5 best cars for first-time car buyers (must be cheap, reliable and common)

honda jazz

Disclaimer : This is purely my own personal opinion. So if you disagree, do leave a comment so I know what you’re thinking

If you are looking to buy your first car, my suggestion would be to go for a car that is cheap, reliable, common, and ideally has 2 years of COE left.

I will explain to you why buying a brand new car is not a good choice, and what kind of used cars you should get instead for a first-timer.

I’ll give some examples of cars I think are perfect for beginners later on below.

1. Get something CHEAP

I know that ‘cheap’ is subjective because we all have different incomes/perceptions, commitments bla bla bla. I get it.

So I’ll just share with you what I think is cheap for a first-time buyer :

  • Something that you can pay outright for (meaning full cash, no loan.. just like a baller) OR
  • Something that you can afford the monthly payments on comfortably. I am not a financial advisor so I will not go super into detail on this, but for example :

If my take-home salary is $4,000, and my monthly commitments (bills, etc.) are $1,500 – then I have $2,500 left.

A car that costs me $800 a month including road tax, parking, fuel, insurance, maintenance is what I would say is comfortable because it’s only 20% of my take-home pay ($800/$4000).

Spending 20% of my take-home pay on a car is comfortable for me, but it may not be for you. So please take this with a pinch of salt!

Note – a car that costs just $800 all-in monthly is hard to find unless you don’t drive much, and because it costs $800 a month, you probably paid cash for it or you put down a big downpayment that lowers your monthly installment to just a few hundred $$ per month.

Anyway, why you want a cheap car is because you are new to car ownership. You may not know exactly what you’re doing.

Put into context – if you are new to riding a bicycle, would you get a cheap $80 bike to practice on – or would you get a shiny brand new $10,000 state-of-the-art bicycle with 10 gears and aerospace-grade aluminum frame to practice?

Now that I’ve made my point (hopefully) – get a cheap car, really. As a new owner or driver, you will tend to make mistakes, since you’re just getting a feel of car ownership.

A small scratch, or dent? You won’t panic – because it’s a cheap car. Plus, your wallet will thank you for it.

And if it’s a cheap car, you can use the money you save to modify the car to suit your taste. Rims, spoilers, bodykits etc.


2. Get something RELIABLE

I don’t think I have to explain this to you since it’s quite obvious, but I will since I’m such a nice person.

The whole point of owning a car is to save time. Do you want to spend the time you saved at the workshop?

Definitely not.

Plus, if you own an unreliable car, you will have to fork out for repairs, which defeats the whole purpose of buying a cheap car in the first place. Unless of course, you bought a cheap car already prepared to spend money fixing it – which is what some experienced people do. But that’s beyond the scope of this post.


3. Get something COMMON

The more common the car, the better.


You can then easily compare the prices of the different cars on sites like sgCarMart or Carousell, to get a rough idea of the pricing. The more of that car model available for sale, the better so you have more to refer to, and also more choices means you can be more choosy and bargain harder 😆

Also, a common car means that spare parts will be easier to find, rather than having to wait for a part to be shipped from Europe, leaving your car stranded at the workshop for weeks (trust me, it’s not fun at all)

Last but not least – common cars means there are bound to be owner groups on Facebook you can join to ask questions if you ever encounter any issues.

If you’re not keen on joining such groups (for whatever reason, I’m not judging) – then you can always google your issue and be presented with tons of search results pointing to forums/articles you can get advice from.


4. Get something with 1 – 2 years of COE left if possible

The reason why you wanna do this is that you just want a taste of car ownership. 1 to 2 years seems to be a sweet spot, not too short and not too long. Just like NS.

After the 2 years is up, you can :

1. Easily scrap the car and get back your PARF rebate OR

2. Renew the COE (if you really like the car)

Assuming you went with the first option (think of it as an ORD gift from LTA), you can then use your PARF rebate as a downpayment for your next car, or keep the money.

You can read up on how to check your PARF rebate here.

Now, you may be wondering – why I am not recommending COE cars.

You CAN go for a COE car, but personally I would try to get a PARF car if possible, because :

  1. COE cars may not be as reliable as PARF cars (PARF cars are cars under 10 years old), since COE cars are older, they may be less reliable due to wear and tear
  2. It may be harder to get a loan for a COE car since not all banks finance them (and the interest rate for COE cars tend to be higher as well)
  3. COE cars have higher road tax (since road tax rate increases from 10th year onwards)

BUT if you are on a tight budget, COE cars can be a great choice.

Plus with COE cars, you can get some really nice cars that were too expensive when brand new (e.g BMW 3 series, 5 series, Merc C, E-Class, Audi A4/A5).

I know, I know. The cars I mentioned above aren’t exactly cheap or reliable.. but my inner petrolhead just had to point it out.

OK – so back to my point, I hope I’m able to convince you that a CHEAP, RELIABLE, and COMMON car with 2 years COE left is what you should look for if you’re a first-time buyer.

Now, let’s go on to the fun part – the 5 cars that I think fit these criteria :


1.Toyota Yaris

Toyota is one of the most reliable brands in the world – and the Yaris is a testament to that. I was unable to find a model with 2 years COE left, unfortunately.

The only ones available are COE renewed ones, and the cheapest is one with 1 year of COE left, selling at $7,200. Although this car is not super common, it’s still a very reliable car that should be pretty fuss-free till it’s end of COE.


2. Toyota Vios

If the Yaris is too small for you, then you can consider the Vios. A small, spacious, no-nonsense car that can get you to point A, B, or C without fuss.

A Vios with 1 year of COE left costs about $17.5k, and I was unable to find one with 2 years of COE left.

But based on the depreciation of $10,470 (a bit high to be honest) for the 2011 model – the car should sell for about $28k – $29k for a 2012 registered one.


3. Toyota Altis

These are more common on Singapore roads probably due to the heavy marketing Toyota does for it, and the fact that it is the world’s best selling sedan.

Unfortunately, 2012 models with 2 years COE left are quite pricey because the COE at the time was really high.

I would go for a 2015/2016 model that has a lower depre of $7k + to $8k per year, plus a 2015/2016 Altis is the 11th gen E170/E180 model (like the above) which looks better than the ones up till 2013.


4. Honda Fit/Jazz

If a Yaris/Vios is too boring for you, and you like small cars – then the Honda Fit/Jazz is for you. It’s similar to the Toyotas in terms of reliability, but it looks a bit better (in my opinion).

Hondas are also typically more sporty as compared to Toyotas so that’s an advantage.

Honda Jazz GE 2012 Mugen style carbon hood. Made in Taiwan. Perfect fitment. Call us now for further information.😊😊

Posted by Jun Car Accessories S/B on Saturday, December 9, 2017


5. Honda Civic

In this entire list, this is my personal number 1 choice – simply because it drives well, is cheap, looks good, and can be customized to look like a Type-R 😂

I am referring to the 8th gen Civic like the one in the photo above. The 9th gen civic has a look only a mother could love and the 10th gen one is good looking but still too expensive since it’s only been a few years since it was released.

This car has 2 extremes – it can either look very plain and boring or look like an absolute boy racer’s wet dream.

I won’t babble too much – let these pics do the talking :

The sources mentioned that these are regular Civics, not the Type-R.

Back to topic – of course, there are other options like cheap SUVs, MPVs for those with bigger families but I think this serves as a good starting point for those who are just starting out in their car ownership journey.

Let me know what you think!

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