Looking to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam?
Buying a motorbike in Vietnam may seem difficult at first. However, with a bit of guidance, it is actually quite easy.
I have done it four times and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
Here you will learn about the types of motorbikes available in Vietnam and where to buy a motorbike in each of the major cities.
I will also answer common questions like; should you buy an auto or a manual, a Chinese copy, a legit Honda or possibly a Belarusian Minsk?
Most importantly, you will also learn how to check your motorbike properly before handing over your cash.
It’s easy to get screwed over, this unbiased buyer’s guide makes sure you don’t.
At the end of this article, I will also show you some epic Vietnam motorbiking routes which you seriously don’t want to miss. So make sure you read to the end!
First. Should I Rent or Buy a Motorbike?
Most travelers don’t give this enough thought.
I generally suggest that if you are planning to travel around Vietnam by for 3 months or longer then you want to buy your own motorbike. In the long run it will work out cheaper. You will also have enough time to spare a few days at either end of the journey to find a decent motorbike and try to sell it again.
Remember, selling your motorbike for a decent prince can be quite tough. I’ve experienced it first hand.
If you are traveling for less than 2 months, I’d rent a motorbike. You can actually rent a much better quality motorbike (like an FTR230) for the same price. You also avoid messing around looking for a decent motorbike to buy, and then trying to sell it for a fair price.
We’ve partnered with renowned motorbike rentals in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City stocking really decent motorbikes at affordable rates. One way drop-offs are also available. Send me an inquiry for an exclusive discounted deal!
Which Motorbike Should I Buy?
I personally find the best motorbike in Vietnam is a Chinese copy Honda Win. It is cheap, has a manual clutch, uses normal petrol, and is cheap to fix.
However, the Honda Win might not be for everyone. So, here are the most common motorbike options you will find in Vietnam:
- Honda Dream: semi-automatic // 100cc scooter // Price Range USD 200-300
- Honda Wave: semi-automatic // 100cc motorbike // Price Range: USD 200-300
- Honda Win: manual clutch // 110-125cc motorbike // Price Range USD 300-400
- Russian Minsk: manual clutch // 125cc motorbike // Price Range USD 300-400
Note: where I refer to Honda in this section, I mean a Chinese copy.
Legitimate Japanese Hondas are way more expensive and far outside of backpacker budgets. Expect to pay USD 1,000+.
Honda Wave & Honda Dream (Semi-Auto)
The Honda Wave and Honda Dream are best for those with little to no motorbiking experience.
Pros: These motorbikes are both semi-automatics which do not require you to use a clutch. This means changing gears is as easy as pushing the foot lever up and down. It might take about an hour of getting used to, but you’ll quickly be on your way. Essentially, if you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a Honda Wave or Honda Dream.
Other benefits of these motorbikes are the comfortable seat and the small under-seat storage for those things you really want to keep dry.
Cons: you might cop a bit of shit from other riders with manual motorbikes like the Honda Win. And without a clutch, you might struggle up some of the steeper mountains and off road trails.
Honda Win (Manual)
The Honda Win is definitely the best for those with some motorbiking experience. This is also the most common backpacker’s motorbike on the road.
Pros: This motorbike provides the best value for money and riding quality. Importantly, the Honda Win offers the extra clutch control needed to ride through the high mountain passes in northern Vietnam. Without a clutch, getting to more remote and off-road places can be tough.
The Honda Win will break down as all motorbikes in Vietnam do. However, it is truly indestructible as there are cheap spare parts for this motorbike everywhere. Replacing a chain will cost just $5 and even blowing up the engine will only cost $50 each time.
A bonus benefit of the Honda Win is that you will be accepted by fellow riders as having a ‘real motorbike’ and not an incompetent scooter.
Cons: None, other than the standard breakdowns.
Russian Minsk (Vintage)
The Russian Minsk is both badass and bad. It looks awesome, sounds awesome, and breaks down everywhere. The Minsk is only recommended for those who really know how to fix a motorbike.
Pros: The Minsk is a two-stroke motorbike. One of the fondest memories is the smell of burnt oil riding up the mountains. The suspension on the Minsk Sport version is great for off-roading and the seats are way more comfortable.
Cons: They break down all the time. Even a well serviced Mink will break down almost every day.
Spare parts are uncommon and cost way more as they are not interchangeable with the Japanese/Chinese motorbikes. Many locals even refuse to repair a Minsk. Carry lots of spare parts or be prepared to search for a long time.
If you’re buying a Minsk in Vietnam, consider a repair budget to be the same as the cost of the motorbike itself.
Where to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam?
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)
Remember these words “find the guy next to the big neon bull.”
Backpackers are most likely to stay at or near Pham Ngu Lao Street. At one end of the street, there’s a huge neon bull’s head called the Crazy Buffalo.
Go to that neon sign, then head into the small alley on the left. There you will meet a short Vietnamese guy fixing used motorbikes. He has a huge stash of motorbikes underground at an average price of USD 300.
Not all of his motorbikes are in great condition, so I suggest inspecting them with my detailed checklist at the end of this article. You can also give these motorbikes a test ride first.
Some motorbikes have been crashed badly and repaired while others have been looked after well.
