work do not require cars to get around, travelling via public transport in Singapore is still the best. (Compare S$100 monthly on public transport vs S$1100 monthly on cars). One year is $12k of savings.