Buying a Motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand

We have been looking around and debating on whether to buy, or continue to rent a motorbike.  Given the fact that we were spending 2,000 Bahts/month on rental (a great deal compared to 150-250/day from the average rental shop), we decided to take the plunge and buy a bike.  We figure it’ll save us money on the long run, and then we can sell it when we leave–that is, if we decide to leave! :-)

It took a while to get a feel for how much a used-excuse us- ‘second-hand’ (preferred local term) bike is worth.  There are so many models to choose from: 100cc to 125cc engines, semi-manuals (clutchless) to automatics, as well as body styles (scooter v. motorcycle).  Then you must factor in the age, mileage, mechanical and cosmetic condition of the bike; just like we would with used cars back in the states.  Observation: expats love the BIG motorcycles, as in 250cc an up, but the vast majority of Thais ride the smaller “motorbikes” as they’re called-they are efficient, and fast!  This is NOT your grandfather’s moped–you can easily reach near-highway speeds.  Despite J’s extensive experience buying/selling cars on Ebay, appraising motorbikes was a different story…

In lieu of a Kelly’s blue book (the standard appraisal resource for used cars in the U.S.), we checked online classified ads, as well as local bike shops, both new and second-hand, to gauge the prices.  Slowly but surely we were getting a feel for the value of the bikes.  Hondas had higher resale values compared to similar Yamahas, so that had an effect on how much a bike would be upfront.

Well, we decided to go for an automatic, which is very easy to ride in traffic, just turn the throttle and go, and use both hand brakes to stop.  Very lazy–as in easy–compared to the semi-automatics, which requires the use of your feet for braking and shifting.  Honda was our brand of choice, since we loved our Civics and Fit back in the states.   The Honda bikes seem to run and idle smoother compared to Yamahas, based on our limited test drive experience.  We stuck with the 110cc motor, which yielded us over 50 km/L on a recent rental, which is (for us Americans) over 120 miles/gallon.  Darn good if you ask us!

We are very thankful to our new Burmese friend (you know who you are), who was kind enough to take us to a bike shop near Tha Phae Gate, where she had bought her motorbike.  After a few test drives, J had his eye on one of the Honda “Click” models- 4 years old, but very low mileage (15km on odometer) and looked immaculate.  The motor was silky smooth (no white exhaust smoke), even more so than similar rentals we had that were half its age.  Typically a sign of good maintenance.  Our friend not only referred us to the shop, but through her Thai language & superb haggling skills (we had her on the phone with the shop owner “Tum” while we did the best with simple English and hand gestures), we walked away having paid 2,500THB less than the sticker price (Their list was 29,900, paid 27,500! May not be the best bargain, but bike was in mint condition).  They also included a free front basket (not normally found on Clicks), and a new child’s helmet with a shield.  Bargaining/haggling is a must here in Thailand.  We love it.

(Update: if you do relatively long commutes, I’d recommend a Honda Wave or Dream, with manual transmission.  Mileage is superior to automatics like the Click.  Update, May 26, 2014: Most late model bikes are superior in the sense that they are fuel injected, and are compatible with flexfuels, such as gasahol 91 or E20, which are cheaper than “benzene” 91 or 95, which is required for older bikes like mine.  If you use an ethanol based gas in an older bike, it can damage the fuel line.  So, you can go cheap with an older bike, then pay more for gas per liter, or go for newer, and use the lower priced gasolines).

We just needed to provide a copy of a passport, paid cash, and we’re done!  With a purchase of a motorbike, you’ll get the “Green Book” which is the “title” of the bike, showing records of the annual registration, and a separate mandatory insurance policy (and a receipt from the shop).   An insurance policy in the U.S. primarily covers the vehicle (in addition to medical), but the motorbike policy here covers the people on the bike, not the bike itself (as far as I know).  Interesting… Anyway, we just need to go to the local vehicle registration office and change the title into my name, by showing a (long term) non-immigrant visa and documentation of your local address (free residency certificate from the immigration office, or a similar form by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, but that’s $50USD) before the current registration expires.   The annual cost of the registration and insurance (done together) is quite reasonable, roughly 500 Bahts.  Keep the copies with you, and the originals safely at home.

