What is a Motor Vehicle Car: Types and Purpose

A motor vehicle (MV) is any kind of vehicle propelled by a power source other than muscular power and uses public highways. There are different types of motor vehicles, each serving distinct purposes such as personal transportation, logistics, public commuting, and efficient navigation of traffic. These motor vehicles are also classified depending on how they are used, which may affect the documentary requirements for each type of motor vehicle. 

Understanding the types and classifications of motor vehicles is necessary for anyone who wishes to drive around the Philippines. Not only would it help them ensure that they are abiding by the documentary requirements, but also because there are road restrictions for specific types of vehicles, depending on the area. With this guide, we provided an in-depth look at the various motor vehicles, their types, and their purposes, especially tailored to the context of the Philippines, the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and all the other motor vehicle regulatory bodies in the country, to ensure that these vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

what is a motor vehicle

What is a Motor Vehicle?

In the Philippines, Republic Act No. 4136, also known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, defines a motor vehicle as any vehicle propelled by any power other than muscular power, using public highways. This definition excludes specific types of vehicles such as road rollers, trolley cars, street sweepers, sprinklers, lawnmowers, bulldozers, graders, forklifts, amphibian trucks, and cranes if not used on public highways, as well as vehicles running solely on rails or tracks, and tractors used exclusively for agricultural purposes.

Characteristics of a Motor Vehicle

In the Philippines, the LTO plays a vital role in defining, classifying, and regulating these vehicles to ensure safety and compliance with the law. According to the LTO through RA 4136, a motor vehicle must possess specific characteristics and fall under certain criteria to be considered as such. It also says that, a motor vehicle is only considered as such if it has the following characteristics:

  • Propulsion by Non-Muscular Power

The vehicle must be powered by a source other than human or animal muscle. Common sources include internal combustion engines, electric motors, and hybrid systems.

  • Use of Public Highways

The vehicle is designed to operate on public highways, including streets, roads, and expressways, facilitating transportation for personal, commercial, or public use.

  • Versatility in Types

The vehicle can vary widely, from passenger cars and motorcycles to trucks and buses, each serving different transportation needs.


The law also says that some vehicles, despite being motorized, are not classified as motor vehicles under the LTO regulations. These vehicle types include:

  • Specialized Road Equipment

Vehicles such as road rollers, street sweepers, lawnmowers, bulldozers, graders, forklifts, and cranes, if they are not used on public highways.

  • Rail-Only Vehicles

Vehicles designed to operate exclusively on rails or tracks, such as trains and trams.

  • Agricultural Machinery

Tractors, trailers, and traction engines used solely for agricultural purposes are excluded from the motor vehicle classification.

Understanding these characteristics and exemptions helps in distinguishing which vehicles fall under the LTO’s jurisdiction and are subject to registration, licensing, and regulatory compliance in the Philippines.

Types of Motor Vehicles

Motor vehicles in the Philippines are broadly classified into several categories based on their design and purpose. These include passenger cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and other specialized vehicles.

1. Passenger Cars

Passenger cars are designed primarily for the transport of people. This category includes vehicles such as:

  • Sedans: These are the most common passenger cars, characterized by their enclosed trunks and seating for four to five passengers. They are popular for their comfort and versatility.
  • Coupes and Convertibles: Smaller, often sportier vehicles with two doors. Convertibles come with a retractable roof.
  • SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles): Larger vehicles designed for both passenger and cargo transport, often equipped with off-road capabilities.
  • MPVs (Multi-Purpose Vehicles): Vehicles designed to transport larger families or groups, providing more seating and cargo space.

Passenger cars are essential for personal mobility, offering flexibility and convenience for daily commutes, errands, and leisure travel. They are also integral to services like ride-hailing and guided tours in the tourism sector.

2. Trucks

Trucks are vital for the transportation of goods. They come in various sizes and configurations to meet different commercial needs:

  • Pickup Trucks: Equipped with an open cargo area, they are versatile for both personal and commercial use.
  • Heavy Trucks: Designed for long-haul transportation, these include tractor-trailers, flatbeds, and container trucks, used extensively in logistics and shipping industries.

