Guide: How to Buy a Motorcycle in Vietnam

A few weeks ago I set out to purchase a cheap, reliable motorcycle in Hanoi, Vietnam that would hopefully take me through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and eventually on my way to Everest.  Throughout the buying process I received a ton of great advice from fellow backpackers, Vietnamese locals, nomads living long term in Hanoi, and a few backpacker Facebook groups.  The result is everything below:  A culmination of tips, hints, and advice in one spot. Mind you, this isn’t 100% correct and shouldn’t be your only source of information, but at least your buying process starts with all of the information mine ended with.  If along the way in your buying process you find out new information that would be helpful for other aspiring moto-packers, send it our way and we’ll happily add it to this post.

For the record, Delilah (my Detech Espero) and I are doing great and we’re well into our Southeast Asian Motorcycle diaries. If you’ll be on the Banana Pancake trail between August and October 2017 (on motorbike or on foot…or horse…or whatever) give us a shoutout so we can share a beer.  Happy trails!


How to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam

Motorcycles can be attained on nearly any budget in Vietnam (starting around $200) but buyers get what they pay for.  Cheaper bikes (<$400) are more likely to breakdown but roadside mechanics are amazing, and widespread and routine repairs rarely cost more than $20.  If the budget is the hurdle between you and adventure…buy the cheaper bike and hit the road.  Everything will work out the way adventures always do.  And despite the price of the bike you will still have a priceless experience

Types of Motorcycles commonly available

  • “Honda” Win – only exist as very old originals, originals repaired using Chinese or Vietnamese parts, or replicas made in Vietnam or China. Vietnamese replicas are preferred
  • Detech Espera – Sold as 110cc ($650 new), 120cc ($680 new), and 127cc ($700) and designed based on the original Honda Wins
  • Sufat – Another Vietnamese brand that creates motorcycles based off the popular Honda Win motorcycle

Purchasing New Motorbikes in Vietnam

  • For the prices listed above, expect a two month warranty including all necessary service for the stated period, helmet, and gear rack. Style Motorbikes is a respected dealer, rental and tour location specializing in the Detech Esperas, both new and used (former rentals but purchased from the factory new by Style).  All sales come with 2 month warranty and service within Vietnam.  Thang Motorcycle is a respected used by seller that specializes in used replica Honda wins (both Chinese and Vietnamese made) purchased from a variety of sources and then inspected and rebuilt.

Purchasing Used Motorbikes in Vietnam

  • For any price under $400, expect that the engine has been opened and engine parts have been replaced. Conversely, if paying over $400 the bike should not have had any engine work completed (or needed) yet.  Confirm that the engine hasn’t been opened by looking over the bolts holding the engine closed and searching for glue or broken seals.
  • When purchasing from backpackers, prices vary between $150 and $350 but should be checked out by a mechanic. Most bikes bought from backpackers have been circulating north to south and back in Vietnam for years and hover in the $200 to $250 range.  To find backpacker sold motorcycles checkout the Facebook Page “Vietnam Backpacker Sales”.

Major Points to Inspect on a Motorbike

  • Lights – check that they are functioning
  • Horn – check that it is functioning
  • Transmission and clutch – check for smooth shifting on test drive and smooth clutch/lever reaction
  • Brakes – check for good stopping distance on test drive, no vibration when braking, and no weird noises when braking
  • Suspension – Look over suspension for cracks, and rust. Be attentive to any excess wobbling or vibration from the front or rear wheel
  • Kick starter – Check that kickstarter functions
  • Electric starter – Check that electric starter functions
  • Engine cover – Check that the cover has not been removed by the presence of original seals (indicates unopened engine) or glue on bolts and seal points (indicates engine has been opened)

Points to Watch for on the Test Ride

  • Rattling
  • Movement or “sway” in rear tire when riding over rumble strips
  • Braking distance
  • Ease of gear change when shifting

Accessories to Ask About at Time of Purchase:

Most bikes come with the following basic attachments so ask if they come complimentary with the bike

  • Helmet
  • USB charging port
  • Extender on rack of bike
  • Cell phone holder
  • Cargo straps
  • Chain and lock

Consider purchasing a double rack and stronger rear springs if you are planning on two passengers

Important Maintenance Before Hitting the Road

Most bikes being sold by backpackers are coming off of a pretty grueling trip and aren’t exactly new.  Getting the following maintenance before setting out on your own trip will dramatically reduce headaches

  • Plugs changed
  • Chain tightened
  • Oil changed
  • Engine and frame screws tightened
  • Brakes adjusted and checked (potentially change brake pads)

Notes for Maintenance and repairs on the road

  • Look for shops by the side of the road which have signs reading Xe May or have a compressor out front
  • Change the oil every 500 kilometers for new bikes (~$5).  Note that new bikes have addition break in required that shoudl be adhered to
  • Check the chain every couple of days and have it tightened whenever loose

Buyer Beware and Important Notes

  • Honda Win’s purchased from backpackers will likely be trouble ridden. Honda stopped making the Win over a decade ago so any real Win will be old enough to be plagued with issues if handled by multiple riders.  If the “Honda” Win is a replica it is either Vietnamese, which is preferred, or Chinese, which is less preferred due to cheaper parts
  • If you plan to cross borders (Laos and Cambodia) ensure that you receive the motorcycle’s registration card (aka “Blue Card) with the sale. It does not need to be in your name but it does need to be in your possession
  • Beware of bikes spray painted all one color. Not always, but commonly, a mechanic is trying to hide some past damage on the bike and this is an easy fix. Also look for dents in the body or chips in the levers and rear view mirror  – this may indicate a previous accident

