Driving a car without papers is almost as bad as driving without a license. But which papers do you need inside your car? The logic behind keeping these documents in your car is to provide evidence to the proper authorities that your vehicle is registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and owned and driven by authorized individuals. These documents are there to signal that your car legally exists and serve as proof of ownership.
At times, vehicle documents can or will be inspected at checkpoints or during apprehensions by the proper authorities, be it the MMDA, PNP, or HPG. Regardless of what documents you have in your vehicle, you will need to show a driver’s license. That being said, you must always have a driver’s license on you behind the wheel—no ifs or buts.
If your car is brand-new and fresh from the dealership, it is likely that its documents are still in process—but how do you drive your car home? There is a 7-day grace period after the date of purchase. When asked, all you need to present is the sales invoice of your vehicle. After the grace period is through, you need to wait for your vehicle’s documents to arrive in order to legally operate your car on the road.
Photocopy of your Certificate of Registration (CR)
This document is proof that your vehicle is in the LTO’s system. Without this document, there’s no proof on hand that your car legally exists. The CR is often referred to as the birth certificate of your vehicle, and for good reason, it’s one of the most important records of your vehicle to keep, and must be kept in a safe place. That is why only a photocopy of this document is required to be kept in your car.
To easily identify this document, it will be color-coded yellow and have more technical information about the vehicle which include its color, engine displacement, number of pistons, and also its weight, among other things.
Photocopy of your Official Receipt (OR)
Another document that should accompany your CR is the OR. When making a copy, the OR and CR are usually just in a single piece of paper. Unlike the CR, the OR needs to be updated every year after the initial 3-year registration provided with a new vehicle, but like the CR, the OR is equally as important, so the original copy should be kept in a safe place.
This document is issued after successfully registering your vehicle. To identify it, it’s color-coded in blue in contrast to the yellow of the CR.
It is important to keep a copy of your updated OR in the vehicle to prove that it is registered with the LTO. The photocopy must be clear and legible. It can be either in color or in black and white. Failure to do so will also result in a fine.
Apart from the registration, your vehicle must also be insured. You must keep your car’s insurance policy, or a copy of it in your car, in case you get into an accident and need to make a claim or simply prove your car is insured.
While this may be non-essential to legally travel, it’s wise to keep this document on-hand in case you need more detailed instructions for when you need to fix something or understand something happening to your car.
Warranty booklet and service record
Usually kept in the same file as the owner’s manual, the warranty booklet will also have a service interval checklist or record to make sure you comply with your warranty’s service guidelines.
For some brands, the warranty booklet will be the same as your service record, or they will be two separate documents. In any case, keep both in your car—in case you need to get it serviced or when you need to make a warranty claim.
There are some cars that need authorization letters to either be driven with a particular set of plates or by a particular individual. If a car is being borrowed or assigned, there must be a supporting document that states that the person driving is authorized by the owner to pilot the motor vehicle. If another person is authorizing the use of the vehicle, it is important to include a photocopy of the vehicle owner’s license with signatures on the photocopy.
Authorization letters can allow a multitude of other things such as the ability to use different-style or different-sized plate numbers that aren’t standard with the LTO. The letter may also allow the car to be used during days when the number coding scheme is in effect. Also, access to certain lanes or roads may be allowed with the right clearances. In any case, if you have a special arrangement with the government or LTO, you must keep an authorization letter inside your vehicle so when you’re stopped, the apprehending officer may clear and allow you to carry on without penalty.
It is important to remember that the authorization letter must be signed and noted by the LTO or the proper authorities. Not only that, the letter must also authorize something within reason, so it goes without saying that any letter is subject to approval.
Just in case your RFID tags don't read, make sure that you keep the cards inside so you can have them scanned at the booths. If your car's tags fail to read and you don't have the cards on-hand, you will get fined.
Other documents that you may need to keep include road-side assistance numbers, and other warranty information for items like your battery just in case you need a tow or run out of charge. These numbers can take the form of calling cards, brochures, or pamphlets. Keep a list handy in case your car breaks down. There should be numbers attached to the service booklet or manual of your vehicle, otherwise, it should be a separate piece of paper.
Finally, keep a pen and paper handy inside your vehicle. While noting things down in a smartphone app is enough, it’s good to have basic writing implements that don’t need a battery and are reliable in the event of an emergency.