The motorbike market in Vietnam is a complex one. Understanding some of the basics should help you avoid falling for one of the major scams lurking out there waiting to catch you.
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Chinese or “real”
Unknown to new arrivals in Vietnam is that the motorbike market is split into two sections. “Real” motorbikes and “Chinese Motorbikes”.
We may see a “Honda Wave” being sold at $300 and a “Honda Wave” being sold at $600. These are two completely different motorbikes, one made by Honda and one made by an unknown.
To the untrained eye the motorbikes look the same. To the trained eye, they are completely different. The Chinese motorbike market in general is a scam. They do serve a time and place but…. Basically we want to avoid Chinese motorbikes at all costs!
There are three ways to avoid accidentally buying a Chinese motorbike.
- Buy from a reputable source.
- Check the paperwork, which must say Honda (paperwork can be faked though).
- Have experience with motorbikes and test drive them.
Benefits of real Motorbikes
Real motorbikes made by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and countless other brands come with afterservice from the official mechanic shops. The circle of breakdowns foreigners often find themselves in is caused by using backstreet mechanic shops using Chinese parts. It is important to maintain your two wheeled machine in the genuine service centres.
Real motorbikes are more reliable and it is cost efficient to pay the extra for a quality machine. Chinese motorbikes break all the time, and those $5 daily fixes quickly mount up.
Authentic motorbikes tend to be safe, Chinese motorbikes tend to be dangerous. They are unbranded for a reason!
Different platforms for buying a motorbike in Vietnam.
Craigslist – We known Craiglist from home so the familiarity of the platform gives us a feeling of safety. On the contrary, Craigslist is probably the worst place to buy a motorbike. Full of dodgy dealers and individuals trying to get rid of shoddy motorbikes. No control and no policing leaves craiglist open to dealers using bots to circulate trash.
Backpacker hostels – Full of Chinese motorbikes and clueless backpackers. The backpackers selling their motorbike will be just as clueless as you. Maybe more clueless, as they fell for the Chinese bike in the first place!
Facebook groups – Facebook is both good and bad, depending on the group. The easy to join backpacker groups are full of Chinese trash and dealers selling garbage to the uneducated buyer. However the private groups (which are hard to find and difficult to join) are heavily moderated and controled providing a solid platform. These groups won’t let you in with your Honda Win for sale!
Vietnamese shops – The hard part for the new arrival is figuring out what the shop specializes in. On the outside they may look the same, but on the inside they are not. Is this a shop selling Chinese motorbikes or real motorbikes?
Bargaining is important, but more importantly is the knowledge and expectation that Vietnamese sell “broken motorbikes”.
In the West we expect to buy a working product, but in Vietnam it doesn’t work like this. Tires are not replaced, batteries are old and small problems are to be expected with the motorbike. This is normal and accepted. Service doesn’t exist here.
ChoTot – The Vietnamese version of ebay. A great way of getting an estimate of a bikes value, but very difficult to actually buy off. Flooded by Vietnamese dealers offering crazy low prices. When you finally arrive to see the motorbike they “sting raise” the motorbike price up. Having made you drive across the city for the viewing they use this to their advantage. This is the opposite way of doing business to the West. The Vietnamese raise the price on arrival, not lower it.
Every estimate we see on ChoTot needs to be raised by a few million Dong for the real price.
Take your time when buying a motorbike
It is worth taking your time buying a motorbike in Vietnam. Scams are everywhere and the market is complicated. Don’t trust your friend who says they can buy “x” model at “x” price. Chances are they can’t, or they can, but its broken and they have not figured this out. Our advice is to pay a premium and try to get something that works in the first place.