Questions for buying a motorcycle for sale in Vietnam

Questions for buying a motorcycle for sale in Vietnam
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Important questions when looking for a motorcycle for sale!

How many KM are on the motorcycle for sale?
Is the year of the motorbike important?
Is the engine good?
Is the gearbox good?
Why is the motorbike so ugly?
Do the electrics work?
Are the tires in good condition?
Is the motorbike or scooter powerful enough and does it have enough “CC”?
Is the chain and sprocket in good condition?
How do I check the brakes?
How do I check for leaking oil?
Does the motorbike wobble?
How important is the blue ownership card?

How many Km are on the motorcycle for sale?

Unfortunately this number has nearly no value to determining if the motorbike is good or not.

  • To change the entire dashboard of a motorbike (including the speedometer count) is only around $50. For a seller or a calculated owner, altering these numbers is a sure way to trick a potential buyer!
  • Many Vietnamese do not care about having a working speedometer. If left unfixed, the KM counter will never increase, resulting in a misleading final number. This is common!
  • The true determining factor of a motorbike is the maintenance history with genuine parts vs Chinese parts, and regular oil changes. Oil changes and servicing are recommended every 1000km in Vietnam. If the previous owner didn’t follow suitable upkeep, then a new motorbike can quickly become old!

The Km is a completely useless number when looking for a motorcycle for sale!

Is the Year of the motorbike important?

The year of the motorbike holds some value, but perhaps not in the way people might think!

  • The main importance of year is understanding which year of a particular model were the best releases. For example it is known on the Vietnamese market that the 2010 Honda Airblade is by far the best Airblade on the streets. Infact, the value of this rare 2010 model, means it is worth a similar value to a 2013 AirBlade!
  • As with the KM of the motorbike – the year does not factor in the upkeep and maintenance schedule of the motorbike. It comes down to the use of genuine parts and the oil cycle.

A reasonable guide to evaluating the value of a motorbike for sale. It can determine the potential resell value and can also suggest how much the motorbike might cost over time. The year does not really help in determining the general reliability. However, for picking up a real bargain, the year can be a very useful number!

Is the engine good?

Buying a motorbike with a good engine is important. On genuine motorbikes it is easy to hear if the motorbike is in good condition or not. On Chinese and cheap motorbikes, mechanics have ways of hiding the bad sounds. This makes it very difficult to determine condition.

  • Different motorbike models make different noises. Not all bad noises are important or serious.
  • Listen carefully to clicking noises, grinding noises or ticking noises. As a rough guideline, any of these noises are a sign that something may not be right.
  • If the motorbike is supported by Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki then fixing a bad purchase might cost 100-200usd but is not the end of the world! If the motorbike is not supported by Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki, then Chinese components will be used by a backstreet mechanic. The motorbike will never drive properly again.

Financially speaking, a bad purchase will cost around $100-200 on officially supported motorbikes. The good news, is that the motorbike will drive excellent again after the fix!
On unsupported motorbikes, the engine can never properly be fixed and performance and reliability is lost forever. This is why buying second hand rare motorbikes is a very dangerous move in Vietnam.

Is the gearbox good?

A misunderstood element of test driving motorbikes. Gearboxes do not randomly break and they do not really become old either. They are either working or broken. The idea of the gearbox being “old” is a misunderstanding.
Most of the time when the rider can not change gears it is due to lack of experience and driver technique. On occasion it is can be caused due to the clutch setup or chain tension. This is not a sign of a broken gear box.

  • Gearboxes do not become “old” and they do not randomly break.
  • To test drive a broken gearbox, use all the gears on the motorbike. If it feels like the chain is aggressively slipping in a certain gear, then the gearbox is broken.
  • A gearbox will break due to bad gear-changes caused through driver error. It is an instant process and is in no relation to age. A bad gear change can break the gearbox on a brand new motorbike.

Customers who can’t change gears need to look at their own driving ability before blaming the condition of the motorbike. A motorbike in Vietnam that can’t get neutral will need a clutch adjustment. This is not  related to the reliability of the motorbike. Motorbikes in Vietnam are cheap and the quality is not particularly high. They can’t be compared to large powered machines back home.
If a gearbox does break, it is down to driver error.
Watch this video on how to drive a manual motorbike.

