I’ve been wanting to write this for the longest while but it’s not like you guys don’t know EB is the biggest procrastinator on earth. This would be a pretty wordy post because I don’t know what pictures to insert but I’ll try to illustrate what I’m talking about throughout this post. And I don’t know whether got legit tips or not la, I choose to think what I say is pretty legit.
For those who have taken and passed your driving test, you should be able to reminisce about your good (or bad) times when you were a starry eyed driver on the roads; for those who are in the midst of taking your lessons or even thinking of taking up driving, I believe this would be of help to let you feel how scary it is to take your final driving test, MUAHAHAHA! Not trying to scare you all, I’m really serious though.
I’ve been writing bits and pieces of this post for the longest time now (about 1.5 months) and now since I’ve finally gotten my car, let me add that experience in to make this entire recollection and advice piece come a whole circle.
P.S. I PASSED ON MY FIRST TRY AT UBI SO MY WORDS ARE LEGIT AF. So listen up!
If there’s one tip for starters or you’re sick of reading my writing, it’d be, if you’re a student now, and contemplating whether to take your driving license, JUST GO DO IT.
Why? Being a student means:
1) You have the luxury of time to plan your driving lessons in between your classes or week
2) Taking your classes on non peak hours such as weekdays afternoon, which is cheaper and you don’t have to queue so long for the circuit usage – i.e. getting a bang for your buck cause you can practice more
3) You can complete the whole course in probably 3 months or less if you’re super on the ball.
When I was a student, getting a license was NEVER on my to-do list. Even when I witnessed friend after friend getting excited and proud over their driving license, I remained unimpressed. I thought I’d eventually be a Tai Tai and get driven around when I grow up + I just didn’t have the urgency to get a car then, so I didn’t quite see the appeal of “wasting time” on getting something I didn’t need. Boy, I was so wrong. SO WRONG. Now that I’m older and arguably wiser, haiya I’ve come to see that driving is a life skill that you’ll eventually (most likely) need, + in case you ever change your mind and decide to get a car, you don’t have to waste 6 months of your adult life to learn! It’s like riding a bike, you kinda just need to know it!
Why did I eventually decide to learn?
If you were wondering what changed the stubborn belly’s mind and decide to take the first arduous step to get my driving license, it was:
1) Peer pressure – no lah more like knowing that a peer was doing the same thing as you is kinda motivating? Cause I hate to lose? Haha! It’s always nice and fun to do it with someone else you know so you can whine and share your experiences together.
2) I eventually succumbed to the late nights at work and saw the appeal of owning a car because it was much more convenient. While many would argue and tell me that getting a grab daily would still be cheaper than driving a car, as much as that might be true, getting a car is really much more than just about the cost of financing it. No point in writing an argumentative essay because you believe what you believe, the main takeaway is, your priorities and mindset towards getting your license/car would shift and change over the years like myself, so why don’t you just complete it when you can? Don’t regret like me!
The Experience and Process
Step 1: Enrolment + Basic Theory Test
For people who are totally clueless like myself when I first started this journey, the very first step you should take would be to head down to your nearest driving centre:
A) ComfortDelgro Driving Centre (CDC) at Ubi
B) Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC) at Woodlands
C) Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC) at Bukit Batok lor.
And apply for your Basic Theory Test (BTT), that would unlock the doors to everything.
After passing your BTT, you’ll then receive your Probational Driving License (PDL) which would allow you to start driving on the roads with the supervision of your instructors.
What’s annoying about the first step would be the amount of time you’d spend waiting for your number to be called at the centre to register. You’d be surprised at the sheer number of people at the centre, well.. at least at Ubi, it’s like that lah. I waited for about 3 hours on a Saturday morning because I am a working adult.
At this point of time, you’d also have to decide if you want to go under the school or private instructor. I went for the private route because people tell me good lor, you guys can read my story to tell me if it’s good or not.
The biggest difference between school vs private would be the COST and flexibility of booking your lessons.