Back in Texas,  M had a name for both of our previous cars. “Zippy” for the Honda Fit and “Red” for the old Lexus coupe.

Wonder what she will name this motorbike of ours?  We shall update you on this.  Any suggestions???  (Update:  Never named it!  Got a bigger Batman sticker, so it’s a Batmobile I guess)

So there it is!!

What do you think??

Surprised M by picking her up on our shiny, “new,” second-hand bike!

J really wanted an orange one, to match his alma mater’s school colors, but we were not able to find the right one.  We think the blue is super cool, though.  J did manage to get his school spirit onto his helmet, and now the bike to match!

Go Horns!! We seriously believe this may be the only Longhorn bike in CM!

Like the shirt?  Click here for the story behind the geeky-cool Nokia shirt (note fake name tag and pocket, too).

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UPDATE (MAY, 26, 2014):

This post was about my experience buying a second hand motorbike back in 2010, and as of today, our Honda Click is still running strong.  We’ve since upgraded our helmets with ‘full face’ ones that provide protection for the chin and face.   There are numerous places to buy (or rent) bikes in Chiang Mai, so don’t assume the shop I bought mine has the ‘best deals’ etc.  Often buying one from another expat, friend, or secondhand facebook groups is a good way to go.  Or try online classifieds ads from thaivisa.com or bahtsold.com.  Michok Plaza (1001 & 3029) also has a large 2nd hand market for bikes (never been, heard it was Sundays only, correct me if I’m wrong), but exercise the usual caution when shopping.

———————————–

Directions to the Bike Shop (walk into the old city from Tha Pae Gate, about 400m, shop will be on your left):

Bike shop is ~ 400m from ThaPae Gate, inside old city

GPS coordinates, if you’re into that sort of thing

 

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  53 comments for “Buying a Motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  1. September 23, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I love the funny faces M comes up with posing on motorbikes! So glad you found a great bike Passport Familly. :)

    • September 23, 2010 at 10:21 am

      Hey Chiang Mai neighbor! yes, M is quite the ham… gotta love that playful personality. She’s got quite the sense of humor, which we love!

  2. September 23, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Congratulations! I love the blue. I used to have a little red Honda Wave when I lived in Ho Chi Minh City and I loved it. I’ve been reading parts of your blog when I can and you seem to be settling in well. It’s such a great city, isn’t it?

    Marie from NG Auckland

    • September 23, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Hey Marie! Nice to hear from a fellow NG writer, I’ll be sure to pass along a Hello to A, who writes for NG Chiang mai. Ah, Vietnam is on our bucket list, as is every country in Asia! The waves are awesome, and based on my personal observation, it’s easily the best seller here. Most still ride manuals, but I do see more and more yamaha and honda scooters around. Yes, we love CM, and it’s a great town for biking around the old city.

  3. Todd
    September 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    So I am curious what was your final price for the motorbike?

    • September 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm

      Hey Todd, I’m sending you an email to answer your question. =)

  4. pete
    October 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    hello
    hope that you can help me
    i am moving back to CM soon and
    am going to buy a honda click
    can you tell me how much your bike was?
    how its running?
    the most important thing is the name and the location of the bike store!

    thank you for your help
    i do love Cm and know it reasonably
    well

    cheers

    pete

    • October 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      Hey Pete,
      When will you be arriving to CM? I’ll email you the info from the comment; and I don’t mind taking you there myself… =)

  5. Beny Lee
    October 10, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Hello thank you for good info..
    may i know the final price
    cuz i think i need to buy one too
    thank you

    • October 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

      Hey Beny. I’ll email you the price we paid for the motorbike. Good luck bike shopping!

