Buying, financing, and maintaining a motorbike in Thailand can be very simple for foreigners, even given the complexities of Thai regulations. However, it is not always as simple as it sounds at the dealer. There is a lot more involved than just them.
The big deal for foreigners is that the paperwork for the motorbike purchase is linked to specific ID and visa requirements. It can be quite a run around to finally ride that new beautiful thing home. But the reward of going through all that is fantastic.
Thailand is a motorbike wonderland. There are far more motorbikes than cars. And they can get you around anywhere, even cruising to the far-away provinces. So, I will share with you my experience buying a motorbike in Thailand. I hope it helps you enjoy Thailand on two wheels.
Motorbike shops in Thailand are everywhere. They all have their deals plastered all over the place. The best advice on price is to do homework by looking up the bike you want online.
My Farang (Western) friends all had a particular favorite dealer, so for me, it was easy. But, you can always choose where you like or think has the best price and go from there. The dealer told us that the first step is to make a deposit. Create a “pre-contract” that establishes the purchase.
From there, the fun begins, for it is necessary to go to the notorious Thai immigration office. The pre-contract requires a dedicated registration certificate to become an entire contract. Essentially, a proof of your address in Thailand. Also, your visa type now comes into play. Technically, you are supposed to be on a long-stay visa. But you can also get one if you have at least 30 days left on a 60-day extension.
However, Thailand is Thailand.
So, it is not unheard of that you can get a resident cert even with a 30-day tourist visa. It is also very Thai that any of this might change at any moment. For instance, it is only now a new requirement to have a driver’s license to buy a motorbike.
What happened to me was a bit more of a headache. Another new thing is that the motorbike must also be registered in the province of your home address. I had a lot of time cruising around Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya to do this.
My bike had been registered in Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok) for years, but the new rule meant I had to do it all over again in Pattaya.
Once again, for Farangs, financing your motorbike is much more paperwork than for Thais. And a visa point comes into play again, too, because you will need a signed copy of your Work Permit.
A business visa is almost identical and will also satisfy the requirement. Additionally, you will need proof of income, six months of bank statements, and an employment statement.
Be careful about the address lines as a tip for filling out the paperwork. Ensure the dealership address goes on everything because all the paperwork is returned to the dealer. Don’t put in your home address.
Most of my friends sent me to a particularly good dealer, so I had a good, well-organized buying experience. But during the shopping process, I did get pointed to a couple of other places that were “operating in the gray.”
The big draw here is the price, but the problems arise at renewal time for the license plate. And after you have put down your money for a registered motorbike, dealers may encounter problems “beyond their control.”
Usually, what happens is that they will either ask for more money or there will be delays in supplying the registration. These guys often provide a recycled book with the motorbike having power plant & frame numbers re-stamped to match up with an old book.
Therefore, I can tell you, always check and get a new green book, and never pay in full in advance.
You will always be asked if you want to purchase a maintenance plan from the dealer. Sometimes this isn’t a bad idea; in fine print, the critical part is that you must hit the mileage points.
If you are doing the maintenance yourself or from your favorite shop, staying on the recommended service targets is still a good idea. Typically a motorbike gets service at these intervals:
Chain Tension adjustment should be constantly monitored. This is somewhat subjective- ask the dealer what is a tolerable amount of slack before you go away onboard the new motorbike.
You can easily control this with two bolts at the back of the chain suspension. An ordinarily good chain will last up to 30,000 Km, but keeping it nice and tight all that time is the main thing.
You need to do all these things for long-term ownership and enjoyment of your favorite way to travel in Thailand. As you may have noticed, the paperwork is the most important thing to maintaining the integrity of owning your motorbike. With the security of knowing everything is in order, you can get down to getting around all over the country.
And if you ever have to leave for whatever reason, you can be assured of coming back to your two-wheeled friend and picking back up right where you left off without any issues.
After all, it’s not the destination. It’s the ride!
So, until next time... Rumble on!
Hi, I'm Big Bear. I love to hit the road with the motorbike for the long haul. Join my adventure in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
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