Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Car-culator v1.0 for Android: Annual Cost of a Car for the Budget-Conscious Buyer

Understanding car costs in Singapore can be horribly complicated. You compare two different types of cars with the same list price, but the OMV, COE and insurance costs are worlds apart. Which car is actually more expensive to own for X number of years, until you sell or scrap it?

Car-culator is the app I needed 2 weeks ago when I was searching for a car, but it didn't exist. So now that I have bought my car (at a great price, I might add), I've decided to do some public service and make the calculations available for everyone.

You can get it from the Google Play Store.

Car-culator cuts through all the complications of the Singapore tax structure on cars to give you one simple number: the annual cost of the car.
The calculations are based on the LTA Tax Structure, updated in Feb 2013. It has been tested against whatever data I can obtain, but I cannot guarantee the accuracy in all situations.
At the moment, it only works for normal petrol cars with normal COEs.

This is my unofficial beta test release. Features are simple, but I hope you find it useful! If you have feedback on bugs, calculation errors or suggested features, please leave a comment or send me an email.

How It Looks
This is a very simple app. You fill in the cars basic data, and it tells you the annual cost of keeping the car.
The three screens above show you
1) The app's opening screen
2) The opening screen with data filled in
3) The cost calculation, with the annual cost highlighted in red

The App works best if you already know what make and model you want, and are just trying to find the best deal. If you already know your budget and the car you want to buy, it just boils down to figuring out which of all the listed cars can give you the best value (without being a lemon, of course). So that is what this app is for.

How to Use
You can walk around the car showrooms using it to calculate annual costs on the fly. Or you can do what I did (at that time it was in excel), and use it for online comparison shopping. When I found a listing I liked based on the annual cost, I would print it out and write my magic number on the front.

Actually sites like sgcarmart do have a field called "depreciation". But in my experience, the field is usually empty or it is an arbitrary number that is too low.

This app prototype was built using the MIT App Inventor, a very user-friendly interface that is perfect for simple apps or prototypes. There are plenty of tutorial on YouTube on how to use it. For more of my apps, you can also check out the Meeting Butler (built ground-up in Eclipse) which is a much more advanced app designed to streamline the conduct of long meetings in the SAF.