Introduction & How to use this guide

So.. You want to rent a car in Singapore huh. If this is your first time, renting a car can be daunting. If it’s your subsequent times, you may have encountered the rare unpleasant experience when it comes to renting a car in Singapore.

Regardless of whether you’re a experienced renter or a first timer, there’s always some knowledge that this guide can help with.

This guide aims to help get you up to speed when it comes to the whole process of renting a car. From background knowledge, finding a car, car rental terminologies till after you return the rental car.

This guide is separated into 2 parts. Part 1 (this page!) details the process of finding a car till making the reservation, Part 2 (link here) details from collecting the car to the return of the car & also goes into the specific scenarios.

Tips are highlighted in block quotes when there’s a good tip pertinent to the content.

Contents we’ll cover

Here’s what we’ll be covering. Feel free to skip ahead to the relevant sections.

Part 1: Making the booking

1. Background on Renting

2. Finding a car for your needs

3. Choosing a Rental Company

4. Booking the Car

Part 2: Collecting & Returning

5. Collecting the Car

6. Driving

7. Returning

8. Specific Scenarios

Glossary of Car Rental Terms

1. Background on Renting

Mini. But not Coopers. Source: Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/flea-market-miniature-cars-722432/Mini. But not Coopers. Source: Pixabay

What makes renting daunting?

Paradox of Choice - There are over 150+ Rental Companies in Singapore, from big international brands (eg. Avis, Hertz, Europcar) to the local rental companies. Choice is a good thing but too much choice can be overwhelming.

Industry Reputation - For any industry, it’s always the case of the few bad apples that spoil the barrel. Be it from budget airlines (who hasn’t heard of the horror stories) to eateries, the rental car industry is also no exception to it.

Lack of Information - While many rental companies have online sites, it’s rare to find one with terms of rental upfront or regularly updated. It’s likely you would only know the full terms on collection, leaving you little choice because you’re already there with no other options.

2. Finding a car for your needs

Renting a car... less popular than renting a wife.Renting a car... less popular than renting a wife.

Only you would know what car suits your need best. Hence we’ll be going through general rule of thumb when it comes to renting.

2.1 Car Type

While many rental companies categorise their rental fleet according to set tiers. Cars of similar make/capacity are usually grouped together. As a whole, cars are typically categorised as such, though the tiers vary from partner to partner.

2.2 Dates

Be clear on the dates that you're looking for. It's a good practice to book in advance of the dates (eg. 2 weeks to 1 month before). Rental rates are typically are the same through the year except for the following 2 main scenarios that affect your rental rates.

2.2.1 Weekdays vs Weekends

Rental companies practice price differentiation between weekday and weekend rentals because there is a higher demand for rental cars during weekends. Secondly, local partners typically do not operate on weekends due to manpower constraints.

  • For one day weekend rentals. Eg. Pickup Saturday, Return Sunday are done by international brands but at a price premium to cover the manpower costs.
  • If you’re renting for the whole weekend, you may find competitive rates & more choices if you do a Friday pickup and Monday return with the local companies.

Drive.SG Tip: If you’re looking for a car for the whole weekend, you might find cheaper rates if you do a Friday Pickup and Monday Return with local companies.

2.2.2 Festive Periods

The peak periods for rental cars are typically in the festive periods (Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Christmas) & to a lesser extent holidays that are on a Friday or Monday, making it a long weekend. Expect Car Rental rates to go up due to 2 factors.

  • Peak period surcharge - There’s always a high demand for rental cars during these dates. If you’re not willing to pay for it, there’s always others that are willing to. This means higher daily rates.
  • Set Package Dates - Often a major holiday means that staff are usually on holiday as well. Many rental companies close off for the period and hence renters have to rent for the entire period. This means that you'd rent for longer than you necessarily would.
2.3 Driving to Malaysia?
  • Some rental partners don’t allow Malaysia entry. Because their cars aren’t covered for Malaysia Entry.
  • Furthermore, rental partners who do so might have additional surcharges for Malaysia entry.
    Some rare rental partners do not charge for Malaysia entry at all.

All in all, it's wise to check with the partner if they allow Malaysia entry.

2.4 Your Driving Experience

If you’re not a probation driver, skip ahead.

If you’re a probation driver and/or with less than 1 year driving experience in Singapore,

  1. Not all rental companies rent out to probation drivers simply because the more inexperienced a driver is, the more expensive the insurance coverage is for rental companies.
  2. Rental companies that rent out to probation drivers might have clauses in the T&Cs that increase the insurance excess if the renter is still under the probationary license. 

If you’re using Drive.SG to find a car, you can click here for our list of rental cars for probation drivers. 

