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Four young professionals share their perspectives on the value of owning, or not owning, a car in this day and age

As we grow older, we take on more and more choices in life. And for a growing number of young Filipinos, next to buying one’s own house, purchasing a car is probably one of the biggest life decisions anyone can make.
In this country, as in many others, the notion of freedom and the necessity for mobility are intertwined. With today’s fast-paced society, getting from one location to another is more often than not dependent on time. For many, comfort and convenience are also prime considerations on their choice of transportation.
As we celebrate the country’s 123rd Independence Day this weekend, let us see how  some young professionals have come to exercise their freedoms in a mobile society that has clearly evolved over time.

Sab Aquino and husband Aston Martin

My car, my rules
When 35-year old Sabrina Aquino started working for an advertising agency, walking to work was her normal routine. But as an accounts person, she would then need a vehicle to go to client meetings, and after work, go out for a meal or a drink. “I used to be dependent on taxis, Grab and Uber,’’ recalls Sab.
But one fateful rainy night in Ortigas, she was caught without a ride back to Makati. “Since it was raining I couldn’t book a car home,” according to Sab. She adds, “ I thought of riding a bus but the line was insane too. I was stuck in a restaurant for around 4 hours. That night I swore that I would look into buying a car.”
After assessing her financial ability to pay for a Mazda 2, she decided to get a car loan. But upon learning of her plan, Sab’s mother offered to give the loan to her so she could be spared  the bank’s interest charges. “I still pay her monthly. And I would get a message if there is a delay in payment which is scarier than a bank,” she jests.
Sab’s journey is typical for a first-time car buyer. “Having my own car meant I could play by my rules. When I started working, I would borrow the family car. Then, when I moved out, I would commute. While it was okay, I felt a bit limited in my movement. So now that I have my own car, I feel like I have a bit more freedom. Like I could leave anytime I wanted to, go where I wanted to, and sometimes just drive around when I needed to.”
She adds, “Also, paying for it on my own made me feel like all my hardwork and savings was also being put to good use.”
Her main realization in car ownership is the benefit of comfort and safety. “Especially during late night or early morning drives. I am not at the hands of some stranger!” She adds,  “Now that there is a pandemic, safety has become more evident. And having my own car means I have more control on who or what I get exposed to.”

Raffy Ibarra: Living the dream

Fulfilling the dream

As a 25-year old sales executive in All British Cars, Inc., Raffy Ibarra is living the dream. “I have always dreamt of buying and owning my first car ever since I was a kid,”says Raffy. “At a young age, I already had a passion for automobiles, especially sports and exotic cars.”
So after two years of working for  the local Jaguar distributor, and a good deal from the dealership to boot, Raffy decided to realize his passion.  “I bought a 2016 Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 Gas from our company. This is the first car that I have ever purchased and owned,” shares Raffy.
“I attribute this purchase mainly to my savings prior to being employed, my salary and commissions from my current job, passive income outlets, and not to mention — the generosity of my parents,” he honestly reveals.
“I paid for it in full with cash last February 2020. However, internally between me and my parents, I paid 50% for the car while my mom and dad paid the other half. Basically, I financed half of the car payment with my mom and dad at zero interest. The set up is for 3 years, I will pay my parents a fixed monthly payment every 30th of the month.”
Aside from being Raffy’s main mode of transportation which allows him to travel in comfort, convenience and safety, his car is also a symbol of his youthful aspirations. “For me, it is important to own and pay for my own car because it allows me to prioritize my passion first over other adult related matters such as investments, business creation, real estate, etc. This is not to say that I will not be more interested in these in the future. But when I bought my first car, given it was a bit expensive, I prioritized what would make me enjoy my mid-20s more rather than fully taking on adult-life matters right away.”
“My car lets me express myself, allows me to make driving a lot of fun, and resonates with my sporty and active lifestyle. But what I like about my car is that I get to enjoy the journey and the drive more compared to just actually getting to where I want to be,” shares Raffy.

Loren Ramirez’s husband Don with their Mirage

Can’t live without it

Retail company marketing executive and new mom, Loren Ramirez,  has taken a more pragmatic approach to car ownership. “For a working mom like me who is not in a work from home arrangement now, it is just so convenient to move around at your own time,” she shares. “Every minute counts for me. I want to take the fastest route I can to go home and be with my toddler.”
“I was very practical when it came to buying my first car,” says Loren. “I first evaluated my primary need which was just for city driving to and from work. But at the same time, I looked at ways to earn money from it.  I had a very small budget to work with. And since I did not want to apply for any loans, I only considered those cars within my budget.”
Indeed, Loren bought her Mitsubishi Mirage GLX in 2015 and used it as a means to earn back her money through Grab and Uber operations at that time. “I paid for it in cash since I hate getting loans because there is a lot of paperwork and I sometimes forget my due dates,” she says.
But for Loren, buying her own car was a sign that she has reached a new level of maturity.  She explains, “Ever since I graduated I have been wanting to own and drive my own car. At the age of 27 buying my own car gave me a sense of self-fulfillment. It signified independence and empowered me that I am in control and capable of making my own decisions in life.”
For many Filipinos who buy their first cars, a sub-compact is the ideal vehicle to purchase. It does the job and fulfills its function for mobility. For Loren though, car ownership and her growing family have transformed the way she sees cars. “I did not have regrets buying a very practical car during that time. Since I used the car both for personal and business as well, the depreciation was faster. If I were to buy a new one again, I would probably just consider, or be willing to pay for, an upgrade as long as it is for quality.”

I don’t need one

In a free society, choosing to buy a car to fulfill one’s mobility needs is just that—a choice. And for Martin Flordeliza (in main photo), an Art Director at Leo Burnett Manila, his freedom of choice has led him to go carless so far.
“I did not buy one because I don’t need it,” declares the 34 year-old. Though he is quick to add that his parents do have a car that he can ride in. “Personally, I decided not to purchase a car because we already have one and I still need to learn how to drive,” says Martin. “I can allocate the expense to other things like savings and buying a condo unit. And since I work in Makati, and it is near my place, I can easily commute to work everyday,” he points out.
Despite seeing his non-dependence on a personal car as a form of freedom, Martin  acknowledges that his preference for ride hailing services to run errands at malls, go to work, and visit friends, does have its limitations. “I can’t go to faraway places like nearby provinces. So I am still independent in a way but the places I can go to are limited.”
“I will be more independent if ride hailing apps will forever be there,” he adds.  Though he does not discount the possibility of getting a car in the future. “I will buy one if: 1) I already have my own house; 2) My work is far from my house; and 3) If traffic has generally improved in the Philippines.” Although after taking this interview, he did realize that he now needs to learn how to drive.
These are just four perspectives about the value of owning, or not owning, a car in this day and age. Far from the old belief that car ownership is a status symbol and a rite of passage into adulthood, today’s young professionals seem to see it more as fulfillment of a need for greater and more convenient mobility.
Whether one chooses to buy, or not to buy, a car now is a matter of individual decision-making. The same luxury that our celebration of the country’s Independence Day this weekend affords. And while the younger generations can now make choices that the oldies were never privy to, one thing still remains to be true – independence is still worth celebrating.

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