If you think about it, a car is probably the second-biggest purchase a regular person can make.

Of course, there are bicycles that cost as much as brand-new cars, and handbags that cost as much as a house and lot. But let us talk about people with a nonextravagant mindset, where a handbag is not as expensive as a bicycle, where a bicycle is not as expensive as a car, and where a car is not as expensive as a house and lot.

It is important to budget according to what we have; not according to what we hope to have.

Allow me to present some very important, practical and technical aspects when it comes to buying a pre-owned car. It is very important to identify the purpose of  the car so you can balance the reasons for buying it. Owning a car is not a basic need (people can survive without a car), but can  be convenient and give you a short sense of fulfillment.

A wise man said, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” The most common thing I hear when someone is buying (or selling) a car is this: “It is casa maintained”. This is just part of the equation. You cannot assume the condition of a pre-owned car by just hearing “casa maintained”. The reason is that all cars have different stories.

It’s good that the car is “casa maintained” and IF it is true, if possible, try to get a copy
of the records from the casa because that will give you an idea of the service done and
what was not done. 

Example: Manual-transmission car with around 70,000 kilometers on the odometer and driven mostly in the city and very few expressways. If you are buying this car, check
the maintenance record on the following:

  • Was clutch assembly replaced? If not, you will have to replace it soon (between Php 25,000 to 70,000).
  • Was timing belt replaced? If not, replace it soon (between Php 3,500 to 10,000 w/labor). I recommend replacing the belt at 60,000 kilometers and not later than 70,000 kilometers.
  • Manufacturers normally recommend replacement at 100,000 kilometers but this should not be so in the Philippines (in our next issue I’ll present why it is advisable to change it at 60,000 kilometers).
  • Were the brake discs replaced? If not, replace them soon (from Php 6,000 to 28,000/set).
  • Were the shock absorbers replaced? If not, please replace them (from Php 12,000 to 60,000/set])

Let’s stop here. Say you made a small loan to buy a car and you budget your upcoming monthly amortizations, or better yet, you used your savings as your budget for the car. However you overlooked the parts mentioned above, so in the next few months you’ll have to spend Php 70,000 to 140,000 on top of the normal running cost. Then, you will feel bad because in your mind you got a bad car. This is why it is important to negotiate the price according to what you see and find. Price is usually negotiable, but when it comes to the parts and integrity of the car there are things are non-negotiable because these are not replaceable. One, in particular, is the CHASSIS.


The chassis is vital for the car. It is important not to buy a car that had an accident where the chassis was compromised. The effects of a car with a compromised chassis are several:

  • Car will not drive straight.
  • Premature and excessive tire wear.
  • Uneven tire wear.
  • Water leak into the cabin.
  • Water leak into the rear compartment.
  • Premature and excessive wear in the drivetrain.

The next thing you must check is the engine number. Check if the engine is original for the car. If the engine was replaced, it was done for a reason and most probably was a solution to a bad problem; maybe the car was not properly maintained, or driven too hard, or heavily modified.

These are the most important things to consider when buying a car. Aside from the chassis and engine, you must test-drive the car and assess how it feels: the transmission, shifting of gears, suspension, and noise.Check the interior against the age of the car so you will have an idea how it will look in a few more years.

The best advice I can give you is to have car you are going to buy checked and inspected. Bring it to a reputable shop that offers this service. For instance, if you are in Q.C. you can go to Xclusiv Motors on Timog Avenue; if you are in the Ortigas area you can bring the car to AutoPlus.

 It is better to invest in a proper inspection to avoid nasty surprises in the future. It is better to know and be free from problems. As it is said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”