  6. November 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Hey, I just moved to Chiang Mai last week and am looking for some place to buy a used scooter/motorsie, and meet people here as well. Give me a shout at ns [at] imagesnare [dot] com

    thanks!
    Nate

    • November 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

      Hey Nathan,
      Look us up on Facebook, search for and join “Team Chiang Mai” and you’ll find us, and our local friends on it. Under Info Tab, you’ll find my phone number, and feel free to give me a call, or leave a note on the FB page. Thanks!

  7. Gwynfor ab Ifor
    February 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Looking for a small automatic bike to drive around CM for a year. Heard it was difficult to buy a bike, get it registered, insured etc unless you have residency. What’s the deal.

    • February 5, 2011 at 8:47 am

      Hi, the documents for the bike, including insurance, will be transferred to you when you buy a second-hand bike. You will need to update the registration, but I think you may be right in that you may not do it with a tourist visa. We have non-immigrant visas, which will allow us to register it. You can check the Thaivisa.com forums to see what people say. We have a friend who rents out bikes for a very cheap monthly cost, so if you’re interested, send me an email, as that could be an alternative to buying one.

      • Satya Dasi Robin Cole
        December 7, 2013 at 9:44 am

        Hi Jack,

        Can you refer me to your friend who rents motorbikes at a cheap monthly cost? I will be arriving in Chiang Mai on the 13th of December to explore possibilities to stay long-term and would love to have some transport.

        Thanks!

        Satya

  8. March 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Hello!

    I’m looking for a motorbike and trying to decide between buying new or used and what the resale value would be a year from now. I’d love if you could give me some info about where you got your bike and how much you got it for.

    Thanks!
    Becky

    • March 17, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Hey Becky,
      Sorry for responding late, but contact me directly by email and I can give you more specifics. Gotpassport2 (at) gmail (dot) com

  9. Hilary
    April 16, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Hi there!
    I’m moving to Chiang Mai in June to work for an NGO in the year and am trying to figure out what to anticipate my start-up costs being. Could you please send me what the final cost of your bike was or maybe what the average price for used bikes/scooters is? Also, any info on the process of getting a license would be appreciated.
    Thanks!

    • August 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      Hilary,
      Not sure if you’ll get this email, but I’m guessing I did not respond to your comment on our blog about getting a motorbike (or did I?). I’m really sorry! I hope you got the bike you need.

  10. Karen
    April 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Hi there,

    Would you mind telling me the name of the shop near thapae where you bought your bike? I am going to buy my first motorbike. Any help would be awesome. I dont know much about how to do this..

    Kind thanks!

    • April 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

      Karen, I just replied to your email. Good luck bike shopping!

  11. July 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    My brother Norman was asking if Thailand has anything like a Kelley Blue Book so I Googled “Kelley Blue Book Thailand” and guess whose site came up… :) I had clicked into the site without even looking at the url, the banner or who wrote it and was thinking, this writing seems familiar. I glanced up and lo and behold. You guys!! :D

    • July 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      555! That was funny! Who knew that we cornered the market for that search term! Does that mean he’s coming to Thailand? Has he visited you before?

  12. Julia
    August 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Hello! Myself and a friend will be in Chang Mai in a couple of days and would like to buy 2 used motor bikes to use for 3 weeks and sell when we’re done. We would greatly appreciate any help/advice!

    Julia

    • August 4, 2011 at 9:50 pm

      Julia,
      I think you’d be better off renting, since it’s only 3 weeks. Email us at gotpassport (at) gmail (dot) com, and my wife can put you in touch with our local friend who rents bikes (monthly rates), who can surely get you a nice price for 3 weeks. For only 3 weeks, paying that much in case up front, then the hassle of selling, the paperwork for only 3 weeks of use isn’t worth it.
      We’ve had friends who rented for a few months even, and it’s better than buying. I think if anyone is staying for 6 months or more, then buying makes more sense.

