If you can afford to cab everywhere, or have no shame about asking for a lift from family, friends and colleagues, you probably never need to drive a car in Singapore.
Our public transport system is reliable most of the time, and cars are so expensive in Singapore that it’s a heavy liability more than anything else.
However, being able to drive is an important skill. Even if you don’t own a car your entire life, you might appreciate having a driving license when you go overseas for a road trip or when someone needs help to move a car.
If you’re 18 and above, physically and mentally fit, going to driving schools to get your driving license is almost a rite of passage in Singapore. But which school should you go to? Or should you get a private driving instructor?
Let’s compare the costs of the different driving centres in Singapore first.
Driving schools in Singapore — 2022 course fees
There are three driving schools in Singapore. Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC) is in Woodlands, ComfortDelGro Driving Centre (CDC) is in Ubi and Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC) is (surprise, surprise) in Bukit Batok. Ideally, you would want to pick a school that is most convenient for you in terms of distance, but there may be other factors (like pricing and passing rate) that may affect your decision.
Generally, all three schools have some standardised fees. Generally, everything conducted or mandated by Traffic Police is standardised, e.g. photo taking, eyesight test, BTT, FTT and practical test.
They only differ a little with regards to the theory and practical lessons. BBDC seems like the cheapest option, to enrol, and take the necessary lessons and trial tests before the first Basic Theory Test (BTT) will only cost you slightly more than $173. SSDC is the most costly, but the difference is not more than $7.
SSDC also charges the most for practical lessons, which forms the bulk of the cost as you need to take more than 20 over lessons to become competent. See the full comparison here.
|BBDC (Bukit Batok)||SSDC (Woodlands)||Comfortdelgro (Ubi)|
|Enrolment and 4 theory lessons (valid for 1 year)||$164.78||$174.09||$176.55|
|Theory practice session||$3.21|
|Theory evaluation||$5.35||$5.35||$6.42 to $7.49|
|Basic Theory Test (TP)||$6.50||$6.50||$6.50|
|Final Theory Test (TP)||$6.50||$6.50||$6.50|
|Practical Test (TP Test)||$33||$33||$33|
|Induction programme||–||–||$34.24 to $38.52|
|Vehicle rental for practical test||$214||$192.60||$289.97 per test|
|Warm up session (Mon to Sat)||$38.52||$38.52|
|Designate specific instructor||$8.56|
|Practical lesson – Off peak hour||$68.48
(100 mins, off peak)
(120mins, off peak)
(100 mins, off peak)
|Practical lesson – Peak hour||$77.04
(100 mins, peak)
(120 mins, peak)
(100 mins, peak)
|Learner Driver Competency Screening||–||–||$55.64 to $59.92|
|Vehicular pre-operative check||–||–||$23.52 to $27.82|
|Risk forecast training lesson||$22.47||–|
|Course extension / Membership renewal||$8.13 (1 month)||$58.85 (6 mths)||$64.20 (6 mths)|
|Training vehicle conversion fee||–||$42.80||–|
1. Driving school enrolment fee
Enrolment fees at a driving school should set you back by $96.30. This is regardless of which driving school you’re under and valid only for a year.
Comfortdelgro and SSDC has lumped this cost together with four theory lessons. See in the table above.
If you don’t have the time or the dedication to rush through all your lessons within the span of a year, you will end up paying more. The rates are as follows:
|School||Course Extension Fee|
|SSDCL||$58.85 (for six months)|
|CDC||$64.20 (for six months)|
|BBDC||$8.13 (for one month)|
If you don’t think you can pass your driving test after a year of lessons, consider going with BBDC. Paying $8.13 a month may be cheaper than the other schools if you don’t need another six months of lessons to pass.
ALSO READ: 8 cool places to drive to in Singapore
Enrolment fees for a private instructor should set you back by $50-$60 depending on the instructor. The difference in the fees is because driving schools tend to have higher overheads, which they pass on to you, the customer.
Whether you choose to learn via a driving school or a private instructor, you will still need to open an account at the driving school. This is because you will be taking the driving theory tests through the school.
2. Driving lessons (theory)
If you have enrolled with the driving school, you will need to pay for theory lessons together with your enrolment fee. This is before you can apply to take the Basic Theory Test and Final Theory Test.
