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Should You Buy a Motorbike or a Car if you Live in Bangkok, Thailand?

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When they move to Bangkok, Thailand, many expats think about buying a motorbike or a car. Relying on public transportation can be annoying, particularly because with your own car or motorbike you can go anywhere you want when you want, and with a taxi or a bus you can’t.

With motorbikes versus cars in Bangkok though, there are pros and cons for each. If you’re undecided about buying a motorbike or a car in Bangkok, consider the pros and cons of each before you decide – you’ll be sorry you didn’t if you don’t.

Buying a Motorbike in Bangkok – Pros

1. A motorbike is much cheaper to buy than a car in Bangkok. You can buy a decent used motorbike starting around 35,000 baht (just over $1,000) and a new one for a few thousand dollars, depending on manufacturer.

2. Motorbikes don’t have much problem with Bangkok’s horrendous traffic as you can just weave your way through the traffic and the cars going nowhere. An average trip in a car during Bangkok’s traffic jams (every day!) can be an hour, whereas the same trip on a motorbike will take you less than 15 minutes. You can also take short cuts on motorbikes you may not be able to take in a car.

3. Running a motorbike is very cheap. With gas costing just a few hundred baht a week, you can run it all week for under $20, if you’re not driving too far.

4. You can just about park a motorbike anywhere, so don’t have to worry about driving round and round Bangkok’s crowded parking lots trying to find a parking space.

5. Motorbike insurance in Bangkok is very cheap compared to car insurance.

Buying a Motorbike in Bangkok – Cons

1. Of course, the biggest con would have to be the danger of riding a motorbike in Bangkok. Thousands of people are hurt every year in motor bike accidents and a few hundred are killed. But, if you’re careful of what you’re doing, it’s less likely to happen to you than the hundreds of drunk Thai teenagers and young men it does happen to.

2. During rainy season, it rains every day – literally – for almost six months. That means, if you’re riding a motorbike, at some time during the day you’re going to get wet. And ‘wet’ in Bangkok does not mean from a bit of drizzle like back in the west. ‘Wet’ means torrential rain like you’ve never seen before.

3. During rainy season, the roads get very slick and dangerous as well as flood often. Riding a motorbike during rain can not only be uncomfortable but can actually seriously injure you or kill you.

4. Bangkok police are notorious for stopping motorcyclists and usually on the smallest pretense. For most westerners, every time they get stopped it’s at least a 500 baht fine (around $15), which simply goes in the back pocket of the policeman. Can get expensive if you get stopped often.

5. You’re also breathing in Bangkok’s amazingly terrible pollution while on a motorbike, which isn’t the case when you’re in a car.

Related Reading: How to get a drivers’ license in Thailand

Buying a Car in Bangkok – Pros

1. Cars are much safer vehicles to drive in Bangkok. You’re much less likely to get into a traffic accident with them as, half the time, in a car the traffic’s not going fast enough to hurt anyone.

2. You’re not breathing in the pollution while on the roads in Bangkok, like you are if you’re riding a motorbike.

3. Pretty much all of Bangkok’s gas stations are full service for no extra price, so you don’t have to pump your own gas like you do if you’re riding a bike.

4. Bangkok police stop drivers in cars much less than they stop those on motorbikes, so you’ve less chance of getting a fine.

5. During rainy season, sitting in a car is much more pleasant and a lot drier than riding a motorbike.

6. Easier for shopping – you can carry a lot more shopping in a car than on a motorbike.

Buying a Car in Bangkok – Cons

1. Cars are expensive in Bangkok, especially if you buy a new one. And don’t even think about buying a luxury car that was manufactured outside Thailand. With import tax of over 200%, a $50,000 Mercedes can cost you over $100,000 in Bangkok.

2. Bangkok traffic. Really. ‘Nuff said. If you have a car in Bangkok, you are going to spend half your life sitting in it in horrendous traffic jams. Going a couple of miles to work can literally take one to two hours. Walking would be faster, and a motorbike definitely would.

3. In Bangkok, there are cars everywhere and parking can be a nightmare. While parking a motorbike in Bangkok is a doddle, parking a car can be an hour of a job, especially at the local mall on a weekend.

4. Insurance for a car in Bangkok is much more expensive than for a motorbike.

5. Traffic. Again. Seriously, I cannot stress it enough. You have never seen traffic jams until you have been to Bangkok. They stretch for miles and getting through a red light that you can see from the comfort of the driver’s seat of your car can take over half an hour. Motorbikes don’t have this problem. Cars do.

Overall, as much as I know motorbikes can be more dangerous in Bangkok and definitely wetter during rainy season, you couldn’t pay me to drive a car as the hours of my life wasted while sitting in enormous Bangkok traffic jams would just make me want to kill someone.

For me, buying a motorbike versus a car in Bangkok, there is no comparison – the bike would win every time. But, of course, you may think differently.

Related Reading: The mafia and motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok, Thailand