Singapore is already one of the world's most expensive places to drive and own a car, and things are set to get tougher from 2018.

Starting in February next year, the small city-state at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula will reduce the permitted annual growth rate of its passenger car and motorcycle population from 0.25 per cent to zero.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA), which manages the country's roads and public transport infrastructure, says it's making the change due to "land constraints and competing needs", which mean there is "limited scope for further expansion of the road network".

According to the LTA, 12 per cent of the city-state's land is taken up by roads. The authority says over the next five years it will invest S$20 billion ($18.8 billion) in new rail infrastructure, S$4 billion ($3.8 billion) rail upgrades, and further S$4 billion ($3.8 billion) in bus subsidies.

Every vehicle purchased in Singapore requires a certificate of entitlement (COE), which lasts 10 years. A limited number are made available via auction annually. This system is combined with congestion pricing and a high automobile sales tax to discourage car ownership.

Above: Singapore traffic (Photo: Shaun Garrity/Flickr) 

An entry-level Toyota Corolla Altis sedan with a 96kW 1.6-litre engine costs S$104,988 ($98,705) inclusive of taxes and COE. In New South Wales, a base Corolla Ascent sedan with a 103kW 1.8-litre motor is $24,880 driveaway.

From the inception of the certificate of entitlement quota system in 1990 until 2009, Singapore restricted car growth to 3.0 per cent annually. From that point on, the small country has gradually reduced yearly growth to 0.25 per cent.

At the end of 2016, Singapore had a total vehicle population of 898,239. Out of that number 318,081 were passenger cars with engines up to 1.6 litres or with less than 97kW of power.

There were a further 283,137 cars with engines larger than 1.6 litres or with over 97kW of power. In addition to this, Singapore's fleet also included 154,507 commercial vehicles and buses, and 142,514 motorcycles.

For context, Singapore has a population of around 5.6 million crammed into 719.1 square kilometres of land. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the greater Sydney area has a population of a smidge over 5.0 million in an area roughly 12,367 square kilometres in size.

Cover image: Merlion by Marek Kubica on Flickr