The complete guide to buying a motorcycle or scooter in Thailand
Scooters and motorcycles may be a good alternative to cars, because of their portability, easy handling, fuel economy and small price. For some people, particularly city dwellers, the two-wheeled transport may serve as the only vehicle that can meet all their requirements in terms of moving in stone jungles. Scooters and motorcycles are family vehicles available for everyone in Thailand. Teenagers and students ride bikes (the legal driving age in Thailand for motorbike drivers is 15 years), unskilled workers and office workers, or even 95 years old grannies ride them!
There are certain shortcomings…
Motorcycles, as transport vehicles, do not suit everybody. First, you have to consider that the space for cargo and passengers is limited, and the driver is much more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, extreme temperatures, and broken roads. The other equally important point is the increased risk of being damaged as a result of other road users’ mistakes.
Disturbing statistics point out that on average the number of deaths for motorcycle riders is about 30 times the number of deaths for car drivers. It should be noted though, that the cause of death in 43% of cases, is that a motorcycle hits a car. But at the same time, the most common causes of accidents are still driving at excessive speeds and alcohol use. Therefore, by excluding these factors from your own practice, you significantly reduce the risk of serious crashes on the road.
But there are more advantages
A motorcycle journey is a full range of colorful impressions, an opportunity to notice all of the sounds around you and the smells of your environment. Also, a motorcycle can get where a car cannot. In Thailand, many two-wheeled vehicles have a fuel consumption rate of 2-2.5 liters per 100 km.
Short masterclass for beginners
First of all, this guidance targets those riders who have decided to commit themselves to ride a motorcycle or scooter for the first time in life or those who haven’t ridden a two-wheeled iron horse for a long time and decided to dive into the world of bikes again. We’re going to tell you about the major types of motor vehicles, basic traffic safety rules, proper motorcycle gear, cost of maintenance and other things every biker needs to learn.
Types of motor vehicles
The range of motorcycles and scooters is quite wide: from light and low-cost options to heavy and gas-guzzling 200-hp monsters, which vary in either style or performance. All models are designed for certain purposes based on an individual rider’s needs. For instance, some motorcycles are designed for off-road use, others are made for a long-distance tour, and yet others are capable to combine several “talents”.
Generally, novice riders are recommended to get used to riding a light scooter first, because it is easy to control them, they are portable (you can even lift them with your hands) and they have an automatic transmission. Besides, a scooter may be more practical in life than the rest of the motor vehicles, because usually, it comes with a storage for belongings and even helmet.
Furthermore, there is a plenty of people in Thailand who own large and powerful custom motorcycles worth about $40,000-$60,000, who prefer going to the nearest shop or pharmacy with… a scooter. Because a scooter is small, comfortable and easy to park or move from a place to another in case of any parking difficulties.
How to make a choice
If you are certain that you want to purchase a two-wheeled vehicle, first you need to decide which type you want to buy. It is important to understand whether you buy it for daily use or for short tours on weekends. Also, you need to answer the next questions:
- Are you planning to ride on highways, secondary roads, in town or on a combination of the mentioned roads?
- Do you need a powerful bike with enough place for carrying a passenger?
- Is a storage necessary?
- Is fuel efficiency a top priority for you?
- What is your budget?
In most cases in Thailand, you will opt for a scooter.
- 95% of all roads in Thailand are perfectly suitable for riding a scooter.
- Scooters produced in Thailand reach a top speed of 80-100 km/h on the road, which is perfectly enough for any distance (but remember that there is a 50 km/h speed limit in towns and there are lower limits of 20-30 km/h in some localities).
- You can ride a scooter alone or carry a passenger.
- Every modern scooter has a storage under the seat, and a hook for grocery bags is a common feature on most scooters.
- Fuel consumption of an automatic scooter on average is about 2 liters per 100 kilometers on flat ground or higher on the hilly or mountainous terrain.
In Thailand, you can buy a good second-hand scooter just for $900-1000 without any investments in repairing. For $2000 you can find a motorcycle with a good ergonomics, manual transmission, and a 150cc engine size which is a great option for a long ride (for example, Yamaha M-Slaz or Honda CB150R).
