Purchasing a Motorcycle as an Expat in Thailand (I Did It Here’s What I Found)

For many expats in Thailand, buying a motorcycle is a rite of passage. It offers unparalleled freedom, convenience, and a chance to experience the vibrant Thai culture up close. However, navigating the process of purchasing and registering a motorcycle as a foreigner can be daunting. As someone who has just gone through this entire, lengthy process after getting my Thai Driving License as a foreigner, I wanted to write a no-nonsense guide. So, this comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about buying a motorcycle in the Land of Smiles.

Where To Purchase Motorcycles in Thailand & Why You Should Buy New

Before you purchase a motorcycle in Thailand you’ll need a residency certificate (you’ll also need this when selling a motorcycle in Thailand).

This is to register the number plate. Any dealership will need this to help you register the plates officially. If you are purchasing 2nd hand, you will only need this when visiting the Department Land of Transport Offices.

Where To Buy A Motorcycle in Thailand

You have two options, and you can either purchase a motorcycle:

  • From a dealership (new or 2nd hand)
  • Using online ads (purchasing 2nd hand)

Buying From a Dealership (Recommended)

First of all, why buy from a dealership?

  1. New bike, no issues, full warranty
  2. All registration taken care of (license plate etc.)
  3. Fast plate registration process for extra 100 baht ($2-3)
  4. No searching for days/months to see if the bike is in good shape
  5. Holds great value if you wish to sell

The process is very smooth, you walk in, choose a motorcycle, pay and they handle all of the paperwork for you. I was apprehensive before doing this, but when I realised that the Honda CT125 sells for 88k baht ($2419.44) new, and with 20-30k KMs on the clock, 2nd hand it sells around 78k baht ($2144.51), once sold, the loss is only 20k baht ($549.87 total).

It would be hard find a decent bike for that on FB marketplace or another 2nd hand marketplace that would take you on a long around Asia journey – just keep that in mind.

Here’s a list of dealerships to purchase a motorcycle in Thailand:

  • Search for motorcycle dealership on Google or in Thai (might show more results) “ร้านมอเตอร์สใส่”
  • Official Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Harley etc.

If you purchase from a dealership, make sure they are reputable. If going for a 2nd hand dealership, check the reviews on Google, check Reddit, or with friends/people in Facebook groups on where to purchase a bike and which shops are best. There are some absolutely terrible 2nd hand dealers. The plus of a 2nd hand dealer is that they will give you a warranty vs purchasing on FB marketplace or some other P2P sales service.

If you purchase new from a dealership, make sure that they are registered by the bike brand you want to buy (really… some aren’t!) For instance for Honda Dealerships, look for the red Honda sign out of the front (like this).

Same with Yamaha, look for the official sign. This is mostly just a problem with Honda in Thailand.

Rental Shops

Often rental shops keep their bikes in great condition, fixing them with official parts and keeping them well-maintained. Some shops might be selling these bikes. When I went for a manual bike lesson at Fatboys Bangkok, they told me they often sell their rental motorbikes if they have them available. You may pay a little more, but you’ll know the due diligence has been done by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Using Online Ads/Shops

These will not help with the registration process, and do not offer warranties so you need to make sure you do your due diligence before purchasing.

Here is a list of online shops for buying 2nd hand motorbikes in Thailand:

  • Facebook marketplace (be careful, full guide on looking for scams further down this article)
  • Facebook groups
  • Motors.co.th
  • bahtsold.com
  • One2Car.com
  • Kaidee.com
  • ThaiVisa Classifieds

When purchasing using online 2nd hand services like Facebook marketplace or Motors.co.th, ensure that you check a couple of things before purchasing.

