My very own wheels!

Buying a second-hand car in Thailand


For years, I've laughed at people dumb enough to bother driving in/around Bangkok; why would you want to pay to sit in traffic, I'd say. Having a car ain't cheap, I'd say. One of the reasons I left the US was to not have to drive anymore, I'd say. People driving in Bangkok are insane, I'd say.

Why buy a car indeed?

Now, I'm one of them/you. Why? Primarily to get out of the city, because I'm getting too lazy and/or too old to deal with having to get a taxi to a bus to a bus/van/train station, waiting for it to leave, then having to take another bus/taxi when I finally get there. I'm not 22 anymore, and the "journey" has lost its thrill. I'd like to be able to see places you really can only see with your own wheels. I have no intention of driving for my daily commute (although I'm also "over" the MRT/BTS at rush hour), but it's nice to have the option.

So, I recently got a driving license in Thailand in preparation for finally getting a car. I had no intention of paying some huge sum for a highly overpriced (compared to the US, anyway) new car, so I decided secondhand was the way to go. Even secondhand, cars in Thailand are quite expensive! It's quite difficult to find a car under 200,000 baht that's not 10+ years old and/or has 150,000+ kms on it. Popular brands like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan tend to be priced higher too, and don't even get me started on the 200%+ import tax for European makes.

Take a Thai

Without someone Thai, it's not that easy to buy secondhand in Thailand, especially if you go the non-dealer route like I did. There are several websites that have a nice volume of listings (DooRot, TaladRod, and Fast2Car seem amongst the best), but A) the descriptions are typically only in Thai, B) they tend to want you to call anyway, and C) if you can't speak or read Thai... well, you get the picture. I also checked out several dealerships, but the prices there are generally much higher.

Buying secondhand is always a gamble, but in the end I went with a low-km (<80,000 km) Chevy LPG converted sedan and haven't had any problems thus far, paying cash to someone that advertised on TaladRod. It's certainly nothing special, but it's a decent enough economical little weekend beater that's small enough to [barely] navigate the maze of sois [tiny roads] it takes to get to my condo.

Getting the paperwork put in my name was a bit of a hassle at the Land Office (Chatuchak, although you'd go to whichever office is in your district); it took most of the morning, and again you'd really need someone Thai to help out (or speak Thai fluent enough to understand legal/technical jargon) unless you're prepared to monkey everything out for hours on end, but all things considered it wasn't that different from the used cars I've bought in the States.

My understanding is that you must have a work permit to get the vehicle in your name with a valid visa, but I'm sure there are exceptions for retirement and other visas; the only documents they asked me for were work permit and visa. Note that you don't technically even need a driving license of any type to buy a car, which pretty much sums-up driving in Thailand. My seller apparently has done this before, so I basically followed him around, and aside from the queues, it wasn't too painful.

Made life easier?

Is it worth the 185k I paid for the car? Well, I've already had to make several trips to Nakhon Prathom which, using public transport, would have taken at least 2.5 hours versus the 40 minutes it took to drive (even with traffic, and in working aircon), and it sure is easier to go spend a lot of money you shouldn't be spending at Villa Market when you have a boot to put everything in.

I've only driven a handful of times since buying it earlier this month, as I still don't see the point in fighting traffic to try to find a parking spot at work every day; having driven in Atlanta, Washington D.C., Miami, Rome, Milan [by far the worst]... many of the big bad traffic cities, it's just not worth the hassle to me.

Still, the knowledge that I can go somewhere if I want to is worth it, regardless of Bangkok's psychotic traffic.


I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.


You might also be interested in....

Driving in Thailand - The positives of owning your own four wheels.

Hot seat interview with Andy Wing - although this interview was done way back in 2004, Andy W carved out quite a successful business selling second-hand cars to the expat market.


Comments

I read the comments given and have owned and driven in Thailand for ten years. Same car, six years old when I bought it, and it still has 130K km only on my 16 year old Nissan Cefaro. A large car for Thailand I admit. I have always made a point of owning condos in larger developments with parking etc. included. I don't go down narrow sois. I like having a lot of metal/airbags around me in the event of side crashes. Nissans and Toyotas are very inexpensive to maintain. Toyota particularly.....you can be broken down anywhere and they know how to fix a Corolla.

In your very urban case....why did you not just rent a car as needed rather than own? The car is newer, fully insured and in good repair. You also get to check out different models. For myself, going shopping, doctors appointments, restaurants etc. in rural suburbia means a car. My road tax is 1,700 baht and my insurance is only 5000 baht per year as I take liability only. Just had my gearbox rebuilt for 20K, but usually my six month checkups are in the 2500 baht range up to 5000 baht. New tires once in ten years for about 10,000 for the set. I fill my tank once a month with 95.

