Transportation

Driving in Singapore

Want to explore the island by road? From COE and ARF to LTA and DIPS, here’s what you need to know about driving in Singapore.

Traffic jams on a busy highway in Singapore.
writer

By Benjamin Tree

Updated 26-3-2024

Singapore might be a compact city-state, but there’s still plenty to see and do by road. From countryside drives around the Kranji reservoir to out-of-town shopping malls, a set of wheels will give you that extra bit of freedom. If you can afford it, that is.

Discover what else driving in Singapore entails, by reading the following sections:

Driving in Singapore

Traffic in Singapore drives on the left side of the road and overtakes on the right.

Driving in the country can be pretty stressful, especially for newcomers. Some might even suggest that Singaporean traffic is some of the harshest and most unforgiving in the world. However, others find this an exaggeration and say the traffic is comparable to other countries around the globe.

Whatever the case, common complaints include tailgating, failing to indicate, not giving way, changing lanes on a whim, blocking other cars from changing lanes, and honking and flipping others off.

Traffic is chaotic on the beautifully decorated Serangoon Road in Singapore. Signs of peacocks are everywhere.
Serangoon Road, Singapore (Photo: Jeyakumaran Mayooresan/Unsplash)

This sense of entitlement from local drivers is perhaps unsurprising, seeing the effort it takes to own a car in Singapore. A vehicle – even a cheap one – is a luxury many average Singaporeans struggle to afford.

Due to the limited land size, the government wants to keep the number of cars, road space, and gridlocks at a minimum. It has invested heavily in public transport and implemented several policies to discourage vehicle ownership.

For example, new car owners must get a 10-year license, known as a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). The cost of these soared to a massive S$150,001 for larger cars and electric vehicles (EVs) in 2023. On top of that, drivers must pay Registration Fees (RF) and Additional Registration Fees (ARF) to register a vehicle.

As such, Singapore’s car ownership rates are comparatively low. Roughly a third of all households own a car (2023), far fewer than the average rates in the European Union (88% in 2022) and the United States (91.7% in 2023).

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) oversees vehicle registration, legislation, and general road safety in Singapore.

What is the EV strategy in Singapore?

While driving is discouraged in Singapore, there are initiatives that promote EV ownership. Not only are EV COEs cheaper, but residents can also apply for ARF rebates. From January to December 2024, buyers can save up to S$40,000 when they go electric.

At the end of 2023, there were roughly 4,900 EV charging stations across the island. To help achieve Singapore’s goal of having 100% cleaner energy vehicles by 2040, the LTA has committed to building 60,000 charging stations by 2030.

Who can drive in Singapore?

You must be over 18 and in possession of a valid driving license to drive a car in Singapore. Some driver’s license classes, like buses and trucks, have older age limits.

Expats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) don’t need to convert their driver’s license to a Singaporean one. Instead, they can use their own original permits to drive in Singapore. 

Foreign nationals from non-ASEAN countries must carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an English translation of their existing license. After one year of legal residence or becoming a permanent resident, they must exchange their foreign license for a Singaporean one. This usually involves passing a theory test only.

Overview of Singapore driving licenses

The Singapore Police Force is responsible for issuing driver’s permits in the city-state. Singaporean driving licenses come in a credit card size and contain your personal details and the type of vehicle you can legally drive.

Senior man driving and laughing, while his wife is pointing where to go. It's all very wholesome.
Photo: Rifka Hayati/Getty Images

The country’s main license classes include:

License classVehicle type
1Invalid carriages (issued to those living with physical disabilities)
2Mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles
3Cars, tractors, and small busses that carry no more than seven people (excluding the driver)
4Heavy transport vehicles (goods/people) not exceeding 2,500 kg
5Heavy transport vehicles (goods/people) not exceeding 7,500 kg

Residents can also link their driver’s license to SingPass (the country’s official digital ID service), allowing them to hold and use a digital driver’s license.

Driving permits in Singapore are typically valid until your 65th birthday. After that, you must undergo mandatory medical tests and renew your license every three years. If you are a non-permanent resident foreigner, your driving license is valid for five years.

