Motorbike Buying VS Renting in Vietnam

Jon Tigit

Motorbike Buying VS Renting in Vietnam

The Genuine motorbike and the Chinese motorbike

Here we answer the question: should buy or rent a motorbike?

But first, an understanding of the Chinese motorbike market is needed.


Chinese Honda Win showroom


The Chinese motorbike market is a phenomenon we do not have in the west. It takes time and experience to understand the purpose of this market and why it exists.

Chinese motorbikes are sold new between $500-700. It is difficult to comprehend how a vehicle can cost so little, this is less than the average bicycle in the west. It is not because South-East Asia is “cheap”, it is because these products are useless and would not pass any health and safety tests on any level back home.

The Chinese motorbike market exists for the extreme countryside locations where the locals

  • A) Do not have the money to buy authentic motorbikes
  • B) Use the motorbike as a cheap freightliner (mostly illegal) to cut down cost, it doesn’t matter much if confiscated by police
  • C) There are no authentic service centres in the extreme remote regions, so servicing an authentic motorbike is impossible.


This will become a “no breakdown” for some backpackers in the next year, after being smashed to pieces by the locals


Local farmers use them in a gentle way and have a system of replacing the motorbike every few years. Venture into the remote regions of the North of Vietnam and it can be seen the locals are driving around on new, or nearly new Chinese motorbikes.
Every few years the motorbikes are scrapped and replaced. This saves the hassle of needing to service the motorbike in regions where mechanics and replacement parts do not exist.


the vehicle to the left, is what they use to transport wood around in the muddy forest.


All you need to know as a foreigner is that the Chinese motorbike would not pass health and safety back home. From there, make a decision on what your safety is worth to you.

Buying a Chinese motorbike

Chinese motorbikes are not built to last.

A few years of age and the motorbikes lifespan is done.
Buying a second hand Chinese motorbike is likely to create a time of unpredictable and fairly expensive breakdowns. Oil is also advisable to be changed every 300km, which is roughly every 2 fills of a gas tank. That means for every 15usd of gas, the traveller is using around 5usd of oil!


A trash bike, collected from a bike graveyard, can be revived with chinese organs


Costs aside, the Chinese motorbike drives like a toy

And it doesn’t take much brain power to respect and understand that a $700 vehicle (when new) is not exactly “high quality”. These posts of looking for a “cheap and reliable motorbike for $300” are just misunderstood delusions about South East Asia being cheap.


Missing a number plate is common among those “freight-carriers”. Who cares? It’s gonna be thrown away soon anyway.


The issue with the Chinese motorbike market is that foreigners are too embarrassed to blog or promote the concept of a failed purchase and a failed holiday. A backpacker is not going to publicly write about a holiday of being scammed and ripped off. Especially when the correct information is publicly available on the internet, with some basic research the backpacker can see the humiliating side of the story. Post a sob story on the internet about being “ripped off by a mechanic”, and it is often not met with the expected sympathy. Instead, it is met with questions as to why you attempted to save a few dollars.



Facebook has become a dangerous place for Chinese motorbike sales.

Copied and pasted posts with no factual information containing complete garbage of misinformed adverts. It creates a platform where backpackers have become arguably even more dishonest than the backstreet dealers!
Every advert is displayed with “no breakdowns”. If the motorbike worked consistently, why does “no breakdowns” need stating in every single backpacker advert?

What is happening is backpackers are passing off their failed purchases to the next unsuspecting tourist. They dish out the same garbage sales pitch that they were manipulated by, and so the circle goes on.

Car classifieds are not clustered with vehicles with “no breakdowns”. Approach with suspicion when looking at these advertising techniques coming from the foreigner related sales on facebook and craigslist.
The adverts don’t make sense and a “free beer” to go with the sale should be looked at with suspicion from the buyer.


8000km and no breakdowns?

Buying authentic motorbikes.

Travellers should always rent authentic motorbikes. Expats staying in Vietnam for more than three months would benefit financially from buying a genuine and authentic motorbike. Honda motorbikes, in particular, have minimal depreciation, for expats, providing you manage to purchase a good one, then the resell is going to be similar to the original purchase price.
With authentic motorbikes we are back into the western world of what we know about car reliability and vehicles that work.
Unlike backpacker adverts, in the real world of motorbike adverts within local markets, “no breakdowns” is not randomly disclaimed throughout a post. Free beer is certainly not on offer either!

Unfortunately buying an authentic second-hand motorbike is easier said than done.

