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What type of car should a first-time driver get?

What type of car should a first-time driver get?

So you’ve just gotten your driver’s licence—congratulations! Now it’s time to buy a car. This can be an arduous process, what with all the requirements and fees, especially bidding against other buyers for a Certificate of Entitlement.

Plus, when faced with a range of choices, a first-time driver can feel overwhelmed by the different types of cars.

Don’t let these headaches dampen the thrill of finally getting a licence and being ready to buy a car, though. To make the process easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of factors to consider when buying a car as a first-time driver.

Getting a Sedan vs an SUV

An SUV may look cooler, but as you’re a newbie on the road, consider getting a sedan. The sedan’s smaller size minimises blind spots, making it easier for you to spot obstacles in your path.

A sedan is also easier to manoeuvre when parking or backing up—again, because of its smaller size. So if the parking spaces where you live or the malls you frequent tend to be narrow, you’ll have more luck squeezing into a spot in a sedan.

Keep in mind that sedans have lower ground clearance than SUVs. It’s a good thing, then, that Singapore’s roads are well maintained and our construction crews are efficient at repairs. Some sedans to try:

  • Volvo S60 T2 (A)
  • Mitsubishi Attrage 1.2 (A)
  • Nissan Note 1.2 Lite (A)


When choosing a car, consider how often you will use it and how much distance you’ll typically cover in a week. Are you looking for a car mainly to get to and from work? Take note of the distance between your your home and your office, considering traffic.

On the other hand, your job may require you to drive from one place to another, such as for sales meetings or events. It may even require you to drive to Malaysia occasionally. These trips will affect your choice of car—regular visits to an area with poorly maintained roads, for instance, might mean getting a vehicle with higher ground clearance, typically an SUV.

If you’re getting a car for your family or for weekend road trips, you’ll want more room in the back for passengers and luggage.

Brand new vs. Used

When choosing a car as a first-time driver, you have to decide between getting one that’s new or one that’s used. A brand new car will give you the latest features, such as better gas mileage and advanced tech and safety elements. You’ll also enjoy full warranty from the manufacturer.

Of course, new cars are more expensive—but the dealer will often offer staggered payment plans and financing options. Pre-owned cars are cheaper, but you’ll have to use your negotiation chops to get a good payment scheme. Car insurance may also be cheaper for used cars than for new ones.

Consider the cost of repairs, too. As a new driver, you’re just starting out on the road and may encounter some mishaps due to lack of experience. In fact, for young drivers, the first six months of unsupervised driving are the most dangerous.

Repairs for new cars may be more expensive and may take more time, especially if the dealer has to order parts from outside the country. But it’s not always cheaper to repair an older car. You don’t know its full history, so a minor crash may worsen pre-existing problems. Plus, for many used cars, the warranty may have expired.

If you get comprehensive car insurance, this may not be such a huge problem, as you’ll be covered for repair expenses.

In Singapore, we have reputable online marketplaces for finding used cars, such as Carro and sgCarMart.

Fuel economy and mileage

Fuel economy and mileage

When tempted by a shiny new ride, always remember: fuel economy lasts longer than the cool factor. Oil prices are volatile—and notoriously high in Singapore. As a first-time driver, you’ll incur plenty of new expenses, so it helps to invest in a fuel-efficient car to lower your monthly gas budget.

iMoney estimates that the average Singaporean spends S$222 per month on fuel consumption, assuming that the gross price for a litre of 95-Octane petrol is S$2.00. This is based on annual driving distance of 19,000km a year using a car that consumers seven litres of petrol for every 100km.

Looking at your car’s mileage based on kilometres per litre, you can estimate how far a car will take you on a full tank. (Take some manufacturers’ claims with a grain of salt and do thorough research, though—remember how Hyundai and Kia were fined for overstating some of their cars’ mileage.)

So, how can your choice of car help reduce your fuel consumption? Luckily, you have your pick of fuel-efficient models on the market, including hybrids. Some fuel-efficient cars include:

  • Toyota Prius Hybrid – 27 km/L
  • Honda Accord Hybrid – 20 km/L
  • Kia Picanto – 29.23 km/L

If the hybrid cars on the market don’t excite you, you’ll be pleased to know that Dyson—a brand known for beautiful and practical design—will be building electric vehicles in Singapore in the future.

Automatic vs. Manual

For first-time drivers, automatic cars are the better choice because there is no need for gear shifting and clutch control. You can keep both hands on the wheel, and focus on the objects and people in your immediate surroundings.

For new drivers, manual driving will increase your cognitive load—not to mention stress—as you’ll have to pay attention to so many things at once. Although manual driving offers benefits like better gear control, it’s best to use manual transmission only when you’ve had enough experience on the road.

The simpler design of manual cars also makes maintenance easier and relatively cheaper compared to automatic vehicles.


First Car Budget

Of course, it’s important to know how much you’re willing to spend for your first car, including monthly expenses, insurance cover, and hidden costs. Figure in the cost of interest when choosing a financing scheme, too.

Auto parts

Each car brand has its own specific auto parts. For some brands, these are affordable, but others may carry a higher price tag. Keep in this mind, as every car will eventually need repair.

It also helps to get an insurance plan that covers repairs and ensures you get car parts that are of good quality.

Car insurance types in Singapore

One more thing you should know as a first-time driver is that car insurance is mandatory in Singapore. There are three types of car insurance in the country.

A comprehensive plan is the most complete coverage available. Apart from basic protection, it covers expenses incurred if you crash into a third-party vehicle or into another object or structure. It also covers repairs for damage due to natural disasters and fallen trees, as well as expenses stemming from fire and theft.

Third-Party Fire & Theft cover offers both basic protection and, as the name suggests, covers costs related to theft and damage caused by fire. This insurance, as well as Third Party Only cover, doesn’t cover repairs of your own car or medical expenses you might need after an accident.

Third Party Only cover meets the minimum legal requirement to drive under Singapore law. It only protects the third party’s property against damage that you are responsible for.

Try before you buy

Being a first-time driver can be stressful, but it’s also exciting. Ease your worries by testing a car before you buy it, and by getting car insurance. You can easily compare car insurance prices and benefits with DirectAsia.