Buying a Vehicle in the Philippines

So I needed to replace a van used to haul supplies, blown engine, and just not worth putting the money into the vehicle. First try was having staff ask around at our mechanic or watching out for multicabs in the area. Not good, everyone wanted to mark up the vehicle once they found out a kano was involved, asking ridiculous prices for old worn out vehicles. At some point even the staff figured out that racism was alive and well in the Philippines.

So fly in on the late night flight, have a car rented for the next day, pull up some ads, print them out after making some calls checking on them, and off into the hinterlands to check out the vehicles. You gotta go where the multicabs are common so there is competition on price or you will pay too much. First thing to expect is that the pictures of the vehicle sometimes are not actual pictures of the vehicle, but copied photos from online that might be the same brand or they might not be. Second thing is that the color might or might not be what is posted in the ad, in fact they sometimes just copy another ad and paste it in with their contact info. The ads says it is running well? Probably won’t start when you get there.

Why Because the price is advertised and you won’t get kano priced when you drive two hours across clogged roads at 20 km an hour.

One by one you check out the vehicles, total dishonesty, totally worthless vehicles or over priced for the condition.

One last vehicle to look at for the day and it turns out to be the lesser of evils. Said to be in a car lot with lots of other multicabs but that is a borrowed picture, show up at a small university and the #2 guy at the university meets you at the administrative office to take you to where the vehicle is, his son actually owns the vehicle and teaches at the college. The vehicle actually has the air con and automatic transmission the ad claimed. Not white like in the picture but blue. Ask the owner and he tells you “Oh sir, I said it was blue and white.” No white on the vehicle at all of course. Text the license plate info into the LTO office and make sure it isn’t stolen, you will get a reply in a few minutes.

Engine and chassis serial numbers match the paperwork, and this time it actually is registered with a actual license plate and has the OR and no liens unlike some of the other vehicles you looked at. It actually starts and runs, Dong doesn’t want to do a test drive of course so you start to walk away and Dong changes his mind and you get a five or six km road test including getting it up to 60 km so you know the top gear kicks in. All the while you are treated to a lecture of how lucky you are to have found such a great vehicle that needs no work and is in perfect condition.

Does it have the canopy and folding seats somewhere? Yes, it does, they will go get them if I agree to buy it.

Runs good, no blow back when you pull the oil filler cap off, nice and clean for a 2011 model, no oil leaks, not a bad deal on price. Now 2011 model doesn’t mean an actual 2011 model, it was registered in the Philippines in 2011 actually and might be older and might be assembled from scrap parts from a dozen multicabs and painted. Seat belts have a tag on them with a date usually and might or might not be the same ones when the vehicle was manufactured. This one actually was imported in one piece instead of chopped up as all the serial numbers match up with the door label, a rare duck indeed. Very recent emission test, just a few days before actually, your fist sign to watch out for problems actually as why would a guy go though all that trouble to register a car in his name and sell it a few days later? So you tell them you will go by a bank and get the cash and then meet them at a notary public office to have the bill of sale notarized. Now Dong wants an additional 8 k for the canopy and folding seats he took off and has stored at his house. No deal Dong, bye, bye. Dong changes his mind and agrees no charge. But a thirty km trip to go get the canopy and seats. Now the fun begins.

First Dong is told to stop by the bank with you so you can pick up the cash (you are not an idiot and did not travel around with a year and a half of dong pay in your pocket I hope?), then dong’s dad will continue out in his own truck and pick up the canopy and seats and then to the notary public office. No problem… till you tell dong and dong junior that you are going to ride with dong junior on the way over to the bank and pick up the canopy. Deer in the headlight looks, gaping mouth, and no way to refuse the request. Yup, something is wrong with that vehicle and they know it.

