Why businessman Paul Lim is drawn to old cars by the numbers

Businessman Paul Lim has turned to second-hand cars because their value depreciates much less than brand-new ones

Mr Paul Lim plans to sell his nine-year-old BMW 523i after driving it for about a year.
Mr Paul Lim plans to sell his nine-year-old BMW 523i after driving it for about a year.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The first thing 49-year-old businessman Paul Lim pays attention to when he buys a car is the numbers.

Not the car's registration plate number, but its depreciation cost.

He rattles off the numbers behind his nearly nine-year-old BMW 523i, which he bought in June.

"The car had one owner, mileage was about 95,000km over about nine years. That's only about 10,000km a year, less than the average of 20,000km that drivers clock yearly," he notes.

"I paid $47,000, I get back about $31,000 in September next year when I scrap the car. That's about $1,000 depreciation a month over 15 months.

"Cheaper than renting a car."


  • • Suit jacket

    • Briefcase

    • Umbrella

He adds with a smile: "And the number plate is not bad, either - there are two 8's." The BMW's registration plate is 8807.

The 523i is his second old BMW 5-series sedan. He bought his current car after scrapping another 10-year-old 523i in June.

He had driven the older BMW for one year, paying $41,000 for it in June last year and getting back $31,000 when the car was scrapped a year later.

He is drawn to old cars because they are relatively more affordable. "In Singapore, you are guaranteed to lose money when you buy a car. The question is how much," he says.

A new BMW 528i costs about $250,000, which means more than $21,000 depreciation each year over 10 years, and a downpayment of $125,000 is required by law.

"I can't afford that kind of money," he adds.

The owner of two businesses - a printing company and a web design firm - is not perturbed by the image of driving an old car.

"It is still a BMW," he says.

When asked whether he is worried about the nine-year-old car breaking down, he whips out an iPad-sized red booklet from his briefcase, saying: "This is the warranty booklet. My car is covered for one year. "

Used car dealer Shen Tat Enterprises which sold him the BMW had arranged for local workshop Optima Werkz to cover major repairs for one year, or a mileage of 25,000km, whichever comes first.

Before the two BMWs, he drove a Toyota Wish for the full 10 years until the car's certificate of entitlement expired.

"Cars in Singapore are so expensive. The only way to reduce ownership costs is to either look for old cars or buy a new car and drive it for 10 years," the father of two explains.

His daily commute involves ferrying his daughters, aged 15 and 10, to their schools in Kampong Bahru and his wife to work in Jurong from their Bukit Purmei flat, before heading to his offices in Anson Road or MacPherson.

"The BMW is very comfortable for daily driving, although there are some imperfections," he says.

"The left mirror creaks when it folds and unfolds, and there is some rattling in the cabin. But I can live with them. This is after all nearly a nine-year-old car."

He keeps an umbrella and a suit jacket in a garment-carrier in the boot.

"The suit is for meeting clients," he says.

Next year, he will look for another used BMW to replace the 523i.

"Maybe an X-something, such as X3 or X5, since I have not owned any SUV," he says. "But only if the numbers add up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Me And My Car Drawn to old cars by the numbers'. Print Edition | Subscribe