A street bike of similar power will cost you only $1200-1500 (but remember that street bike is not used for a long trip or journey because the main pressure concentrates on the hands that become extremely exhausted in long trips, therefore generally such motorcycles suit only people with measurable upper-body strength who are accustomed to long-term static workload.
For only $300-500 in Thailand, you can buy a scooter with a questionable quality and invest $800-1000 in its repair during the next 1-2 years. A dubious pleasure for those who don’t know anything about scooter repair, but it is a good option for those who like to spend time in a garage. Unfortunately, we don’t sell such “dead” scooters in Cat Motors but we can advise you where to buy them.
A specific way of riding a motor vehicle
It is important to note that riding a motorcycle doesn’t suit everyone. Ideally, a driver should be a physically fit grown-up with a good coordination. It is equally important to have a good eyesight, fast response, and strong nerves because panic at the wheel of a bike may be fatal. It’s also a mistake to think that riding a street scooter is less dangerous than riding a motorcycle.
Scooter or motorcycle?
If you prefer the usual sitting position to a motorcycle orientation, don’t want to bother with a gear change, and fuel efficiency is important to you, it is better to join the scooter riders club right now. If you are not afraid of the quick motorcycle acceleration, using clutch control and transmission and feel comfortable in a motorcycle saddle, you should try to ride a bike with a manual transmission.
Neither a scooter, nor a motorcycle offers a big capacity for goods shipment, so we won’t consider them as key attributes.
People often pay too much attention to the image, but when choosing a motorcycle, its style should be a secondary parameter.
Never choose a bike that you cannot control the road.
The first rule of choosing motorcycle dimensions is being able to touch the ground solidly with both feet when you stop. Also, beginners are strictly advised against taking too powerful motorcycle models. For starters, professionals recommend choosing 100-125cc engines. However, heavier riders may consider more powerful options up to 700cc. Obviously, everything depends on the area you plan to ride in.
It is important to find a parking space, whether a garage or a public parking lot. If you leave your bike outside, it is highly recommended to put on a motorcycle cover. Last but not least, you should ensure the preservation of property, because it is quite easy to steal a motor vehicle from the parking place, especially a light one.
In addition, a rider should get used to the idea that the weather is always around. When you leave for an appointment, you may get there wet even if you wear protective gear.
It goes without saying that it is forbidden to get on the public road to learn to ride without a driving instructor. Today, it is very easy to find a rider course to try your hand in riding a scooter or a motorcycle before you buy one. Even if you are an experienced rider, upgrading the skills is never a bad thing. In such cases, one discovers lots of things. Don’t forget to invest in motorcycle safety gear such as a helmet, gloves, jacket, boots and etc.
A second-hand scooter in proper mechanical condition will cost you about $800, for a higher-class scooter you will pay up to $5000. You can buy a small fuel-efficient second-hand motorcycle from $1000, while a well-equipped and powerful motorcycle, from the financial point of view, can cost you the same as a full-size car.
Add to all this about $1000 for protective gear. Please remember that there is no trade-off for motorcyclist because you don’t scrimp on quality. Cost of insurance depends on your driving record, the engine capacity, the insured person’s age, the area of residence and other factors, that you may check with your insurance agent. If you don’t have a garage, you will have to rent a public parking lot or get a motorcycle cover for $20-150 and park in the open air.
Although fuel costs of a big bike are usually lower than that of a car, the cost of its maintenance often doesn’t differ from car service. It certainly depends on the frequency of use, conditions of operation, the driver’s technical skills and the possibility to take care of some procedures in a personal garage.
Safety issues have a different meaning in the car world and in the motorcycle environment. A car driver doesn’t have to worry much about certain mistakes, which may cost a motorcyclist their life. That’s the reason why training courses for beginners and refresher courses for experienced riders are so important.
If you don’t have any experience in riding a two-wheeled vehicle, don’t get too anxious to ride on public roads. First, take a training with professional instructors.