How to get a driving license in Singapore

To get a Singapore driving license, you need to be an adult (18+) resident or citizen of the country. Requirements include driving lessons, two theory tests, and a practical exam.

Once you’ve passed the final test, you’ll be under a one-year probation period. During this time, you cannot accumulate more than 12 demerit points, or your license will be revoked.

How to convert a foreign driver’s license

If you are originally from outside the ASEAN region, you can drive on your foreign permit for up to one year. After that, you must exchange your existing license for a Singaporean one. To do so, you first need to pass the basic theory test at a local driving school. With that in hand, you can apply to exchange your permit online or at a local police station.

You’ll need to provide the following:

  • Passport-size photo taken within the last three months
  • Your Foreign Identification Number (FIN) or National Registration Identity Card (NRIC)
  • Other identification documents, which may include your Long-Term Visit Pass, passport, entry permit, and work pass
  • Your IDP or English translation of your license
  • Your existing driver’s permit
  • An extract of your driving record if your foreign license does not display the first issuing date
  • A letter of endorsement on your driving permit from the country of issuance
  • S$50 application fee
  • Additional documents if you drive something other than a car (e.g., motorcycle)

You’ll receive your Singaporean driver’s license by mail within seven working days. After exchanging your permit, you’ll be considered a novice driver and have a one-year probation period.

Can people with disabilities drive in Singapore?

If you live with a medical condition or physical disability that could affect your driving in Singapore, you must apply for a certificate of fitness from a registered medical practitioner. Depending on your situation, you may need to undergo further assessment to ensure that you are fit to drive.

Woman in a wheelchair racing off a disability ramp going towards a car park. She's laughing.
Photo: Iya Forbes/Getty Images

Your license may be restricted to a disability-accessible vehicle. However, drivers with mobility impairments can benefit from free and accessible parking spaces.

How to get reserved parking

With a valid Car Park Label, you can park in accessible parking spots that allow vehicle doors to open fully. These are only available to cars, not motorcyclists. You’ll recognize disability parking spots by a blue sign with the international wheelchair symbol, and blue and yellow markings on the road.

The Car Park Label is valid for five years but can be renewed when your disability is permanent. The label is free; however, you might incur costs when getting the medical certificate proving your eligibility.

You can visit the SG Enable Enabling Guide for more information.

Disability-accessible cars and vehicles

Handicaps Welfare Association sells assistive devices to convert your car into a more disability-friendly vehicle. Options include swiveling seats, wheelchair ramps, steering knobs, and left-foot accelerators. Some modifications require approval from the LTA; others are not permitted in Singapore. Be sure to check the LTA One Motoring website before adapting your vehicle.

The government does not subsidize the cost of these modifications. Eligible drivers, however, are exempt from paying COE premiums and additional fees under the Disabled Persons Scheme (DPS).

Citizens and permanent residents who cannot afford a personal vehicle can apply for the means-tested Enabling Transport Subsidy. This supports eligible persons with disabilities with dedicated transport provided by the Social Service Agencies (SSAs). 

You can find more information on assistive technology, apps, and devices for independent traveling on the SG Enable website.

Car registration and maintenance in Singapore

All new and used vehicles must be registered with the LTA. While local dealerships will pre-register a new car, you must authorize it by logging into the LTA. Without pre-registration, you can also self-register your new car with the LTA using a Vehicle Approval Code (VAC). Note that from 2025, new registrations of diesel-only vehicles will no longer be permitted.

Expats can only import cars with the steering wheel on the right, which are no more than three years old at the time of registration application. Some exceptions apply to vintage models manufactured before 1940.

Man hugging the hood of his blue vintage sedan in a classic car showroom. He looks serene.
Photo: Mint Images/Getty Images

The costs of vehicle registration (i.e., RF) in Singapore are:

  • New cars, motorcycles, and scooters – S$350 plus around S$28 processing fee
  • Used cars – S$350, plus S$10,000 surcharge and roughly S$28 processing fee

Remember that you also have to pay an ARF of 100-320% of the vehicle’s Open Market Value (OMV), as well as an excise (or stamp) duty of 20% of the OMV.