A motorbike might be authentic on the outside, but a lifetime of maintenance with Chinese parts means that the inside is now Chinese. Chinese parts are designed to work in authentic motorbikes, and this can ruin the motorbike.
The only way to determine if a motorbike has been badly maintained is through test drives and experience on how an authentic motorbike should drive.
Chinese motorbikes and authentic motorbikes drive very differently.
Compare a $300 children’s bicycle against a high performance bike, it doesn’t actually take much to feel the difference… but it still takes the experience of driving both forms of bike to understand what is going on.

Selling an authentic motorbike is also difficult.

This confusion among foreigners about the concept of Chinese motorbikes means that the average foreigner in Vietnam is driving around on a Chinese motorbike or a very old scooter such as the Yamaha Nouvo. This creates a naive assumption that every motorbike in Vietnam is low quality. This can often be seen where bloggers claim with misinformed information that “no motorbikes in Vietnam work”.

The large blogging platform behind this useless piece of content does not deserve a mention.


It paints a damaging picture of the country, and scares off the real bikers from coming here, which is a shame!

The number of foreigner-related buyers out there that bother to put in the research is small. As a seller, you are directly competing with the Chinese garbage in a market where foreigners that have failed to do their research.

Selling to Vietnamese is also not easy as they like to have the paperwork in their own name. As a foreigner, it is not possible to transfer ownership papers which means the value of your authentic motorbike on the Vietnamese market is lower than it should be.

Due to this loss on resale, backpackers are better off renting.
For expats who have time to understand the market and sell their motorbikes in a calculated way, then buying an authentic motorbike is definitely the way to go!

Renting an authentic motorbike

Backpackers should always be renting authentic motorbikes.

The motorbike will be safe, drive better than a Chinese motorbike and most likely work out cheaper over the duration of a journey.
No breakdowns, no getting ripped off in backstreet mechanics, better gas consumption and fewer oil changes.  The value very quickly overtakes the purchase and sale of a Chinese motorbike.

Expats living in Vietnam are still better off buying an authentic motorbike.

The rental market is popular and advantageous as a rental company takes care of the motorbike. However, financially it makes much more sense to just buy one!
Official service centers are amazing in Vietnam, Honda Head being the backbone of the Tigit operation. However, they are often scared to work with foreigners, again due to this misunderstanding about Chinese parts. Foreigners are quick to attempt to negotiate (despite Honda being a large corporation) and compare the service price to that of a Chinese motorbike mechanic.
For an official mechanic shop, it is often easier to just turn the foreigner away. Read why Tigit Motorbikes won’t test drive motorbikes for foreigners.

Renting a Chinese motorbike

The renting of Detech Honda Wins for nearly exactly the same as an authentic motorbike is a market built entirely on “image”, with the classic look of the Honda Win being chosen above the safety and reliability of a modern scooter.

The Win drives like a toy, a broken toy. A toy that never should have been built in the first place. A laughable joke of a motorbike to anyone who knows anything about motorbikes.

Did not make it far out of Saigon!

The flourishing Detech Honda Win market shines a light on the inexperienced backpacker first-time riders. People with motorbike experience quickly see through this joke of a motorbike and start searching for options through the reputable companies, of which there are only a handful that rent out genuine motorbikes.

The true costs are hidden and broken up over the duration of a journey.
Inferior gas consumption, regular oil changes and a likely loss on resale due to leaving in a hurry all contribute to the Chinese motorbike climbing to be similar or on many occasions a more expensive solution than a simple rental.
Companies like Tigit base prices around what we believe to be competitive against the true costs of a holiday on a Chinese motorbike. We attempt to stay competitive with the general market average, the idea of rentals being a “rip off” is simply naive and short sighted.

Buy a Honda Win for $250

Assume a 2000km journey. 2000km/300km (suggested oil changes) = 6 times at 4usd a time. Total = $24
Breakdowns (realistically) between $50 and $100. Will continue this maths with $50 on the low end.
Expected sale value (leaving country quickly) = $150,   Purchase value less the sale value, $250-150 = $100

$100 (loss on sale) + $24 (oil changes) + $50 maintenance = $174 total expense

This is excluding the maths on the useless gas consumption of a Chinese motorbike over a 2000km journey against an authentic motorbike.
It is also excluding the math on what holiday time is worth to you! Yes, some people believe that spending their holiday on the inside of a random countryside mechanic is good value, but I imagine the majority of people out there, would rather be on a beach!

For the sake of argument and to shut the people up saying “but I spent less”. These numbers are definitely on the generous side to the Win and I think it is hard to massively dispute these costs.