The main three things you need when purchasing a 2nd hand bike are:

  • Make sure the seller has a Green Book
  • Thai national ID name is the same as on Green Book
  • Photocopy the Thai ID with the signature from the seller (needed for DLT to transfer ownership)

Attending A Viewing – What To Check Before Purchasing

Here’s what you need to check before purchasing a motorbike second hand in Thailand:

  1. Visual Check:
    • Inspect the overall condition of the bike.
    • Look for any signs of rust, dents, or scratches.
    • Check the condition of the paintwork.
  2. Frame and Body:
    • Examine the frame for any cracks or welds.
    • Check for any signs of damage or repair.
  3. Tires:
    • Look at the tread depth and overall condition.
    • Ensure there is no uneven wear.
  4. Brakes:
    • Check the brake pads and discs for wear.
    • Ensure the brakes engage smoothly and effectively.
  5. Engine:
    • Inspect for any leaks or unusual noises.
    • Check the oil level and condition.
    • Listen to the engine, make sure it sounds good and that it’s firing in a regular pattern. 
  6. Transmission and Clutch:
    • Test the gear shifts to ensure they are smooth.
    • Check the clutch for any slipping or sticking.
    • For automatic transmission make sure you can accelerate hard with it and that you can cruise at a comfortable speed
    • For manual & semi make sure you can easily up and downshift through all the gears while riding and that the clutch is smooth
  7. Suspension:
    • Compress the front and rear suspension to check for smooth operation.
    • Look for any leaks around the shock absorbers.
    • Check the suspension to ensure it’s compliant and not too squishy or firm 
  8. Electrical System:
    • Test all lights, indicators, and horn.
    • Ensure the battery is in good condition.
  1. Performance:
    • Check the acceleration and responsiveness of the throttle.
    • Listen for any unusual sounds during the ride.
    • Test the brakes under different conditions.
  2. Handling:
    • Assess the bike’s stability and handling.
    • Ensure the bike tracks straight without pulling to one side.
  1. Registration Papers:
    • Verify the registration details match the seller’s information.
    • Ensure the bike has a valid registration.
  2. Green Book (Tabien Rod):
    • Check that the bike has an up-to-date green book.
    • Verify the owner’s details in the green book match the seller’s National ID (not Driver’s License and has to be in date).
    • Photocopy the Thai ID with the signature from the seller (needed for DLT to transfer ownership).
  3. Service History:
    • Ask for maintenance records or service history.
    • Check for any major repairs or modifications.
  4. Insurance:
    • Confirm if the bike has valid insurance.
    • Inquire about the type and coverage of the insurance.
  1. Spare Parts and Accessories:
    • Ask about any spare parts or accessories included in the sale.
    • Check the condition and compatibility of these extras.
  2. Negotiation:
    • Use the information gathered to negotiate a fair price.
    • Be prepared to walk away if the deal doesn’t meet your expectations.
  3. Payment and Transfer:
    • Agree on a secure method of payment.
    • Ensure the transfer of ownership is properly documented and registered.

If you have the money, I’d highly recommend that you purchase one entirely new. The dealership will handle all of the registration processes for you and you’ll be able to walk out the door with a motorcycle that you can drive straight away (you have to wait around a month for an official license plate). If you purchase 2nd hand we’ll cover the registration process here.

What Type of Motorbike Should You Purchase?

Really, this is entirely up to your discretion, however, there are a few caveats we’ll cover here. Once you have your Thai Motorcycle license, you are able to drive up to 400cc, manual, automatic or semi-automatic. If you haven’t had any lessons and don’t know how to drive manual, I’d suggest taking a lesson or two to get up to speed with this. A great service I used was Fatboys Bangkok (it took 1 single lesson to learn and now I can drive all bikes).

Most people will just want something to get around to and from work with, for this I recommend getting a simple 125cc, either automatic or semi-automatic (semi-automatic is preferred it works out cheaper in the long run and maintains value).

Here’s a quick breakdown of what type of motorcycle is best to purchase:

CriteriaSemi-Automatic 125ccAutomatic 125cc
Ease of UseRequires manual gear changes but no clutch. Easier for those with some experience.Fully automatic, making it very easy to use, especially for beginners.
Fuel EfficiencyGenerally more fuel-efficient due to manual gear control.Slightly less fuel-efficient due to automatic transmission.
Repair CostsLower repair costs due to simpler transmission system.Higher repair costs due to more complex transmission.
LongevityTypically longer lifespan with regular maintenance.Moderate lifespan, but can vary greatly based on usage and maintenance.
Popular Brands (Thailand)Honda Wave, Yamaha Finn, Suzuki SmashHonda Click, Yamaha Mio, Filano, Suzuki Let’s
MaintenanceGenerally easier and cheaper to maintain.Requires more frequent and possibly more expensive maintenance.
PerformanceBetter control over speed and power due to manual gear shifting.Smooth and convenient ride but less control over power distribution.
Resale ValueHigher resale value due to lower repair costs and better longevity.Moderate resale value, can depreciate faster.
Why ChooseBest for riders who prefer more control and are experienced with gear changes.Ideal for beginners or those who prioritize ease of use and convenience.

