Cost Comparison: Regular-Use vs Off-Peak Cars – How Much Can You Save with the Latter?

The Off-Peak Car scheme aims to reduce peak hour traffic while allowing drivers to lower the cost of car ownership in Singapore. Here’s how much you can potentially save.

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With prices of COEs hovering just under six-figures and no signs of further relief in sight, you may be wondering if there’s any way to lower the cost of owning a car in Singapore.

The short answer is: yes, there is, but only if you plan to drive during weekends and public holidays, and after 7pm on weekdays. This is, of course, possible if you register your vehicle as an off-peak car. But in exchange for restricted driving hours, how much can you save on car ownership, and is it worth it?

Related: 3 Easy Ways to Save on Your Car Expenses

What is the Off-Peak Car Scheme?

The off-peak car scheme isn’t exactly new, having been first introduced in 1991 as the Weekend Car Scheme (WCS). This was revamped into the Off-Peak Car (OPC) scheme in 1994, and the Revised Off-Peak Car (ROPC) scheme in 2010.

At present, new vehicles can only be registered – and older vehicles, converted – under ROPC, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this article.

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How Does the ROPC Scheme Work Versus a Regular-Use Car?

The main difference between ROPC and regular-use cars is the hours during which you are allowed to drive, as illustrated in the following table.

ROPCRegular-use cars
Mon to FriNo driving from 7am to 7pmNo restrictions
Weekends and Public HolidaysNo restrictionsNo restrictions
Eve of New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and ChristmasNo restrictionsNo restrictions

So really, you’re simply giving up the ability to drive between 7am and 7pm on weekdays. Note, though, that this restriction also applies on the eve of public holidays, except the five listed ones. For instance, you’re restricted from driving on the eve of Good Friday, but not on Christmas eve.

If you must drive during peak hours, you can do so simply by applying for an e-Day licence, which costs S$20 each and is good for the entire day.

You should ideally get your e-Day licence the day before you plan to drive, but if you forget (or are simply in a hurry), you have until 11.59pm of the next day to purchase your licence.

Failing which, you may make a declaration to the LTA and pay a S$30 fine within a further three days.

Don’t be tempted to skirt the law though. Driving without an e-Day licence is an offence and can result in a fine of up to S$10,000.

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Source: Unsplash

How Much Can I Save With ROPC?

The ROPC can help you to lower your vehicle ownership costs as it provides rebates and tax savings. These figures are universal, and thus relatively straightforward to calculate.

Here’s how much you can save with ROPC.

Rebate offset for COE premium and Additional Registration FeeS$17,000
Road tax rebateUp to S$500 per year (minimum payment of S$70 per year)
Total savings over 10 years S$17,000 + (S$500 x 10) = S$22,000

Registering your vehicle as an off-peak car in Singapore can save you up to S$22,000 over a period of 10 years. This is made up of a one-time rebate of S$17,000 and 10 years of road tax savings of up to S$500 per year.

Note that you will still be subject to a minimum road tax of S$70 per year, so you won’t be able to enjoy the full S$500 rebate if your road tax is under S$570.

Related: The Cost of Car Ownership in Singapore

Will My Motor Insurance Be Lower?

Yes, very likely so. Driving fewer hours means lower risk of getting into an accident, after all, and most insurers are willing to insure your vehicle for a lower rate.

Of course, lower insurance premiums also helps make off-peak cars cheaper compared to regular-use cars.

Related: How to Find the Best Car Insurance Plan

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Source: Unsplash

Is It Worth Getting An Off-Peak Car?

Here’s the thing. If your main motivation is to lower the cost of owning a car, potentially saving S$22,000 (plus however much in lowered insurance premiums, fuel, parking and maintenance costs) over 10 years may not be compelling enough, especially given the driving restrictions.

Also, with COE premiums being as high as they are, you could still be paying a six-figure sum for a car – even after the off-peak rebates – without being able to drive it as often as you please. In some drivers’ opinion, this may not be worth it.

On the other hand, if you really only need to drive on weekends and public holidays, then why not take advantage of the ROPC scheme to enjoy the modest savings it offers?

You can always convert your off-peak to a regular-use car somewhere down the road if you need, but you’ll be required to top-up the rebate granted to you.

Regardless of if you are looking to buy a regular use or an off-peak car, making sure you are adequately protected is important. Check out our round up on the best cheap car insurance in Singapore.

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