What license plates are there in Singapore?

You will receive your Singaporean license plate after registration. Regular number plates have white lettering on a black background, or are black-on-white in the front and black-on-yellow at the rear. If you have registered your vehicle under the Revised Off-Peak Car scheme (ROPC), your plates have white lettering on a red background. These cars pay a lower annual road tax but can only be driven during off-peak hours.

License plates in Singapore feature a prefix letter or letters indicating the vehicle type, four numbers, and a suffix comprising one letter. For example, a bus can have PA1234Y (with PA as a prefix for buses).

Make sure your vehicle always displays proper license plates to avoid a fine of up to S$1,000 and imprisonment of up to 3 months.

What are the rules for car maintenance?

When a vehicle is three years old, it must undergo a mandatory inspection every two years to ensure it’s road-safe and compliant. After 10 years, the car must undergo servicing every year.

Generally, it is recommended to inspect your vehicle every six months or 15,000 kilometers (km). You can do so at a designated LTA-Authorized Inspection Center (AIC). Usually, you don’t need an appointment, but you’ll likely encounter waiting lines during peak hours. Prices differ per vehicle type and inspection cycle:

  • S$20.52 for the first inspection of motorcycles and scooters
  • S$10.26 for re-inspection of motorcycles and scooters
  • S$68.04 for the first inspection of cars
  • S$32.02 for re-inspection of cars

You may also incur extra charges for additional tests.

How much does it cost to drive in Singapore?

The costs of owning a car in Singapore are among the highest in the world.

Luxury cars driving on a road in Singapore, with the city on the background.
Photo: Cristian Bortes/Getty Images

Some of the biggest expenses you’ll have to consider include:

  • Maintenance – vehicle inspection every two years costs between S$10 and S$35
  • Registration – registering a car costs around S$328
  • Additional Registration Fee – the ARF is 100-320% of the vehicle’s OMV
  • Road tax – the six-monthly road tax depends on the vehicle type and can be anything between S$156 and S$5,000+ 
  • Special tax – EVs pay an Additional Flat Component (AFC) of S$700. Petrol-electric, diesel, and diesel-compressed natural gas (CNG) cars pay special tax depending on their engine capacity (cc).
  • Toll roads – the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system manages congestion by charging a fee to use certain roads during operational hours. The toll fees will be charged automatically from the bank account linked to your car registration number.
  • Mandatory insurance – the cost of car insurance in Singapore is determined by your age, gender, driving experience, vehicle, policy, and provider. It can range from S$500 to S$1,500+ a year. Young and inexperienced drivers usually pay an additional excess of S$2,000 to S$3,000.
  • Fuel costs – on average, Singaporean motorists pay between S$50 and S$70 for gas or petrol

Driving rules and penalties in Singapore

What are common Singaporean road rules?

Despite what impressions you might have after reading how stressful traffic can be, Singapore takes road safety and traffic rules seriously. You can find all road rules, regulations, signs, and signals in the Highway Code (PDF) and the Road Traffic Act.

By law, you are required to have third-party liability car insurance. Extra protection against accidental damage or theft is optional.

Other traffic safety rules include:

  • Drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts at all times, unless under 135 centimeters (cm) or medically exempted
  • Persons shorter than 135 cm must be seated in an approved child seat or body-restraining seat belt with a booster seat 
  • Motorcyclists and pillions must wear helmets, and there cannot be more than two people on a two-wheeled vehicle
  • Headlights are mandatory from 19:00 to 07:00 and at all times inside tunnels
  • Your engine cannot be left idle and must be turned off while your car is stationary for reasons other than traffic conditions (i.e., stopping at a red light)
  • Road-hogging right lanes is illegal – you must go back to the left lane when possible
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you (i.e., the two-second rule)

What is the demerit point system in Singapore?

Singapore uses the Driver Improvement Points System (DIPS) to curb traffic offenses.

