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"Should owning a car really be only for the privileged few?"

After time away in Singapore, editor Graham Hope puts our relatively high driving costs in the UK into perspective...

Our feature on motoring costs across the world sparked a lot of debate, much of it focusing on the relatively high price we pay here in the UK. But I’ve recently returned from a country where the sums involved in buying a new car are truly mind-boggling. Step forward Singapore.

A column of this length can’t explain the complex process in full, but at the heart of it all is the necessity for every potential new owner to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement – which lasts for 10 years – to buy a car. The number of COEs issued is restricted, and bids are invited twice a month. This year every round of bidding has been oversubscribed.

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• Car running costs: how to save on insurance, fuel and servicing

The result of this is that the price can be extremely high – currently a COE for a Category B car (over 130bhp) will set you back around £32,000. It’s been much more than that, though – in January 2013 it hit 96,000 Singapore dollars (£53,000 in today’s money!).

On top of that, there is the purchase price of the car, plus an array of import taxes and registration fees to make you weep. The net effect is that you can easily shell out around £60,000 for a modest compact family car. Motoring truly is for the privileged few.

The purpose of this is to restrict traffic in one of the world’s most densely populated states. And, of course, it’s highly effective. I saw very little serious congestion out there – certainly nothing to compare with London. What’s more, those unable to afford a car can travel about easily due to an effective, sensibly priced public transport system and widespread availability of cheap taxis.

Pricing people out of cars is something I totally disagree with, but I left Singapore wondering if there were any lessons at all we could learn from its model to help free up our roads. What do you think? Or have you been anywhere with a better system? As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

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