Where and how to buy a motorcycle in Vietnam

After you decide where will your starting point be and already know what motorcycle to look for, it’s time to explore the internet a bit.

First of all, go to local Craigslist (https://vietnam.craigslist.org/search/mca?lang=en&cc=us). There, you will find motorcycle ads from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Central Vietnam too.

Second, go to Facebook. There are particular groups where people post their ads. Here are the most important ones:

All-Vietnam Groups
https://www.facebook.com/groups/vietnambackpackersales
https://www.facebook.com/groups/882003845187734
https://www.facebook.com/groups/350783411791258

Hanoi Groups
https://www.facebook.com/groups/554872808019457
https://www.facebook.com/groups/990865090999523

What to look for?

Rule #1, look for motorcycles that did not require any repairs so far. Usually, the more repairs the seller had to make, the more repairs you will have to make too. Once a thing breaks and is cheaply repaired, it will break again. So if the seller did not have to make any repairs — and is telling you the truth — you will likely not have to make repairs either.

Engine – If there is more motorcycles to choose from, the engine is one of the first things you should look at. If you are buying an older Honda Win, look for Sufat engine. This is the newer, more powerful and reliable engine. Korean engine Vecstar should be your next choice.

Blue Card – This is the only legal paper you need to have. Make sure it comes with the bike.

The only document you will get with your motorcycle – Blue card.

It’s wise to make a research weeks before flying in and begin sending offers few days before you arrive. Some people post their ads days or weeks before getting to their final destination and if their motorcycle seems like a good one, it’s important to be the first potential buyer.

Another great option is to visit a few hostels where you can ask people if they know about a bike for sale. From my experience, in every single hostel in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City there is always a bike for sale.

The Test Ride

After you reach a seller, arrange a meeting — possibly someplace with light traffic — to have a good look at the bike and test it.

If you — at this moment — do not know how to ride a manual motorcycle ask the seller to show you the motorcycle. Ask them to start the engine. If the electrical starter does not work, that is fine, it happens often. The important thing is to listen to the sound. The engine should run smoothly and there should be no missing or extra sounds. Its rhythm should stay the same. The engine should also be okay to idle without being given gas. Just have the engine started and let it sound.

The more you test the bike the better. Most of the sellers are keen on providing free driving lessons and it’s wise to have someone teach you.

What else to pay attention to?

Breaks – Your rear break is what you are going to need the most. It should be working 100%. Your front break is probably not going to be as strong as you would expect but that is fine. You should only use it as an extra break so that you would not fly over your handlebars.

Transmission – some motorcycles have their transmissions broken but still are able to ride. And it is important to find out about this as soon as possible because having a transmission fixed is one of the most expensive repairs that you could possibly have to do (around $50). If you can, ride the motorcycle in every possible gear. If one of the gears makes the clutch slip, that’s bad. If you like the bike except for this thing, try to bargain a bit so that you will not have to pay all the repairs yourself.

Battery – It’s lifetime tends to be pretty short. Anyway, if you like the motorcycle overall, get it. You might just want to get a new battery for $10.

Horn – This is the second most important thing on your bike after breaks. Seriously. Make sure it works and that it is loud. If it doesn’t either your batter is failing or you might need to have the horn replaced. It should only cost around $5. Also, read what honking a horn means in Vietnam.

Kickstarter – At some point a battery in your motorcycle will probably die and your electric starter will stop working. Therefor it is important to test if the kick starter is working and learn how to use it – Shift to neutral and make a long kick with hold in the bottom end position. To help the engine start you should give gas a little bit too.

Lights – If the battery is dead already, the lights will only work when the engine is started. Check it, I definitely do not recommend to ride without lights.

Steering Lights – While they are definitely not as important as the horn, I also recommend to have them working.

Those are the most important things you should pay attention to. And before you hit the road, make sure you also learn the basics of riding a motorcycle in Vietnam.