Trucks play a crucial role in logistics, moving products from manufacturers to distributors, retailers, and customers, as well as transporting construction materials and equipment.

3. Buses

Buses are a primary means of public transportation, essential for moving large numbers of people within cities and across provinces:

  • City Buses: Operate within urban areas, making frequent stops along designated routes.
  • Provincial Buses: Operate over longer distances, connecting cities and towns, and often feature amenities like air conditioning and onboard restrooms.

Buses are crucial for daily commuters and long-distance travelers, offering an accessible and cost-effective mode of transport.

4. Motorcycles

Motorcycles are also considered as motor vehicles. This type is a highly popular one, thanks, in part, to their affordability, fuel efficiency, and ability to navigate through heavy traffic:

  • Standard Motorcycles: Common for personal transportation.
  • Tricycles and Motorcycle Taxis (Habal-Habal): Used widely in rural and semi-urban areas for short-distance public transportation.
  • Commercial Use: Utilized in delivery and courier services, providing quick and efficient transportation of goods.

Motorcycles are indispensable in urban settings for both personal and commercial purposes, often being the fastest way to get around in congested areas.

Vehicle Classifications by Purpose (LTO)

Motor vehicle classifications, according to the LTO, are also set based on a variety of factors such as purpose, load-carrying capacity, and type of service provided. The vehicle classifications set by the agency upon motor vehicle registration are as follows:

1. Private Vehicles

Private vehicles are those purchased exclusively for personal use and are not used to transport passengers or goods for profit. These vehicles are not used for hire under any circumstance and they typically include cars, motorcycles, and small vans that families and individuals use for commuting, leisure, and personal errands.

2. Vehicles for Hire

Vehicles for hire are used to generate income by transporting passengers or goods. This category includes taxis, buses, jeepneys, and commercial trucks. These vehicles are used for public transportation or commercial purposes, and must adhere to stricter regulations and require specific permits and licenses from the LTO and the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to operate legally. 

3. Government Vehicles

Government vehicles are owned and used by various government agencies and other entities for official purposes. These vehicles are marked with “For Official Use Only” and can only be used for authorized government activities, often documented by a trip ticket. Examples include police cars, ambulances, and service vehicles for government offices.

4. Diplomatic Vehicles

Diplomatic vehicles are assigned to foreign diplomats and consular officers and are marked with special blue-on-white diplomatic plates. These are vehicles owned by foreign governments or diplomatic officers used for official duties. These motor vehicles enjoy certain privileges and immunities under international law, such as exemption from search and seizure.

5. Other Exempt Vehicles (OEV)

Other exempt vehicles (OEVs) include vehicles used by entities like the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Clark Development Corporation (CDC), and Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA). These vehicles have specific registration plates and are granted exemptions from certain regulations due to their special status.

For more detailed information on the different vehicle registration categories, you may check out this article on How to Change Motor Vehicle Classifications.

Regulatory Bodies

Sure, everyone can buy motor vehicles. However, in this society governed by rules, the use of such is, of course, regulated. Some of the government agencies in charge of regulating motor vehicles in the Philippines include: 

  • Land Transportation Office (LTO): Responsible for vehicle registration, driver’s licensing, and enforcing traffic rules.
  • Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB): Regulates public utility vehicles (PUVs), issuing permits, setting fare rates, and enforcing standards.
  • Department of Transportation (DOTr): Oversees transportation policies and programs, coordinating with LTO and LTFRB to ensure efficient vehicle operations.
  • Local government units (LGUs): Plays a role in managing traffic flow, parking regulations, and road safety within their jurisdictions.

Note that these regulatory bodies, while present, were not meant to prohibit or restrict the use of motor vehicles in the country. Instead, these agencies are meant to regulate, manage, and oversee the MV usage to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. 

Video: What is Your Vehicle Classification

To learn more about your vehicle classification and how to change it at LTO, you may watch this video from Edmon TV:


Understanding the various types of motor vehicles and their classifications is crucial for navigating the transportation landscape in the Philippines. Whether for personal use, commercial purposes, or public transportation, each type of vehicle serves a specific role in the country’s dynamic transport system. Awareness of the regulatory bodies and their functions ensures compliance with local laws and promotes road safety for all users.

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