  13. James
    August 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Hey… I just caught this blog. I’m now living here and looking to buy. What’s the shop name you bought your bike from. One of the people I work with bought from a shop near Tha Phae Gate and described the same buying experience. I wonder if it’s the same? But she didn’t have a name for me.

    thanks!
    James

    • August 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Hi James,
      I’m crafting an email for you now.

      Cheers,
      J

  14. Devint
    August 31, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Could you give me name of Bike shop near Thapae Gate

    thanks

    dev

    • August 31, 2011 at 9:12 am

      Hi Dev,
      Don’t have a name for the shop, but just walk towards the old city (west bound) from Tha Pae Gate, and it’ll be the first bike shop (selling, no rentals) on your left. There will be motorbikes on the sidewalk with price tags on them, then you’ll see a small shop where their office is. The lady’s name is “Tum,” and she has short hair, and is very pleasant to work with. I’ll be sure to mark it on my gps next time I’m there and place the map in the post!
      J.

  15. Paul T
    October 10, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Hi there,

    We have recently moved to Chiang Mai and wondered if you could email us a good shop for cheap motor bike rentals. Nice pictures and good blog!!!

    Paul

    • October 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Paul, emailed you about info of the shop. Can’t guarantee it’s the cheapest in town, so look there and shop around, too. Thanks, and cheers!

  16. Ezio Achille Tamburrini
    October 10, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I’m interested in buying a honda click very much like yours, and would be thankful for you divulging what you paid for it and any pertaining information you wish to contribute via email. Thank you J.

    • October 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Ezio, I emailed you some info about our bike and bike shop. Thanks for commenting! J.

  17. Me in Chiang Mai
    October 17, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I don’t understand why you don’t post the info on the blog. Everyone in comments is asking the same thing: How much, where, etc. Just post the information. It’s not a secret!

    • October 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      Hi “Me,”
      Yes, you’re right. Been pretty busy, and I was able to help those who emailed me. I just recently got a photo of the shop, and added it to my phone’s GPS. We just moved, and internet just got set up today. Per your suggestion, I will add the info shortly. Cheers.

  18. Mark
    October 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks for the info and I’m happy to hear you got a good deal!

    I’m debating renting or buying. I think I may be stuck with renting simply because I’ll be on a tourist visa this time around (arrive Oct 29th). Do you know if someone can buy on a tourist visa?

    Like the others, I would love to know how much you paid… I’ve been doing a little research so I have an idea what clicks are running for.

    Where is your rental place? That is a pretty good price!

    I’m curious….do you chain your bike up at night?

    • October 25, 2011 at 8:46 am

      Hey Mark, thanks for commenting. You’re right, you can’t own a motorbike with a tourist visa. Many (not an endorsement by me) have the bike in a Thai friend’s name, and pay for it. I’ve updated the post with how much I paid (27,500) and location of the shop. I’m sure there are better deals out there, but my post is just to share my experience; not based on a thorough market research of local markets. Contact me via email (gotpassport(at) gmail(dot)com when you get here and we’ll hook you up with the friend who rents bikes. She rents them to foreigners on a case by case basis, since she’s had unreliable customers in the past.
      I don’t chain my bike, but if you park in an unsecured area (we have our own house and car port), or often in public places, then it might be a good idea, especially if you own a Honda Dream (heard it is in high demand for thieves).

  19. December 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Wow! Thanks so much for this write-up. It is now bookmarked! My partner and I just moved to Chiang Mai where we plan to stay for the next year. We’re weighing the options of renting versus buying, and posts like this are extremely helpful. After a day rental yesterday, it’s clear we need more practice to calm the nerves and assimilate to the pace of traffic here!

  20. August 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

    The name of the shop is clearly visible in the photo – in Thai (!). It’s Wit Charoen Yon :)

    I help people to settle in Thailand (I usually recommend Chiang Mai), starting with a place to stay and eventually to rent (or buy) long term, help to buy a bike (and maybe also a car) and transfer the ownership to their own name (not a Thai girlfriend or agent), get your driving license, learn Thai, etc. Not to mention introduce you to other expats, join clubs so you can make friends, register with a good hospital and dentist, find sports & other activities to enjoy and even generate an income to help you live a modest but comfortable life in Thailand.

