Wide open roads, the afternoon breeze in your hair and the wind in your face. Just imagine yourself driving around the countryside, taking in all the sights, smells, and sounds of “real Vietnam”. It’s not just a dream; it’s something you can do, too, just like all those people on your Facebook Feed. But in order to make it happen, you need a motorbike (and preferably – a driver’s license). Not just any motorbike, but a bike that can take on the rough terrain and potholes, as well as the hills and mountain passes of this beautiful country. If you’re thinking about buying a second hand motorbike in Vietnam, read this first, and save yourself from any nasty surprises.
Check out DC Motorbikes for dependable support with Driver’s Licenses or buying Second Hand MotorbikesThey have shops in Hanoi, and Saigon in Thao Dien, and Phu My Hung
These tips will be suitable for anyone looking to buy a used bike in Vietnam, whether you’re just looking for something for your holiday, or you actually live here and need something for the longer term. We hope you find them helpful!
What Type of Bike Do You Want?
Before anything else, you’ll need to work out for yourself basic things like transmission type (automatic, a semi, or a manual), engine size, or cost of ongoing maintenance. Are you ok with a smaller bike, or do you want something that can carry two people uphill? There’s also the question of mileage – older bikes will break down more but they’re cheaper; newer bikes will be more expensive, and there’s no guarantee they won’t breakdown either. You’ll have to take some time to answer these initial, practical questions.
Don’t Believe the Marketing
When you’re looking for a used motorbike in Vietnam, it’s important to remember the fact that secondhand bikes are, well, secondhand. The person selling it to you is likely to want to make as much money as possible from the sale, so they’re going to tell you everything that’s good about the bike, and try to hide anything that’s not so great. It’s important to be aware of this, and not take everything they say at face value. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Even if they say it’s their “baby”, or it’s “never” had problems, it’s always worth checking things out for yourself before you hand over any cash. You might also want to watch out for bikes that have been overly customised; this might potentially indicate that the bike has previously required major repairs on large sections.
Check It Out With a Mechanic
Unless you’re a qualified mechanic yourself, it’s always a good idea to take the bike you’re thinking of buying to a professional and get their opinion on it. They’ll be able to tell you if there are any obvious problems, and they may even be able to give you an idea of how much it would cost to fix them.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and it could save you a lot of money in the long run. You’ll be able to find a mechanic basically anywhere; don’t hesitate to use apps like Google Translate and get their services for an hour. View the bike at the mechanic’s shop itself if you can.
Beware of “Papers”
In Vietnam, it’s not uncommon for people to sell bikes without any of the proper paperwork. This might not seem like a big deal, but it could cause you a lot of problems if you get pulled over by the police… or even worse, get into an accident. Without the blue card, you cannot buy motorbike insurance.
If the bike doesn’t have any papers, it’s best to just walk away and find something else. Or at least know what you’re walking into.
Get the blue card, which will be required to buy insurance. If you don’t have bike insurance, you’re opening yourself up to a world of financial pain if something goes wrong. And, on that note, get medical insurance as well!
Know Your Price Range
It’s also important to be aware of the market value of the bike you’re interested in. This way, you won’t be taken advantage of by the seller, and you’ll know what’s a fair price to pay. To get an idea of the market value, have a look online at places like Chototot.
You can also ask around at motorbike shops, or even just people you know who have bikes (expat groups are good for this). They’ll be able to give you a pretty good idea of how much you should be paying.
Be Prepared for Repairs
Even if you take your bike to a mechanic for a check-up before buying it, there’s no guarantee that everything will be perfect. There could still be some underlying problems that need to be fixed, and these can often be expensive repairs. I once bought a Nuovo for 4M VND that needed another 4M VND just to get fixed up. I knew what I was in for though, so make sure you’re aware of this before buying a used motorbike in Vietnam, and have enough money saved up so that you can cover any potential repairs that might need doing.
Haggle – and haggle HARD!
In Vietnam, it’s expected that you haggle when buying pretty much anything, and motorbikes are no exception. Don’t be afraid to bargain the price down, especially if you know that there are some repairs that need to be done. Start low, and see how high they’re willing to go. If they’re not budging, walk away.
There are always other bikes out there, and chances are you’ll find one for a better price if you just keep looking. Don’t be afraid to get the price lowered by the amount you expect to spend on repairs! It might be their “baby” now, but it won’t be their responsibility once you buy it.
Key Sections that might Need Repairs
Perhaps the most important to do – have a preliminary check for any potential issues with the engine. One thing to look out for is oil leaks; check the surrounding areas of engine, as well as the hoses and tubes on the fuel line. If you see any cracks or cuts, it might be a sign that the bike needs repairs.
Another thing to watch out for is engine noise – if the engine seems to be running louder than normal, it could be a sign of a problem. Finally, check under the engine to see if there are any drops of oil on the ground. These could be signs of a bigger issue that will need to be addressed by a mechanic.
The brakes are another important safety check to make sure they’re in good working order. Inspect the brake pads to see how much life is left in them – if they’re worn down, it’s time for a change. While you’re at it, also check the brake fluid level and top it up if necessary.
It’s also important to check the condition of the tires, as they’re crucial for both safety and performance. Check for any cracks or cuts in the tread, as well as the sidewalls. If the tires are looking worn, it might be a good idea to change them. Inner tubes might also be suspect, so don’t hesitate to ask your mechanic friend for quotes on replaced both tires, and both tubes.
The steering column is another key safety component, so make sure that it’s in good working order. Check for any looseness or play in the steering, as this could be a sign of wear and tear. Also, make sure that the handlebars are tight, as loose handlebars can mean that the bearings need to be replaced, and that can be quite costly.
Finally, it’s also important to check the electricals on the bike. Make sure all the lights are working – headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. Also, check the horn to make sure it’s working. These are all important safety features (at least for you, if not for the general driving populace here in Vietnam), so it’s crucial that they’re all in good working order.
Test Drive It!
Once you’ve found a bike you’re interested in, and you think the price is right, it’s time to take it for a spin. This is the best way to get a feel for the bike, and to see if there are any issues that you didn’t catch during your initial inspection.
Make sure to ride it in a variety of simulated conditions: tight turns, sudden brakes, bumps and potholes, uphill, high speeds, etc. This will give you the best idea of how the bike will perform in real-world conditions. I didn’t buy a cub because I was too fat to ride it up a bridge.
Buying a second hand motorbike in Vietnam can be a daunting task, but if you follow these tips, you should be able to find a bike that suits your needs and your budget. I’m not a professional mechanic, but these are things that I wish I had known before I bought my first bike here.
You might also want to consider getting a newer (or even brand new bike). That Nuovo I bought had initial repairs of 4M VND, and then an additional annual upkeep of about 1M VND. Could have saved a lot more over the long term had I just gotten a newer bike with less mileage.
Just remember to take your time, do your research, and never be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. With a little patience, you’ll find the perfect bike in no time! And once you do, check out our other guides on biking around the country:
- How to Drive a Bike in Vietnam with Samantha Morgan
- Practical Tips for Smooth Motorbike Trips in Vietnam
- Reasons Why Riding a Motorcycle in Vietnam Sucks
And if you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments below!
Good luck, and happy riding!