So you hop in the multicab, following dong senior, while your rented car follows you. Dong junior isn’t sharp enough to not lose your rented car so you have to pull over on occasion and you keep an eye on the car and driver you rented so you don’t outrun them. Dong junior is nervous but you are watching how he uses the pedals, driving with both feet is a dead giveaway that the vehicle stalls when it gets warmed up. And sure enough, the car loses speed going up a small hill about a half hour later and dong junior is trying to tell you that this is the first time it ever happened! Turn engine off, turn back on, problem cleared. Throttle position sensor going out, computer going into limp home mode.

Dong junior is sweating bullets now. Busted about lying about the vehicle and sure you are going to walk out on the deal. But as used vehicles go this one is one of the better ones and easily fixed. Thing is that a good used vehicle without a problem in the Philippines is NOT going to be sold in an ad, it is going to family somewhere. But dong mechanics usually don’t have a clue about fuel injected multicabs and it is a rare mutlicab with automatic transmission and factory aircon so you buy it anyway.
Dong senior walks out of the first notary public after the lawyer sees the white face and ups the price on the bill of sale to 550 peos, 200 pesos usually. Second notary public you stay out side while they write up the bill of sale and the look on the notary public’s face is priceless when you walk in, they clap their hands to their face and laugh then get a sick look on their face. Of course Don misstated the selling price to save tax money.

Now the real adventure starts. You are way the hell out in the sticks and are following the rented car driver back. Back roads all the way, ALEC or something is in town so traffic is snarled 80 km away on the freeway back. Dong isn’t bright enough to think that you can’t pass other vehicles like he can but you drive like hell trying to keep up with him and hope you don’t take a wrong turn.

Multicabs are three cyclinder engines, around 60 hp, and they while they can do 80 km an hour and more they don’t get there quickly enough to pass a big truck on a two lane road. Dumb ass hasn’t been paid so you think he wouldn’t lose sight of you. So about 100 km back through countless towns and villages in the dead of night in a strange vehicle that you hope isn’t going to conk out. No taillights on many cars, no headlights either, people walking in the road or riding bikes, road construction every other town with one lane traffic with a dong sitting at each end with a stop sign. Government oo stupid to detour traffic around the road. And what fun, the new road surface now sits about 18” above the old road, no shoulders, straight drop off, I suppose they will dump sand on both sides so cars can get into driveways and parking slots eventually.

But the vehicle runs like a top and gives you no problems. LTO process goes smooth cause you knew to buy only an already registered vehicle, no problems for the rest of the week so the throttle position sensor is just weak and glitch so far.
Lessons learned: Flips will lie like no one else when selling a car, even the color of the damn thing.

If it is for sale to the public then no one in the family or friend network wants it for some reason so be careful.

Check the paperwork closely; check that serial numbers all match what on the OR and that the tag number is the same as on the OR. Open title is common, a vehicle handed down a several times without re registering it in the new owners name, just get the tag sticker and insurance and believe it or not you might not have a problem even though it is risky.

The notarized bill of sale is your actual proof of ownership but you need LTO registration to be certain of a clear title. Always get a copy of the original owner’s ID and a copy of the ID of anyone else that had owned the vehicle if it is an open title vehicle but it is much safer to purchase only a vehicle that is registered with the current owner.

Above all, invest only what you can afford to lose and walk away from. Even with a messed up title that can’t be registered you can drive the dang thing for years as long as you have the bill of sale and insurance. Out of date tag? No problem as long as you have the paperwork and tell the cop that they are processing the paperwork still. Things are so screwed up there that that excuse is actually credible.

Published in Scams


  1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

    My plate tag had 2012 on it until a few months ago. It seems with all the fees they charge, the lto still couldn’t afford the cheap little plate sticker. Instead they just stamped “no sticker available” on the registration. Filipino version of problem solved.

    1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

      It just shows they are always stealing the money. I mean if they can’t afford a simple sticker, then someone is not running the budget right.
      Charging ₱5000 a year for some vehicle registrations yet can’t provide a ₱5 sticker or get a page of them for ₱50?
      Ill say it always, “I have zero respect for this stupid culture.”