A broken gearbox is a huge problem and takes a full day of mechanic time to fix.

Why is the motorbike so ugly?

It is nice to buy a shiny motorbike that looks new, but this is often used as a marketing con due to how cheap bodywork is. Look around the streets to see that most scooters in Vietnam look fairly beaten up. On the Vietnamese market, outside appearance is not important, the brand and model is the determining element of value.

  • On average, each piece of bodywork from an official dealer is worth about $10. If cutting corners and using Chinese bodywork this can drop to around $5. Paint jobs are cheap and decal jobs are even cheaper! Making an old motorbike look new can cost around 500,000vnd ($25).A buyer should be looking to see if the bodywork is genuine or Chinese. This is far more important than the aesthetics of the motorbike and is a direct way to see if this is a hacked together motorbike being flipped.

The bodywork is a major factor when Tigit Motorbikes goes out to buy second hand motorbikes. If a motorbike has any sign of decals, cheap paintwork or Chinese bodywork we will immediately walk away. It is a sign of a hack job which is usually a cover up for a badly maintained or crashed motorbike.
We would prefer an ugly looking motorbike with genuine bodywork – this shows that the motorbike has been looked after!

Do the electrics work?

It is common to see buyers testing the electrics and lights as if it was a major factor for buying a motorbike. The logic being, lights are working, so the motorbike must be in good condition!

  • The lights are one of the cheapest parts of a motorbike to fix. They hold nearly no value in deciding if a motorbike works or not.
  • The battery is between $15-20 to replace and most Vietnamese will sell scooters where the battery is old. Although an inconvenience, the fix is quick and simple!
  • A dealer or seller can kick start the motorbike and do a quick fix to make the electrics work for a test drive. Without physically checking the battery, this is an item that will have to remain a mystery! Vietnamese dealers will not let the buyer check the age of battery out of principle.

Unless buying from Tigit Motorbikes, an old and temporary battery is standard procedure when looking for a motorcycle for sale. Lights and other electrics are quick and easy to fix. Use it as a negotiation technique, but not as a final decision making tool!

Are the tires in good condition?

Depending on the motorbike model, tires can be between 7 and 25USD.  On the newer motorbikes, tires tend to fall in the upper price bracket which can mean replacing a set of tires can set a new owner back another $50.

  • A good dealer should be able to put an accurate estimate on how many KM the tires are likely to last before needing a change.
  • Safety is important and if the customer knows nothing about motorbikes it may be worth asking for a 3rd party opinion…. or just buy from a reputable place when looking for a motorcycle for sale!

For a professional, judging the age of the tire is easy.

Is the motorbike for sale powerful enough and does it have enough “CC”?

For us, it seems a strange question because the answer is a very easy “yes!”, but for many people looking for a motorcycle for sale, the power is a common theme of confusion.

  • A 110cc motorbike in good condition has easily enough power to carry two people and luggage from the bottom south corner of Vietnam to the very top. Going over any hill or mountain thrown at it!
  • The “CC” of the motorbike is not a true determining factor of the power. More importantly is the condition of the motorbike, and with older automatic scooters it can be found the real power is around 70cc and the answer becomes questionable if this power is enough for the job! For more information on this go and read our article 110cc VS 150cc the delusions!
  • A good condition genuine motorbike will be roughly double the power of the Chinese copy. They might have the same “CC” on paper, but the reality is a completely different performance.

If a lack of power and performance is a worry, then get a motorbike from a reputable source. The paperwork and number of “CC” is a very loose figure into determining the performance of a motorbike.

Is the chain and sprocket in good condition?

The chain and sprocket is important for safety reasons. An old chain and sprocket can snap or fall off, causing the motorbike to lock up.

  • An old chain and sprocket will lengthen quickly.
  • Check the back sprocket for pointy teeth.
  • Listen to the chain while driving, a clicking noise is a sign of age.

If the motorbike is a locally supported model, the chain and sprocket will range between $10 and $20. Not a huge expenditure, but for safety reasons it is important the chain is in reasonable condition. On imported and larger motorbikes, the chain and sprocket will cost upwards of $50.

