My Thoughts After My First 6 Months of Driving

A Toyota Corolla Altis and a Mazda 3 at Aviation Park Road for a road trip.
Two mainstream sedans on a road trip.

Hi guys, Howard here. Long time no see. By the time this writeup is published here, it would’ve been 6 months since I earned my driving license.

The Beginning — My First Ever Driving Stint

Just as I got my photocard license, I started renting my first vehicle to drive on the public roads for the weekend, because why not? Finding an agency to rent a car is difficult as most of them don’t accept young and new drivers. I only managed to find one decently reputable rental agency that accepts new drivers through the word of mouth from a friend who got his license weeks before me.

The ‘no deposit’ headline drew my attention more into renting from that particular agency, but multiple hurdles only started to appear during the booking process. Due to my ongoing internship back then, I could only opt for the weekend package, which would be more expensive than weekday rates. As the agency’s website stated that I must select two days on their online booking calendar, I foolishly clicked on a Friday and its following Monday, thinking that I’ll use the car until end of Monday. I then realised that if I need to rent a car for the weekend only, I should only need to click on Friday and proceed with the booking. As a result, I unknowingly paid for one extra day, but I could return the car on a Tuesday instead. Also, it required me to create an account. Like, really? As if creating an account just to complete an online booking would make me want to rent from them more…

A Kia Cerato K3 parked under a HDB block.
The Kia Cerato K3 strikes a balance between rental cost, size, and modernity.

After analysing between a few cars in that agency’s selection, I’ve chosen the Kia Cerato K3 for the balance of rental cost, size, and modernity. The car was presented not without any flaws; the most glaring one being the lock for the front passenger door couldn’t latch, while the other minor complaints were that the foldable key didn’t latch properly due to wear and tear, and the signal stalk was on the left!

Being behind the wheel as a new driver on the public roads for the first time was all fun and games until I hit my first roadblock — parking. Firstly, because I was so reliant on markings on my learner car and the surroundings of the learning circuit, I had slight difficulties straightening my rental car into the parking lot due to its bigger size and shape. Secondly and financially, I had to deal with the parking fees of different places. Since I only rented the car over a few days, getting season parking wasn’t worth it. At one point of time, because I kept my rental car in my HDB carpark unused from a Sunday evening to a Monday evening, the parking fees shot up to an intimidating $17! Because I had insufficient balance in my cashcard, I had to ask the vehicles behind to reverse so that I could top up my cashcard value before leaving again. What an embarrassment…

I’ve checked a few boxes on my first rental day too. Driving along a busy Chinatown in the rain, check. Driving on an expressway, check. And driving into a McDonald’s drive-thru, check.

On the second day of rental, the car was mostly for my personal use. I brought the car out for the whole day on, well, a cross-island road trip. With a car, it’d be easier to travel to faraway places just to shoot photos of public transport, right? Well, that was back when I still had time and means to venture out to document public transport… That was also my first driving a few friends in my rental car after we met up for transport spotting.

The third day of rental was when I became fatigued from driving. I realised that I’ve driven too much on consecutive days as I started to feel giddy from my own driving. What could’ve been me driving my family to another drive-thru after driving them to Ikea was scrapped.

A receipt showing the price of petrol I pumped. It costed $78.99.
Back when the fuel prices haven’t hit all-time high.

The fourth day of rental was when my second driving roadblock hit me — the fuel. I collected the rental car with 3-quarter fuel tank so I must return the car with at least the same amount of petrol left. As I was a total klutz in the refuelling process, I asked the pump attendant to pump the cheapest fuel grade to the brim. The price was a shocking $88 but was thankfully waived slightly to $79 due to card discounts. That was also before the fuel prices skyrocket to an all-time high. But damn, I still felt the pain in my wallet.

