My family and friends have bugged me for the longest time to learn driving. And so I decided to get it done. Probably 10 years late if you ask them, especially my wife. I finally did it because of a snowballing sum of factors.
- Ride hailing apps are no longer sufficient for me. It does not cover my last mile to office which requires a 200m hike uphill (which gets real shitty when it rains). I sucked it up for six years and I think that is enough.
- The cost difference between ride hailing apps and owning a car is dropping. I am spending more and more on rides (currently S$500-700 per month). I take rides twice every work day and sometimes more on non-work days. It gets more expensive when I have to ferry my parents because I will have to hire a seven-seater to have sufficient space for two wheelchairs. While this is definitely still cheaper than owning a car, the delta is no longer as significant (estimated addition of S$300-400 per month).
- With my wedding and new home settled, I have no other large sum expenses planned for the next decade so owning a car has become a defend-able luxury.
All these added on to non-time dependent factors, such as developing a life skill, personal independence – not wanting to rely on others to drive me around, etc.
I went via the driving school route because I could not find good private instructors in my area that were available. But I was still determined to get my license done quickly. It took a total of 14 practical lessons and single tries for the theory and practical tests. I am told that this is rather quick for the school route. But it was admittedly aided by my decision to take an auto transmission license instead of its manual counterpart. Driving auto is easy and I did not see significant upsides to expending more effort to learn manual knowing that I will not use it eventually.
The 14 practical lessons and test were completed in two months because I decided to cram. This meant a month of back to back night lessons and then waiting for three weeks or so for my practical test. I like doing things as efficiently and effectively as possible, and I absolutely loathe dragging the process out. There was no such thing as forgetting what I learnt from previous lessons because lessons came thick and fast. The back to back night lessons were draining as they came after long hours at work. Reaching home at 11:30pm every work day for a month was not fun. But it got the job done quickly and I moved through the course rapidly.
I did not get a fixed instructor and actually benefited from getting a wide range of tips from various instructors. Driving is highly situational so getting additional perspectives is very useful for developing road sense. What also did help was having prior road experience from four years of road cycling. I was nervous before my practical test but was fortunate to have an easy going tester. The test took around 30 minutes and I was not put through every item on the checklist (e.g. u-turns were skipped).
Looking back, I think the school lessons provided sufficient confidence for driving on open roads including on expressways. I had little trouble adapting. But the same cannot be said for parking. I still need several tries before I park right. Parking perfectly in a single try was possible on the circuit because of guides that are not available in reality. Given the many complaints about how Singapore drivers are parking horribly (and now I am one of them), schools might want to rethink how they teach parking. For now, I will just keep practicing as I begin my hunt for a second hand car.