Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Most expats in Vietnam and travel visitors see freedom and the convenience of motorbike or scooter riding as the holy grail of their Vietnam trip. At 40km/h, parking anywhere, one can enjoy the landscape, sunshine and nothing can happen. So the smart thing to do is to buy a motorbike legally when staying in Vietnam.
How to buy a motorbike legally in Vietnam?
In a previous post we talked about riding a motorbike legally in Vietnam. Here we explain how to buy a motorbike safely and getting the legal ownership documents
Buying a motorbike for commuting
Buying a motorbike to commute is one of the best ways to beat traffic jams, parking easily, not getting stuck in the floods. Driving a motorbike is the ultimate freedom.
On top of that, it makes sense financially as we calculated you recoup the rental cost in 3.5 months becoming an owner instead.
Is it easy to buy and own a motorbike in Vietnam?
It is easy to buy and own a motorbike if you have a TRC resident card or long-term visa. You can drive with a license transcript from your home country one.
Motorbike purchase and registration is subject to residency
A foreigner (or a foreign company) can easily purchase a motorbike in Vietnam provided they can show at the time of purchase:
- a valid passport (more than 6 months)
- a work permit or work permit exemption
- a TRC temporary resident card
- a proof of residency issued by your police ward
Then you can register your new purchase to get a motorbike plate number and a ‘cavet’ -translated from the French carte verte- which is the color template (green) as shown in the picture here.
Then you will need to go to the traffic police registration office 82, Nguyen Thai Hoc, HCMC to get your documents within 5-to-7 days.
Even as a legal resident be weary of longer waits
Due to the recent clampdown in 2022 on illegal business visas used for long-term working stay, it exceeds 3-months to get a plate and cavet. A Vietnamese registering for you – for the time being – will just need an ID and wait 5-to-7 days.
You should also pay a tax of 5% for any brand new purchase. For 2nd hand you just need a proof of purchase in the form of a notarized sales contract between you and the seller.
NB. for cars there is a compulsory technical control every 2 years currently.
Motorbike driving license
Of course a motorbike driving license is compulsory type A1 below 175cc motorbike and type A2 above 175cc. The list of Vietnam types of driving licenses.
The driver’s license is subject to having a TRC or a long-term visa. This is for convenience and practicality so that the traffic police not does not have to issue one for any traveler to Vietnam with a short-term tourist visa.
Driving someone else motorbike without ownership documents
Of course the shortcut, when you rent a motorbike or purchase a cheap 3rd-hand (or more) motorbike is not having the registration card or having one without knowing how to contact the legal owner.
This happens very often as you may be in 3 situations:
- You don’t have any registration card, therefore no compulsory insurance
- You have the cavet but don’t know if it is the latest owner and how to contact him
- You hold the old cavet and the owners details but no proof of ownership -ie. a notarized sales contract
Next we are covering the various risks of these situations.
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What are the risks of motorbike drivers not legally compliant
First and foremost you need to have a valid driver’s license in Vietnam and in Vietnamese language for the police officers.
Obviously, driving a motorbike without the registration cavet documents under your name is risky. You will have difficulty insuring it, and receiving the claims refund. Then reselling it will be impossible too.
The motorbike ownership and reselling
Since the registration card shows you own the vehicle, it is necessary to show it to the insurer in order to purchase the compulsory insurance or to pass police checks. You may get away temporarily with a notarized sale letter + the ‘cavet’ both under the name of the previous owner, whatever the citizenship. As a foreigner, the license plate will have NN ‘Nuoc Ngoai’ for foreigner.
The traffic police and motorbike ownership
When stopped by the police they usually ask for your cavet and insurance. If not showing your name, they may arrest you and retain the vehicle until the owner of the cavet shows up to repossess it.
Similarly, when you park and get à parking ticket, if you lose it, they will ask you to show the cavet showing the same registration plate to let you out with the moto.
Insurance for drivers and motorbike owners
The insurer will sell you the compulsory insurance for 3rd party cover minimum of VND100Mio of cover for bodily injury or material damage you cause to someone else: the cost is VND66,000/year. This minimum can be topped up for additional money.
Additionally, you can purchase a voluntary motorbike property insurance for the value you want to recover in case of total loss (passenger insurance for disability and death).
Insurers will refund the owner registered on the registration card, so make sure you can contact him/her for insurance matters.
Note: for bodily injury, it is your medical insurance who will pay for the treatment costs in case of an accident, provided you drive legally.
Therefore if you can not locate and contact the motorbike real owner no claims can be paid.
Advice to motorbike buyers
When buying a motorbike
Here is a short checklist when you purchase a motorbike that we suggest you follow by experience all are regular deceptions
- check if the repairs were done in the motorbike brand genuine repair center
- check the spare parts are genuine: not changed
- check the mileage counter is not cheated
- if new and imported make sure the dealer has parts to change -at a price the insurer can pay-
- check the cavet color and chassis number, the basics the police will check
- get a sales contract notarized with the owner seller, with the cavet in hand. Or better go make the change together with the owner until you have your own registration card and plate
Buying without an original registration card
Make sure you talk to the owner and you have a notarized letter for the sale and be able to contact the owner at any time for police or insurance matters.
The insurers will repay any motorbike damage or discuss claims if you are injured or have damaged property.
NOTE: In worst case scenario of an accidental death caused by you, you must absolutely be legally driving; the 3 minimum conditions to be legal are:
- legal lending, renting or ownership proving you can drive the moto
- A valid driving license
- A valid compulsory 3rd party motorbike insurance (yellow insurance certificate)
If the registration of the motorbike is not under your name, you should have the ‘cavet’ in your possession and be able to call the owner to show it is not stolen.
Other peace-of-mind tips to motorbike riders and owners
You now understand the use of the cavet under your name or legal papers when driving in Vietnam.
- may not cover hospital costs due to moto accidents when driving abroad or in certain countries like Vietnam where they consider traffic too chaotic. Please check.
- In serious cases, like brain trauma or need of blood bank, you may need to be evacuated to Thailand, Singapore or France for neuro surgery or complicated reconstructive hospitalization
If you think your credit card covers you please check the fine prints for conditions of treatment abroad, lawyers fees or 3rd party liability coverage.
If you have Vietnamese health insurance, they will only pay your hospital costs if the 3 conditions above are met.
In case of an illegal situation the police may ask you for more than ‘penalties fees’.
As a foreigner, the family of the victim may ask much more than they would ask to a Vietnamese insurer -who will have lawyers to discuss the amount to refund for incapacity or death of their family member.
Make sure you have someone to contact quickly in order to pay hospitalization costs to an international hospital or risk being treated in the cheapest Vietnamese government hospital and keeping sequelae or partial disability due to poor hospital techniques and hygiene. It can be a family member, your company or your insurer. Do not count on the embassy as you may not survive their response time to the emergency hospital ward.
Enjoy your ride with peace-of-mind.