Q: How do I buy a new motorcycle in Thailand?

If you're visiting Thailand as a tourist, there are many different ways you can get yourself on a motorcycle to ride the fantastic roads around the Golden Triangle. You can rent one or buy a used one. The problem with rentals is that you can't ride it outside of Thailand.

If you are buying a used motorcycle, you typically need the owner to come with you to the Land Transport Office to transfer the ownership to you, which takes time and co-ordination.

This article covers a third option: buying a new motorcycle from a dealership. Almost all the paperwork is handled by the dealer and you get a brand new bike with a warranty! And this is entirely possible even with a Tourist Visa (or Tourist Visa Exemption).

STEP 1: Make sure your Tourist Visa is valid

It can take quite a bit of time going through the process of acquiring the bike (the dealership might not have stock and may need to ship it from another part of the country). Also, it takes time to register the bike, get the ownership papers and new license plate. The entire procedure can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to complete, however you can start riding your motorcycle immediately without the ownership and license plate (just keep your sales slip to show to the police) as long as you stay in Thailand.

The ownership and plates are absolutely necessary if you want to take the bike out of the country - which is probably the main reason why you are buying and not renting.

Typically a Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa lasts for 60 days. If you are running out of time on the 60 day visa, you can extend it for an additional 30 days while you're in the country. To extend the visa, fill out the TM7 Application for Extension of Temporary Stay in the Kingdom form and bring it to any Thai Immigration Office. The cost is 1900 baht and the extension can be processed on the same day.

Due to the amount of time it takes to receive your motorcycle ownership and plates, I suggest starting the purchasing process as soon as you enter Thailand, just to give yourself plenty of time so you can leave the country on the motorcycle with all the proper vehicle documents when your tourist visa expires.

STEP 2: Apply for a Residence Certificate

The dealership will need a few things before they will sell you a motorcycle. One of them is a Residence Certificate to show where you are staying while you are in Thailand. You can obtain one at a Thai Immigration Office. It's supposed to be free, but some branches have contracted out a private company to help process some forms. This company is called G4 and will charge you 500 baht to process your application.

Things you will need to get your Residence Certificate:

  • Photocopy of your passport with a non-expired Tourist Visa or Visa Exemption stamp
  • Two 4x6 cm colour passport photos
  • Copy of your rental contract or lease agreement. Make sure it has the owner's name and Thai ID# on it, the full address of the place you are renting/leasing and the dates that you are living at that address.
  • Filled out TM20 Residence Certificate application
  • 500 baht (if the Immigration Office makes you go through G4)

The Residence Certificate will take anywhere from 1-3 business days to process, so you'll have to return to the Immigration Office on another day to pick it up. This is what it looks like:

VERY IMPORTANT: The Residence Certificate is only valid for 30 days! Make sure you buy the motorcycle within 30 days or you will have to get another Residence Certificate. It doesn't matter if your lease agreement is for 3 months or 5 years or whatever. The Residence Certificate is still only valid for 30 days.

STEP 3: Buy your motorcycle!

Once you've picked out the motorcycle you want to buy, the dealership needs a few things to complete the purchase. They will need:

  • The money to buy the motorcycle (of course)
  • Photocopy of your passport photo page, photocopy of the page(s) with a non-expired Thai Visa or Visa Exemption Stamp
  • The TM6 Departure Card you filled out when you entered the country. It looks like this:
  • The Residence Certificate from Step 2 above. Make sure it is valid and hasn't expired.
  • A photocopy of your International Drivers Permit. It looks like this:

You can take possession of the motorcycle immediately if it's already PDIed, as well as drive it all over Thailand. It takes time to get your ownership papers and plates, so keep a copy of the sales receipt to show the police if they stop you. Typically, the dealership will include the first year of insurance in the purchase price of a new motorcycle. Depending on the company the dealership chooses, the policy looks something like this:

Keep this and the sales slip with you at all times while you are waiting for the official ownership and plates.

A few days later, the dealership will process your insurance and give you a paper that you are supposed to stick somewhere visible on your bike so the police can easily see and check the date. It looks like this:

The dealership we went to told us that it would take 6 weeks to get our proper ownership documents. They also said they could expedite it in one week if we paid 200 baht, which we did. From checking around, this queue-jumping is legitimate and not a scam. The ownership is called a Green Book, because it literally is a book that's green and it looks like this:

This is a very important document and proves that you own the motorcycle. Don't lose it and don't keep it on the bike. The inside of the Green Book has many empty pages that will get filled out as the motorcycle is sold to different owners throughout its lifetime. You will need this Green Book if you plan to sell the motorcycle legally. The first page inside documents your ownership:

The new motorcycle purchase price also includes a set of plates. Unfortunately, you are at the mercy of how quickly the Department of Land Transport (government) takes to issue you the plates. It took us almost a month for us to receive our plates. Again, you don't need them to ride around Thailand (just keep a copy of your sales receipt when your ride), but you'll need the plates if you want to exit the country on your motorcycle.

STEP 4: Get a Certified Translation Document of your Green Book

If you plan on leaving Thailand with the motorcycle, you will need a translation of the Green Book from Thai to English. This is because the border officials in the neighbouring countries don't read Thai and the Green Book will be meaningless to them. The Certified Translation Document will basically become your ownership papers outside of Thailand.

To get the Certified Translation Document, you will need to visit a Department of Land Transport Office. The list of offices across Thailand can be found here: http://driving.information.in.th/thai-dmv.html

You will need to bring with you:

  • Photocopy of your passport photo page and the non-expired Visa Page
  • Photocopy of the TM6 Departure Card (see picture in Step 3)
  • Green Book
  • International Drivers Permit (I can't remember it they asked for it, but bring it anyway)
  • 25 baht

The Department of Land Transport website states that it should take 40 minutes to process. But in our case, the office told us to come back the next day. :( The Certified Translation Document looks like this:

And there you go. You're now set to ride around South-East Asia with your brand new Thai-registered motorcycle! Enjoy!

P.S. Make sure you always ride with your International Driver's Permit, Green Book and insurance slip. And don't forget to renew your insurance a year from now.

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