Drive.SG Tip: Newly converted Singapore licenses are also considered probation drivers despite their overseas driving experience

2.5 Other Partner Options

Beyond the basic car types and dates, there are a couple of considerations you would need to make when deciding where to rent from. This is where it gets really tricky and confusing due to the car rental jargon and legalese.

There’s a great difference in terms of policies when it comes to the available options. Most of these options are specific to the company. Eg. It’s likely they share the same insurance plans.

2.5.1 Insurance Coverage (3rd Party vs Comprehensive)
  • 3rd Party Insurance - covers damage to others(people and property) in an accident deemed to be your fault. Damage to the rental car and yourself will be borne by you.
  • Comprehensive Insurance - covers damages to others (people and property) and includes damages to the rental car and your injuries
2.5.2 Insurance Excess
  • Maximum amount to which you are liable for when you do get into an accident with the rental car.
2.5.3 Collision Damage Waiver
  • Option for users to lower the insurance excess.
2.5.4 Security/Rental Deposit
  • A refundable sum of money held on top of the rental rate to ensure the cost of repair/damages in the case of any damage to the car by the renter during the time of lease. Returned at the end of rental.

3. Choosing a Rental Company

Guess what, it's the same company. Same, same but different.Guess what, it's the same company. Same, same but different.

3.1 Finding a Rental Company

Once you’re clear on what you need and understand the terms, you may start searching online, looking through yellow pages, calling rental companies.

It can be a time consuming process and besides, we have a vested interest in this so…

Plug from Drive.SG

You may compare rates, get exclusive deals, member rewards from 50+ partners in Singapore with Drive.SG.

3.2 Choosing the Rental Company

Beyond the above options that varies with rental companies, here are some general guide when choosing between rental companies.

3.2.1 Price vs Tradeoffs

While it’s often the assumption that you would want everything (eg. No Malaysia Surcharge, Comprehensive Insurance etc.), the available choices depends on your budget and how much you are willing to pay for all the options.

3.2.2 Brand Name vs Local & Partner Reputation

International brands are assumed to have better service and quality of rental cars. That may not always be true, there are local companies that have been feedback to have a better maintenance of cars and even better service than that of the international brands.

Drive.SG Tip: Drive.SG collects ratings & reviews from real customers of Drive.SG on our partners to help you make the right choice.

3.2.3 Private Car Owners vs Rental Companies

Legally, under the Private Car Rental Scheme, private owners are only allowed to rent out their cars on Weekends Friday 7pm to the following Monday 7am and from 7pm on the eve of the public holiday till 7am of the first working day following the public holiday.

Documentation from a private car owner may not be as thorough nor legally binding. While many might not see the need for documentation, it’s a good practice to be clear on the terms of the rental in case of accidents or emergencies.

Insurance - you are never too sure if there is adequate insurance coverage for the rental & whether it covers you. It’s a common complaint that private renters do not have adequate insurance plans. Always check before you rent.

3.2.4 Tips on Comparing
  • Have a budget in mind and be clear on what you're looking for
  • Be flexible in dates (+/- 1 day) if possible, sometimes it might open up possibilities in cars.
  • Cheaper doesn’t always mean better - Be aware of what you’re tradeoffs you’re making and if you’re comfortable with these tradeoffs if not

4. Making the reservation

Drive.SGDrive.SG: The site that saves you time and money ;-)

4.1 Walk in vs Reservations

While you can do a walk in reservations, it’s often advised to make a car reservation in advance

  • Weekends are usually fully booked
  • Wider choice of cars when you book in advance
  • Cheaper Rates if you book in advance
  • Be assured of your bookings during peak periods
4.2 Information Required

Whether you’re calling direct or booking online through Drive.SG, reservations require the following details of the driver

  • Named Driver
  • NRIC Number
  • Birthdate
  • License Issue Date
  • Contact Number
4.3 Payment
4.3.1 Payment Methods

Be aware not all car rental companies accept credit cards (because the cost of machines, monthly transactions are borne by the business).

Alternatively, Drive.SG accepts Paypal, Major Credit Cards, Bank Transfers (Only 1 week in advance of collection date) as a convenience to booking online.

Whatever your choice is, once payment has been made, you should get a confirmation of the reservation. If booked online with Drive.SG, the receipt is emailed to you.

4.3.2 After payment

After getting your confirmation, there’s nothing to be done till the date of your rental.

End of Part 1

That’s the end of Part 1 from finding the car to making the reservation for the car. That’s the easy part actually, instead where renters run into the most problems is on the collection of the car itself.

The continuation of this guide in Part 2 covers the process of collecting the car, returning the car, specific scenarios you might run into & the glossary of terms.

Head on to Part 2


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