There is no denying that owning a car in Singapore does not come cheap, and obtaining a license comes at a hefty price as well. Besides having to fork out a 5-digit sum for a mere Certificate of Entitlement (COE), owning a car comes with additional costs in the forms of petrol, road tax, parking fees and maintenance. Some also question the need to learn driving due to the rise of ride-hailing services from the likes of Uber and Grab.
However, the convenience that comes with knowing how to drive is priceless. From the ease of sending children to school, to transporting bulky items and rushing to the hospital in the midst of an emergency, a car could come in very handy.
Here are 3 most frequently asked questions when learning to drive in Singapore:
1. When is a good time?
Most people opt to take lessons during university (Note: the minimum age to pick up driving in Singapore is 18) or while serving national service (NS), so that there is more flexibility in scheduling driving lessons. When one enters the workforce, working hours tend to be fixed and relatively long, hence scheduling lessons could be a challenge.
2. Auto or manual?
This decision boils down to one’s personal needs and preferences. For those who prefer a fuss-free and simpler driving experience, auto is a more viable option. Otherwise, for those who desire extra panache and feeling in control of the vehicle, manual is the way to go. Although mastering manual driving requires more practice, it is also more versatile as manual license holders are entitled to drive both types of vehicles. During harsh road conditions where the synergy of appropriate clutch play, astute gear control, and timely driver reaction is required, manual transmission works impeccably well.
3. Driving schools or private driving lessons?
One hotly contested debate when learning to drive lies between choosing to take lessons at a driving school or from a private instructor. There is no clear answer, but I will elucidate each option’s pros and cons so you may make a more informed decision on choosing the one that better suits your learning needs and preferences.
There are 3 driving schools in Singapore— Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC), the Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC), and ComfortDelgro Driving Centre. Some perks of learning through a school include a fuss-free booking process, well-structured courses, and pre-allocated instructors. Schools also tend to have a higher passing rate as compared to private instructors. This could be attributed to the rigorous curriculum it provides, such as the need for compulsory theory lessons and extra practical lessons for driving simulations.
However, learning from driving schools is often more costly, at an approximate of $70 per lesson. This is not inclusive of the cost of compulsory theory lessons and evaluations that must also be paid for. As classes are often packed, students are required to book a few months in advance, or wait for slots given up by fellow learners who are unable to turn up last minute. Additionally, as instructors are on rotational basis, weekly instructors change often, and tend to be unfamiliar with each individual’s progress. Hence learners must frequently get used to the different teaching styles of each instructors.
Conversely, taking private lessons entitles one to a fixed instructor. As there is no fixed structure or syllabus to follow each lesson, lessons can be sped up if one is quick to muster the techniques. Also, each private driving lesson costs between $35 to $45 per hour, which is significantly cheaper than learning at a driving school.
Yet, there are disadvantages of taking private lessons that should not be overlooked. It may be time-consuming to source for a reliable and skilled driving instructor, and learners are required to foot additional fees for circuit use as opposed to a driving school where students may use the circuits at no surcharge. Thus, unless one is willing to pay for circuit use when learning privately, he or she would have fewer circuit practices than a typical driving school learner. There is also a need to pay additional costs to borrow the private instructor’s car for use during a driving test; hence the total cost may come up to a substantial amount.
Ultimately, learning driving in Singapore requires a lot of courage, commitment and discipline. However, once you have obtained your license, you are free to get behind the wheel and go places independently. Don’t forget to drive safely and practise road courtesy!