A good comparison and breakdown of the cost of getting your license can be found here.
I lazy write out the analysis cause I thought this should be more of my experience rather than a statistically driven post and also, I secretly did not track how much I’ve spent. Shhhh. Ok la I’ll take out my small booklet to count later.
— $36 per hour for non-peak hours, $38/h for peak hours
And we have to pay him $280 for each test session because we are “renting” the car from him, i.e. the last time to chop.
While people would tell you that private instructors are perfect if your schedule is hectic, my experience says otherwise. It’s probably dependent on your instructor but from what I know, you’ll still be on a “wait list” as one instructor usually takes about 7-8 students at one go.
For myself, I was
only allowed restricted from taking multiple slots on weekends or back to back Saturday and Sunday lessons, no matter how early I booked, because there were other students that my instructor was taking as well. So logically he needs be kinda fair or else he got no business mah. Whereas for the school booking, no matter how many students are there, there are so many instructors available so it’s still pretty much a first come first served thingy as long as you camp on the site to book your preferred slot. That would have allowed me to get my license way, way, way faster, instead of taking one lesson per week. You guys should probably do a research on your instructor before you decide, I was stupid.
My instructor had a strict 9am to 6pm schedule, which meant working adults like myself OBVIOUSLY CAN ONLY TAKE THE WEEKEND SLOTS. #TRIGGERED. It was only till the end when I realized that the SCHOOL actually had lessons that starts from 8 freaking pm. I would have gotten my license in like 3 months instead of 6, I tell you.
A few of my friends also told me that private instructors could accommodate to your location where they would pick you up from your place and end off nearby. That’s once again a MYTH.
Ok la to make this a fair argument, the perks of having a private instructor would be the fact that you’ll be meeting and learning from the same guy every session, which gives you some sense of familiarity and comfort, I guess.
Also, if you’re not in a rush to get your license, or if you have time on weekdays on your hands, it would be okay or even advantageous to get a private instructor because then, you can either take your time to slowly complete without the unnecessary stress to camp on the site to book your next lesson; or in the case for students, you can always book your lessons on weekdays and get at least 2-3 sessions in per week without the hassle and stress of fighting for slots online. In that way, getting a private instructor is a much more advantageous route. I guess the flexibility and ease part of learning from a private instructor would only apply to students or people on shift work? Definitely not for people with office hours jobs.
More pros and cons coming up throughout the post. But I hope this has at least allowed you to consider the 2 options
During the registration of the start of your driving lessons, usually the starry eyed students like myself would kiasu, and go buy the BTT and FTT guidebook, thinking that we would study before the test and be very enthusiastic about the whole thing. From my experience, usually the earliest slot for your BTT would be like 2-3 months later, so you will generally not study for it before hand, because who in the right mind would study for a test like so early?! But by then when you realise that the test is nearing, you’d start panicking and find that the thick book is quite daunting to read, and eventually start finding like alternatives or cheats to help you in your test. I don’t know if it’s legal but there’s actually a bank of questions that you can get your hands on – PM me la, I don’t want to go into details in case later is not legal then LTA take away my hard earned license. I’m a true blue kiasee Singaporean. Okay moral of this whole chunk is, DONT BUY THE BOOK THEY OFFER YOU TO BUY. SAVE MONEY.
After you complete your BTT, you’d then be issued a Probational Driving License (PDL) – this is when you can finally start on your driving lessons officially!
2) Driving Lessons
Sharing my experience on the standpoint of a student of a private instructor, I think there isn’t any fixed curriculum; but that, again, varies from one instructor to another. I believe the school has a more structured curriculum so at least you have an idea of what you’d be learning each time and know when you’re ready to take the test. Being structured would mean that there is a “Set” number of lessons you have to take minimally before you’re able to take your TP; whereas for private students, you’re supposedly granted more flexibility and autonomy in deciding when you can take your test. Ok lah, I’m not sure if this is normal but mine forced me to drive around aimlessly and have no idea about what I was doing from the 7th to 15th lesson, before he told me I could enter and practice in the circuit and finally decided to pick a test date for me.