If you’re going adventure riding your decision process will differ slightly. However, I would still recomend purchasing a small 125cc semi-automatic transmission bike.

It might be nice to have a big touring bike or a dirt bike, but keep this in mind – when you are in some random Thai village or in the middle of nowhere in Cambodia:

  1. Are they going to be able to fix it?
  2. And how much are the repairs going to be?
  3. Are you going to be able to get your high-octane fuel? etc.

Popular Motorcycles in Thailand

BrandModelTypeEngine Size (cc)Price Range (THB)Key Features
HondaClickAutomatic12551,000 – 61,000Fuel efficient, easy handling, modern design
HondaWaveSemi-Automatic110-12537,000 – 56,000Durable, reliable, great fuel economy
YamahaMioAutomatic12545,000 – 55,000Sleek design, smooth ride, advanced features
YamahaFinnSemi-Automatic11540,000 – 45,000Fuel efficient, comfortable ride, affordable
SuzukiLet’sAutomatic11545,000 – 52,000Compact, stylish, easy to ride
SuzukiSmashSemi-Automatic11037,000 – 40,000Robust, reliable, economical
KawasakiKLXOff-Road15087,000 – 120,000High performance, off-road capability, rugged design
GPXDemonSport12560,000 – 80,000Sporty look, powerful engine, affordable price
YamahaFilanoAutomatic12552,000 – 63,000Stylish design, fuel efficient, advanced features
YamahaNmaxAutomatic15585,000 – 90,000Comfortable ride, powerful engine, modern features
HondaPCXAutomatic15091,000 – 106,000Luxurious design, smooth ride, advanced technology
HondaCT125Trail12584,000 – 89,000Retro design, off-road capability, reliable
HondaSuperCubSemi-Automatic12547,000 – 53,000Classic design, fuel efficient, durable
YamahaExciterManual15062,000 – 68,000Sporty performance, manual transmission, powerful
HondaCB 150RSport15092,000 – 99,000High performance, sporty design, advanced features

The Buying Process Start To Finish

Here’s the general process of buying a motorcycle in Thailand, they slightly differ between buying new and used (so read on):

  1. Get a residency certificate
  2. Go to the dealership, pick a bike, ask questions and test ride
  3. If 2nd hand, view the bike using the checklist (provided above)
  4. Purchase the bike
  5. Transfer the ownership of the bike
  6. Pay your tax
  7. Insure the motorcycle

Get a Residency Certificate

Before you can buy a motorcycle in Thailand, you need a residency certificate. This proves that you live in Thailand legally. You can get this from your local immigration office (Immigration Division 1 in Bangkok) or from the Thai embassy.

You will need:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Proof of address (rental agreement, utility bill, etc.)
  • Passport-sized photos

Once you have these documents, visit the immigration office, fill out the necessary forms, and pay a small fee.

Go to the Dealership, Pick a Bike, Ask Questions and Test Ride

Visit a few motorcycle dealerships to see what options are available.

When you find a bike you like, ask the dealer questions about:

  • Price
  • Warranty
  • Service and maintenance
  • Availability of spare parts

Always ask for a test ride to make sure the bike suits you. Pay attention to how it feels and handles.

If 2nd Hand, View the Bike Using the Checklist

If you’re buying a second-hand bike, use the following checklist to inspect it thoroughly:

  • Check for rust, dents, or scratches
  • Inspect tires and brakes
  • Test the engine and transmission
  • Look at the suspension and electrical system
  • Review the registration papers and service history

Be sure to take the bike for a test ride and listen for any unusual sounds.

Purchase the Bike

Once you decide on a bike, you can negotiate the price. For new bikes, prices are usually fixed, but for used bikes, there’s often room for negotiation.

When you’re ready to buy, you’ll need to:

Pay for the bike using a secure method like a bank transfer or cashier’s check.

Transfer the Ownership of the Bike

After purchasing the bike, you need to transfer ownership. Go to the Department of Land Transport with the seller.

You will need:

Fill out the transfer forms and pay the transfer fee.

