Red Car Plates in Singapore – Are They Worthwhile?
Photo credit: The Straits Times
Reading time: 6 mins
Owning a vehicle has become more of a necessity than a luxury. In the long run, having your own car saves you time. You don’t have to wait for the bus, and you can leave work or your home whenever you want. Yes, you may have to sit in a little bit of traffic while driving during rush hour, but really, having your own car means you get to determine your own schedule and get around Singapore easily.
What’s more, in Singapore, you can opt for an Off-Peak vehicle under the Off-Peak Car scheme – which is more affordable – provided you don’t drive around too often.
What are the off-peak car schemes?
There have been three types of Off-Peak Car schemes in Singapore up to date:
1. Weekend Car (WEC)
2. Off-Peak Car (OPC)
3. Revised Off-Peak Car (ROPC)
The off-peak cars or red plates were first introduced under the WEC scheme by the Land Transport Authority on 1 May 1991, with the main objective to curb the high traffic volume during peak hours, help reduce the rising costs of driving and make it more economical for Singaporeans to own a vehicle. Under this scheme, a car could be driven anytime out of the restricted hours (7am to 7pm), amounting to around 100 hours a week. However, it is no longer valid since 25 January 2010.
WEC scheme was revamped to the OPC scheme from 1 October 1994 (with the same restricted driving times), and the ROPC scheme was subsequently introduced by LTA in late January 2010 to replace the OPC and WEC schemes.
At present, you can no longer apply for the OPC scheme, and must purchase the ROPC scheme instead. However, cars that were under the OPC scheme prior to that, can still continue enjoying its benefits, unless they convert their existing OPC scheme to an ROPC scheme.
One important thing to note, is that it is illegal to move around with off-peak automobiles during the stipulated timeframe that is not allowed, because you risk being fined up to $5000 as the registered owner. If you wish to drive that particular automobile during those hours, you would need to obtain an e-Day License that costs $20.
The good news is, under the new system, OPC or ROPC license holders have the flexibility to purchase their e-Day Licenses after using the vehicle during peak hours, as long as they do so before 2359 hours the next day. Alternatively, you can obtain the e-Day License 2 weeks in advance, prior to using the vehicle from 7am to 7pm if you want to play it safe.
How does the Off-Peak Car (OPC) scheme differ from the Revised Off-Peak Car (ROPC) scheme?
Basically, the main difference between the two schemes is the constraint of the usage hours of the vehicle.
Here is a quick guide of the restricted hours that a vehicle under the OPC or ROPC schemes cannot be driven:
|Mondays – Fridays|
(excluding public holidays)
|7am to 7pm||7am to 7pm|
|Saturdays (excluding public holidays)||7am to 3pm||No restriction|
|Sunday||No restriction||No restriction|
|Eve of 5 Public Holidays in Singapore |
(Eve of New Year’s Day, Eve of Chinese New Year, Eve of Hari Raya Puasa, Eve of Deepavali, and Eve of Christmas Day)
|7am to 3pm||No restriction|
|Public Holidays in Singapore||No restriction||No restriction|
How much can you really save by owning an Off-Peak car?
Off the bat, you can earn a $17,000 reimbursement when you register a new automobile via the upgraded ROPC scheme, which is offset against the COE price and the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) of the vehicle. In addition, you will also enjoy savings of up to $500 each year on your annual road tax, subject to a minimum road tax payment of $70 per year.
If your conventional automobile is converted to an off-peak vehicle, the discounts are somewhat varied. In this case, you’ll earn $1,100 in cash refund every six months with the standard yearly $500 flat discount for road tax.
OPC or ROPC vehicle owners also benefit from cheaper car insurance premiums. Car insurers in Singapore generally provide reduced vehicle insurance premiums, particularly for low mileage and off-peak vehicles. DirectAsia also offers a special rate on all off-peak cars. Furthermore, you will also benefit from a lower cost of operations and maintenance because of the reduced wear and tear. It’s best to compare the various vehicle insurance policies available in Singapore, before you pay for your premium.
So, is the Off-Peak Car scheme worthwhile?
Although owning a car means you can get around easily at any time of day, it may be more worthwhile to consider registering your vehicle under the ROPC scheme to increase your savings.
Of course, it highly depends on your lifestyle needs – if it’s more convenient to take the train to work or if you work during late nights – the ROPC scheme may be a better solution for you. In fact, you would be able to avoid costly parking and ERP expenses too. However, if your job requires you to drive daily, then the ROPC scheme may not be an ideal option.
As of January 2018, an additional 221 Off-Peak vehicles were newly registered, bringing the total population of Off-Peak cars to 16,340. However, this total number has drastically declined since 2013 when there was a total number of 44,836 Off-Peak vehicles on Singapore roads. From these statistics shared by the Government of Singapore, it’s apparent that Off-Peak cars are still scarce on the road even on the weekends. This is simply because many Singaporeans still choose conventional automobiles over off-peak ones for the added convenience of driving at any time of the day.
This scheme is definitely uncompromising. It certainly influences how you travel and ultimately what you use your automobile for, because if you decide to drive even for 5 minutes during the restricted peak hours, you’ll have to spend $20 for the e-Day License.
Bottom line is, getting an off-peak vehicle would be appropriate for you if it isn’t the primary automobile for your family. In other words, if you and your family are thinking of purchasing an extra car to use on the weekends or for vacations, an off-peak automobile may be worthwhile after all.