SINGAPORE: Last year, car ownership in Singapore made the headlines all over the globe, driven by record-high fees for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), the permit that allows someone the right to own and operate a vehicle for 10 years.

In October, a Reuters article pointed out that the bid for a COE in Singapore costs as much as four Toyota Camry Hybrids in the United States.

The recent rise in COE prices has again drawn attention to this situation, with a Jan 29 piece from Bloomberg titled “Singapore’s S$260,000 Toyotas fuel angst over widening wealth gap.”

It wrote that a 35-year-old Singaporean communications manager realized that she would have “to shell out the price of an Aston Martin in most countries for a Toyota in the Asian financial hub.”

The woman had gone to a Toyota dealership where the asking price of a hybrid plus COE was S$260,000.

“I mean, it’s not even a luxury car,” she is quoted as saying.

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For comparison’s sake, in the United States, an Aston Martin Vantage starts at around $150,000 (S$201,000). In the United Kingdom, it starts at £114,905 (S$195,801).

Closer to home, it starts around HKS1,007,300 (S$173,000) in Hong Kong and around ¥20,865,500 (S$189,000) in Japan.

While COE prices went down by the end of 2023, they have risen yet again.

“COEs for cars roared into life like a dragon awakened,” wrote motorist.sg about the second bidding for January 2024.

Indeed, COE prices across all five categories went up in the latest bidding, with the highest increase going to Category B. COE for vehicles in this category, which include cars above 1600cc or 130bhp and electric vehicles (EVs) with more than 110kW, went up by S$26,990 and is now at S$112,000.

And this is the price someone pays apart from the vehicle itself.

Read also: Jamus Lim explains why high COE prices are not just a concern for ‘elites’

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The Bloomberg piece points out that high COE prices in Singapore are just one part of the overall high living costs, the biggest challenge Singaporeans face, and the wealth gap, which may yet widen.

It quotes Victor Kwan, a senior lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, saying, “COE prices, like many other things actually, emphasise the wealth gap in Singapore. If it continues to go up, there will be growing frustration.” /TISG

Read related: You can buy 4 Toyotas in the US for the price of a COE in SG