Becoming the Legal Owner of a Used Car in the Philippines

So you bought yourself a used car in the Philippines. Apparently not many people do it, because it's not an easy task, but at least in theory you have to change the 'official' owner record with the LTO.

I don't know about the implications of not doing this, probably you will be fine for many years and can even resell your car. Me being me I wanted to get this done anyway.

Chapter One. Get PNP Clearance

The PNP is the Philippine National Police, and the clearance we are talking about here is for the car, not for you as a person. It's a piece of paper stating there are no unpaid fines in relation with the car, and it's not filed as stolen or otherwise wanted by anybody.

Required Documents

  • Original Deed of sale, notarized.
  • Original Current Official Receipt
  • Original Certificate of Registration
  • Copy of ID of the previous car owner
  • Your ID (original).

You'll need one photo copy of each of these documents to leave it there. They have a xerox but just to be sure better prepare these upfront.

Take your documents and go to Camp Karingal with your car. After entering the camp go straight and right at the end of the road. At the next right turn there is an unpaved parking lot to the left, and the building where you have to go to to the right. you can barely miss it since there's a lot of stencil 'boys' around, and most probably several cars with their hood open as well. The stencil boys are actually mostly old men, and you can safely ignore them for now.

Go inside the building and to the right there's a small waiting area and two windows with hard working people behind them. Hand your documents to the guy behind the right window. After a short time and filling out some forms you are given a payment slip which you have to take to a Landbank for paying the fee of 300 Php. Next Landbank subsidy is on East Avenue, so back to the car for depositing that enormous amount. It's ridiculous and a huge waste of time and I still fail to understand the reason why they can't collect the money right on the spot.

Coming back hand over your receipt to receive another form, this is what you have to give to one of the stencil guys so he can do his job. Which is, to transfer chassis and engine numbers from your car to the back of the forms using a stencil. Pro tip: open up your hood as soon as you arrive so the engine cools down faster. Depending on the model of your car it also might be necessary to remove some parts so the engine number can actually be reached. I think these guys don't get any salary at all, so be sure to give a tip when he's done. Around Php 100 is enough, maybe less if your car was an easy job. Mine was worth the full amount…

With the stenciling done go back inside, hand in the papers and get your receipt which you need several days later to pick up your PNP clearance. Yeah right, you will have to go there once more. The stencil boys kept talking about some express service that I might get but I didn't feel like greasing the bureaucracy with my money this time. Long story short, three days later I could pick up my PNP clearance without problems.

Interlude: Car insurance

If your car insurance is still under the former owner's name, which it most probably is, it is important to get an endorsement from your car insurance company basically saying that they acknowledge you as the new owner of the car. Or just get a whole new insurance, it's not that expensive after all, I paid PHP 960 for a year.

Chapter Two. The LTO

A very important thing to check when buying a car seems to be where in the Philippines it was registered for the first time. You find that information on the Certificate of Registration (CR). It really is hard to believe, but this is the place where you have to go for the actual ownership change. So think twice before buying a car from another island.

Given my total ignorance when buying the car I think I can still consider myself lucky that I only had to go to Subic for this, which is a 2 hours drive from QC.

Imagine the car was registered in Cebu, or some even more remote island… It's really about time they digitize all those files.

The LTO in Subic, once I found it, was a quite good experience. especially if compared to the crowded main lto in QC. Guy at the entrance asked for all the papers, checked them and walked around the car. It.was quite hot and the car was.parked in the sun, so he decided to skip the part where he checks the engine and chassis numbers which is fine with me of course. After an hour or so of waiting I got the new OR and CR carrying my name and that's it!