Ever since we have moved to near town, our driving pattern has changed. We don’t drive during the weekdays and we struggle to find reasons to drive during the weekends. It is that convenient to stay in our new apartment.
Yesterday my wife and I hiked at Mount Faber here in Singapore (and it is more like a hill). I overheard one tourist from China commenting something like, “For such a small country, why is there no traffic jam?”
The answer is pretty straightforward. Because cars in Singapore are outrageously expensive. When I bought a new car three years ago, it cost around US$100,000 (with a 10-year car license). It is a regular Japanese salon car with 5 doors and a 2-liter engine. Because we no longer have the need to drive to work, converting my car from a normal car into an off-peak car makes sense. The savings in road tax and from rebate received per year are S$503 and S$2,200 respectively. Should I need to drive during peak hours (
To convert the car into an off-peak car turns out to be a rather tedious process. In order for the authority to tell between a normal car and an off-peak car, off-peak car displays the front and rear number plates in red versus the black color plates. In order to deter people from switching the name plates and to trick the systems – yes, we humans always succumb to temptation since the days of Adam and Eve, figuratively speaking – the authority has derived a system whereby it is almost impossible to switch the plates at will. To do so, a new industry is born. You will see why.
- First stop obviously is to visit the Land Transport Authority (LTA). There is only one office in the entire country that processes this sort of request. Administrative cost is S$100. Waiting time was half an hour. I have to submit a form at the counter. The staff at the counter has to call upon an officer inside the office to verify and sign-off the transaction. Very much like most of the offline government services I have seen.
- Then, I needed to change my car number plates from black to red. The workshop
fortunatelywas just opposite LTA office and it did not take long to hunt for one.
- The cost to create and fit a set of car number plates is $130 (inclusive of a front bracket that my car did not have). Could I do it on the spot?
NoI could not. I needed to buy two pins from the Inspection Center behind the workshop.
- What are the pins for, you may ask? Well, the front pin has to be welded onto the front part of the car. The rear pin pierces through the car door at the back. Once the front pin is secured and the rear pin hole is prepared, the staff at the Inspection Center would secure the pinheads onto the car number plates. Each pinhead comes with an engraved serial number for tracking purposes! The cost to create and fit a set of car number plates is $130 (inclusive of a front bracket that my car did not have). I drove from the workshop to the Inspector Center and bought two pins for S$22.
- I returned to the workshop and was told that the process may take up to one hour.
- So we had a cold drink at a coffee shop nearby. Today was a very warm day.
- The workshop called and yay! We picked up the car and drove to the Inspection Center for “sealing”.
- The staff at the Inspection Center took a look at the front pin and has commented that it should have been welded deeper into the car. If he was to put the pinhead now, the car would look ugly as the pinhead would protrude unnecessarily.
- I took the car back to the workshop and expressed my ‘personal’ opinion (the staff has asked me not to mention that the comment came from the Inspection Center). The mechanic reworked the welding. It took half an hour.
- Finally, I drove the car with the brand new red number plates into the Inspection Center so that the staff can seal the pins with the serialized pinheads (around 1+ cm in diameter and in depth).
- Are we done? No! The staff at Inspection Center has to make further inspection and to create more paperwork to ensure that the number plates are secured according to the standard set out by the authority. (As a side story, I saw an Audi R8 sports car thoroughly inspected by the staffs at the Inspection Center and the driver was a young girl whom at first glance I thought she was a boy).
- After received the certificate that my number plates are done up to the standard, I took the car back to the workshop so that the mechanic can install the bits and pieces of plastic taken out from the door at the back (remember, a hole was drilled so as to fit the rear pin?). By the time we were home, I was exhausted from the heat and from how tedious the conversion process is. It is indeed an industry on its own.