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When a car becomes a necessity

We gave up our beloved Kia Pride sometime around 2015 when we moved to a village in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig. If you’ve been around the area, you’d notice that the city is designed enough sidewalks for pedestrians to use to get from point A to point B.

Public transport was also highly accessible back when we first moved here. It was a time when UBER still co-existed with GRAB cars, cab drivers used their meters, buses were conveniently timed and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT train) was located just after you alight the bus. I really didn’t feel the need for a car back then because most of the places we needed to be at were just around these transport systems and we walked most of the time, anyway.  The car was always in trouble because we weren’t able to maintain it in the previous years and we found it more practical to just give it up and take buses with the kids when we needed to go out of town.

Times have changed

But our perspective changed when the pandemic happened and the government issued a lockdown.

Suddenly, we were locked in our tiny apartment, not only afraid to go out and rub elbows with strangers, but also too scared to ride the public buses with the kids because of the risks of catching the dreaded virus! Even with the restrictions easing up, we are still hesitant about booking TNVs with our kids — especially now that the numbers are starting to rise again, even amongst our circles.

My parents who live four cities away from us, in their old age, also started getting sickly and have been hospitalised three times already in the past three years. It’s been quite a challenge and a scare to take the public systems to go to them, not only because we’re afraid to get sick but because we’re afraid that we might bring the virus to them!

Now getting a car has become a necessity for us, however, as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to raze our economy, the war between Russia and Ukraine happened igniting a global surge in fuel prices! It’s become more difficult for us to choose a car especially that we are on a tight budget. The 13% increase in fuel rates coupled with the traffic conditions here in Manila isn’t an ideal scenario for us, but between health and expenses, I think the choice may be tough, but is pretty obvious – health is priority.

Used or Brand New?

As I’ve mentioned above, we are on a budget, so what we’re looking to buy is a used car and not a brand new one. Getting one around here can be both difficult and easy at the same time. Easy, because there are tons of sellers posting used cars on sale on social media and in car websites, difficult because used car sales, in my knowledge, are not properly regulated where we are, so if you don’t know much about cars, you may think you’re getting a good deal when you’re really not.

Don’t get me wrong, there are, of course, laws in place for scams and all that, but as a buyer, I do not feel as secured with the systems (or the lack of it) for purchasing second hand cars. I think this is why the smart ones pay to bring their own mechanics to check, not only the mileage but the overall condition of the car before striking a deal with the seller.

My husband and kids being funny at the mall

Expense comparisons: Manila vs Houston

Speaking of which, my sister-in-law says that the credit unions where they are do all these things for them already. She lives in Houston, Texas, by the way, and she currently drives a Corolla that has an eco feature that helps her save on gas.

Full tank just a few days ago was only at $4.39, she says, but now it’s gone up to $4.50, so thankfully they are only expected to report to the office in person twice a week.

My SIL in her Corolla

Anyway, she said that to buy a car, all she had to do was choose one from among the dealerships, then call her credit union. She also mentioned something about just paying $500 as down payment on her first time because it was all she could afford, and something about how credit scores helped lower her monthly payments.

Now, she’s looking for a car for her husband who recently joined her and her kids in the U.S. but it’s a bit tough for her because she’s had to lessen her work hours at her second job because retail companies cannot afford to adapt a hybrid setup for their employees and the fuel charges were starting to eat into the budget she has in place.

I told her that she can check out the site, carpaymentcalculator.net to help her assess prices, taxes and fuel charges to help narrow down their options before they go shopping for one.

Fortunately, I work from home, so I don’t really worry about commuting expenses, and Jay only walks to work at the moment. Our children, though, have started joining face-to-face classes, and that is one of our major concerns because we’re poised to relocate nearer my parents, which would mean we will no longer have the same accessibility to the places we regularly go to. So impractical, I know, but no one else will look after family but family, too, right?

So where does that take us? For me, best way for us is to either get a repossessed car or find dealers of used cars recommended by family and friends. We’re already eyeing an AUV on sale, but we have yet to figure out the funds because at the moment, our resources are expended towards the building of our first home. Our plan is to complete the move first and once we’ve settled into our new home, that’s when we can take care of buying a car.

For now, we wait and hope.


  • Beth

    We never buy new. We always go for used. You can get really good cars for a lot less money. I hope you guys find what you’re looking for!