    2. Profile gravatar of Don Quixote
      Don Quixote

      Wait until you try and change the papers into your name, then the real IDIOTOCRACY STARTS, you will be surprised how many friends you will have, use a FIXER just do it and get it done, ASAP.
      And pray it was first registered in your province , or at least the OR has the local LTO upon it, or you are in the shit, as the computers do not talk to each other one province to the next.
      It took me 14 visits to different departments , as my car was bought off someone who had it from new and never changed the rego from Manila.
      I wrote a long post on that stuff up.

  2. Profile gravatar of Hey Joe
    Hey Joe

    Funny, you have the same van I have. EFI/Auto /AC Mine”says” 2011. but it’s a 02. Check the vin online. The Japanese are excellent at record keeping. I found all the info on mine, the port it shipped out of in Japan, what port it came into in dee phils true date of manufacture.
    It’s not a bad little mule of a car. It just sits now, we never use it anymore.

    The flips give me a kick. If they don’t know what it is…snip-cut, in the trash it goes. Computer, gone, emission system. The the hell is emissions?? you don’t need that. People bring computer issues to me a lot, as I am one of the few in this area to have a scanner and a Eprom flasher. Funny cuz I almost never find the OBD plug..snip gone ! so a big waste of time.
    All the motors they say are rebuilt…LO fucking L !! such hack work like I have never seen in my 40yrs of being a mechanic. But it sure does put a smile on my face. 🙂

    1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      Got a website for checking that Japanese VIN? that would be great.

      They are tough little things. I put about 1200 pounds on it last week and it never complained going back to the shop.

      Hoping the auto transmission holds up, heard it was tough to get them repaired in the Phils. GF learned on an automatic and I am not sure she has the computing power to handle a manual, driving alone puts her in over load mode.

      1. Profile gravatar of Hey Joe
        Hey Joe

        Idiotocracy :
        No, sorry on the website. that was yrs ago when we got it. I found it with a quick google. The Japanese are wonderful with the record keeping
        Both of our cars are automatic, Yes it scares me to death. I can fix them, but good luck with parts. So you end up screwed.
        I have to ship in almost everything and wait a month or more. I needed a piston ring for my US made string cutter, AKA a lawn mower here LOL . Could not find one, website in the US, $2.50usd, shipping 27 bux!!!! Plus p850 f-ing customs for a 2.50 part
        Crooks !! And you wonder why everything is broken down junk.

    1. Profile gravatar of Hey Joe
      Hey Joe

      Yup, need to watch that stuff close. Anything you buy here, house, car what ever… YOU are reasonable as the new owner, back taxes, tickets, anything.
      I wonder if anyone pays taxes here. Seems every house we look at is 5-10-15 years in back taxes owed. They always think we wont check.
      That look we get when we tell them…priceless!!

      1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

        I always wondered that too. They never pay taxes, then expect market value for the property before you pay their taxes.
        Speaking of, taxes in the Philippines are high, some of the transfer or sales taxes are just outrageous. Plus our local mayor just increased property tax 100%.

        1. Profile gravatar of Hey Joe
          Hey Joe

          And they want YOU to pay the capital gains taxes to boot. !!
          Like hell I will, I just deduct the taxes and anything else I find off any offer I may make. That is the deal, take it or leave it. Wave some cash … they will bite. Their greed always gets them 🙂

          1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

            That’s si funny you say that. If you show cash or a check, they stop thinking further and focus on the money.

          2. Profile gravatar of Hey Joe
            Hey Joe

            It’s their game, just learn how to play it. Then use it against them 🙂
            Most of them are soooo incredibly stupid, it’s just to easy to take advantage once you get used to the lies, it all becomes so predictable.

            RUSH SALE, mom is in the hospital….. Low-ball offer like you would not believe.
            RUSH SALE, moving out of country…. even lower, so even I am embarrassed to make it. 🙂

      2. Profile gravatar of 30-30

        yes,, they will be a whole nest of flips in that house, pay taxes,, noooooo . scam it off to some sucker,
        That is why you see the owner is abroad,,, i just cut the price in half,,, theowner is tired of the rallies living off him.

