Friday, July 8, 2016

GMGH loves Uber and Grab, and maybe you should too

I have tasted the forbidden fruit, and now I am hooked.

I have used both Uber and Grab (henceforth known as taxi-alts) sign up promotions and that made my 1st few trips insanely cheap. I have used GrabTaxi before, but I realized that it is still pretty darn expensive. It's an expensive taxi booking app, but at least it lets you get a taxi fast.

There's plenty of choices when it comes to using Uber and Grab, but I'll just share with you guys how I use it. I have just 5 scenarios to think about, so life is rather easy for me.

Booking a trip in advance
GrabHitch: This allows you to set a date, time, pick up and drop off locations and it will also display the place. Once you agree to it, this "job" gets posted for drivers to decide to take it up. GrabHitch is the cheapest way to get around, but it isn't easy to get a "job" filled. Also, it does not work well if you need a ride on-demand. It only works well if you are... booking a trip in advance. Duh.

Late night home
UberPool / UberX: Honestly, in the middle of the night, the odds of sharing a ride with someone is really low, and this could knock off about 25% of your fare. If you're not keen on sharing a ride, UberX is still a good option even with the latent 1.5x surge because night trips are pretty speedy and with low traffic, so you get home quickly, and therefore, cheaply.

Peak hour travelling
GrabCar: The thing that I really like about GrabCar is that the price is set before you decide on a ride. This means that for long travel times, GrabCar would be cheaper because even if you're stuck in traffic for an hour, the cost of the ride is the same.

General day-time commute
UberPool / UberX / GrabCar: UberPool is my top choice if you're not going anywhere in a rush, but let's face it, if you're taking a taxi-alt instead of public transport, you're probably in a rush, right? If it's for convenience while still being on a budget, UberPool should be your go-to choice. If you're in a rush and you need to get somewhere, then I'd put UberX slightly ahead of GrabCar because I feel that there are more UberX drivers out there, so you'll be picked up faster. Of course, if you look at your map and a GrabCar is just beside you, you can go for that as well. I'm quite indifferent to both during this time.

GrabTaxi: Personally, I'm not too happy to give this option, but there are times when there are really no drivers available and if you are in a rush, you might have no choice but to pony up for your poor time management. GrabTaxis are pretty much normal taxis with a booking fee, but the benefit is that many cabbies are using it, so it is quite easy to get someone to pick you up. This is pretty essential if you're in a rush and in a ulu place and can't do a roadside flag down.


I've seen many many articles about the true "cost" of car ownership in Singapore. Screw all the big and bombastic numbers, statistics are only meaningful if they can be compared to something else. We need to compare the costs by month.

Real world realistic estimates puts the cost of car ownership of an entry level model at $2,200 a month, everything all-in. (source 1, 2)

Real world public transport estimate MAXES out at $120 per month, which is the price of the monthly concession (source 1, 2). I am pretty confident that many people spend less than that.

Previous taxi estimates assumes $44 a work day as your work commute, so this comes out to about $1000 a month. However, with GrabHitch/UberPool/GrabCar/UberX, getting from from Punggol to the CBD is a lot less expensive than what you think. GrabHitch is $12 (+negotiate ERP, usually absorbed), UberPool is $14, UberX is $18 and GrabCar is $22.  If I take the average estimate to be $40 a day (which is slightly on the high side), we come up with close to $900 a month. I think that it would be possible for people who plan well in advance to keep their rides under $30 a day, which means that the cost is actually closer to $700 a month instead.

The nice thing about Uber and Grab are that these apps are always having a promotion, so you could capitalize on that. I think that every few weeks there's a new promo here or there that dangles free or discounted rides, and that of course helps in bringing down costs - but in a happy-surprise kind of way, as opposed to a consistent flat discount.

Being able to pay by credit card, track your expenditure and also have driver's and trip info are all extra small things that you realize are great to have to your traditional taxi rides. Just the other day I left my keys in my Uber. Through the app, I managed to call the driver within 5 minutes and got my belongings returned back to me. It was an awesome experience. It would have been disastrous if I was in a normal taxi.

I have to admit that I was slightly skeptical, but open-minded to these apps at first, but I've recently been won over from my own personal use and also hearing very positive stories from friends. I know someone that just scrapped their 2nd hand car and resorted to Uber/Grab as an interim measure. That measure has now turned into his permanent mode of transport.

As someone that drives and someone that can navigate the public transport system well, I love that taxi-alts exist. For the daily commuter that has a special occasion, it offers a cheaper, simpler, easier way to get a ride to where you want to go compared to trying to flag down a taxi. For a driver, it offers a cheaper and lazier way compared to owning, maintaining and driving a vehicle.

Of course, the convenience of owning your own car is awesome, but that convenience costs $1300 a month. This doesn't take into account the many many hours that you will save for yourself by NOT driving, maintaining, washing, pumping petrol, paying road tax, renewing insurance, topping up your cashcard for ERP, etc etc.... All that time saved can be spent sleeping, reading or doing other stuff!

Honestly, the way that I look at it, with the massive rate of under-utilization of private cars currently, low-cost taxi-alts are here to stay for a very, very long time. Blame people that buy cars and use it twice a day. As much as I'd like to own a car from an emotional point of view, the logical side of me cannot defeat the argument that owning a car is not only more expensive, but also more tiring and inconvenient.

An extra hour of snoozing on my daily commute to work instead of facing the roads with idiotic drivers? Or paying up a premium to have a better "quality of life" by not squeezing with the morning traffic and getting to commute in relative comfort? Sign me up!

The arguments to own a private car is getting weaker and weaker each day. The only argument left is convenience, but how much are you willing to pay for it?

LOBANG: If you have an OCBC card, you can get $5 off your next taxi rides if you reserve a deal on the OCBC app!


  1. Replies
    1. Hey Foolish Chameleon. No, I have not! I have tried on multiple occasions to sign up, but I have been unable to. It doesn't seem very mainstream or popular. Uber and Grab has the lion's share of the private hire market now, I'd reckon!

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