How do I check the brakes?

Failing brakes is obviously a huge concern for any driver.

  • On cheap motorbikes failing brakes is caused by the brake cable snapping or rust on the back-brake causing the metal to snap. The failure does not come from the brakes themselves. It is common for travellers to ask a mechanic to check the brakes. Mechanics in Vietnam will not check brake cables (fact) and the solution to this is to not buy a cheap piece of crap.
  • Mechanics can easily estimate the age of both the front and back brake without touching the motorbike. A mechanic does not need to take the wheels off to check the brakes. If they are doing this, then they are already lying to you.
  • When brakes become old they will start to squeak or grind. The brakes will still work, but stopping power is reduced. They do not randomly fail.

Brakes are cheap to replace, an honest mechanic can tell if the brakes need replacing just by looking at the motorbike. The real cause for concern is the brake cable or rust causing the braking mechanism to snap. This only happens on cheap Chinese motorbikes, or old scooters. Unfortunately, this is not something a Vietnamese mechanic can be trusted to check for.

How do I check for leaking oil?

Depending on the motorbike value, leaking oil is not a hugely important problem and can be a quick and easy fix. It is a reason for concern, but not always a reason not to buy a motorbike.

  • On Chinese motorbikes, leaking oil is standard and expected. This is one of the reasons that backpackers are informed to change the oil every 400km.
  • Fixing oil leaks is usually relatively cheap. Below $25 – but is directly in relation to the value of the motorbike. Genuine motorbikes should not leak oil and the situation is far more serious! Chinese motorbikes and oil leaks should be expected!
  • To check for oil leaks, the hand should be run directly under the gearbox where the screw is used to drain the oil.  It is a misunderstanding to check the engine for oil leaks, more commonly it is in the gearbox area directly below the feet!

The importance of oil leaks is relative to the motorbike value. On cheap motorbikes the idea is to change the oil frequently! On genuine motorbikes it is a sign of age and mistreatment and is far greater cause for concern. However oil leaks can be small problems or big problems at both ends of the pricing scale. It all depends where the leak is!


Does the motorbike wobble?

Unstable motorbikes are usually not understood or checked by buyers. It is the driving performance of the motorbike in terms of handling and stability. This takes experience to understand, and is a great way to determine the overall condition of the motorbike.

  • To test how wobbly the motorbike is – Hold the motorbike in an upright position as if you were about to get on it. Then shake the handle bars. If the motorbike uncontrollably shakes, then there is probably something wrong. Obviously driving the motorbike will also reveal the performance.
  • A wobbly motorbike can be caused by old front or back suspension. A weak or broken rear swing arm, Broken wheel bearings, Broken wheels, broken neck bearings or old tires.
  • Depending on the cause of an unstable motorbike it can be expensive or impossible to set right again. A very wobbly motorbike probably can not be fixed without hundreds of dollars spent on it.

Although not related to reliability, the handling of the motorbike is a good way to determine the overall condition. First time buyers who buy wobbly motorbikes may never know any better. However, they are missing out on the experience of driving a motorbike in good condition… which is a shame.
Behind the doors and overtime, a motorbike that is naturally unstable is likely to need money spent on it down the line. A good mechanic will often look at these motorbikes or scooters in disgust, but it is hard to tell the driver to spend money on parts that the driver does not understand!

How important is the blue ownership card?

The blue card is needed to prove ownership of the motorbike. Every motorbike should come with a bluecard.

  • It is not possible to change the name on the blue card (without a lot of work)
  • The Blue card will display the manufacturer, the year of purchase and the CC or power of the motorbike.
  • If the blue card is lost, in most scenarios it is impossible to replace it. The motorbike is now worthless.
  • The importance of the blue card and the accuracy of the data on the blue card are defined by the value of the motorbike. On a Chinese motorbike the blue card is not very important, on a few thousand dollar motorbike the blue card is needed. On a many thousand dollar motorbike the name must be correct on the papers.

The blue card should come with the motorbike. For normal motorbikes the name on the blue card is not important. Do not lose the blue card!

Back of Blue Card

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