        1. Profile gravatar of loco_loco

          Hey Joe, Yes exactly …. its their problem..they dont know how to deal with money…Ask the lord , he said if u ask you shall receive…thats the deal with them…absolute no thinking and planing…They do often also a Rush Sale with a Property which has not been fully paid to bank..

      3. Profile gravatar of loco_loco

        Yep, even when u rent a house….the most leave the houses with unpaid bills ( skycable blablla etc etc ) have opened one time a bill from the “lost” person who did rent the house before me…( i know i shouldnt do this but who cares here in this country = no one) My god energy was not paid for 3 months with a bill of nearly 40k ( how they did that ? 40k )

  3. Profile gravatar of 86andBelow

    A friend of mine relayed a story to me.

    Cano: can you check my car? See if anything needs replacing?
    Me Can Hick: What is wrong sirrrrrrr?
    Cano: Nothing. Preventative maintenance.
    Me Can Hick: What is wrong with the car sirrrrrrr?
    Cano: Nothing yet. Can you check to see if anything is close to needing replacement.
    Me Can Hick: What is wrong sirrrrrrrrr?
    Throw in gormless looks and dog chasing tail for the next few minutes…..

  4. Profile gravatar of 86andBelow

    A friend of mine relayed a story to me.

    Looking for part, so found it on internet and printed off image to help his cause.

    Went to three suppliers.
    Handed paper to salesperson.
    “Do you have this?”
    All three suppliers salespersons, “we don’t sell paper sirrrrrrr!”

    Point finger. Dog looks at finger.

    1. Profile gravatar of loco_loco

      hahaAAAAAAAAAAA yes exactly the same have to experience very often….. !! I print it always out on a paper to show them PHOTOS because i did learn already here in da Phils , that you cant go into any “special” store and ask them for a part or anything.
      Answer: Sorry sir this paper we dont sell here maybe you go to corner x y blalbla
      Me: Do I look to you that I dont know what kind of store I did enter here ?
      He: Sorry I dont understand you ,sir

  5. Profile gravatar of

    I read an article in an old top gear mag. He was talking about the new plates for cars. At that time they were going to have a bar code so the sticker was no longer needed. It was also going to have a hologram on the back so they couldnt be forged. Sounds like 2 dumb ideas. Who will scan the bar code? How do you check the hologram on the back?
    We have already been billed for the new plates but they arent in stock. Just another huge scam!

    1. Profile gravatar of Hey Joe
      Hey Joe

      2 years I have been billed for the new plates…. and still waiting…and waiting..
      Scam is right. Like what is not in this place??? Is there one thing that is not rigged in one way or the other??

      1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

        It so funny cause I was going to reply to “Is there one thing that is not rigged in one way or the other??”
        Then I typed so much after going off on a tangent, I decided to make it an article.

  6. Profile gravatar of

    Hi, just new here and i am so looking forward to tell you guys how i hate LTO here in manila.
    I bought a new car 6months ago and still got no plate number, bloody annoying philipine government.

  7. Profile gravatar of

    When we went to the LTO to get our Aussy licences transferred were there for hours. I observed an area out the back which had a big sign on the wall that it was the driver testing area. It was now just a car park. It got me thinking. I know a lot of people buy their licence so When you’re driving down the road, how many people have been taught how to drive, how many actually have a licence and why am I stupid enough to be on the road with them? It makes sense when you see how they drive because they don’t know any better.

  8. Profile gravatar of

    I got my aussie license too in LTO but here in las pinas and the so called agent told me to pay under the table of 2,500pesos to transfer my aussie license from phil license. No more test just pay the money and off you go.

  9. Profile gravatar of 86andBelow

    I took my written, driving and bike test at LTO’s Head Office in Queson.

    Disclaimer (*snigger*)This was over ten years ago now, so I’m sure everything has been sorted out by now

    My decision to actually sit the test stemmed from inquisitiveness as to how the flips became such a clusterfuck of drivers/riders.

    Here is my experience:

    Exam 1) Written test in room with other candidates.

