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