  • Marysa

    We always felt like a car was a necessity since we live in the suburbs and we have kids. I think it would be different in the city. Cars are so expensive lately, but it is nice to have the freedom of a car.

  • Stephanie

    I can’t imagine not having a vehicle! But I also live in Houston, TX, and it’s huuuuuuuuuuge! We do like to ride bikes to school when the weather is nice, though. I’ve never bought a used vehicle, though, as I like to know what’s been done to and with the car.

  • Mary K Stallings

    I’m in Houston as well, just like you mentioned and the other commenter Stephanie mentioned. Somehow I’ve made it to 24 years old without a car!! I walk to work, walk to the grocery, and if I go downtown I’ll bus there and uber back. It is so rare to be in my situation though, most people do have to drive around. In addition to the safety concerns of public transportation it just isn’t set up to be as efficient as it should be. Which forces people to be in the exact situation you are and trying to figure out a half way affordable way of purchasing a car and dealing with the crazy gas prices.

    • May De Jesus-Palacpac

      My SIL also started out on public transport when she first moved to Houston. But that didn’t last cause a couple of months in, she had to buy a car because it was hard for her to go to her jobs without one.

  • John

    I’ve not owned a car now in 10 years here in the UK. We get around just fine. Fuel prices are insane right now and they are just an annoying expense. Sure, we have to pay out when we want to go anywhere further afield though… interesting read!

  • Blair Villanueva

    The secondhand car industry here in Australia is booming due to the shortage crisis worldwide. A couple of days ago, we just sold our other second-hand car for A$10,000, about 3x of what we paid originally. Having a car is a necessity in Australia especially if you live in regional areas.

    • May De Jesus-Palacpac

      I work from home, too, but with the kids’ activities and my husband still goes to the office — car would really be a convenience for us in some way.

  • Rosey

    Buying a car is such an ordeal. My car that I bought new has a blue book value of more than I paid for it and it’s three years old. Prices are so crazy on everything right now.

  • Jennifer Prince

    Gas has actually come down a bit where we are. Thankfully! It’s been really hard to pay so much. I hope it comes down more.

  • WanderWoMom

    A decade ago, we used to own a second hand car or im not really sure if it is really second hand. It was kind of “vintage-ish” but not too old. it was my husband who scouted it with his friends who know a lot about this things. it was okay in the start, but ugh aircon and all other stuff came out a few weeks after. we sold it before our wedding to add expense for giving birth. since then, especially since we will be having a baby then, I told him I would never buy a second hand car again, as im scared of its “sakit” that could show weeks, or months after purchase and we couldnt do anything about it anymore. ayun until now we havent bought any new car 😀 HAHAHA!! It wasn’t kind of a necessity because I am used to commuting even with a baby before, like literally commute. But when the pandemic came, I sooo wanted to get one. but im not ready now because my savings goes to else where for now. I’ve tried riding public transpo (an e-jeep and an jeepney) with the kid, going to a nearby mall, like 5-10 minutes away depends on the traffic and even the tricycle. but most of the time, despite of paying very high from grab, ayun I just ought to Grab na lang, problem is lang if mahirap mag book, especially around november last year to May this year, super hirap. at this time of the pandemic, like this month lang yata or last month, nag tataxi naman na kami when we cant book a grab. buti na lang my son is really cautious with stuff, couldnt live without alcohol etc.

    hoping we are all safe always and hope we get the car that we want soonest!

    • May De Jesus-Palacpac

      Ramdam na ramdam kita, haha!
      Life was so much better before when Uber was still around. Ngayon, Grab lang talaga ang option. Kami rin, sanay kami sa public transport, pero it’s going to be really challenging for us once we move back to the South because grabe ang traffic doon and it’s not as convenient for pedestrians to walk. Lalo pa, dito pa lahat ang activities namin in Taguig/Makati areas.

    • May De Jesus-Palacpac

      It’s not an asset at all, haha. As Robert Kiyosaki defines it, an asset is something that puts money in your pocket and not the other way round. If you’re spending on it, it’s not an asset at all. 🙂 But it is such a necessity around here.

  • Hye Jin

    These days a car is such a necessity. It is convenient for me especially when I go to the grocery, hospital, and of course when I travel. Though our car is like 10 years old already.

  • Faith Stephenson

    Nowadays days, having a car helps a lot. Whenever I visit the grocery store, hospitals, schools, or travel, I find it simpler.

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