    I went there with a client on Sunday, but it was closed. So instead I took him to the motorcycle market at Mee Chok. Some say the sellers there are a bunch of cowboys and that may be true. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter where you go, Buyer Beware is the rule of the day… My first bike in Thailand was from what seemed like a reputable bike dealer, an Englishman. He offered me a one year warranty on a bike, but each time I took it back for repairs, it never got fixed properly. I then took it straight to the Honda dealership – they said the tires were split and therefore extremely dangerous. They also serviced the engine and replaced the chain. After that the bike was perfect.

    I have a good relationship now with one of the dealers at Mee Chok. He offers a 3-month warranty – either he will repair the bike or change it. I treat all warranties as dubious no matter how good the intention.

    You will get a fair price on a bike at the market. It’s possible that some of the bikes have been tampered with (the mileage rolled back or parts replaced or repainted to cover up an accident). I usually factor in a cost of around 5,000 baht to service and repair the bike and buy new tires. (Get originals, it’s only a few hundred baht extra…)

    One good indication that a bike has been well cared for is 1) to check the tires – if you’re selling an old bike, you’re unlikely to pay the extra 1,000+ baht to replace the tires. So if the tires still have a good thread and even the hairy bits to indicate a recently purchased tire then that’s a good sign. Bald tires are a sign of a lot of usage without caring too much about the condition of the bike. 2) Check the oil – if it’s black or dark brown then the bike hasn’t been well cared for for a long time. If it’s a clear light brown color then it’s an indication that it’s been serviced recently. This small act of thoughtfulness could indicate that the bike was reasonably well cared for in general by the previous owner.

    Another thing to check is for is anything that looks very new and shiny compared to the rest of the bike, which might look older and dull and with scratches. This is a sign that the bike was involved in an accident and a part was replaced to cover it up. Most bikes get hit or end up skidding to the ground, so there will be the inevitable dent. This isn’t so serious. More serious is if the whole bike was run over. This can be repaired also with no ill effect. My bike had the entire front fork bent and needed to be almost completely rebuilt (10,000 baht), but it still goes fine and passed its roadworthiness inspection.

    You’re welcome to write to me at gary@abetterlifeThailand.com if you have any questions about any aspect of living, buying, renting in Thailand.

  21. August 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I forgot to add – you can own a bike on a tourist visa, but you must have a Resident Certificate. This is easily obtained at the immigration office (500 baht), so long as you have a rental contract (a 3-month contract is typical if you want to rent an apartment in town). So you obviously can’t own a bike in your own name if you’re just staying for a month or so at a guest house. But then you can usually find a place that will rent you a bike for 3,000 baht/month. There’s no insurance included, so if you have an accident you must repair the bike at your own expense, and if the bike gets stolen (unlikely) then you must buy a replacement.

    Make sure you buy your own helmet. The Index brand is quite good and remarkably inexpensive (600-800 baht).

    As for prices, you can get a decent, old scooter (110cc) for under 20,000 baht (usually around 17,000). If you want something a bit newer (say 4-5 years) then expect to pay 23,000-27,000. And if you want a 125cc or the more recent fuel-injected bikes then the starting price is 30,000 baht and might go up to 38,000 baht. You can often buy a very basic scooter for 46,000 baht – new – at a supermarket (yes, Big C and Tesco sell bikes), but most beginner bikes cost around 65,000-75,000 baht new. And there really isn’t that much difference between a new and an old bike, other than looks.

    • August 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks so much for dropping by and adding your expertise about motorbikes and more in Chiang Mai. Certainly I’ve learned so much more about bikes, licenses, registrations, etc. since I wrote this post a while back, and am grateful to readers who contribute useful feedback and information. If you have an article or blog post about what you’ve summarized, I can easily link to it in my post.

