If you plan to remain in Vietnam for a year or more, you might be tempted to purchase, rather than rent a motorbike. The motorbikes most commonly seen on Vietnam’s streets generally cost from $1,000-$3,000 new. Premium brands such as Piaggio fall at the higher end of that spectrum as do the larger, more powerful machines capable of doing double duty as touring bikes.
Over the course of a two-year teaching contract, you might well save a little money by buying versus renting. That is especially true if can resell your motorbike for a decent price when you leave Vietnam. Under what circumstances, then, should you consider renting a motorbike?
Frankly speaking, $1,000-$3,000 is a large expenditure for a frightened new expat unsure of how well she or he might like Vietnam. Renting does not require the same financial commitment.
Some might consider shopping for a used motorbike instead. Keep in mind that there is no way to evaluate the seller. Expats often try to sell their bikes after they’ve had an accident or after struggling with nagging maintenance issues. Locals frequently post motorbikes for sale at a price greater than their real value. Buyer beware.
If you buy a motorbike in Vietnam, you will have little recourse if the motorbike falls short of your needs and expectations. If you end up with a lemon, you will be stuck with it. The same is true if you discover the bike has less power than you require or is missing features that you wish you had.
When you rent a motorbike, you have recourse. If there is a problem with the bike, you can have it repaired or changed out. You can upgrade or downgrade models as you wish. Any decent, serious motorbike rental shop will accommodate your wishes and requests. And if they don’t, you can simply terminate your contract and take your business to a new shop.
Why rush into a purchase? With most motorbike rental shops charging around $45 per month for an entry-level motorbike, take a few months to get used to driving in Vietnam. Go for weekend trip out to the countryside to see if touring is something you’ll want to be able to do. Carry a passenger or two. The best way to evaluate the features you will need from a motorbike is to live with one for a month or two.