The first lesson was pretty nerve wrecking and exciting. So basically I was taught the basics of the features of a car, how to adjust my mirrors and thereafter, my instructor just said, ok drive. On the ACTUAL ROAD. Omg. I was a road hazard I tell you. The whole lesson I was sitting super upright, seat super close to the steering wheel, palms sweaty and all, and all that I said was OMG OMG OMG OMG for the whole lesson. But he was pretty experienced la, for the first 3 lessons, he made me drive from Ubi to Tampines area where the traffic was rather smooth and slow – just to build my confidence on the roads. Then that’s when you realise, actually driving on the road quite fun and easy one. I was taught to U-turn on my second lesson, and it’s funny how I was panicking and worried that I don’t know how to u-turn at that point of time, and made him let me u-turn like 4 times in a row. The key to master anything in terms of driving, is just practice la – pretty much like anything in life.
After which, it was more of the exposure to driving on the test routes. Apparently there are quite a number of possible test routes that your tester might bring you on during the test, if your instructor asks you to memorise the routes, it’s redundant ok; cause the tester would just guide you accordingly. For each subsequent lesson, it’s a chance for you to familiarise yourself with the different routes and the different things to take note of on each route, like when to keep left after filtering to the right, or where to expect a u-turn, etc. During which, you’d also be exposed to the myriad of traffic conditions where you’d be expect to react accordingly and be taught on certain things to look out for such as how to change lane, how not to horn at other drivers (HAHAHA! Ok I did that to another L-plate car cause too slow), and more.
I liked the fact that by getting a private instructor, I was given the autonomy to just drive freely la, I’m not quite sure how it’s like for school based students, but I would expect it to be stricter, which would be a total turn off for myself. However, with the autonomy, there are also certain key things that my instructor did not bother highlighting to me, unlike those who are being taught in school. One of which would be to check your blind spots. This is extremely crucial, by the way. In fact I think I just got a really really heck care instructor lah. I paid the price of being given the reins during my lessons because there were just too many fundamental things that were not instilled into me before the test. OMG IS IT I ROAD HAZARD NOW?
So what happens after you start your driving lessons? Aside from driving, of course, it’s time for you to book your schedule to take your Final Theory Test (FTT) and once you’ve passed your FTT, you can start booking your test date.
Many people will tell you that the FTT is DAMN BLOODY difficult, a lot of scenario based questions, blah blah, but Explodingbelly’s only tip is, get the powerpoint slides from me pls.
The lessons leading up to the test date would involve yourself going through the school’s circuit. As I did it in Ubi, it was perpetually packed and crowded, and your 1 hour in the circuit would usually only allow you to complete each station once. OH in case you didn’t know, private students have to pay for their usage and entry into the circuit, whereas students from the school would be able to go in as and when, and as many times as possible, FREE. Sigh.
4) The Circuit
I tried googling how many stations are there in a usual circuit in driving schools, but I can’t seem to find it, so.. off the top of my head, I can remember several stations:
1. The ramp
Over here, you’d have to learn to brake and pull up your handbrake on the slope, and then accelerate simultaneously as you release your handbrake so your car do not roll back. This would pose minimal challenge to 3A drivers, but for the manual license, I think got a bit stressful ah.
2. Parallel Parking
Got 2 different parallel parking stations, same same one la, just drive until you can see the full yellow line, then reverse until your right back wheel touches the line and then lock your steering to the opposite direction to reverse in. Easy easy. Just remember to reverse first before you try to get out of the lot.
The one thing I don’t like about the whole curriculum is that the parking is way too unlike what we would expect in real life scenarios. Too many markers to aid us, but in real life, if you reverse wrongly, means bang into other cars liao leh.
3. Vertical Parking
I had the most trouble doing this because I kept mixing up between the tips for parking parallel and vertically. Also 2 different stations involving parallel parking, ask your instructors for the markers to help you in parking.
