If you are thinking of buying a motorbike in Vietnam then here are some hints, tips and information.
Whether you are staying in Vietnam for a while and need a motorcycle to run around on or are thinking of travelling Vietnam by motorbike then this page will help you out.
After the TopGear crew came to Vietnam and travelled from Saigon to Hanoi on motorbikes many travellers or backpacker have looked to emulate the journey.
We have to say that the program was pretty accurate in showing what it is like to ride in Vietnam and the frequent breakdowns they featured have become especially familiar.
- Vietnam motorbike license. Riding legally in Vietnam checklist:
- Valid Vietnam motorcycle license.
- Ownership papers for the motorcycle you are riding.
- Insurance – buy this cheaply from the same agent you arranged your license with or I also hear from fuel stations.
- Ok, on to getting hold of a motorcycle. There are several places to check online with secondhand bikes for sale
- You can also go looking around the roadside mechanics who sometimes have bikes for sale, just bear in mind that they will add their comission on. So don’t pay too much.
Buying from a dealer in secondhand bikes doesn’t guarantee anything either. Make sure you check the bike thoroughly before buying even from someone who appears honest and reputable.
There are a few people trading bikes in Saigon and Hanoi due to the popularity of the route, they tart them up and turn the bikes round quickly and some are in less than healthy states. Thankfully whatever you buy, if problems arise there is always a mechanic nearby.
It seems that every other shop in Vietnam is a mechanics and they are usually more than willing to help out at a reasonable price.
- In terms of budget you should be able to get a suitable steed for $300 US I wouldn’t advise spending much more than this on something secondhand as it will generally be overpriced unless it’s very new. I am talking here about bikes in the 50 to 125cc range, larger capacity bikes are available but unless you have the appropriate vietnamese motorbike license, you will draw unwanted attention from the police.
- So you’ve found a bike and now need to check it out, what the hell do you look for?
- Have a general look over the bike, does it look clean? is anything hanging off? Paintjobs range from clean to hammerite with a brush but will you be able to sell it again? If it looks like its been through the wars then the next potential owner will spot that too and probably walk away or offer peanuts.
- Check over the frame, is it straight? any suspicious looking welding? A small amount of surface rust is ok but have a good poke at areas of rust that look like they have been painted over with a pen or similar prodding device. If the pen goes through anywhere then walk away.
- What are the tyres like? Do they have tread on them? Are they inflated? Check on the sides of the tyre for any cracks or bits missing.
- Do the electrics work? Check everything twice, front light (dipped and main beam), back light (headlight on and brake light), indicators, horn, started motor (if fitted).
- Does the suspension work smoothly, you should be able to bounce the bike without hearing any strange noises. The suspension should return to the extended position after being pressed down without any subsequent bouncing.
- Take the bike for a test ride, do all the gears work smoothly, do the brakes work? Any strange noises? Is the acceleration smooth and progressive? Does the bike cruise ok on a constant throttle? Lights, indicators and horn still working?
- There are some specifics to check for with images at the "Tip" of this post.
Any problems you are likely to find are usually fixed extremely cheaply by most mechanics but walk away from something falling to bits. If you find any minor issues then politely tell the seller about them and factor them into your offer price.
- Here is a small price guide (in VND) from what I can recall.
- Front tyre - 120,000
- Rear tyre – 150,000
- Oil change – 80,000
- Small wiring fix e.g. headlight not working – 20,000
- Rear wheel hub – 250,000
- Wheel bearings (per wheel) – 50,000
- Indicator – 30,000
- Inline fuel filter and carb clean – 70,000
- All good? Excellent stuff, one last thing is to make sure you get the approprate paperwork with the bike. Unlike the UK you don’t need to transfer the bike into your name. You should receive a blue ownership card (usually laminated) when you hand over the cash, ask to see it beforehand and make sure all the details match the bike in question.
If you don’t have this card and the police stop you or you are involved in an incident then you will need to pay a hefty bribe or your bike will be confiscated.
Keep it on your person at all times when you are riding your bike. It should look like this and DO NOT be fobbed off with anything else, being offered something that looks different with an explanation like ‘This is the old type of paper’ is rubbish.
Tip for Trips
Check the wheels where the spokes meet the hub for cracks if there are any the hub will need replacing.
Dodgy wiring is commonplace, its rare to see a proper fix with new connectors crimped on.
Check the wheel bearings by grabbing the wheel on opposite sides and tipping forward and back (not round) there shouldn’t be any movement. Do this for both front and back wheels.
Also grab the wheel at each side when checking bearings and alternately try to rock it (pull with one hand and push with the other) do this for both front and back wheels.
Check the rubbers here for any movement this can lead to loose handlebars while riding it makes the upper pinch bolts come loose too.
Check the suspension (front and rear) for fluid leaks, bounce on it several times first.
Bikes with drum brakes can be adjusted by turning the knob shown, turn it clockwise for tighter (less lever travel)
Fuel tap in the ‘ON’ position most Vietnamese fuel is dirty and switching to reserve will let the gunk from the bottom of the tank through. The bike then may not run. First step is to replace the inline filter then if necessary clean out the carb.
Check the chain and sprockets, pointed (like the photo) or hooked teeth mean replacement is due