Car-Lite or Not? : It's More Than Just About Mobility

David Foo
28 May 2021

Car-Lite or Not? : It's More Than Just About Mobility

first dates, breakups, music, vomit, tire punctures, tow trucks, ice cream trucks, mahjong, supper, road trips, debt, lizards, and cockroaches to name a few.

Car ownership is not just about mobility. When experienced over time, it can be an expression of our hopes and dreams. It can be a representation of our milestones and achievements. And it can be the source of some of our very best memories. Life is more beautiful with a car in it than without it. 

I recently came across a 2016 publication by the Centre for Liveable Cities Singapore, called “Creating Liveable Cities Through Car-Lite Urban Mobility”. This publication offers the context in which a car-lite society is an important pillar in environmental sustainability, and provides some ideas on how to go about achieving car-lite mobility. In a nutshell, the publication advocates a car-lite society, with things like autonomous vehicles, car-sharing, and consolidated logistics all being brought up in this publication. 

It was a good read, but I couldn’t help but feel sad reading it - Not because the publication was bad, but because the the quest for a car-lite society paints a bleak future for car ownership, all while glazing over the social and emotional aspects of the car ownership experience. I wish for my younger generation to experience the entire process of the car ownership experience, and I do sincerely believe that it is a rite of passage for a fully functioning adult - But if car-lite societies are going to be the new normal in years to come, then perhaps the younger generation will have to make different memories from different experiences. 

The goal of a car-lite society is an admirable one, at least from the environmental standpoint, but Singapore remains a highly affluent city state, and its people are used to the idea of a car as a status symbol. This is a country where even the middle class aspires toward car ownership, and the upper middle class are already driving continental marquees like a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or an Audi. Socially, It is difficult to imagine a future where this group of people will be using shared transportation or public transportation to go about their daily business. It is after all what they have worked hard for over some years to escape from. Country club memberships stopped being cool about 10 years ago, and credit cards are now offered to anybody earning $30,000 annually. Cash is still king, and luxury goods are still sought after, but perhaps, cars are the last of the original 5 C’s to have the sort of story telling ability and day to day visibility as a status symbol. Financially, people often forget that car ownership in Singapore as a whole, also plays a bigger role. Money generated and collected from taxes, loan interest, insurance, maintenance, fuel usage, and more, contribute back towards our economy which has a spill-over effect on infrastructure, safety, and jobs. Simply put, if car ownership were to disappear overnight, there would be serious social and economic impact on our way of life as we know it. Perhaps then, the discussion surrounding a car-lite society would have to be considered from numerous other angles as well.

In the ABC television sitcom series “Fresh off the Boat”, The first thing that Louis and Jessica Huang did when they got married, was to visit their local car dealership and purchase a minivan (or MPV in local-speak), thus beginning their journey as a migrant married couple in America. Armed with their minivan, they went on to start a family and grow a business. Years later, they even decided to purchase their second car on their wedding anniversary, as an homage to their previous milestone of purchasing their minivan on their wedding day. An exaggerated example perhaps - but it adequately summarises what is good, right, and beautiful about car ownership. 

Aside from the practical or aspirational reasons that see us buy into the car ownership experience, many of us can look back on many fond memories associated with our cars. For me personally, I had my first memorable fatherhood moment in a car. Following my daughter’s birth, the next two days accompanying my wife and daughter in hospital were a little bit of a blur. We were exhausted, and proud new parents of a beautiful baby girl. When it was time to check out, in a mixed state of exhaustion and excitement, I actually nicked the side of my car just above the rear wheel on a car park pillar, causing me some jitters as I pulled up to the foyer to pick up my wife and daughter. As I pulled out of Gleneagles Hospital, onto Napier Road, I was so nervous - This would be my first time driving as a father. I had driven the same road hundreds of times, but with my new precious cargo onboard, it really hit me that I was now responsible for another life. To cut a long story short(er), I would never have had this same experience in its same magnitude, experienced in the same manner, or with the same effect, if I had brought my daughter home in the limousine service that was provided for by the hospital which we turned down - And I’m glad I did. Each time my daughter gets into the car now, I am still reminded of this story. 

By Singapore standards, I started driving pretty young, having gotten my first car when I was 22. Aside from the more wholesome experiences I’ve had that relate to my family life, I have also accumulated a significant array of memories relating to other things such as first dates, breakups, music, vomit, tire punctures, tow trucks, ice cream trucks, mahjong, supper, road trips, debt, lizards, and cockroaches to name a few. It’s not difficult to see why I refer to the car ownership experience as a rite of passage. You see, my friends may all remember vomiting in my car - but I will also remember cleaning it up on my own the day after. Creating memories in a car is therefore simply not the same as owning the car. There will be plenty who will cite car ownership as a bad investment. “Depreciating asset”, they say. However, I find there is nothing depreciating about spending $600 less a month on other perhaps other more frivolous things, instead putting the money towards my aspirations of owning a car. Sure, I could have invested it, but there are other values to be gained from the car ownership experience. - Perseverance, commitment, and discipline among them.


So if you are not yet a car owner, and are considering to begin your car ownership journey, take the first step by browsing through Carousell's wide selection of quality used cars today!

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