Take a $174 holiday on a Chinese toy motorbike that may or may not work VS a $250 rent on a genuine motorbike by a reputable proven company.

These numbers show that the argument of ” small budget” from backpackers really is incredibly weak. This is about education and understanding, and Tigit hopes this article clears this up.

If you can not afford a $250 motorbike rental, then consider all the risks involved that come with an adventure holiday such as this. In our opinion without some money in the bank, you should not be on a motorbike in the first place. Motorbiking is no joke, and it needs to be taken seriously. The very basics of safe driving is to get a motorbike that has some build quality. Travellers buying off eachother when they have no idea what they are doing is not a great start to safety. The locals do not appreciate it either and this Honda Win market is frowned upon.

Never buy a motorbike for less than $500

If you put 4 million on top of a motorbike, you’ll also have a motorbike under 4 million”

$500 is the magic number that separates the authentic motorbikes from the Chinese motorbikes.
If a motorbike drops below this magical $500 mark then it has hit the realms of Chinese. A motorbike falling below $500 is a motorbike that locals do not want, such as the commonly seen Yamaha Nouvo among expats!


Authentic motorbikes never go below $500


Buy an authentic motorbike for $500 and it will still be worth $500 for the rest of time…. providing it is maintained with authentic parts.

For Semi-automatics, the safest and most stable investment is the Honda Wave which is Honda’s mainstream semi-automatic motorbike.

For Automatics, the cheapest working scooter is the Suzuki Hayate. However automatics are much older for the money and tend to develop problems. If the bank balance allows it, the Honda Airblade is the best long term investment.

Safety is often forgotten

Motorbiking Vietnam is considered a dangerous activity and in many peoples eyes a suicidal activity.

When safety is mentioned, the usual concepts of getting a good helmet, wear appropriate clothes and drive carefully are all listed as the things to follow.


Foreigner driving naked

Literally nothing


Rarely do people explain about getting an appropriate motorbike that is going to carry you over this 2000km + journey in a controlled and stable fashion.

As with a car, motorbikes have different stopping distances, different powers and different handling.
Read our article that attempts to explain the difference in engine powers of a Chinese motorbikes against a genuine motorbike.

Chinese motorbikes have no power, no stability and no control. It is a $700 (when new) unbranded motorbike built by a random Chinese company that is so bad that it does not exist anywhere else in the world!

“But the Detech Honda Win is made in Vietnam!”

Now lets explain: Before Detech it was Sufat, before Sufat it was Ferroli, before Ferroli is was Mekado before Mekado…. well it was real bikers and this Chinese stuff didn’t exist until the top gear Vietnam special came along 🙂

As the brand gets tarnished for being the useless garbage that it is, the Vietnamese shops must look to re-brand and introduce the “new and best thing”. Standard marketing tactics used in industries around the world. A simple way to keep the models fresh and unique.

A Chinese motorbike may look the same as a genuine one, but test the brakes  to compare the stopping distances. Oh dear god….what are you travellers doing to yourself?
Watch the differences in confidence displayed in the driving style between Tigit Jon on a Winner video and a Win video.

Be a cynic and question everything

Look beyond the backpacker to backpacker pact. Question everything and trust no one. Backpackers are not travelling up and down Vietnam on $300 “reliable motorbikes” with “no breakdowns”.
Question the leaking suspension, the wobbly ride, the missing wheel spokes, the guaranteed oil leak under the gearbox.

Google around Honda Wins and listen to the multiple reputable sources at the top of google which are displaying words of caution.

Dive deeper than backpacker Facebook groups and head over to local expats pages, motorbike pages or even Reddit pages

The information is out there and very transparent. Read it, understand it, and then do the sensible thing and rent a motorbike!

Tigit is a company that deals on a mass scale of a select few motorbike models

We choose a select few models that we believe to be the best performing motorbikes in the country. With three small offices spread across Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hanoi and over 250 motorbikes on the road at a given time, breakdowns are not an option. The common question backpackers ask “can mechanics fix it everywhere?”, is nothing but a misunderstood concept of motorbikes not working in Vietnam. A good rental motorbike, just like a good car rental, does not need random mechanics on a journey. A good rental motorbike will not randomly breakdown. Check out the use of the import Honda XR in fully guided motorcycle tours.

By Jon.

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  1. Katrin Mikeska says:

    Hello, I would like to do a one-month motorbike tour through Vietnam with my daughter. We would like to rent or buy 2 Honda Wave or similar. We are in Hoi An from the 1st of March. Can you make us an offer. Best regards Katrin