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HomesingaporeFall in COE prices: Car showrooms busier, but some customers take wait-and-see...

Fall in COE prices: Car showrooms busier, but some customers take wait-and-see approach

SINGAPORE — At the Hyundai car showroom at Leng Kee Road on Sunday (Nov 12) afternoon, several families — some with kids in tow — were checking out each car on display and speaking to sales staff. 

MIXED IMPACT FOR USED CARS

Meanwhile, Mr Raymond Tang, managing director of Yong Lee Seng Motor which deals in pre-owned and new cars, estimated that at best, there were up to 10 to 15 per cent more enquiries from customers who were curious about how much the drop in COE premium have translated to lower prices for new cars. 

However, he did not observe much change in interest for used cars and he expects that would remain the case going forward either.

He said this is because there is a used car practically for all budget levels, regardless of how first-hand car prices fluctuate.

“If you can afford it, you can buy a car with nine, eight or seven years left on (its) COE. But if those are too expensive, these buyers can then look at those with six, five, four years left and so on,” he said.

Meanwhile, other dealers said that certain used cars would be more affected than others when COE premiums for new cars drop.

Mr Amos Wong, general manager of Autolink Holdings which deals with used cars, said that cars registered in 2022 and 2023 will be “greatly affected”.

This is because given their younger age, these cars will still be sold at relatively high prices in the secondhand market, especially as many were registered with high COE prices.

In some cases, it might cost almost the same or even cheaper to buy a brand new car given the latest COE dip, he said.

Agreeing, Mr Neo Tiam Ting, president of the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association added: “If the COE comes down normally — not a huge decrease — it doesn’t affect the used market.

“But this time round, with a decline of S$40,000 (for Category B), for sure the used car prices have to be adjusted, or the buyers cannot accept. Especially for newer, one to two year-old vehicles,” he said.

Associate Professor Raymond Ong, a transport industry observer from the National University of Singapore, said that buyers would also look at the long-term costs to own a vehicle when deciding between buying a new or used car, beyond comparing their price tags.

WHAT CUSTOMERS SAY

Mr Raymond Ng, 50, who works in the service industry, currently drives an Audi Q5 — a Category B car with over seven years left in its COE.

He told TODAY outside the Hyundai showroom at Leng Kee Road that he was prompted to browse for cars this week given the significant drop in Category B premiums, though he said he was “not in a rush” to buy one anytime soon. 

Meanwhile, Mr Mohammed, 50, said he has been looking around for a Category A car in the market for some time to replace his existing car, which is about eight years old.

“But I’m very surprised to see that the prices of new cars are still very high, beyond our expectations,” said the aerospace industry professional who declined to give his full name.

“The cheapest here is about S$180,000,” he said when speaking to TODAY at the Hyundai showroom, adding that it was “too expensive”.

Similarly, Mr Samuel Chan, 46, said that given his Category B car has two years left in its COE validity, “it is about time” to start thinking about a replacement.

He said there had been a good opportunity to do so in 2021 given the relatively low COE prices then, but he held back due to economic uncertainties.

While Category B premiums registered the biggest drop in the latest bidding, he maintained that he was still “looking at the opportunity to get a good deal” and not rushing into a purchase.

So far, he has visited three showrooms and might still browse around “a bit more”.

“It’s no joke. It’s a huge investment, like half a HDB (flat),” said Mr Chan, who works in the aviation sector. 

HOW WILL COE PRICES MOVE?

While industry players have described this week’s decline in COE prices as “a major drop” and “unexpected”, they have mixed views on where premiums could head going forward.

“With this unprecedented drop and people rushing in to buy cars, we don’t expect to see COE drop in the coming weeks especially with the increase in demand across the board,” said Ms Lee of Polestar.

Meanwhile, Assoc Prof Ong noted that the drop in COE prices might have been enough to entice certain buyers.

“Now the question is, we do not know how many of these buyers are. And are they large enough (in number) to actually cause an increase in COE prices (going forward)?” he added.

Associate Professor Walter Theseira from the Singapore University of Social Sciences said that the “fairly few” COE quota available subjects the market to potential large swings in prices, adding that he was “fairly sure” premiums would bounce back for a while.

However, the transport economist noted that the market is reaching the end of the period of low COE quotas, with the Government indicating that the quota will increase significantly from the second half of 2024.

“So people should be a lot more cautious about buying now in the hopes of avoiding a price increase in the future,” said Assoc Prof Theseira.

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