Each driver starts with 0 points on their license. Depending on the severity of the violation, the driver will get three to 12 demerit points and be offered a composition fine. This fine is a chance to settle the issue without going to court.

Traffic police officer is checking vehicles in Chinatown, Singapore.
Chinatown (Photo: Ore Huiying/Getty Images)

If the traffic offense is more severe, you may accumulate more than 12 demerit points, be prosecuted in court, and face harsher penalties, including a license suspension:

Number of suspensionDemerit pointsSuspension duration
124 demerit points or more within 24 months12 weeks
212 demerit points or more within 12 months24 weeks
312 demerit points or more within 12 months1 year
412 demerit points or more within 12 months2 years
512 demerit points or more within 12 months3 years
612 demerit points or more within 12 months4 years
712 demerit points or more within 12 months5 years

First and second offenders can take a DIPS Retraining Course to reduce the duration of their suspension. The amount of points, however, will remain the same.

The only way to lose your accumulated demerit points is by not committing any traffic violations within 12 months of your last offense. If you steer clear of traffic infractions within 24 months of your prior violation, all your previous suspensions will be wiped from your record.

Anyone with a clean driving record for a continuous period of 3 years will get a discount when they renew their insurance policy with participating insurance companies. This is on top of the No-Claim Bonus.

You can check your accumulated demerit points on the SG police’s e-Services page.

What is the speed limit in Singapore?

Speed limits are expressed in kilometers per hour (km/h). Limits are generally 50 km/h unless signposted. The speed limit of Silver Zones and School Zones is 40 km/h, and it’s 80-90 km/h on expressways.

Singapore’s traffic system uses fixed, mobile, laser, and average-speed cameras to monitor speed. The latter takes the average speed at which your car travels between two places. That means that even if you were not speeding when the camera registered your vehicle, it can determine whether you drove faster than you should have in that area.

Driving under the influence (DUI)

Drinking and driving is irresponsible, dangerous, and prohibited. The legal alcohol limit in Singapore is 80 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC). This translates to around one drink per hour, depending on your stature, metabolism, and drink of choice.

Group of women laughing and toasting their cocktails, while sitting at an outdoor terrace.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

If caught driving under the influence, you face a S$2,000-10,000 fine, a maximum one-year prison sentence, or both. Your license will also be suspended for two years. Second-time offenders can get a fine of S$5,000-20,000, a jail sentence of up to two years, or both. Their driving permit will also be suspended for five years. If caught a third time, you’ll receive a lifetime driving ban.

Penalties are more severe for drunk drivers causing an accident, ending in bodily harm or death.

Drugs are strictly illegal in Singapore, so driving under the influence of narcotic or psychotropic substances will result in even harsher punishments. Drug offenders face up to 30 years in prison, up to 15 cane lashings, a fine of up to S$20,000, or all three.

Distracted driving laws

You are not permitted to use a mobile phone or hand-held device while driving. Hands-free systems are allowed.

Motorists caught breaking the law the first time face fines of up to S$1,000 or a jail term of up to six months. Repeat offenders can expect double the penalty.

There are no restrictions on hands-free devices or using a mobile device when stationary. As such, although using a mobile phone at a red light isn’t an offense, it is discouraged.

Can you drive without a license?

Driving without a valid license is punishable by a fine of up to S$10,000 and imprisonment for up to three years. Repeat offenders can expect double the penalty and vehicle forfeiture.