I will purchase a new car in the next year and it will likely be a Toyota for the reason I mentioned above as I intend to travel more around the country. I do recommend avoiding Ford and Chevy as the maintenance costs are cruelly higher. Happy motoring, good luck and LOOK OUT! ;-)

By Robert, Bang Saen (6 months ago)

Nice post, hope to see a few follow-up posts to find out how you are getting on with the car. I used to have a Chevrolet Aveo. It depreciated like a rock when I sold it after 5 years but was very reliable so I think you paid a fair price for your sedan.
My only suggestion to you would have been to buy through the Chevrolet certified used-car program as you would have got a 1-year warranty.
Certainly agree with your dad's comment that car's keep you poor, being a teacher that was certainly true for me. Once the major parts of any car start to fail, costs mount significantly. In the 4th year, I had to buy a new AC compressor for 14,000baht, for instance. I always had my car serviced at Chevrolet and that usually ran to 8-10k. My way of budgeting for this was to anticipate annual costs, ask at Chevrolet about next service costs, break them into monthly chunks and then save every month. Chevrolet recommends a service every 6 months or 10,000km whichever comes first. Batteries and tires usually last 2-3 years so I found I could anticipate those costs.
For example
Car insurance – 10,320 by next January (+860/month)
Car Tax - 1,543 due next July (+129/month)
Car service – 6,156.78 by next June (+770/month)
Car battery – 3,490 by next December (+117/month)
etc
Ideally, you'd also save a fund for one-off expenses like new AC compressors but I never did. It might seem a little extreme but that's the reality of teaching in Thailand and running a car I guess. The list of things that can fail are endless and all potentially budget-busting.
Good luck!

By John, Bangkok (10 months ago)

"BTW, wait until you get in an accident.....as the farang, you'll automatically be at fault no matter the circumstances."

I suppose that's the assumption isn't it? But anyone who has driven for the long term in Bangkok will know that this is simply not the case. I've been driving in Bangkok for 15 years and I can sum up my accident history as follows:

1) Girl in a manual pickup stalled and rolled back down a parking ramp. Smashed into the front of me. It was her fault and she accepted that it was. Both insurance companies came and took all of the details and her insurance company paid the lot.

2) Guy in a brand new red-plated Benz didn't brake in time. He bumped the back of my Ford Focus. No real damage to my car, but his front license plate fell off. He was very apologetic and gave me 1,000 Baht for the "time wasted". I saw no need to involve the insurance companies, although he did say he'd wait if I wanted to.

3) I was trying to get out of a car park and the car in front had lost their ticket. I was in a hurry and decided to leave through the entrance. I put the car in reverse and crashed into the front of the Yaris behind me. Insurance came, everyone agreed that it was my fault. And they were right.

4) I was coming out of a junction and I didn't see a motorbike coming. I knocked the guy clean off his bike but stopped in time to cause any serious injury. I was ready to take the blame until an eyewitness in the crowd that gathered pointed out that the guy had actually been riding his motorbike the wrong way down the street. That made sense. That's why I didn't see him. My insurance came, but he didn't have any insurance. They made him go to an ATM and withdraw 2,000 Baht to pay my excess.

Honestly, there's very little "gang up on the farang" mentality in Bangkok. At least, in my experience and from what I've heard from others. I can't speak for places like Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai which perhaps have have more "evolved" foreigner cash extraction practices but I've driven the length and breadth of Bangkok over the last 15 years and I just don't see that sort of thing as being part of the driving culture here.

By Andrew, Bangkok (11 months ago)

More cars on the road are the problem, not the solution. Bangkok traffic is absurd exactly because people think having a car is the way to go. And BTW, wait until you get in an accident.....as the farang, you'll automatically be at fault no matter the circumstances.

By Ben, Bangkok (11 months ago)

"My understanding is that you must have a work permit to get the vehicle in your name with a valid visa, but I'm sure there are exceptions for retirement and other visas"

There are not "exceptions", there simply is no rule as to what visa or extension is needed to register a vehicle in your own name.

By lloyd, Sakon (11 months ago)

I travel Thailand with my 2 four legged children. So public transport is out for me many years ago.

I have personally found many cars for under 50,000 baht that I spend about another 50,000 repairing all those important things like engine and brakes. Travelled from Chiang Mai to Hua hin in a Hyundai I bought for 30,000. Repairs came to 40,000. I had Air con, power steering and it would sit on 100kph quite easily.

I now have a 30 year old Thai rung pick up at the front welded to a Toyota Liteace van on the back. Making my own camper. Bought it for 50,000 baht. Spent about 15,000 baht on it. My and the dogs sleep in the back whenever we stop. I suspect my dogs have seen over 60 percent of Thailand.

Buying and selling cars is not hard in Thailand. I have bought 4 and sold 3. The registration can be difficult but do what you are told by the lady at the office and you will have no problem. My current car i used a local Thai business and it was all done for me for about an extra 1000 baht.

The car is such a nice way to see the country. We are going to Cambodia for the October holidays.

have fun

By Paul, Chantaburi (11 months ago)

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