When my brother and sister and I were little, like most kids, we would watch for my dad to be heading out somewhere and run up to him, hollering, “Where you going daddy, where you going?”, hoping, of course, to be taken along for the ride.
My dad had a stock answer, particularly if he wasn’t interested in tasking any or all of us along. His pet standby phrase? “Crazy, want to go along”?
I enjoy driving here in the Philippines, most of the time that is, but there are times I feel that if it hasn’t already driven me crazy, crazy is just a few meters down the road.
Many Westerner friends have told me, “You are crazy, Dave, I wouldn’t drive there.”
I try never to argue with them, because if you truly don’t care to drive here, you should not.
it isn’t like being stranded in some American city like LA with no car … distances tend to be short and there are usually plenty of alternative methods to get some place … but I am nothing if not stubborn and set in my ways and I’ve had my own car for more than 50 years now, so I don’t plan on stopping driving any time soon.
If you are planning to come here to live permanently or even for a long vacation, here are some thoughts on finishing each drive with a car in about the same condition you started in.
Legalities and Licensing in the Philippines:
Your foreign driver’s license is good for driving anywhere in the Philippines for up to 90 days from your date of arrival.
There is nothing special you need to validate this privilege, it would be wise to carry your passport with you so you can prove your arrival date, though.
Unless your home country license is not written in English, you do not need one of those International Driver’s Licenses (properly called an International Diver Permit (IDP)).
Those certificates are merely host country certification that you do have a valid license and they convey no privilege at all unless accompanied by your home country license, so give them a miss, unless your home country license is in Chinese
They are NOT needed for the Philippines and are, in my view, pretty much a rip-off.
Choice of Vehicle in the Philippines:
Bring Your US Car to the Philippines:
Many people planning to move here unconsciously think they will ship a vehicle from the States until they run up against the ugly truth.
For a number of reasons (maybe having something to do with the fact that Philippine new auto sales were up 6% in 2008, while US sales plummeted about 30% in the opposite direction), there are very restrictive laws about what cars are even “importable” and the customs duty and fees will run about 110% of the fair market value of the car. Add on $2,000 to $3,000 for ocean shipping and marine insurance and bringing an American car here becomes even less attractive.
Even if you do want to bring a favorite car here, regardless of the costs, I still advice against it.
The roads are covered in potholes and nasty speed bumps, connected by stretches of often very rough pavement. Most of Detroit’s finest creations , built to cruise freeways at 75 per, would fall apart in a year.
Mechanics who know what they are doing with US-spec electronic control systems are scares as hen’s teeth, and parts for a US version of even a “world” type car like a Toyota Corolla are often different, and thus unobtainable here.
You’ll see lots of Toyotas here in the Philippines, for example, it’s one of the most popular cars for taxi services, but the entire drive train and braking system is different than a Toyota sold in the US.
They carry the same names and badges, but they are NOT the same car, electronically and mechanically. Not recommended.
Buy a Used Car Here in the Philippines:
Many folks I have talked to sound like they are reading directly from some Consumer Reports guide to buying a car when they talk to me about transportation.
“Oh I won’t be buying a new car, too much depreciation, a used car is a much better value,”
In the US, this can very well be true. I do not recommend it in the Philippines, especially when you are new and “wet behind the ears” here.
Let me tell you a few things about the used car market here that the Philippine Chamber of Commerce isn’t going to publish any pamphlets about:
The vast majority of the cars on the road here are Japanese brands. Thus, the vast majority of used cars are Japanese. “So what?” you are probably thinking. “Many Japanese cars are just great.”
Yup, they sure are. My last car in the US was a Toyota and I miss it. But owning a car in Japan is nothing like owning a car in the US.
When a Japanese car is 6 years old, it come off the road. Doesn’t matter how many kilometers are on the clock it what kind of shape it is in, the tax and vehicle inspection laws in Japan force owners to trade in at least every six years. (there’s a reason Japan always has such low unemployment figures, you see).
So Japan might be a great source of low mileage used cars. In fact, it is. There’s a big industry in Japan of buying up used cars and shipping them out to the Philippines and other Asian countries, where they don’t have to meet US safety and emissions specs.
However in Japan, they drive on the left. In the Philippines we drive on the right.
Unlike in the US where you can drive a right-hand-drive car if you wish, it is illegal to put a right hand drive car on the road here.
So, what happens? Easy. Philippine ingenuity.
At the ports where these Japanese beauties come in there are hundreds if not thousands of little hole in the wall’ shops that convert the cars to left hand drive.
Sometimes this work is done to factory standards. Sometimes it isn’t. Why worry?
We’re only talking about inconsequential items like your brakes, your steering, your door locking systems, your mirrors and mirror controls, etc.
If you didn’t, you will know the first time you come up against one of these half-baked conversions on a dark night when the conversion shop failed to swap the headlights. You’ll learn fast.
Modern cars are much more computerized than many imagine. Little things like braking, fuel controls, transmission shifting and the like are controlled by microprocessors built into the car.
A mechanic uses a little plug-in computer terminal a soften as a wrench these days. Engine running rough and spewing black smoke at idle? Easy fix, just plug in the handy-dandy diagnostic test set and it will tell what component has a failure code.
Ooops. How is your Japanese? How is your Filipino mechanic’s Japanese? Yep, that’s right, all the internal programming, all the placards and warning labels and such, guess what? they are all in Japanese.
To make a long story short … this is getting too long already … if you are sure you want to buy a used car here in the Philippines, be my guest. You may get lucky. I do not recommend it, especially for a first car.
Next article in the series, the dealer and what to expect.
Resources for Driving in the Philippines:
International Driving Permit (IDP) allows an individual to drive a private motor vehicle in another nation when accompanied by a valid license from their home country. The document is slightly larger than a standard passport and is essentially a multiple language translation of one’s own existing driver’s license, complete with photograph and vital statistics. It is not a license to operate a motor vehicle on its own.
The Land Transportation Office of the Philippines Part of the Department of Transportation and Communications. Provides information on driving licenses and vehicle registrations.
CAR FINDER Philippines is a magazine dedicated to photo ads of cars, accessories, and all other types of vehicles because we believe that a picture is more appealing to readers and “it speaks a thousand words.”
Buy and Sell Philippines Sulit sa Free Ads! Buy Sell Swap cars and everything else.
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