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The threat of COVID-19 infection will not go away any time soon. Sounds ominous enough to make you think about your commuting practices, right?

The reason for purchasing a car has never been more compelling, and valid, than now. With the enforcement of social distancing guidelines in various forms of public transportation spotty at best, driving to work in your own car seems to be the most logical, if not the safest, option there is. The question you are probably asking yourself now is, “Can I afford it?” Unfortunately, things are not so simple as they seem. 

In reality, It is not just about having the money for the all-in, low-down payment promo that most car brands are pushing nowadays. You have to weigh-in the long-term hidden costs that are inherent in every car ownership experience.

So to help you decide if you are ready to take the big step towards buying your first car, consider your answers to the following questions first:

How will you pay for your car?

Car dealerships are reeling from the lost sales in the last three months of the government-imposed lockdown. So naturally, they are throwing easy-to-own promotions left and right to entice car buyers to take away some of their stock.

Don’t be easily tempted by low-down payment schemes, however. Remember, the lower your down payment, the more your monthly salary will take a hit from the amortization. And this will haunt you for the next three to five years, depending on the payment scheme you choose.  Moreover,  this will be on top of other ownership costs which we will get into later.

Buying a second-hand car is always an option too. Choosing a well-maintained car that’s within your budget, and paying cash outright can spare you from the inescapable obligations of a car financing deal. Remember, your main goal is just to be able to commute safely to work.

There is also a new ownership scheme brewing. Have you heard of the new leasing program Toyota recently introduced for a few of its most popular vehicles? Aside from sparing yourself from the hit of depreciation, the cost of maintenance will also be off your books. So give that option some deep thought as well. 

Do you have a garage?

With an impending law that will require car buyers to show proof of parking, it might be prudent for you to consider having a proper garage or viable parking accommodations for your car before buying one. 

Secondary roads are getting clogged already with street parking taking up precious space. So be a responsible car owner and make sure you have a garage to park your car in. Don’t be part of the problem.

Do you have the budget to pay for comprehensive car insurance for the duration of your car ownership?

Buying a brand-new car with comprehensive insurance affords peace of mind right off the showroom floor. Some promotions even include this for free. However, what happens on the second year? Or the year after that?

You will be taking a huge risk if you only opt for the government mandated Compulsary Third Party Liability insurance to protect your car. It will not be able to fix your vehicle in case it figures in a significant accident. Nor will it protect your investment if floods happen to wash your car away. Remember Ondoy?

While premiums can be a costly add-on to your annual car budget, the pay-off for claims can, often times, be higher than the premium itself. Consider 12-month installments for your insurance premium as well if a one-time payment is too burdensome. Just remember in order to make a claim, you should be able to pay for the whole amount of the insurance package.

Do you have the budget for maintenance?

Brand new cars are obligated to undergo Preventive Maintenance Service in order for their warranties to be honored. So study the costs per PMS visit of the car you are eyeing first before signing that deal.

Buying a used car also has its own drawbacks in terms of maintenance. So having some savings on hand is crucial when going this route as components may break down at the least opportune moment.

Do you have the budget for fuel?

Choose a brand-new car that has good fuel economy   or one that is well-maintained if buying used. With fuel prices constantly fluctuating, having a gas miser on hand just makes perfect sense. Your wallet will thank you in the long run. 

Do you have the budget for consumables?

Tires, brake pads, wiper blades, batteries, and fluids. These were not meant to last forever. At some point they will have to be replaced to ensure your car’s reliability and safety. 

So make sure you have these expenses factored into your annual budget. 

Do you have the budget for parking?

Getting to the office is one thing, having the resources to pay for parking is another. With real estate costs in business districts at astronomical highs, parking charges can be so expensive that they will severely impact on your lunch money. 

Make sure you research first on your parking options at work. You will be surprised how much of a chunk this takes away from your monthly expenses.

Do you know how to drive?

No, fake licenses don’t count. Just because your Tito taught you to do the atras-abante routine doesn’t mean you are ready for the hellish roads out there. 

Enroll in a legitimate driving school. Practice. Know the rules of the road and more importantly, learn to obey them. Our streets are already full of undisciplined drivers not worthy of the plastic their driver’s licenses are printed on. Again, don’t be part of the problem. 

So, do you think you are ready to be a first-time car owner?

Learning how to drive is the easy bit. It is the ability to fulfill the duties and obligations of a responsible car owner that makes the difference between a pressure-laden experience and a peaceful drive along open roads. Health concerns aside, do get yourself ready for what really lies ahead.