Singaporean road signs and markings

Singapore’s traffic signs have a pattern similar to that of many other countries. They feature standardized shapes, colors, icons, and symbols that are easily understood. The main categories are:

  • Mandatory signs – usually circular, with a white symbol on a blue background. These signs indicate what a driver must do, like Ahead Only.
  • Priority signs – these indicate who has priority and include Stop and Give Way signs
  • Prohibitory signs – circular with a red ring indicating what’s prohibited. These tell drivers what they cannot do.
  • Warning signs – triangular signs with a red border indicate possible dangers
  • Informative signs – blue signs with white symbols or text. These give useful information on the road ahead.
  • Directional signs – these signs indicate destinations and are generally green with white text. However, expressway notifications are in blue, local destinations are in white, and landmarks are in brown.
  • EMAS signs – these are EMAS signboard instructions. They indicate accidents, congestion, breakdowns, and speed limits, among other information.
Elevated view of Stamford Road in Singapore with yellow line markings. A bus is driving by. Two cars are going right.
Stamford Road (Photo: Walter Bibikow/Getty Images)

Some of Singapore’s road markings might be less recognizable to expats. They include on the side of the road:

  • One unbroken yellow line – no parking from 07:00 to 19:00, except on Sundays and public holidays
  • Two unbroken yellow lines – no parking except for immediate pick-up and drop-off
  • White zigzag line – zebra crossing ahead
  • One yellow zigzag line – no parking except for quick pick-up and drop-off
  • Two yellow zigzag lines – no stopping whatsoever

Where to find parking in Singapore?

Parking in Singapore takes some know-how. For instance, the country only has a few on-street parking spaces. Instead, parking is limited to lots. More importantly, there are no parking meters in the country. You can only pay for parking via pre-purchase coupons, apps like Parking.sg, or Stored-value cards. Fees vary between S$1.00 and S$5.00 per hour, depending on the location.

Some parking lots are managed by the Housing Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). These offer season tickets and one-off parking at their designated sites. HDB season parking costs between $80 and $190 a month, depending on your car model and the parking spot (i.e., curb-side or sheltered parking).

You can use the traffic.smart map or the MyTransport.SG app to find real-time information on parking availability in Singapore.

Where to find traffic information in Singapore

Singapore doesn’t suffer from the same congestion levels as comparative metropolitan areas. The country’s congestion charges (i.e., a fee if you drive in the congestion zone at a particular hour) and low car ownership reduce the risk of severe traffic jams.

For example, the 2022 TomTom Traffic Index reports that drivers in Singapore spend an average of 150 hours in rush hour per year. This gets completely overshadowed by other large cities in Asia, including:

  • Bengaluru, India (260 hours)
  • Manila, Philippines (241 hours)
  • Sapporo, Japan (240 hours)
  • Jakarta, Indonesia (214 hours)
  • Taichung, Taiwan (212 hours)

Peak times when traffic is heaviest usually fall between 07.30-09:00 and 17:30-19:00, with Friday evening being the busiest.

Cars in traffic jam during rush hour on the bridge from Malaysia to Singapore. Mopeds are scooting by like it's nothing.
Bridge from Malaysia to Singapore (Photo: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

You can get up-to-date traffic information at OneMotoring traffic.smart, which includes the latest on road works, vehicle breakdowns, and faulty signals.

Road accidents and breakdowns

Are car accidents common in Singapore?

Singapore has one of the world’s lowest road fatality rates per capita, with just 1.49 per 100,000 citizens in 2020. That said, the country fares relatively poorly when you look at the road mortality rate per vehicle. In 2019, there were 12.13 fatalities per 100,000 vehicles. Motorcyclists and pillion riders account for about 50% of overall road fatalities. 

The leading causes of road accidents in 2020 were: 

  • Drunk driving
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving (e.g., using a mobile phone)

If you are in a minor road accident (no injuries), you are required to stop and swap contact details with the involved party. You can then report the accident to your insurance provider. If no one is present at the scene, you need to take reasonable steps to inform the other party and provide them with your particulars. Failure to do so can lead to a fine of up to S$5,000, jail time of up to two years, or both.

More serious accidents with injuries must be reported to the traffic police at 6547 0000. If you need an ambulance, you can call the emergency number 995. You must notify the police of a traffic accident when it involves:

  • Damage to government property
  • A fatality
  • A foreign vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist
  • A hit-and-run
  • Injuries where at least one person ended up in the hospital
  • Any party involved was injured and obtained outpatient medical leave for 3 days or more

In Singapore, causing injury or death by reckless or dangerous driving can result in a fine of up to S$20,000, imprisonment of up to 15 years, or both.

