Renting vs buying a motorbike is a choice most expats have to make. 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.
Benefits of Buying
Over the course of a two-year teaching contract, you might well save a little money by renting vs buying. This is especially true if you can resell your motorbike for a decent price when you’re leaving 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 prices far 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.
Do You Really Save Money?
Well, yes and no.
If you buy a piece of trash, cheap old bike that has been thrashed, then probably, no. This kind of bike will most likely need repairs very soon. This could end up costing you the value of the bike and more. Especially, if it is a NUOVO. Then, you have the potential loss of earnings when you break down on the way to work. Let’s not mention the hassle and stress! When it comes to selling the bike, you will either lose money on it or be forced to sell it to an unsuspecting fool. Tough choice.
If you buy a decent bike that is fairly new, let’s say 3 to 4 years old, then it is likely to be reliable. Of course, you need to be cautious when buying ‘Caveat Emptor’, but you have a better chance of finding something decent. You will then most likely have trouble-free motoring, that is, as long as you keep the bike serviced and this isn’t hard to do. And, when you come to sell you will see that the price depreciation of bikes here in Vietnam is surprisingly little. This is particularly true of Hondas, which really hold their value.
Benefits of Renting
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. Switch between bikes to get a feel for what suits you. The best way to evaluate the features you will need from a motorbike is to live with one for a month or two.
Is It Really Less Hassle?
Again, yes, and no. Like anything, you get what you pay for.
If you rent from a low-quality firm that tries to be competitive by offering the cheapest rental possible, then it is likely you will have problems. The bikes in these places are often very low quality, badly serviced and maintained, and the customer care level is very low. We often have people switching to us after having ‘3 different bikes break down’ or being ‘fed up with driving a death trap’.
If you rent from a decent reliable firm that offers good customer service (see RentABike’s reviews), you really will have less hassle. The bike that you rent will be in good condition. There will be no paperwork issues. It will be serviced regularly. You will have the backup support if you have a mechanical issue, problems with the police, theft, an accident, need directions, etc. Overall, it makes it a very easy option.