If you’re looking to buy a motorbike in Hanoi then you should start off at the backpacker district in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Ngo Huyen is a crowded narrow laneway where you will find lots of hotels, guesthouses, travel agents, and the shop called Phung Motorbike. This guy has loads of new and used motorbikes for rent and for sale, which will have been serviced well.
You can usually buy a motorbike cheaper in Hanoi directly from another backpacker, however, it will not have been serviced and most likely has been crashed.
>> Be sure to check out my Hanoi travel guide while you’re in town!
Backpackers regularly ride from Hanoi to Sapa, then plan to cross from Sapa to Laos with the overnight bus. These backpackers often have a tourist visa running out of time and need to offload the motorbike quickly.
This means you can get a motorbike in Sapa super cheap, quite often at a 60-70% discount.
We sold two decent condition motorbikes in Sapa for a total of USD 200. But the catch was that you had to take both or none.
Buying a Motorbike Online
Travelswop – this website has been around forever. Listings are not updated very often, and there is quite a limited choice available. You are better off going directly to the small shops.
Facebook – the Facebook group called ForSaleVietnam lists all sorts of things by locals and expats. Scroll through the page and you will find motorbikes posted quite often.
ChoTot – this is the Vietnamese version of Craigslist or Gumtree with just about everything for sale. The website is only available in Vietnamese, but this link will take you directly to motorbike listings.
What to Check Before You Buy
If you have never ridden a motorbike in Vietnam, welcome. Let me start by telling you that all budget second-hand motorbikes will have been crashed at some point. If you’re being told otherwise, it’s a lie.
Since these motorbikes have been crashed, they’ve been damaged, and not all have been repaired properly. Here are a few basic checks to make before you buy a motorbike in Vietnam:
- Check the rear swingarm is straight – the rear swingarm is those two vertical forks holding the rear wheel in place. If either of the rear swingarm forks are bent then, your ride will veer to the side every time you pass over a rumble strip or pothole.
- Check the headlight works and is powerful – riding at dusk or night in Vietnam is downright dangerous, but it happens quite often. You are not always going to reach your destination in daylight hours, so be prepared.
- Check the battery properly charges and holds a charge – the battery provides steady power to the headlight. If the battery is no good the headlight will be dim and flicker as your riding speed changes.
- Check the horn works – it doesn’t take long to realize the Vietnamese rely on horns to communicate.
- Test the front brake – Rule #1 when riding a motorbike is to use your front brake when stopping fast. If it doesn’t work properly you will crash soon.
- Check for the Blue Card – the Blue Card is the Vietnamese vehicle registration paper. Police may stop you and ask for this, so be sure your motorbike has one.
Typical Motorbike Repair Costs
There is no point denying that your motorbike will break down. With a Chinese copy motorbike it is inevitable, and buying a genuine Japanese usually just isn’t worth it.
However, one of the things that makes Vietnam such an attractive place to motorbike across is the abundance of motorbike mechanics. And they’re cheap!
Here are some of the most common breakdowns with a rough price guide for repairs:
- Repair a tire tube – VND 30,000 (USD 1)
- Change tire tube – VND 50,000 (USD 3)
- Change an entire tire – VND 200,000 (USD 9)
- Tighten chain – VND 30,000 (USD 1)
- Change engine oil and filter – VND 150,000 (USD 6.5)
- Repair cracked motorbike frame – VND 200,000 (USD 9)
- Replace rear swing arm bolt – VND 200,000 (USD 9)
It is best you learn to do the following easy repairs by yourself; change the spark plug, clean the spark plug, adjust the brake and clutch cables, pump up your tyres.
Useful Tips for Motorbiking in Vietnam
After buying a motorbike there are a few useful accessories for your journey. These things will make your trip much easier and more enjoyable:
- Bungy cords make tying down your luggage way easier. These will save you at least 10 minutes every morning compared to using ropes. Make sure you buy a few spares as they tend to snap easily.
- Wet weather gear. Although it looks expensive now, it is worth every last Vietnamese Dong in your pocket. You’ll thank me when you get blasted by a thunderstorm up in the mountains.
- Some essential spares parts include; headlight bulb, fuel filter, fuel line hoses, tire tubes. They will all come in handy.
- Tools; spanner, hammer, hand tire pump – all the basics.
- A decent road map of Vietnam, this is essential for exploring the back roads!
By the way… I’ve seen people mess up badly with their Vietnam travel visas. It’s definitely no fun getting stuck in the airport without your paperwork, sometimes getting told to return to your previous country.
The thing is, it is actually so easy to get your visa by applying on Vietnam Visa. I personally use this service every time and love it. There’s even an urgent (one-day turnaround) option if you leave things right to the last minute like me.
Where to Ride in Vietnam?
Heading north from Ho Chi Minh City your first stop may be Dalat, Nha Trang, and Cat Thien National Park. To learn more about these, and a further 23 destinations across the country, you cannot miss my epic Vietnam Motorbike Route.
This details how I rode across the country for over three months.
If you are rushed on time then you might consider this 2 Week Vietnam itinerary taking you from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Hanoi in the north. If starting in the south of Vietnam you might like to spend a few days exploring Ho Chi Minh city with this guide to the local attractions.
These are the basics of buying a motorbike in Vietnam and getting yourself properly set up for the journey ahead. Don’t rush, take it easy and enjoy the ride!
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