What to do when your vehicle breaks down

If your car breaks down, you should pull over to the nearest safe place and contact your roadside assistance provider. Most car insurance companies in Singapore offer roadside assistance as an add-on, so be sure to check your policy before calling in assistance.

Man and woman with hands on their heads while standing near a stranded car. Woman is calling for help.
Photo: Olga Rolenko/Getty Images

Top car insurance providers in Singapore include:

Alternatively, you can join the Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS) to benefit from their emergency Roadside Assistance Services. If your car insurance policy does not provide breakdown assistance, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

Car repair services in Singapore

Buying a new car from a dealership usually includes a service contract that’ll give you access to their on-site car repair service at a discounted rate. 

You can also find accredited car repair workshops and certified mechanics across Singapore, such as:

Most garages are open daily from 09:00 to 18:00, but a few repair centers have later openings until 22:00. 

Overview of cars in Singapore

The most popular car brand in Singapore is Toyota, having secured 21.7% of new registrations in the first half of 2023. German luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and BMW round out the top three best-selling car brands, having 16.9% and 12.8% of the market share, respectively. 

Tesla leads the way in EV sales, having claimed 3% of all new registrations. They’re closely followed by the Chinese electric car brand BYD, which sold 2.8% of all new vehicles.

Buying and selling a car in Singapore

Singapore is currently the most expensive country in the world to buy a car. The country has a zero-growth car policy, meaning a vehicle must be deregistered for a new one to be registered. This has driven up the price of the COE, which is necessary to use a car for 10 years. The government has set up a COE quota system, split into five categories, with bidding open twice every month.

While you don’t necessarily have to have a Certificate of Entitlement before buying a car, you won’t be able to drive it without one. As a result, some dealers offer car packages with COE guarantees.

Happy car salesman shakes hands with a man opposite of him at the table, whose wife and child sitting to the left of him. They're all inside a dealership showroom.
Photo: skynesher/Getty Images

Assuming you have one, you can test drive and purchase a car at any authorized dealership. Well-known brands can be found along Leng Kee Road and in estates like Ubi Industrial Park. Online marketplaces like SG Car Mart have also become useful for buying used cars.

If you decide to sell a car in Singapore, you can use a dealership or a consignment agent. You can also market directly to a buyer, although the hefty paperwork does make a dealer the preferred option for many Singaporeans. Keep in mind that dealers and agents always take a fee, so it’s worth asking around and researching the market.

Once you’ve found a buyer and received payment, you can transfer ownership online through the LTA.

How to get a rental car in Singapore?

Rules for renting a vehicle in Singapore are pretty straightforward. You need a valid driver’s license that’s held for at least one year, with translation documents in English. The rental company will likely require you to take out insurance as well.

International and Singaporean car rental companies include:

A growing number of apps also allow you to rent a neighbor’s car, including:

Rental agencies typically start from S$45 per day. Renting your neighbor’s car offers shorter-term hourly rentals from S$3.

Carpooling/car sharing in Singapore

Despite its benefits, carpooling is regulated in Singapore. In particular, the LTA has made the practice illegal when using non-business platforms like Telegram. That said, informal carpooling (e.g., taking colleagues to work or school) is perfectly legal. You must ensure that travel is incidental to your everyday use and isn’t done more than twice a day.

Aerial view of Singapore City with traffic.
Singapore (Photo: Shurong Lo/Getty Images)

Popular carpooling platforms in Singapore include:

Tips on driving in Singapore

Singapore can surprise you with its scenic drives and clear roads. Here are some quick tips for when you hit the roads:

  • Stick to the left, as the right lane is only used for overtaking. Lane hogging is an offense that can get you fined.
  • If you’re not used to driving on the left, practice on a quiet side street or car park before joining an expressway
  • Pay attention to the road and other road users; traffic in Singapore can be unexpected, and cars jump out of nowhere
  • Always be watchful of jaywalking in Singapore, especially by senior residents
  • Never drink and drive

Useful resources