This process is very quick in immigration (unlike other processes) and you could be in and out in 1-2hours (sometimes less).

Pay Your Tax

In Thailand, motorcycles must have an annual tax sticker. This tax helps maintain the roads.

To pay your tax:

  • Go to the Department of Land Transport
  • Bring the bike’s green book
  • Pay the annual tax fee

You will receive a tax sticker to place on your bike.

You can also renew your tax for 5 years online, using DLT’s online portal. After 5 years (for bikes), you need to take your motorcycle for an inspection at DLT to ensure that it is road-safe (this is much like an MOT in the UK). Once it is considered road safe, you can purchase the tax for it again.

Insure the Motorcycle

Insurance is required for all motorcycles in Thailand.

There a couple of types of insurance:

  • Compulsory Third-Party Liability Insurance (CTPL or Por Ror Bor):
    • Mandatory by law.
    • Covers medical expenses for injuries to third parties in an accident.
    • Does not cover damage to your own bike or personal injuries.
  • Voluntary Motorcycle Insurance:
    • First Class Insurance:
      • Comprehensive coverage.
      • Covers theft, fire, accidental damage, third-party liability, and personal injury.
    • Second Class Insurance:
      • Covers third-party liability, theft, fire, and partial accidental damage.
      • May not cover all types of accidents or personal injury.
    • Third Class Insurance:
      • Basic coverage.
      • Covers third-party liability and personal injury.
      • Does not cover theft or damage to your own bike.

Purchase insurance from a reputable company and keep your insurance documents with you.

Extra Costs to Consider

Beyond the purchase price, factor in these additional costs:

ItemEstimated Cost (THB)Frequency
Registration fee100 – 300One-time
Annual road tax100 – 600 (depending on engine size)Yearly
Compulsory third-party insurance300 – 600Yearly
Additional insurance (recommended)2,000 – 10,000+Yearly
Helmet500 – 5,000+One-time (replace as needed)
Maintenance1,000 – 3,000Every 3-6 months

Required Documents for Purchasing a Motorcycle

To buy and register a motorcycle in Thailand, you’ll need the following documents:

DocumentPurposeWhere to Obtain
PassportProof of identityN/A (bring original and copies)
Valid non immigrant visa (ED Visa etc.)Proof of legal stayThai embassy or immigration office
TM.6 departure cardProof of entryReceived upon entering Thailand
Proof of address (condo contract agreement)Confirming your residenceImmigration office or your embassy
Work permit (if applicable)Alternative proof of addressThai Ministry of Labour

Maintaining Your Motorcycle in Thailand

Regular maintenance is crucial for keeping your motorcycle safe and reliable. Here are some tips:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule
  • Use reputable mechanics or authorized service centers
  • Keep your bike clean to prevent rust in Thailand’s humid climate
  • Check tire pressure and condition regularly
  • Be mindful of oil changes, especially if riding frequently in heavy traffic

Average Maintenance Costs:

ServiceEstimated Cost (THB)Frequency
Oil change300 – 800Every 3,000 km or 3 months
Tire replacement1,000 – 3,000 per tireEvery 20,000 – 30,000 km
Brake pad replacement500 – 1,500As needed (typically every 20,000 km)
Major service2,000 – 5,000Annually or every 12,000 km

Taking Your Thai Motorcycle To Other Countries

This is possible for all ASEAN countries. As long as you have all your documentation and a valid international driving permit (from your home country) or a valid Thai driver’s license, then you can pass. There are reports of this being difficult for Vietnam, but I have run into many that said they had no issues with the right documents.

I am personally taking on a huge journey later this year, so I will update this article as and when I find out the process for other ASEAN countries.

As for overseas countries, you need to get yourself an international driver’s permit and for some you will need a Carnet De Passage to “temporarily import” the motorcycle in the country. If not, you have to pay a deposit at the borders and this can be quite expensive, and takes 2 weeks to return to you (if it ever does). Unfortunately, Thailand does not offer Carnet De Passage, so you need to work around this by getting a CDP from The Touring Club of Switzerland or any neighbouring country that offers it (Malaysia does).

As a foreigner it is possible to do all of this, but the workarounds can be fairly tricky and difficult to navigate. I will write more articles on this topic and link them here soon.

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