Expats Guide: How to Buy a Car in the Philippines

Thinking of owning a car while you’re working as an expat in the Philippines? Sounds like a fab idea. While there are many ways for you to commute around Metro Manila, it still helps to move in and around the city in the comfort of your own car. Yes, traffic is a major problem, but commuting can also be as wearisome. Thus, if you’re an expat who’ll be living in the Philippines for a year or more, it might be wise to get your own car so it’ll be a lot easier for you to navigate the city. Follow our expat’s guide on how to buy a car in the Philippines.


But first, Driver’s License

Of course, you can’t drive in the Philippines without a valid driver’s license. If you have your current license from your country of origin, you may use it within 90 days from your arrival date, with the condition that it’s written in English. Otherwise, you’d need to submit an Official English translation issued by the Local Embassy of the issuing country. Once your stay exceeds 90 days, you’ll be required to apply for a local driver’s license at the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Visit their main office in Quezon City or find the nearest LTO District Offices or Licensing Centers nationwide.

Note that if your foreign license is still valid, you may convert it to Philippine driver’s license. If it has already expired, you’d have to reapply and take written and practical exams. Don’t forget to bring your passport (to check your arrival date in the country) and a valid visa or your Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR I-Card) released by the Bureau of Immigration.


Brand New Car VS Pre-Owned Car

Now that you’re certain that you’re allowed to drive in the Philippines, an important point to think about before you proceed with your car shopping is to identify your need. Do you need a brand new car or a quality pre-owned car? Each has its own merit. Sleep on it and may you make a sound decision.


Brand New Car, well, it’s spanking new. You can be sure of the quality of the car you’re driving. No doubts, no worries. A new car means big bucks though, from the car itself to the insurance and services. But if money isn’t an issue, we don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t get a brand new vehicle.

Almost every car brand you can think of is available in the country- from Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, Ford to Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari- fulfill your dream car in the Philippines. These car dealers also help in processing the documents for ownership, as well as insurances. Toyota, for example, allows payment in cash, with only proper valid ID and Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the Bureau of Internal Revenue as requirements.

While you’re in your planning process, remember to examine what you really need in relation to the duration of your stay in the country. At the end of the day, what matters is functionality and practicality, so think about this over and over again.


Pre-Owned Car has its pros and cons that any buyer must take into account. Because it is a used car, you have to consider the car model, the years it’s been used, the current car condition- from engine to transmission to air conditioning- and its mileage.

It’s good to have someone from your company or a trusted Filipino friend assist you to scout the right car and if possible, meet the car owner. This way, you can ask all the questions you deem necessary to know before finalizing the deal.

Pre-Owned Car, depending on the brand model and number of years used, is relatively cheaper. This is practical if you’ll only be in the country for a brief period. If you’re knowledgeable about cars, you can probably tell if the unit’s in good condition or not. Therefore, trust your gut. Research. Buy from a trusted and reputable reseller. This definitely saves you the hassle of having to deal with a broken car in the middle of EDSA.


Requirements needed to buy a car in the Philippines

Now, it’s time to look around for car dealers. Choose the best deal that works for you. If you’re buying a brand new car in the Philippines, prepare the following documents:

  • Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR I-Card from the Bureau of Immigration)
  • Proof of identity
  • Valid visa
  • Certificate of Employment (COE) issued within the last two months
  • A valid bank account

For pre-owned cars, the seller should provide the following:

  • Proof of Identity
  • Copy of Certificate of Vehicle Registration (original)
  • Receipt of registration (original receipt)
  • Original LTO plate number
  • Notarized Deed of Sale

Excited for your new wheels? Brand new or not, may you have a joyful ride while you’re in the Philippines.

Expats in the Philipppines

Expats in the Philipppines

Expat.com.ph is a platform that aims to help Expats living and working in the Philippines and expats-to-be. It provides free information and also encourages them to share their experiences. Let's help making life in Philippines that much more fun!

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