How much you pay depends on whether you’ve taken and passed either these Tests before. In the case of a total newcomer to driving, the fees are paid together with your registration/ enrolment fees when you sign up:
|School||Theory Lesson Fees|
|SSDCL||$174.09 (enrolment + four classes)|
|CDC||$171.20 (enrolment + four classes)|
|BBDC||$164.78 (enrolment + four classes), $17.12 (for one class)|
BBDC is the cheapest of the three schools with individual theory lessons at $17.12 (in case you fail and need to retake).
3. Driving theory tests (BTT & FTT)
After you’ve gone through the lessons – which can be done online, thank goodness – you can apply for the Basic Theory Test. The test fee has recently been increased to $6.50.
Once you’ve passed the Basic Theory Test, you will be eligible to apply for your Provisional Driving License (PDL). You will need to pay $25 for the PDL, which is valid for two years. This means you can start driving!
In the meantime, you can also apply for your Final Theory Test. The test fee has recently been increased to $6.50. You will need to have passed your Final Theory Test before you can book a date for your Practical Driving Test.
If you’re learning via a private instructor, you technically don’t need to go through any lessons and can just go straight for the theory tests.
However, you should probably just go for one or two theory trial tests before your official test date. These trial tests will help you get the hang of the test system and, if your memory is good enough, you’ll notice the same questions will come out in the actual test.
Now, for the main costs in learning to drive – the practical lessons.
4a. Practical driving lessons at driving centre
Driving schools have a fixed syllabus that they follow, and sometimes have a minimum number of lessons that a student MUST take before you’ll be allowed to book your driving test. Lesson fees fall under two categories – peak and off-peak.
|School||Practical Lesson Fees|
|SSDC||$71.69 – $80.25 per 120 minute class|
|CDC||$68.48 – $77.04 per 100 minute class|
|BBDC||$68.48 – $77.04 per 100 minute class|
While it is more expensive at first glance, SSDC beats both CDC and BBDC if you’re looking at how much you’re paying per minute. And depending on the instructor, that extra 20 minutes per lesson at SSDCL does go a really long way because it gives you more time to practice.
ALSO READ: They still have the drive to teach
In general, you will need about 20-25 lessons at least to complete the syllabus. How quickly you learn is of course dependent on you and the instructor. When learning at a driving school, your instructor may not be fixed. Some schools, like SSDC, charge an extra fee of $8.56 per session if you want to request for a specific instructor.
4b. Practical driving lessons with private instructor
With hundreds of private driving instructors across the island, you’re spoilt for choice. There are those who advertise online and those who rely on word of mouth to get customers. There are also those who have the time to take over a hundred students, which could mean that they’re more experienced.
In general, you can expect private driving instructors to charge $25-$35 per hour. You learn at your own pace, but you would still need about 20-30 lessons (since the lessons are per hour) before you’re ready for the test.
Also, it’s definitely a good idea to book a warm up session or two in the driving centre’s test circuit. That way, you’ll get used to the circuit ahead of the practical test.
5. Practical driving test
Once you have passed your Final Theory Test and completed your lessons, you can book a date for your practical driving test. The test will now cost you $33. That fee’s just to take the test. You will also need to pay for the test vehicle rental and a “warm-up” session prior to test itself. The fees are as follows:
|School||Practical Test Vehicle Rental Fees|
|SSDC||$192.60 + $38.52 (warm up fee) = $231.12|
|CDC||$289.97 (price includes warm up fee)|
|BBDC||$214 + $38.52 (warm up fee) = $252.32|
SSDC may have the cheapest driving test fees, but do remember that you’ve technically been paying more for both theory and practical lessons compared to the other schools.
BBDC costs $21.20 more than SSDCL, but hopefully you’d have saved more than that on the theory and practical lessons.
ALSO READ: Confessions of a driving instructor: He's not friendly to students
6. Driver’s license fee
If you pass, congratulations! You now have to pay a fee of $50 when you apply for your driving license. We hope it was worth it!
Driving centres vs private driving instructors
(Note: This comparison only refers to the costs of a Class 3/3A driving license.)
|Driving school||Private driving instructor|
|Enrolment||$96.30||$50 to $60|
|Driving Lessons (Theory)||$69.55 (for four classes)||–|
|Basic Theory Test||$6.50||$6.50|
|Final Theory Test||$6.50||$6.50|
|Driving Lessons (Practical) at Driving Centre||About $1,400 to $1,900 (for 20 to 25 classes)||–|
|Diving Lessons (Practical) with Private Instructor||–||About $1,000 to $1,400 (for 40 hours of instruction)|
|Practical Driving Test||$33||$33|
|Practical Test Car Rental||$231.12 to $289.97||$231.12 to $289.97|
|Driving License Fee||$50||$50|
|Estimated total||$1,860 to $2,400||$1,340 to $1,790|
Should you learn to drive at a driving centre or with a private driving instructor?