I was supposed to return the car the next day, and coincidentally I was assigned to report to the office on that day so I might as well drive the car there. I’ve hit my third driving roadblock — gantries that wouldn’t read my car’s IU (In-vehicle Unit) as it was deemed too far to read. Embarrassment from holding up the exit queue aside, I so happened to drive along the iconic ’99 turns’ on the way to return the car to the agency, which I guess was a consolation. Returning the car was surprisingly easy; no documents needed to sign off. Thankfully, I’ve returned it in good condition and have never been in an accident with that car, so I needn’t pay for the penalties.

The Rise — Moving Forward from My First Rental

From my first rental itself, I’ve learnt of the pain of spending lots of money on parking and fuel, which had already overshadowed the thrill I had from driving on my first rental. Legend has it that if I drive more while on probation, I’ll improve my driving skills. Otherwise, what’s the point of a driving license if I won’t touch the wheel while on probation? So I began to ponder if it’s possible to drive without spending too much. I did my research and my findings didn’t come in vain; it is possible to drive without spending astronomical fees through the means of carsharing, though options are limited for new drivers. Even with these options, new drivers will need to pay a higher deposit as compared to experienced drivers. Now, I could finally drive for as short as hours long!

A Nissan NV200 van laying over at a rural road.
I even drove a van through carsharing!

With a wider selection of vehicles through the convenience of carsharing, I could get to try out even more vehicle models to see which one I like the best. That was exactly what I did after my internship. I’ve even changed my driving style because of the fuel policy and driving vehicles with questionable fuel economy. I’ve even joined carsharing communities and practised useful life hacks shared by fellow members to drive smarter; like using the early grace period collection time, pumping fuel at fixed amounts and of course, thorough planning.

The Fall — Waking Up My Idea

Because of its convenience, I became obsessed with driving from this new form of car rental. And before I knew it, I had already spent over $1000 of my hard-earned savings in total just for using its services, the fuel, and the minor dings and nicks from my usage. Even my family also had to call me out for using its services like free flow because I would sometimes drive for absolutely no reason.

I only started to feel the pinch when I saw the first digit of my savings balance drop by one. Looking back at my driving log, I realised I’ve driven the most on my third month in probation; twice the number of times I drove on the first and second months combined. So I pledged myself to cut down on car rentals and to drive only when there’s a purpose, starting from the next month (P.S. getting Covid actually did help to cut down on the number of times I drove for that month though). I even took up a job to earn back my spendings but that didn’t really help much.

Here came the real wake up call. I ended my fifth probation month with a bang (yes, I’m not kidding). Although no one was injured, both cars had minor damages. I had to thank my complacency and overzealousness to allow this accident to happen and take close to another $1.5k away from my wallet. I even had to cancel my work just to complete an accident report and pay for the damages at the agency’s office. Because it also adds up to the costs of driving, it made me want to cut down on car rentals even more.

TL; DR

Long story short, driving is expensive. The costs of driving that were previously hidden will become apparent once you start driving. Here’s the non-exhaustive list of costs of driving:

  • Vehicle usage (ownership/leasing/rental)
  • ERP (Electronic Road Pricing)
  • Parking (hourly/season)
  • COE (Certificate of Entitlement, for ownership only)
  • Road tax (ownership/leasing)
  • Servicing/maintenance
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Mileage (some rental only)
  • Fuel
  • Insurance excess (accidents only, touch wood)

Moving On…

Singapore is no place for cars loaded with huge ass engines for the average local driver. I mean, there are many traffic lights everywhere and even the expressway has a maximum legal speed limit of 90 km/h. Previously, I’d desire to drive something powerful to spice up my ride, but that’ll consume even more fuel. After driving a wide variety of vehicles, I’d rather stick to something with better fuel economy. Well, you know, fuel prices have rose to an all-time high and it’ll only continue rising.

To be fair though, driving many vehicles for the experience can be fun. But what’s not so fun is me spending so much money just for the short-term thrill. After my first 6 months of driving, I think I’ll drive less excessively. Howard out!

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