Great Info Sources and Dealers for Motorbikes in Vietnam

  • Style Motorbikes: Specializing in Detech Espera’s, Style buys motorcycle direct from the Vietnamese manufacturer (Detech), rents them out for tours and resells them once they approach 6 months to a year old. Used Detech’s here cost between $500 and $600 and new Detech’s can be bought for $650.  Style has shops in Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh city and offers free maintenance with all of their bikes and a limited warranty with most bikes.  Style’s shop is respected by the expat community and, if your pocket can handle it, widely recommended. Located in Hanoi’s old quarter (Address: 29 Đào Duy Từ, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam)
  • Thang Motorcycle Tours: Thang’s is another respected shop in the Hanoi community as he’s regarded for honestly dealing with customers. Thang compliments Style motorbikes as he specializes in dealing the “Honda Wins” which are actually Vietnamese and Chinese replicas of the original Japanese made Hondas that stopped being sold after the 1970’s.  Thang focuses on the Vietnamese Honda Wins as the Vietnamese parts are heavier and less likely to breakdown.  All of Thang’s 110cc-125cc motorbikes sell for $350 USD and come with a 3 month warranty.  Any of Thang’s shops in Hanoi, Hue, and ho Chi Minh city will take care of you if you have any issues within the 3 month warranty period
  • Rentabike VN – http://rentabikevn.com/
  • Fellow travelers and backpackers – Facebook is the best place to find backpackers selling cheap motorbikes in Vietnam. Most backpackers are running short on time left on their visa and are up to sell their bikes for a steal ($200-$350) but beware, you always get what you pay for.  The most frequently sold models are the Honda Wins and it is usually unknown whether you are buying a Vietnamese or Chinese version.  Posting are plentiful (usually 2+ a day) so there is a wide selection.  The best Facebook page I’ve seen for this is the “Vietnam Backpacker Sales” group on Facebook (LINK).  This site is also a great resource for all things riding related
  • Craigslist – filled with posts from fellow travelers

Prep Before You Come

Making a Southeast Asian moto-trip happen is easy to setup logistically, but in order completely set yourself up for success, we recommend the following before coming to Asia

  • Recommended – take a motorcycle safety course
  • Get an international driving permit (avoids issues with local police and its cheaper than the potential bribes)
  • Leave your expectations at home. This will be an adventure.  Shit goes wrong.  It’s part of the journey
  • If you are new to motorcycles, start with an automatic or semi-automatic scooter in a low traffic destination.  I highly recommend Pai, Thailand as the vibe, tempo, and traffic is very chill and I have several friends that confidently learned to ride by starting here

Motorcycle Maintenance Prices (in Vietnamese Dong) and Translations

At time of writing 22,700 Vietnamese Dong equals $1 USD

Oil Change – 80k

Thay dau

Tighten chain, brakes, spokes – 50k

Tang xich, phanh van chat lan hoa (tam)

New spark plug – 80k

Thay bugi

Flat Tire – 100k

Thay xam

New suspension – 250k-450k

Thay thut (giam soc)

New Brake Pads – 80k

Thay ma phanh (bo thang)

New Chain – 200k

Thay nhong xich

New Exhaust – 250k

Thay bo

New head light – 150k-350k

Tahy den pha

New back light – 100k

Thay den hau

New Tire – 250k – 350k

Tahy lop

New Carburetor – 300k

Thay che (binh xang con)

New motor starter – 300k

Thay cu de

New cylinder – 450k

Thai hoi

New battery – 300k

Thay binh ac quy

New electrical coil – 150k

Thay cuon den/no moi

New alternator – 150k

Thay xac

New rack (repair) – 250k –(80k)

Thay gia – tay xach (sura, han)

New gear box – 900k
Thay so

New rim – 300k

Thay vanh

New Indicator – 50k

Thay cu xi nhan

New all clutch / part – 650k/300k

Thay bo con / thay la con

New clutch cable – 70k

Thay day con

New accelerator cable – 70k

Thay day ga

New brake or clutch handle – 70k

Thay tay phanh hoac tay con

New cam chain – 250k

Thay xich cam, banh ty cam

New cam disk – 800k

Thay bien hay lam lai bienn

Fix head cylinder – 50k – 200k

Sua dau bo

Note: Prices will be higher in major cities

Suggested Trip Stops (Northern Vietnam)

  • Mai Chau
  • Nghia Lo
  • Sapa
  • Ha Giang (Highlight)
  • Meo Vac
  • Cao bang
  • Ban Gioc
  • Ba Be Lake
  • Bac Khan
  • Hanoi
  • Ha Long and Catba

Suggested Trip Stops (Southern Vietnam)

  • Hai Phong
  • Ninh Binh
  • Phong Nha
  • Hue
  • Da Nang
  • Hoi An
  • Nha Trang
  • Da Lat
  • Mui Ne
  • Ho Chi Minh City

Other Good Links

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