      Cheers,
      J.

  22. November 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Hey, we are in chiang Mai right now and need to buy some bikes in the next few days, we’d really appreciate some help! We were at that same shop just a few minutes ago on your recommendation and would like some help with the purchase!

    We’d also really appreciate any info you guys may have that would help us!

    Talia and ricky

    • December 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Hi Talia & Ricky,
      If you are only in Thailand for a brief visit (I’d say 6 months or less), it is wiser to rent than buy. Otherwise you’ll need to transfer your name onto the green book, renew registration and insurance, then try to resell the bike when you leave. My suggestion is to only buy if you are staying here long term, on student/work/business. Also, there are many places to buy a second hand bike, in local markets (I believe Sunday market north of town), and from ex-pats posting ads on Facebook and other classifieds sites like Bahtsold.com and Thaivisa.

  23. klaas
    December 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    great story en verry interesting to read, me and a friend are currently backpacking trough almost entire south east asia and we are considering buying a bike. The only problem is that both of us dont know anything about the prices of a secondhand bike. Could you maybe give me some advice of prices and what to buy? we need something that has a good gas milage ratio because of the long distances we are going to travel and of course something durable and easy to get spare parts if needed. personally is was thinking about something with 200cc or maybe a little bit more because my experience with the smaller 110cc is that they sometimes struggle to get up some of the hills.

    greetings klaas

    • December 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      Klaas,
      I agree for cross country touring, a larger displacement bike is better. As for buying, it depends on how long you plan to use it. If you are only here for less than 6 months, then I recommend renting. If you plan to work, study, basically live here long term, then buying is more economical. It sounds like your in SEA on vacation, and I’d recommend renting. Also, if you plan on crossing borders with your bike, then do some research as I’m not familiar with how that might work….

      There are plenty of rental shops around town, and those with larger motorcycles. Good luck!

  24. adrian van vliet
    January 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you for the information in your blog. This is the 3rd time we are in CM and we are staying for about 2 months We would appreciate it if you could bring us in contact with the rental lady?

    We have some other questions as well and since you seem to have quite some experience about CM in particular, would you be willing to meet us and discuss over a cup of tea (coffee allowed). We could possibly share some of our travelling experiences in Asia & Europe.

    Adrian & Gerda

  25. Warren
    January 18, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Thanks so much, I will be coming in Oct. looking forward to it.

  26. Graeme
    October 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for your blog. I am living in Chiang Mai, currently renting a Honda Scoopy at BHT 2,500 per month. In December (possibly before) I want to buy – either a Honda ‘Click” or a “Scoopy” (any thoughts)- but I know next to nothing about motor bikes or engines. Would love to be able to contact your Burmese friend and also hear from anyone who might have any suggestions for this aging Kiwi.

    • November 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Graeme,
      I can’t recall if I’ve responded to you, but there are several reputable rental places in CM for motorbikes of all sizes, like Mr. Jaguar, or Mr Mechanic. Our post is a bit outdated so check out these places; or other smaller shops, often your guesthouse can recommend.

  27. nick blokland
    May 21, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    i want to know how to obtain a new plate for a second hand scooter i have brought , it has green book , but i think it is way out of plates , i am on a ed visa here in thailand , regards Nick

    • May 26, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Hi Nick,
      For taxes, insurance and plates you’ll need to go to the chiang mai provincial transportation office, on Chiang Mai Lamphun Road (106) near the Holiday Inn. Just speak to the ladies at the information desk and they should be able to tell you what you’ll need to get new plates.

  28. paulius
    August 16, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    hello, we are going to thai in october and thought to buy a new or second hand honda wave there but after reading forums we decided to rent one because of difficulties of registration..;/ is there a chance to rent a bike and go with it through other countries for i.e vietnam, laos, cambodia, malaysia, indonesia? or to rent in one city but return in other so we wont have to go back where we been and rent one in other country.

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