MAS eases car loan rules: Car buyers fear COE prices will be driven up

Potential car buyers at the Audi showroom at Alexandra Road.
Potential car buyers at the Audi showroom at Alexandra Road. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Despite easing of loan curbs, they remain cautious amid concern over how move will affect premiums

Though the Monetary Authority of Singapore has eased restrictions on motor vehicle loans, car buyers are cautious and concerned about how the move will affect certificate of entitlement (COE) prices.

Interior designer Daphne Gan believes it could lead to more people bidding for COEs and driving premiums up. "I did my calculations and, even though the cost of entry to the car market is cheaper, I won't be paying less in the long run," said the 33-year-old, who drives a nine- year-old Honda Accord.

Mr Shahjehan Ismail Kutty, a 48-year-old finance manager, whose COE on his Kia Rio expires in August, said: "I would still have to fork out quite a bit as long as the COE remains high."

 

Graphic designer Farhan Hassan, however, said the easing of restrictions has made the prospect of buying a car more attractive.

"The new loan restrictions put the car we want a little within reach," said the 33-year-old, who hopes to buy a Honda Vezel after he gets married next March.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said the move will influence more people to buy cars, including those who were previously on the fence about entering the market.

However, he added that the authorities were sending "mixed signals" as making it easier for people to buy cars was not in line with the push towards a car-lite society.

Deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport Ang Hin Kee said encouraging a car-lite society is an ongoing process and will not happen overnight.

He added that lifting the previous restrictions will make it easier for the average buyer to compete for COEs against companies such as Uber-owned Lion City Rental, which has secured about 1,700 car COEs in the last two months.

"Lifting the restrictions makes it easier for those who are self-employed and others who need their own vehicles," said Mr Ang, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

GPC for Transport chairman and MP for Potong Pasir Sitoh Yih Pin noted that the restrictions are still not at their pre-2013 levels, when the maximum loan was 80 per cent of a car's price and the loan tenure was 10 years. "Whether this will have a significant impact on demand for cars and, consequently, COE prices remains to be seen."

Mr Ang Wei Neng, who is also a member of the GPC for Transport, said there are considerations beyond just financing a car purchase and that prospective buyers should do their sums.

The MP for Jurong GRC said: "I would caution people to be prudent before deciding to buy a car. "

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Car buyers fear COE prices will be driven up'. Print Edition | Subscribe