In real life, got the screen to aid you, so no scared. That’s how I survive these days. Hahaha! I love TECHNOLOGY!
4. S Course
It looks like what it’s named. An S course – probably one of the more intimidating stations because the road is narrow and you will have to find a way/feel to manurer your vehicle around so that you do not mount the curb. The only tip I can think of would be not to lock your steering wheel in any direction throughout the whole station and look far, don’t panic when you encounter the turn.
5. Crank Course
Also another bit intimidating one with 90 degree turns, for better visualisation of the things I’ve been talking about in the circuit, you can look at this image I’ve found:
See the yellow highlight – D, that is the crank course. My instructor say always pass half door then you turn fully. You will know what I’m talking about once you start learning.
6. The must purposely mount kerb one
If anyone knows the actual term for this station, please enlighten me. For this station, you have to just vroom up a kerb, and stop right before the pole, and then drop back down. Then reverse immediately into another lot, and reverse vroom up using your back wheels and stop before you hit the pole. I hate this one, by the way.
And well, all the other things you’d learn in a circuit such as spatial awareness and navigating around tight bends and careful driving to avoid mounting kerb will all play a part in helping you driving comfortably around the hdb carparks in Singapore, and generally any other carparks. How ignorant was I to think that the circuit was specially made to kill learner drivers.
I have no idea what TP stands for but you know, I know, and everyone knows it’s the real actual test. For me, this was on the 17th of April 2018. Ya, and to all my friends who say I drive damn long already still so loser, please I only passed for 3 months and drive for 1.5 weeks proper hor. HMMPH. ANGRY. Okay lah, actually really feels like I’ve been driving for a damn long time, but nope.
TP was… damn bloody nerve wrecking. There will be people telling you which timings are the best to take your test, but for me, I would say aiya just deal with what comes. My timing was 10.30am, so it was still pretty decent, traffic was not very light, but not as crazy as the morning rush hour, and the circuit was still as packed as on a weekend. I don’t understand why. So many people staying in this area meh? (Ya the answer is yes, don’t need tell me that)
Okay so what happens on the day of your final test:
Your instructors will usually plan for a warm up lesson for you which lasts for 1.5h where you’d be basically doing what you always do during your lessons. Drive on the test routes + playing in the circuit.
I was an emotional wreck and mess on the day itself. I was so, so, so damn bloody nervous, I woke up at 6am and couldn’t go back to sleep at all cause my heart was like up in my throat. I can still remember the feels as I type this.
My warm up lesson was at 8.30am and guess who mounted the kerb for the first time during the lesson just before her test? Aiyo, make me 50x more nervous and semi give up on life, really.
After the 1.5h was up, you’ll be given like 10-15 mins to yourself. See how you want to make use of the time, to pee, to pray or to meditate. I obviously peed, in case I pee my pants during the test. You’ll honestly feel quite lost during this point of time cause it’s like you won’t know what to expect or how the test would be like or what’s gonna happen the next moment. My advice is, just read this and visualise as much as you can, if you can’t, just listen and follow the instructions accordingly, you’d be fine.
You’ll then be brought into a claustrophobic room, just 4 walls and many chairs, where your fellow nervous friends would be waiting for their test as well. I stupidly left everything in the car cause I thought inside cannot use phone, but it turns out everyone was using their phone while waiting for time to pass, while I was staring at them and letting my mind run wild with the endless possibilities of how I’m gonna fail my test.
Test instructors will start popping their heads into the room to call out names whom they were gonna test and scare. Some would make you go, WA HENG AH HE NO CALL MY NAME (Cause they look scary as hell), while others would make you go AIYA WHY NOT ME. My tester was ok lah.
You’ll be required to lead them to your car, and just in case you didn’t know, all those who were being tested would have 2 L plates. Cool!
While in the car, the tester will set up their cameras and laptops, while you’d HAVE TO pretend to adjust your mirrors and buckle yourself up.
