three wheeled car

Fact Check – Claim All Vehicles with Three Wheels are Tricycles

Claim All Vehicles with Three Wheels are Tricycles – False

In the Philippines people often tell you that all vehicles with 3 wheels are tricycles and not cars because cars have four wheels. We fact check this claim.

Cars have four wheels

At the time of publishing this, there are 46 companies in the world manufacturing three-wheeled cars none of them is regarded as tricycles.

Since the car was first invented there has been 366 companies that manufactured three-wheeled cars, many of these companies manufactured far more than one model of a three-wheeler. The figure of 366 is from our research and we may have missed a lot.

Reliant Motors between 1935 – 2002 made 67 different models of three-wheeled cars and vans none of which were regarded as tricycles.

You have all seen the three-wheeled car in Mr Bean on the TV, this was not some made-up car for the TV show it was a Reliant car.

In much of the world, the Reliant Regal van became famous because of the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses where the main characters in the program Del Boy and Rodney Trotter drove a Reliant Regal van.

While Filipinos may not have heard of Only Fools and Horses I am sure most of them know British boxer Ricky Hatton because he fought Manny Pacquiao. Well, Ricky Hatton owns a Reliant Regal three wheel van.

A Reliant Regal appeared in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

Other famous three-wheeled cars are the Morgan, the Bond Bug, BMW Isetta, Peel P50, AC Petite, Davis Divian, Volkswagen GX3 Concept, and the Peugeot 20Cup,

For a full list see table at the bottom of the page.

Tricycle the most misused English word in the Philippines

There are a lot of misused English words in the Philippines, examples include “stalled” instead of “broken-down” “van” when they mean “minibus” but the most misused is tricycle instead of motorcycle and sidecar.

When a British person arrives in the Philippines they are often confused when people tell them they need to get a tricycle when they ask how to get to a place.

If you are Filipino you might think how can saying “get a tricycle be confusing?” let us explain. In English, a tricycle is a small vehicle like a bicycle with two wheels at the back and one at the front, used especially by young children. So you can see how this plays out you say “get a tricycle” and in an English, persons mind up pops a child’s bike with three wheels.

three wheels are tricycles
Meaning of Tricycle in the Cambridge English dictionary

This is because what you call tricycles are motorcycles and sidecars, and before any of you get on your high horse and say they are a Philippines invention so we will call them what we want and that you are proud of them. Sorry to tell you that you are misinformed, the motorcycle and sidecar was a British invention that arrived in the Philippines about 40 years after they were first invented.

Tri means three so if it has three wheels it is a tricycle

While it is true that tri means three this claim completely ignores the rest of the word, while tri does mean three, cycle means bicycle.

Origins of the word tricycle

Tricycle is in fact a French word that has been adopted into the English language. The term tricycle came about in 1789 when two Frenchmen invented a three-wheeled bicycle and the newspaper the Journal de Paris called it a tricycle.


The Claim that All Vehicles with Three Wheels are Tricycles is false by a long way.

A Three-Wheeled Vehicle is not a Tricycle

There is no evidence that all vehicles with three wheels are tricycles. There is plenty of evidence that many cars can and do have three wheels so no a car does not need to have four wheels.

The origins of the word tricycle also say a tricycle is a three-wheeled bicycle and not a motorised vehicle, this is also backed up by the Cambridge Dictionary.

So any claim that all three-wheeled vehicle is a tricycle is False.

Also, the claim that to be a car it must have four wheels is False.

List of three-wheelers

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3 thoughts on “Fact Check – Claim All Vehicles with Three Wheels are Tricycles”

  1. avatar of bk

    Not hard to see that this article must have been written by a Brit or someone from a former British Colony such as India.
    The terms used are from American English. Since the Philippines was a former territory of the United States, that is why those terms are used. That is what they are called in the U.S…

    1. avatar of british frank

      Out of that list of manufacturers of three-wheeled cars, 81 of them are America and not one of them called their car a tricycle. So the claim that tricycle is an American term does not hold up. Also, there are many American owners of the Bajaj RE in the Philippines and they all insist it is not a tricycle surely if it was an American term they would call them tricycles.
      So no they are not called tricycles in the USA.

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