Car Subscription vs Car Ownership: Which Is More Affordable?

Car subscriptions are a fairly recent phenomenon in Singapore, with low upfront fees and flexible rental periods. However is it really cheaper to subscribe to a car than outright own? Let’s find out.

ValueChampion Editorial Team

by ValueChampion Editorial Team on Mar 15, 2024

A man driving deciding between car ownership or a subscription

Car subscriptions have recently entered the automobile industry in Singapore, allowing people to drive their favourite cars without the high upfront costs that come with actually owning one.

With its term flexibility and all-inclusive monthly fee, the car subscription model is rivalling traditional car ownership.

However, are car subscriptions really cheaper than owning an automobile? Read on to discover the costs of car subscriptions compared to car ownership in order to determine which one gives you more bang for your buck, and ultimately allows you to save more money.

Related: The Cost of Car Ownership in Singapore 2024

Car Subscriptions: Flexible Terms With Hidden Costs

Car subscription companies are the first of their kind in Singapore. Unlike traditional methods of leasing a car, car subscriptions allow drivers in Singapore to flexibly rent a car on a monthly basis, with no fixed term contract that binds the buyer to their rented vehicle for a year or more.

These car subscription costs take the form of a monthly fee that includes all car ownership expenses, including:

  1. Car insurance
  2. Road tax
  3. Warranty
  4. 24-hour assistance maintenance costs

However, because this business model is still relatively new, companies are trying out different pricing strategies to determine which one works best. Take Carro and Carzuno for example. Both services offer a Mazda 3 for rental in their fleet, and the listed monthly fee from them does cover all the expenses mentioned above.

With that being said, attracting and retaining subscribers is crucial to driving revenue. Therefore, they’ll either strongly recommend you to subscribe to a minimum number of months by dangling a discount, or have fewer or no cars available at shorter subscription periods. Here’s how Carro and Carzuno stack up against each other.

Car Subscription ServiceCarroCarzuno
Car ModelMazda3 Sedan (Mild Hybrid)Mazda3 Sedan (Mild Hybrid)
Monthly Subscription Fee~S$2,858 (Assuming 1,000km monthly mileage)S$1,899 (With S$5,000 down payment)

S$2,399 (No down payment made)

Minimum Subscription Term6 MonthsNone, but the 12-month term is strongly recommended due to the S$500 monthly discount
Car Ownership Expenses IncludedCar insurance and car maintenance (Charged at S$0.17/km)

Road tax (fixed)

Car insurance, car maintenance, road tax

To complicate matters further, the price you see on these services’ platforms might end up differing from the final amount quoted to you.

That’s because you’ll need to speak with the company’s staff members to verify your supporting documents and pin down your payment details. As of March 2024, the process is not fully automated yet.

This creates the potential for the company to quote you a monthly fee that’s different from the price listed on their website. Although the chances of this are extremely low if the firm is reputable and just, having human intervention in the booking process means that you just can’t eliminate the chance of that happening.

Therefore, subscribing to a Mazda3 sedan can cost you anywhere from approximately S$1,899 to S$2,858 per month, assuming you do end up getting quoted the stated monthly fee on the firm’s website. Additionally, this does not include the cost of fuelling the car and other miscellaneous charges.

Car Ownership: High Upfront Costs With A Fixed Expiration Date

It’s well-known that car ownership in Singapore is expensive, due to the need to ensure that roads here aren’t clogged up. The average cost of a car can easily end up being a six-digit sum, which includes its Certificate of Entitlement (COE). It’s equally well-known that this certificate can cost as much as an automobile itself. Such is the literal price of car ownership in the Lion City.

In addition to the COE, you’ll also be responsible for your vehicle’s registration fees, road tax, car insurance, and a down payment as upfront costs.

If you’re wondering, here’s what the approximate total cost of owning a Mazda3 sedan is across five years:

Car ModelMazda3 Sedan (Mild Hybrid)
Current Price (With COE)S$163,888
Car Insurance (Five Years)S$5,000 (Assuming an annual premium of S$1,000
Road Tax (4.5 Years)~S$3,100
Maintenance (Five Years)~S$3,000
Estimated Maximum Car Value After Five Years~S$90,000

All figures listed above are based on Mazda’s official price list for its cars, which includes the IU, number plate, registration fee, six months of road tax, the 9% GST, and any VES rebate or surcharge. The other costs listed are estimates, based on official insurer figures and the Land Transport Authority’s road tax renewal calculator.

With all the figures we have on hand, buying a Mazda3 sedan and selling it after five years means that you would’ve spent approximately S$1,416.47 per month during your time owning it. For the sake of a fair comparison, this figure does not include the cost of petrol as well, and other miscellaneous charges.

Although the headline rate shows that owning a car saves you several hundred to a more than a thousand dollars every month as compared to subscribing to a car, this comparison assumes you’ll subscribe to the same car for five years at one go.

For folks who select a car subscription service or even opt for a longer-term lease, this will hardly be the case. Due to the nature of these services, the driver will only be owning their vehicle for a much shorter period of time than someone who outright buys a car, relatively speaking.

This brings us to our next point.

Are There Any Alternatives to Car Subscription or New Car Ownership?

white car ownership coe
Source: Unsplash

The numbers don’t lie. If you foresee yourself owning a car for years because of professional or personal reasons, consider purchasing a new one instead of applying for a car subscription service.

However, if you’re still on the fence because of the decade-long commitment, you can have your cake and eat it too by purchasing a secondhand car instead of a brand new one. That way, you don’t need to go through the trouble of selling a new car after it’s outlived its usefulness after perhaps five to six years.

This is perfect if you foresee yourself only needing it for a fixed period of time. For example, regularly ferrying your child solely during their kindergarten and early primary school years.

According to online automobile marketplace Sgcarmart, a secondhand Mazda3 sedan with five years left on its COE currently costs between S$72,800 and S$102,000. This is significantly cheaper than buying a new model while having more longevity than a subscription.

Related: Guide to Buying a Used Car in Singapore


A car subscription and new car ownership serve two different purposes. The former is much more affordable if you need a vehicle only for a month or even several months. One situation where a car subscription would come in handy is if your parents need to attend regular physiotherapy sessions for a few months after surgery.

The monthly cost might be higher than owning a new car, but the absolute amount you pay will definitely be lower. Conversely, owning a brand new car works out to be much more cost-effective if you’ll use it fully during its ten-year tenure. For example, you’re a first-time parent and your family needs to travel from point to point quickly and efficiently.

Ridesharing services do exist in Singapore, and multiple ones at that, but these come with their own set of problems. You might not be able to book a ride during peak periods and you’ll need to select specific ride categories that include a child car seat when your little one is still young.

Having your own vehicle removes any potential snags, and you and your family can truly get up and go whenever you need to.

Lastly, don’t forget about secondhand vehicles. These offer a good middle ground between owning a brand new car and registering for a car subscription.

With the sheer variety of options available for potential vehicle owners these days, sit down and plan carefully before deciding on and parting with your hard-earned money for any we’ve listed above. Cars are generally large expenses, just like homes, so you stand to save up to thousands of dollars by simply picking the right choice for your needs.


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Cover image source: Unsplash

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