The Costs Involved In Getting A Car In Chiang Mai

The Costs Involved In Getting A Car In Chiang Mai

Thailand is a land of motorbikes. A recent study suggests 87% of the population use a motorized two-wheeler to get around.

That there are half as many cars as motorbikes doesn’t mean that car-driving is for the minority, however. Many households have both.

On the hot dry-season days, when air-con is a life-saver, or the two-hour downpours in wet season when no one wants to be on a motorbike, they drive their car – or almost as commonly – their pickup truck.

Driving a car in Chiang Mai requires a little patience but then, you’re in Thailand…what’s the rush anyway?

Car Rental Costs

The Costs Involved In Getting A Car In Chiang Mai
Car Rental Costs

Renting a car is almost as simple as renting a motorbike. There are fewer rental shops than for motorbikes, but it is common to rent a car for the day, week, or even month.

It is also very affordable. Even with the major international car rental companies you’ll be able to rent a compact car for 500 baht a day. These prices are likely to inflate during high season – November to February – but for a convenient way to get around and stay out of the sun/rain, or go a little further than is comfortable on a motorbike, then car rental can prove excellent value.

Most rental agents will have car size options all the way up to MPV and pick-up truck, for which you’ll likely be paying upwards of 1500 baht a day.

If you are looking to rent for longer-term, then you’ll see some significant savings of up to 60% on your daily rate. A Mazda 3 costing 1200 baht a day might well come down to 500 baht a day on a month-long contract with a little negotiating, especially out of season.

Expect to pay a deposit when renting your vehicle and be sure to check it over before you pay up. Most companies will offer an extended insurance package if you want more than the third-party cover you are likely to get as standard.

Buying A Car

The Costs Involved In Getting A Car In Chiang Mai
Buying A Car

The process of buying a car in Chiang Mai isn’t overly different from many countries. There is a little research to do, some basic checks to make, and – this being Thailand – plenty of paperwork involved.

Your budget is likely to decide whether you purchase a used or new vehicle. The used car market is strong in Thailand so, while you might well find a bargain or two, the likelihood is you won’t find a high-quality used car significantly cheaper than you might in most western countries.

Private sales on online platforms like Motors.co.th or Facebook marketplace will give you an idea of prices if a warranty isn’t important. You’ll almost certainly find perfectly drivable twenty-year-old run-arounds for less than 50,000 baht. Equally, for 4.5M baht there’ll be a Porsche with your name on it.

There are plenty of car “tents” in Chiang Mai – where dealers sell a variety of used car brands. Beware that 7% VAT is added to the sales price when purchasing from a dealer.

New car dealers rarely venture far from the list price, but upgrade some of the optional features and you’ll put yourself in a good position to bargain.

There is a fast-increasing market for electric vehicles in Thailand, and Chiang Mai has dealers for all of the major Asian brands. BYD, Neta and Deepal all have showrooms in the city, and the traditional car brands are adding electric vehicles to their ranges. For 1 million baht you’ll get a very well-spec’d, brand-new electric car.

The paperwork involved will usually be handled by the dealer when buying a new car, but if you choose to transfer a vehicle to your ownership from an existing owner there are a few hoops to jump through.

The transfer fee is just 105 baht though, plus 0.005% of the vehicle value. If you buy a vehicle in a different province from the one you will be registered in, you’ll need a new set of plates, costing between 200 to 300 baht. 

Additional Costs

The Costs Involved In Getting A Car In Chiang Mai
Additional Costs

The price of fuel at a gas station is lower than most developed countries. It is government controlled and – for western foreigners at least – is usually considered good value. For locals it is comparatively pricey, hence government intervention, but that accounts in part for the popularity of motorbikes, which run on far less fuel than a car.

Expect Gasohol 95 – the standard fuel for most non-diesel vehicles – to range from 33-43 baht per liter. The price can change quite quickly, but rarely outside of these parameters.

Paying tax for your vehicle, if you buy one, is mandatory. Depending on the model of vehicle it will cost between 800 baht and 10,000 baht. This needs to be paid annually at the Department for Land Transport.

Car insurance is compulsory on a vehicle you own in Thailand. There is mandatory annual third-party insurance to be paid when you tax the vehicle, which is around 650 baht for the year for most normal-sized cars. This won’t cover damage to the vehicle but will cover for various legal and injury costs up to an amount that is dependent on your cover.

The Costs Involved In Getting A Car In Chiang Mai
Car Act

If you want the vehicle covered then you’ll need to take out private insurance, which will also include extended cover for injury. Car insurance works much like it does in developed countries so different companies will offer different quotes and there are many factors that will contribute to the cost.

Aside from the legal costs of owning a car, maintenance costs need to be considered. Largely speaking maintenance costs are lower than in developed countries as the cost of labor is lower. That said, the roads aren’t in the best condition and accidents – however minor – are common.

Budget spending at least 10,000 baht a year on basic maintenance for a used vehicle.

The decision of whether you need a car is largely down to your circumstances. Where you live in proximity to where you frequently go, if you have a family, whether you can or want to ride a motorbike, etc., but also the length of time you plan to stay in Chiang Mai.

Most expats with families find they use a car enough to warrant purchasing one, but for those only here for a few months buying one isn’t always the most cost-effective choice. Often the hassle of maintenance, the paperwork required, time to find, buy and then sell a vehicle makes renting a better choice for them.

More day-to-day living expenses in Chiang Mai can be found in these articles:

What Do Leisure Activities Cost In Chiang Mai

What Home Services Cost In Chiang Mai

What Staying Fit And Active Costs In Chiang Mai

More about the cost of Living in Chiang Mai!

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