A few simple test questions that can help put you on the road to car-owning bliss
SINGAPORE — So far we’ve run you through the basics of car buying: How the fiendish Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system works, everything you need to know about car loans , whether you should buy new or used, and whether you can afford to own a car or not.
It might sound like there’s a lot to get through but don’t worry. Car buying really isn’t as difficult as it sounds – it’s just that when you’re spending on a car in Singapore it’s best to do it carefully so you get the happiest, worry-free experience instead of the opposite.
How? Well, recognised brand names and trusted reputations always help, for a start. But is it possible to suss that out easily? With our list of incisive questions, it is! Bookmark this on your smartphone and whip them out when you’re visiting a showroom.
What’s the difference between guaranteed and non-guaranteed COEs?
Actually this is something of a trick question – but if the car salesman you are talking to answers with the gist of, “Don’t worry lah, we’ll get a COE for you at this price!” then alarm bells should go off in your head.
Better to have everything in black and white – like authorised dealers do. Here are the examples:
A Non-Guaranteed COE package means you pay $X in total for a car and COE together. $X is usually the cheapest, compared to a guaranteed package, but it means exactly that – it’s not guaranteed. You pay a booking fee, but the dealer isn’t constrained as to when the car needs to be delivered (to a maximum of three months after which the booking fee has to be refunded), and you may also need to top-up if COE prices rise.
A Guaranteed COE package, in contrast, means the dealer has to deliver you a COE (usually at an agreed COE price level). There are other modifiers too (top-up, how many bids, etcetera) but a reputable car dealer will be able to put it all down for you in black and white, while also explaining the whole process simply.
If the sales representative isn’t able to answer your queries clearly then you should be wary. Most authorised dealerships, have a reputation and customer base to be answerable to – and that really makes a big, positive difference when it comes to the buying and ownership experience.
The alternative? Well traipse the Internet, and there are horror stories of everything from secret ‘warehousing costs’ to penalties for contract termination even when the consumer wasn’t at fault.
In any case after reading our primer on how the COE system works, you should be able be able to work with a trustworthy car sales rep to find out the best COE package for your needs.
What’s the maximum loan term and amount?
If the answer is not “Five years or 60 months for all vehicles, 60 percent of the price for a vehicle with an OMV of less than $20,000, and 50 percent of the price for a vehicle with an OMV of more than $20,000” then pretend to go to the toilet, then haul ass outta there immediately (if you don’t know what OMV is we tell you here).
Okay, we admit this is another trick question, but hey, if the sales rep can’t answer these first two fundamental questions right, then your spider (or buy-der?) sense should be tingling.
There are semi-demi-pseudo legal ways to get around car loan restrictions, but if anyone says they can offer you say, 80 percent or more on loans, or a longer loan period just keep in mind that there’s always a catch.
If I don’t want X, what would you recommend?
Wrong Answer: “I would strongly recommend the other car in our showroom. It’s twice as large and three times the price…but it’s perfect for you! You have a dog, right?”
Right Answer: “Well if you’re not interested in a hatchback body, we also have five MPVs, three sedans, two SUVs and a luxury section to look at. But what do you want to do with your car?”
A car sales representative is there to well, sell you a car. But the thing that drives them isn’t just sheer profit: Proper car salesmen have knowledge to share, customers to take care of and relationships to keep alive. The way they approach their sales is driven by the place that employs them.
Well if you look at the above answers then you’ll see that both are trying to sell you a product but one obviously has your needs in mind, while the other has your need to part with cash in mind.
What are the warranty terms and what does it cover?
Somewhere in the sales pitch you’ll bring up the point about long-term ownership and the invariable response is that there’s a warranty. At this point you should jump on it like an eagle on a rabbit and ask the above question. The sales engineer should be able to tell you, right away, all the pertinent info.
The point here to note is that not all warranties are created equal. The industry-leading ones are at least five-years long, cover all major mechanical parts and are transferrable. What you should also want to hear is that all warranty work is carried out by an authorised workshop which will offer you full accountability, transparency and better resale value.
What sort of service plans do you have?
A good sales rep would, at this point, whip out a bunch of brochures for you to digest at home. Now let’s make this clear: Service plans save you money, because you can’t get away with not servicing a car. And often, extended service plans come with a car purchase, or as part of a special promo.
What to look out for? Well amongst mainstream, reliable dealers, a year’s free servicing is typically what you can expect for any new car purchase. But keep in mind that like warranties, not all service plans are created equal. An example is unscrupulous dealers that give you multiple year service plans, but don’t state that only labour costs are included – which means you’ll be paying for all the parts and consumables used during each service.
Professional sales reps, on the other hand, will tell you exactly what a service plan entails and how much you’ll have to pay, no hidden costs involved. They know that the more you take care of now, the less hassle you have to deal with later in your car ownership life, and it also helps that they probably work for a reputable dealer that can offer a menu of additional services/plans to fit your needs.
BONUS: What freebies can you give me?
This is our real trick question. It’s Singapore, nobody doesn’t love free stuff. As part of the whole sales engineer thing, sales reps have the leeway to give you free stuff with your car purchase, anything from free solar-protective film to additional service plans.
But more importantly, if you’ve gone to a reputable, authorised dealer for your car purchase, then it’s very likely you already have much less to worry about during your new car ownership experience. Peace of mind, in that sense, is worth far more than anything else when it comes to car buying.
Just make sure you don’t get bees.