My recipe for passing? RAPPORT.
I think I have a natural knack of talking nonsense to people and getting them to feel comfortable with me lah, so… I used that to my advantage la – entertain the tester a bit. And then, I was told to drive off. OMG, I was shaking until……… I don’t even know how to describe sia.
He asked me to go to the first station where I had to do the mount kerb thingy, then the moment I turned, he said this is the third time you never check your blind spot. GGWP. I was like HUH! omg here need to check blindspot? My teacher never teach!!!!!!! Nevermind, he give chance so I reassured him that I’ll try to remember in the subsequent ones. Once I reversed, he said, you never check blind spot again. I tell you ah, at that moment, I just felt like telling him, eh Sua la, I fail liao, bring me home. But at the same time cursing at my instructor for not teaching me that and forcing me to do it during our lessons. He only spoke about checking blind spot once in the second lesson, the rest of the time it’s just got see mirror can already. DEAD LA.
Well, I guess as long as you show that you’ve taken note of and paid attention to what they try to correct you on, you’d be fine, because he seemed mighty pleased when I started checking my blind spots once I got out of that FIRST station. SIGH. The rest of the stations went okay, because I was very lucky to not have weird circumstances popping up and everything went smoothly. We then proceeded on to the roads once all the stations were cleared.
My friend told me that her test route just involved getting out of CDC and then making a u-turn and heading back, so in my mind, I was expecting a super short route. But I guess my performance in the circuit of not checking my blind spot multiple times made the tester feel 50-50 lah, so I took a way longer test route. At the same time, I was trying to engage the dude in casual conversations to ease the tension. I semi knew I passed when he started asking things like what my tattoo meant. HAHAHA!
Okay, so we proceeded back to CDC, and I had to follow the tester up to level 2 to wait for the results. I was 90% confident I will pass la, have to say 90% because the 10% is for my dignity in case I fail.
You guys know what happened next lah. I PASSED! WOOHOOOOOOO! Then instead of celebrating…. I went back to work, and I took the following picture because:
Oh, what happens after you pass?
After sitting in for a review with your tester on your test performance, you’ll then be asked to take a number to register for your driving license and to get a slip of paper during the time whilst you’re waiting for your card to be done. If you’ve made it to this point of my post, you’re not gonna regret it because here’s a huge tip that nobody told me. You’d be required to hand over a passport sized photo for your driving license. If you don’t, you’d have to go to the machine to take, which most of the time would be less than ideal because you are rushing to take it and your face is not prepared for photo taking. This applies to people who are not as good looking as Beckham, which is most of the population. So please bring a nice looking or your preferred face along during the test so you’ll have a nice looking driving license.
After which, you’d have to head to a room to watch a 15 mins long video about drink driving and accidents to scare the shit out of you to not drive after the nerve wrecking 30 mins test. I tried fast forwarding the video but it’s locked. So they smart. And after which they would take your attendance and you’re free to walk out of CDC forever and ever and ever.
What’s next + Costs of Driving
For me, the end goal was always to get my very own transport after getting my license, so after I passed on Tuesday, I went to buy my car on Saturday.
The biggest and the realest advice that anyone can give you is, to start with a second hand car first so that you’re able to get used to the road conditions, have a little bump and scratches here and there before you get a solid new first hand car.
If you’ve been following me, you’d realise that I actually gotten myself a brand new car instead.
The main reason why I did it was because I didn’t have the knowledge and patience to go find out and wait for a decent second hand car to get. I also didn’t want to trouble my friends to keep a lookout for myself, and I, for one, don’t feel quite comfortable in someone else’s car. Who knows what they’ve done in there for the past 8 years? Hmm.. HAHAHAHA!
The other reasons would include:
- There might be underlying problems that we don’t know – I don’t have the knowledge and expertise to know whats wrong and I can’t afford the time to bring it to the workshop all the time
- I also did not want to spend unnecessarily on the repairs
- COE was relatively cheap then. Even though it’s way lower now, I got mine at about $34k, which was still pretty decent
- I would eventually buy a car anyway, so why not now?
