When Heartland Boy announced to family and friends that Heartland Girl was pregnant with Olympia a couple of years ago, a common response was, “So, presumably you would be getting a car as well?” While it was clear that they had decided to add a baby into the family then, they were equally adamant NOT to add a car to their lives. The biggest motivation in going carless is undoubtedly the financial cost of owning a car in Singapore. Well, Olympia turned 18 months not too long ago and Heartland Boy is pleased to announced that they have thus far survived parenthood without a car. Of course, it is very important to recognise that different families have different needs and priorities. What works for the Heartland Boy household might not work for others. For parents with young children who would like to adopt such an arrangement (not owning a car in Singapore), here are some tips from Heartland Boy’s personal experience.
1. Buy The Right Infant Stroller
This is easily the most critical equipment that enables the Heartland household to go car-free. Heartland Boy needed an infant stroller which could double up as a car seat, was compact and portable. After extensive rounds of research online, reading reviews and trying them out at baby fairs, he found that the Doona Car Seat & Stroller fit the bill perfectly. The Doona Car Seat & Stroller is a fully integrated travel system that transforms from car seat to stroller in seconds as shown in this video.
Parents would empathise that our hands are often full from carrying multiple items. Therefore, the ability to collapse, fold and transport the stroller can turn out to be a life-saver. Often times, Heartland Boy would transform the Doona Stroller into its car-seat form and carry it like a basket to move easily over staircases and uneven footpaths. While the Doona Stroller is definitely not the most affordable option in the market, Heartland Boy felt that its versatility more than justify the premium price tag that comes with it.
As the Doona Stroller is recommended for babies up to 13kg, Heartland Boy is now considering similar devices for his toddler who has already grown to 10kg. So far, he has shortlisted the Urban Kanga Portable or the hifold the Fit and Fold Booster seat as the next car accessory that would accompany Olympia’s next growth milestone. Other possibility include the mifold Grab and Go which serves as a portable booster seat.
2. Take Public Transport
In a country where car prices are exorbitant, the public transport system is thankfully an excellent and affordable way of getting around. Without a car in the household, it goes without saying that the Heartland Household relies on the public transport system as their main form of transport. It also helps that Singapore’s public transport has become increasingly family-friendly. For instance, Heartland Boy appreciates that strollers can now be left open and pushed on board buses and even be attached to the stroller restraint system as shown in Diagram 2.
3. Use Ride-Hailing Services Or Rent A Car
Babies make multiple trips to the polyclinics or pediatricians for regular vaccination programmes and health check-ups. Admittedly, certain circumstances might necessitate the need for a private vehicle. Some examples would be to avoid getting caught in the rain, to transport your shopping bags from baby fairs (or have them delivered via Amazon), to avoid unwell crowds (COVID-19) etc. During such situations, Heartland Boy thinks that paying a premium for ride-hailing services is worthwhile. With the advent of such service providers, a ride is conveniently only a touch or button away. When not taking public transport, parents should be mindful that it is paramount that their baby is safely secured in the vehicle.
This is where the Doona Stroller, which meets the strictest US Standards for Car-seats, Strollers and Hand-held carriers, provides Heartland Boy with the option of choosing any private hail-ride options. This means that he is not restricted to simply taking private cars that comes with car-seats (GrabFamily) and taxis (exempt by law on car-seats requirements) only. The Doona Stroller proved extremely handy when they took Uber/Bolt in Australia as the enforcement there was very strict.
If renting a car for a couple of hours would be more cost-effective than a return trip on the ride-hailing service, one can consider renting an electric car from BlueSG. Heartland Boy has not tried it personally yet, but several of his friends in similar situations (have newborns and do not own cars) found this to be a cost-effective substitute.
4. Choosing An Accessible Neighbourhood
Heartland Boy went to great lengths to design their lives around the choice of going carless by choosing to stay in an accessible neighbourhood. This became the main key criterion in choosing the location of their BTO – i.e. it must be incredibly accessible and located in a mature estate which offers plenty of amenities. The MRT station is less than 5 mins walk from home and it is faster to travel to the malls by train than by car (when you add in traffic congestion and time to find parking lot). Once the Circuit Breaker is over, Olympia will also be enrolled in a child-care centre that is just 2 streets across their house.
To ensure a place in the BTO project, Heartland Boy even gave up the luxury of space (choosing a 3BR over a 4BR HDB flat) to increase his chances at the ballot. That is the trade-off they have consciously made.
Do I Need A Car In Singapore
Parents on the other side of the camp informed Heartland Boy that he is still managing only because he has just 1 young child so far. When the kids start enrolling in after-school activities, it would increasingly become a logistical nightmare. Heartland Boy acknowledges that these are valid arguments and he may eventually come to realise it. However, not buying a car so soon (when child is still young) is a conscious personal finance decision that he has made. From an economics standpoint, it is not difficult to understand why since it adds significantly to the cost of raising a child. It costs on average more than $2,000 a month to own a car in Singapore (Source: Gov.sg, 2016) and by ditching the car for public transport, it is fair to say that Heartland Boy has already saved up an amount sufficient to fund a local university programme for Olympia. In addition, he is doing his part as a global citizen by reducing his carbon footprint. That’s another reason to go carless for as long as possible.