How to buy a motorbike in Vietnam

Jon

How to buy a motorbike in Vietnam

Tigit Motorbikes only rents or sells genuine and authentic motorbikes

Tigit Motorbikes has rental motorbikes for travelling Vietnam and rental motorbikes for expats living and working here. Proven across multiple social media platforms, Tigit is a safe and convenient choice for renting of buying a motorbike. However if you do feel the need to “shop around”, then here are some tips!

6 steps explaining how to buy a motorbike in Vietnam.

Step 1: Planning the budget

The phrase “you get what you pay for” is an accurate description when looking to buy a motorbike. Buying a sub $300 motorbike is likely to get an old outdated and or Chinese motorbike that is expected to need ongoing maintenance. This is no different to buying a $300 car back home – don’t lose perception of value for money just because this is Vietnam.
To buy a properly working vehicle is likely to cost $500 +
A motorbike holiday in Vietnam will cost around $200+ or more in terms of the motorbike rental or expenditure. Rental companies will not rent for less than this.
Buying and selling Chinese motorbikes can result in a bargain, but on average when considering breakdowns + oil changes + loss on resale the final costs are going to be similar to using a rental motorbike.

There is no harm in buying cheap motorbikes if you understand what it is that you are buying, but don’t be an fool who gets upset when a cheap motorbike doesn’t work properly!

Step 2: What kind of holiday are you going for?

To understand what kind of motorbike to purchase is a straightforward decision.

  • You don’t mind breaking down.
  • $1000 deposit is over and above the budget.
  • You are not interested in a properly performing motorbike. You just want a story on a 2 wheeled vehicle getting you across Vietnam.
  • Safety is not a priority.
  • Time is not of the essence and spending a day or two in mechanic shops will only add to the experience.

If agreeing with the above statements then a Chinese motorbike or cheap scooter in the $300 range may be the right choice!
If disagreeing with the above statements then a rental motorbike is the way to go!

It is common for backpackers to lose holiday time through mechanic shops. Consider planning a day out on the beach, but the motorbike needs work before heading out the next day.

The saying is “time is money”, and when embarking on a once in a lifetime motorbike holiday, this statement couldn’t be more true.

Step 3: Where to buy a motorbike?

By now you should have some idea on if you are going for a cheap Chinese motorbike or a rental motorbike!

For rental companies there are a select few reputable establishments that operate between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi with long distance rentals. These companies can be found sitting at the top of google searches, Trip Advisor, Facebook and instagram. It is a good idea to check reviews across multiple platforms and see if the company is providing good feedback across the board.
It is not wise to use the small backstreet rental companies, this is where the scams start to happen such as overcharging for scratches. Just remember the good rental companies take their reputation incredibly seriously and the chances of a bad motorbike or a failed holiday are slim.

For Chinese motorbikes the options are Craigslist, Travelswop, Hostels and Facebook groups when looking to buy a motorbike.

Craigslist
Craigslist is mostly the smaller dealers with nearly no reputation promoting the same motorbikes over and over again. They are a quick and easy way to find a cheap motorbike, but it should be expected that the quality is not particularly high. They are mostly flipping motorbikes for a quick buck. The price will be higher than a backpacker to backpacker sale, but even the shady dealers avoid the completely useless motorbikes. Combining the time they save by stocking motorbikes all in one place, and removing the completely broken down rubbish means that there is some value to their service. Keep an eye out for people “delivering motorbikes for free”, this is never going to end well.

Travel Swop
A mostly broken and outdated website that still ranks highly in google. The Hanoi companies have manipulated the system so they always appear at the top. This website is now providing nearly no value to help buy a motorbike.

Hostels
Most dorm room related hostels will have pin boards and adverts for backpacker to backpacker sales. Backpackers will advertise “no breakdowns” and give any old sales pitch to try and flog off their scrap metal. This is the most dangerous and risky way to purchase a motorbike in Vietnam. Entering a market of desperate sellers, many of which have even less morals than the shady dealers. Backpackers are not your friend, and the market is built around the premise of “I got scammed at the beginning of my holiday, therefore it is ok to pass on the scam at the end of my holiday”.
If backpacker to backpacker sales really is the route that you want to take, then see the Facebook section below.

Facebook
All across Facebook are buy and sell groups such as forsalevietnam. Although similar to Hostel related sales, at least here you have the identity of the seller. A profile browse and background check is possible on the seller and hopefully a sense of trust can be established.
Remember that most backpackers know nothing about motorbikes. They might honestly believe that their motorbike is in good condition, but this doesn’t mean that it is!

People will not blog about failed holidays. The truths and horror stories are buried and hidden away.
a honda win advert

copy + paste generic Honda Win advert

Step 4: Choosing the correct model when looking to buy a motorbike.