After breaking into my new car for the past 1.5 weeks, I have certain insights that might be important in your decision to choose between a brand new ride or a 2nd hand one.
- Aside from the price of the car, road tax and COE, there was also one thing that was very hefty and that’s insurance. My insurance is a hefty $5k per annum because I’m relatively young, a new driver, a brand new car owner and I never owned a vehicle before, strikes everything off the boxes and hence the price. You might want to own a second hand car for awhile before taking the leap of faith.
- You have to drive 2000x more carefully when you own a new car because every scratch you get would break your heart. Ok la doesn’t mean that 2nd hand car no need care but you know…. if it’s brand new, you tend to be more protective mah.
- Driving on the real roads is way more challenging and stressful than your usual lessons, there’s much to focus on and there are a lot of road bullies. SO… refer to point 2.
- PLUS multi storey carparks and carparks are no joke. It’s like any time you can scratch your car against the walls. Your concentration has to be 10/10. If you’re an experienced driver then shut up! Hahaha!
- The last and most important point is, make sure you’re financially ready to have a brand new car. Here are a list of things and prices to take note of to make sure that you’re not just spending your salary on feeding a car, rather than yourself.
In my case, my car costs about $100k, and with insurance, it’s about $105k. I’m going on a 4 year loan, which is approximately $1,100/month of instalment I have to pay for my car.
- $1,100/month for instalment
- $100 for petrol per week = $400/month. (*tip: use UOB card at Shell, you’ll get rebates, so essentially this shaves off a $5-10 per visit.)
- Season Parking
– For me, my CBD carparks tend to be a rip off ranging from $230 to $300/month. I got mine at $230/month.
– Season Parking for the second car of the household is $120/month
– Total damage per month in perspective: $350
– My usual KPE from my place to work costs about $4.50
– Don’t forget to add in your miscellaneous travels like going for client visits or even going out, I just spent $11 on ERP traveling to a client’s place for lunch the other day.
– $4.50 x 22 days of work = $99/month
– When you go out to eat and park at carparks of malls or even HDB, every minute counts. Even though they are shit storage spaces for cars with people scratching their body on the stupid narrow ramps or breaking their windows because of a random vent, we still have to pay for expensive parking. Let’s say on average you spend $3.5 for parking a day (WHICH IS WAY MORE THAN THAT BTW, because you might be going to more than one place a day), in a month, you’d be essentially spending,
– $3.50 x 30 days = $91.50/month
Okay I can’t remember what to pay already, I think that’s about it, and the total sum would be, $2040.50 MINIMALLY. Imagine the cost that would be incurred if you need to repair your car or go for maintenance. This is for a first hand car and for the next 4 to 5 years of my life. Whereas the cost and time can be immediately halved if you were to get a second hand car. Heck, the downpayment for Sherman (the name of my car btw) could actually get me a decent 2nd hand car. Just some thing for you guys to think about. For the many people who have been asking if I’ve gotten help in the financing of my car by my parents, the answer is…. NO LAH, you think I still a kid meh, need my mum to buy me hot wheels.
Well.. After all that I’ve said, I don’t quite regret getting Sherman because of the convenience he brings to my life. But one thing for sure, it is stressful and nerve wrecking as hell to be on the roads, especially during peak hours, to the point that some times I just don’t want to drive at all. I wonder when I’ll be able to be more comfortable with driving and make it a second nature to me, but for now, I’m still trying hard to get used to the road conditions and nasty people.
Hope this article has given you guys some enlightenment and a fuller picture of what it’s like to get your license, how it’s like during the test and also some food for thought on whether to start owning a vehicle or not!
Feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram (@explodingbelly) or a comment here if you’ve any questions to ask about the entire process, I’ll be more than glad to be of help because I was once in your shoes too!