number of wheels on a car

It is not the Number of Wheels that Determine the Term Used for a Vehicle.

Something I have become aware of over the last few years is some Filipinos seem to think the number of wheels is the main factor into what type of vehicle it is.

What is sad is that some authorities, enforcers, companies, security guards and members of the public prejudge against drivers that do not have the required number of wheels they think a car should have.

If what makes a car was down to the number of wheels only vehicles with three wheels would identify as a car, because the first patent for a car was a three-wheeler invented by Karl Benz.

There have been cars with many different amounts of wheels starting with 2 wheel cars and going all the way up to 24 wheels. They are all cars despite the number of wheels.

What defines what a car is?

So if the number of wheels does not define what a car is what does? This is a good question with no real answer, it probably comes down to what the designer decides to call it. However, while doing the research especially with 2 and 3 wheeled cars we did notice a pattern and that is in nearly every case of two-wheeled cars they are designed so the driver sits inside them.

The same is true of three-wheelers the ones where the driver sits inside are regarded as cars where the ones where the driver sits on them are considered as three-wheeled motorcycles or tricycles.

In some cases, there seems to be a very fine line between the driver sitting inside the vehicle and on the vehicle, it seems to come down to if the driver can touch the road with his feet while in the driving position. On a motorcycle, you can touch the road with your feet and you sit on it not in it. With a car, you can not touch the road with your feet so you are sitting in it.

What is incorrectly called a tricycle in the Philippines (Motorcycle and sidecar) is a good example of this. You sit on the motorcycle so it is a Motorcycle, but there is a twist here, the passenger sits inside the sidecar hence the word Side-Car is used.

With Three-Wheelers such as the TVS King the Piaggio Ape, the driver and passengers sit inside them so they are a car.

Why does it matter?

Not using the correct term causes all sorts of problems. It is always important to use correct English and a good example is what is incorrectly known as a tricycle in the Philippines. History shows us that the Motorcycle with sidecar did not arrive in the Philippines until WWII but it is for sure they would have had three-wheeled bikes (Tricycles) in the Philippines before this.

When the Motorcycle with Sidecar did arrive Filipinos used the same term as they use for the three-wheeled bike. You might think this is not a problem it is just a different use of an English word however, it has and still is causing huge problems.

Because of the misuse of the word laws have had to be written to make clear in the definition of terms what a tricycle is, and people that read them often skip past the definition of terms, so end up not understanding the laws correctly.

As three wheelers start to arrive from other countries authorities, enforcers and companies mistakenly term them as tricycles. And people that buy them are being punished and it all comes down to the incorrect use of an English word.

I hate to think how much all this has cost the Philippines.

Two-Wheeled Cars

There are 2 types of two-wheeler cars the Gyro-cars that balance themselves and two-wheeled cars that have stabilisers that drop down when the car is stopped.

The first Gyro-car was invented in 1912 by a member of the Russian Royal Family Count Peter P Schilovski. He got Wolseley Motorcar Company a British company to produce his invention.

Today people are still building and refining the Gyro-car in the hope they are the future but so far they have never really caught on.


Count Peter P Schilovski Two Wheeled Car
Count Peter P Schilovski Two-Wheeled Car. Built by Wolseley Motorcar Company England in 1912
Whitwood-OEC two wheeled car 1934
Whitwood-OEC Two-Wheeled car Built in England 1934

Three-Wheeled Cars

The list of three-wheeled cars is too lengthy to go into much detail.

We have already pointed out the first car was a three-wheeler and that was invented in 1886. 

The most well known three-wheeled car is the Reliant Robin but it is defiantly not the only three-wheeled car there have been thousands of models of three-wheeled cars, it is just they never caught on in the Philippines so many Filipinos do not know about them.

We could go on writing about all the cars that are not four-wheelers but some websites have done this already and spent more time than I have researching it. So we will just post some photos of examples.

Phanomobil 3 wheeler car
Phanomobile Three-Wheeled car. Built in Germany from 1907 to 1927. These cars were sold in many countries including Japan.



You only have to look at trucks to realise the number of wheels do not change what they are. I have driven trucks with 4 wheels all the way up to a truck with 48 wheels all of them were still trucks.

Not the number of wheels

If it was down to the number of wheels there would be no two-wheeler cars they would all be Motorcycles. If it was down to the number of wheels there would be no three-wheeler cars they would all be tricycles. There is two-wheeler cars and three-wheeler cars so if you think it is down to the number of wheels you are wrong.

You might think a 24 wheeler car is not a car it is a truck however The Guinness World Record for the longest car was set at a 100ft (30.5metres) in 1986.

Built-in America the car has 26-wheels and has its own helipad, king-sized water bed and a swimming pool with a diving board.

If you are still not convinced and still think it is the number of wheels that decides what a vehicle is called, you are saying the Guinness Book of World Records is wrong and you know better than them.


What we can conclude beyond doubt is what a vehicle is classed as has nothing to do with how many wheels it has, it has more to do with the seating position if you sit in it, it is a car.

If you are the type of person that still think it is down to the number of wheels the images of cars below proof that you have got it wrong.

I suspect the reason so many Filipinos think it is the number of wheels that define the term used for a vehicle is down to two reasons. Firstly when it comes to unconventional vehicles the Philippines has been secluded with very few ever reaching its shores, they simply are not used to seeing cars are not Four-wheelers.

The second is what we have mentioned already the incorrect use of the term tricycle for so so many years. An interesting point about this is they also regard a Motorcycle with Sidecar as a three-wheeled vehicle but in the rest of the world, it is not regarded as a three-wheeler.

The reason it is not perceived as a three-wheeler is it is a motorcycle with an attachment not a complete vehicle with 3 wheels. It is the same as adding a two-wheeled trailer to a four-wheeled car does not make it a six-wheeler car.



Five Wheeler car in Vietnam

ive Wheeler car in Vietnam
Skoda 903 a six-wheeled car
Skoda 903 a six-wheeled car built in the Czech Republic in 1936
Japanese built Eliica 8 wheeled car.
The Guinness World Record for the longest car it has 24 wheels

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