Any motorbike model in good condition has enough power to carry a traveller and luggage across Vietnam. If choosing a reputable company, then follow their advice and most of them will be able to narrow down the motorbike that suits your travelling needs. At TigitMotorbikes most travellers will choose the Honda Blade Semi-Automatic.

When choosing a cheap motorbike and there are clear pro’s and con’s to different models.
In order of the most risky at the top!

Cheap Automatics: Usually purchased by the least confident drivers and ironically they are also the most dangerous choice!
Although automatics are made by real companies such as Yamaha or SYM, in the $300 and below category, these are outdated scooters  now at an age of around 14 years. THIS IS OLD!
They are very expensive to fix, and choosing the wrong scooter can lead to a write-off where fixing the scooter simply is not worth it. The best choice is to throw the scooter away. This is not a risk worth taking. Travellers who are choosing automatic scooters would be much safer selecting a semi-automatic! For more information read the blog about the Yamaha Nouvo which is the most common scooter for foreigners to be seen driving.

Manual Motorbikes: Manual motorbikes are rare luxury items with incredibly high taxes in Vietnam. This is why the weird market of Chinese copies exist such as the Honda Win. It is a way that farmers and countryside folk can afford manual motorbikes for playing around on farms.
Unless the motorbike is $2000 or more, then it should be considered a cheap toy motorbike where the quality is low and the idea of the vehicle is “fun” but  “not reliable“.
This fun and not reliable concept is understood on the Vietnamese market which is why a network of Chinese mechanic shops exist where the motorbike can be fixed fairly cheaply. Remember as a foreigner that you are not driving a motorbike, you are driving a breakable but fixable toy. You are at ransom to Vietnamese mechanics being fair with you on fixing costs, and breakdowns should be expected!
The upside to these Chinese toy motorbikes is that they can be fixed everywhere!

Semi-Automatics: Any semi-automatic, be it real or fake is likely to provide a reasonably successful holiday. The Chinese semi-automatics are unbelievably cheap to fix and mechanics can put them back together with their eyes closed. Genuine Honda Semi-automatics are indestructible and come with Honda’s world class after service behind them. There is nearly no chance of a breakdown at all.
Chinese semi-automatics are surprisingly reliable for the money, and even with a terrible purchase of a completely useless motorbike. The situation can still be saved as they are so cheap and common to fix.

Although a Chinese semi-automatic is not likely to lead to a disaster holiday, it should be noted that they have no character and are not great to drive!
foreigners on cheap motorbikes

Cheap motorbikes

Step 5: Test drive the motorbike.

If choosing a reputable company, then you should already be happy and satisfied that the companies objective is to provide a safe and reliable motorbike! If you have not managed to come to this conclusion, then choose a different company! The reputable companies choose their customers as much as the customer chooses them! The value of the motorbike is high, the risk of reputation damage is dangerous, and the drama of dealing with difficult travellers is time consuming. Don’t assume that all rental companies are low key and desperate backstreet shops that will negotiate and play games.

For more information on test driving a motorbike, Tigit has the article questions for buying a motorbike in Vietnam where we go into detail about what to look out for.

If choosing and test driving a cheap motorbike, then motorcycle experience is a must and don’t trust what people say!  Your $300 toy motorbike is “not reliable” and it is not made in “Japan !” 🙂

Before you buy a motorbike, test drive the best that you can, and don’t be disappointed when it all goes wrong. This is the adventure holiday and story that you signed up for.
Vietnamese mechanics fixing a motorbike suspension

Fixing a motorbike

Step 6: Get safety gear after you buy a motorbike!

Vietnam has a range of common helmets from $1 up to around $25. There are also helmets at around the $50-100 mark though they can be hard to find.

Andes and GRS helmets at around $25 are good quality for Vietnam. In relation to properly certified helmets back home, these helmets are still nothing.

Using anything that is below an Andes or GRS helmet is suicide, and in our opinion riders should always buy a new helmet.  Evidence suggests even a small drop of a helmet can reduce the effectiveness and safety.

Riding with shoes is a good idea and it is far too common to see backpackers in flip flops. The feet are the first area to hit the ground for balance in a bad situation. Wearing proper shoes is common sense.

Long sleeves t-shirts and trousers are a good idea and it is up to the drivers discretion as to how far they want to take protection against road burns.
Safety equipment is limited and expensive in Vietnam. Riders if possible, should bring it from home.

Motorbikes are often advertised with “free helmets” as a positive selling point – take this with a pinch of salt and go to buy a new Andes or GRS helmet for around $25. This is small money for an item that could save your life.

Remember, that the horror stories are not blogged about on the internet. Be sensible and be safe and a buy a motorbike that is suitable for you!

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