    Questions on road signs – Look around room. Spot sign and description from sign and description displayed on wall. Answer question.

    First question: If you are following another vehicle, how far from the vehicle should your distance be?
    a) one car length
    b) two car lengths
    c) three car lengths
    After reading the question, i got up, walked over to the officer that was present and asked her, “Erm. What speed are we doing? 0kph or 100kph? The question doesn’t state the speed, so I cannot answer….”. She got all squirmy and embarrassed cos she didn’t know what to do with a normal reasonable question, so I backed off a bit (cos they probably would’ve failed me otherwise, as oversensitive 5 year olds do) and said, “Shall I put three car lengths?”. She regained her composure from the basic question that had interrupted her vacuousness and happily replied, “correct sirrrrrrrrrr”.

    Of the 25 or so questions, at least five were ambiguous, wrong or quite clearly unanswerable.

    I passed.

    Exam 2) Motorcycle:
    1) Motorcycle was provided by LTO HEAD HONCHO OFFICE. A twist and go, non gearbox type of 50-100cc. Not sure of make as it was too dilapidated to tell.
    a) Panels hanging off from crash damage
    b) Belching two stroke oil
    c) No brake front or back
    d) Ride around in a 10 metre circle
    e) No helmet provided
    f) Twist grip throttle cable was sticking which meant that opening the first 60% nothing would happen and then it would suddenly shoot forward. So the technique was to open, shut, open, shut, open, shut for a series of jerky movements to complete the circle.


    Exam 3) Driving, practical test:
    1) Provided my own manual car
    2) Examiner invited me to get in. So I did.
    3) After a few minutes I got out and asked the examiner when he was going to join me (interrupting his convo with his mate)
    4) He said “no need”
    5) I said “You are not going to observe how I drive from inside the vehicle. You cannot see what I am doing from outside the car?”
    6) He (getting irritated, as I was questioning his ability I presume) said “No need, I have experience….., I KNOW!”
    7) Me (not wishing to fail my test by upsetting a 50+ year old petulant hissy fitter) “Ohhhhh, YOU KNOW!! Exxxxxxcellllllent!” (examiner did not notice the 50 megatons of sarcasm. Probably thought I had praised him FFS!)
    8) The drive:
    a) Did my pre-drive walk around visual inspection of my car.
    b) Got in. Put on seatbelt. Cockpit check.
    c) Static brake test. Handbrake/ neutral. Warning lights. Engine on.
    d) All round observation. Blind spot check , move off safely.
    e) Drive straight for 20 metres in a straight line, turn the car around 180 and return.
    f) ONLY TO SUDDENLY REALISE…….FUCK IT!! I’ve been driving with my RIGHT FOOT on the CLUTCH and my LEFT FOOT on the GAS!! After 25 years of teaching advanced driving HOW DID THAT HAPPEN????? What a BELLEND I am!
    g) Sheepishly get out of car and state to the examiner (WHO KNOWS EVERYTHING) in a self-deprecating manner, and one that makes him feel like he is the BEST EXAMINER EVER…. “I think there was something wrong with my feet there. Something just didn’t feel right…..”

    Mentally I was PMSL as I knew that this fuckwit would love that I was asking his “professional” opinion.

    f) BEST EXAMINER EVER: ”no sir, that was fine, you passed!”


    What a fucking joke. Except it isn’t as the LTO blood on their hands. I could’ve driven out of the LTO Head Office WITH MY LEGS CROSSED and crashed into a bus stop chock full of school children.

  10. Profile gravatar of

    Ever notice when a local driver pulls out of a side street on your right, if you honk at them they stop right in front of you like an animal in headlights? I’m surprised they dont get tboned more often.

  11. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
    Idiotocracy Post author

    The only safe place to drive in the Philippines is right on the ass end of the car in front of you because if there is more than a couple of car lengths even at 40 km hr some idiot will pull out. Gotta watch the parked cars too, the idiots will throw their doors open without even checking to see if there is any traffic. I drive aggressive as hell there but in the U.S. you can be a nice driver and not get in a wreck.