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Why It Matters

Motorbike COE prices worrying

They may account for just 15 per cent of the island's vehicle population, but motorcycles are a vital part of Singapore's transport landscape.

Besides being an affordable private commuting option, they are also a means of livelihood, such as for riders in the delivery business. So there was cause for concern when certificate of entitlement (COE) premiums in the motorbike category hit a record high of $6,889 in the first tender of the year.

That is easily double the cost of a motorbike under 200cc. These small motorbikes, which account for about 70 per cent of the two-wheeler population here, cost $3,000 to $4,000.

COE prices for motorbikes have more than doubled since 2011, when prices ranged from $1,500 to $2,600. Experts say COE premiums for motorbikes can only go north, and may even break the five-figure ceiling - once the exclusive domain of cars.

They attribute their outlook to a declining supply of motorcycle COEs available to bidders. Under the current system, 10 per cent of all deregistrations from each COE category go into the Open category.

But this category can be used for any vehicle type and is typically used to buy big cars. At the tender that closed last Wednesday, the COE price in the Open group was $55,089. Essentially, this means scrapped motorcycles are contributing to the car population.

As higher COE prices raise the costs of motorbike ownership, buyers with deeper pockets will have the edge. This could result in smaller, cheaper motorcycles seeing a drop in popularity, while bigger and more powerful ones grow in numbers.

In 2014, there were 103,249 bikes in the 101cc to 200cc group, down from 105,735 in 2013.

As of last August, this number had slid to 100,890. Motorbikes in this group are what first-time owners on a budget go for, and are used by delivery riders.

Between 2013 and 2014, the number of motorbikes between 301cc and 400cc rose 4.3 per cent to 18,773. There were 19,257 last August. Similarly, the motorcycle population in the 501cc to 1,000cc group rose from 10,246 in 2013 to 11,699 last August.

The motorbike could one day follow the car, and be priced out of the reach of the masses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Motorbike COE prices worrying'. Print Edition | Subscribe