Let’s compare across a few criteria.
Cost: Private driving instructors aren’t obliged to strictly follow a syllabus so the pace of the lessons depend on how quickly you pick up the skills.
If you’re confident about your driving ability, it might be more prudent to sign up with a private driving instructor. Based on the cost of practical lessons alone, you could save up to $700 by going with a private driving instructor instead of a driving school.
Convenience: both driving schools and private driving instructors have pros and cons. Driving schools, like SSDC, CDC and BBDC, have all the necessary facilities in-house, so if you need more time on the test circuit you won’t be charged extra, unlike if you were under a private driving instructor.
On the other hand, a private driving instructor should be able to arrange for lessons that suit your busy schedule, unlike a driving school that has very inflexible lesson times.
Location: A private driving instructor also has the benefit of being able to meet at a location convenient to both of you.
As it is, driving schools aren’t very easy to get to for most Singaporeans. Unless you stay in the far West or the far North, getting to BBDC and SSDC in Bukit Batok and Woodlands respectively can be quite the commute. On the other hand, CDC is more centrally located in Ubi, relatively speaking.
If you’re a busy person with very little time to spare, or if you’re confident about your driving skills and the speed that you’ll learn, you’ll definitely save more by going with a private driving instructor.
Otherwise, a driving school might be the more expensive, but also more appropriate option. After all, the point is to pass your driving test. There’s no point breezing through the lessons and rushing to take your test if you end up failing. Failing your driving test simply means spending more money in your attempt to earn your driving license.
Bukit Batok Driving Centre (Bukit Batok)
Bukit Batok Driving Centre is known for friendly and approachable driving teachers. As you will be going back to the centre more than 30 times in the whole course of your learning, you’d be happy to know that they also have a new food court.
The downside of having driving lessons here is that it’s all the way in the west. The school is known to be on the more affordable end for both theory and practical lessons. If you’re in a hurry to get your license, BBDC’s practical lesson booking system will allow you to “camp” for last minute same day or next day slots. Also, the test routes are generally free of heavy vehicles… which means it may just be easier to pass your TP test.
Address: 815 Bukit Batok West Ave 5, Singapore 659085
Comfortdelgro Driving Centre (Ubi)
Comfortdelgo Driving Centre is more centrally located than the rest of the centres if you are living in the East. The instructors at Comfortdelgro seem to be a mixed bunch, some reviews say that instructors are very helpful, while some students report instructors being impatient and just whiling time away.
The course structure seems to be more conservative as they have put in place an induction programme and an internal evaluation to ensure that you have some knowledge before you proceed to the tests.
If you’re taking your TP test at Ubi, the general consensus has it that Ubi’s test routes are more challenging since the industrial area invites heavy trailers, lorries, and impatient commercial vans who may make driving difficult for you. Graduated from Ubi? You’ve earned yourself some street cred.
Address: 205 Ubi Ave 4, Singapore 408805
Singapore Safety Driving Centre (Woodlands)
Singapore Safety Driving Centre is literally located minutes away from Johor Bahru. Aside from its ulu location, people like that there are sheltered areas for motorcycle lessons and some also praise the booking system for being more refined than the rest.
Apparently the instructors are a mixed bag also, and the SSDC practical lesson booking system is not the most friendly. If you’re in a hurry to get your license, you may want to consider the other two schools or go private.
Address: 2 Woodlands Industrial Park E4, Singapore 757387
Driving license replacement
What if you lose a driving license that you worked so hard to get? You can get it replaced fairly easily by applying through the Traffic Police’s e-service.
Apply online using your Singpass. It costs $25 and you can pay using eNETS or credit card. The existing photograph in the system will be used, so it’s quite fuss-free.
You can also go down to Traffic Police headquarters to apply using the self-service terminals.
International driving license application
Travelling overseas where you will rent a car?
Actually, in most countries, you probably would not need an international driving license, but if you just want to err on the safe side, you can apply for an international driving permit.
For that, you don’t have to go to any of the driving centres.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is issued by the Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS), and it costs $20, valid for one year.
It takes seven working days to be issued if you apply online (a $5 fee will be charged), but if you need it sooner, you can walk-in to apply at any of the AA Centres. Bring your NRIC and driving license.
Take note that it is not recognised in certain countries, such as China and Myanmar.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.