Owning a car in Thailand is not difficult, although coping with the way many Thai drivers operate their cars can be hazardous. In Thailand both new and used cars are available. You can also import a car, but the import duties are heavy and you could run into problems with parts and maintenance if it is a brand not readily found in Thailand.
Foreigners cannot obtain financing for a car in Thailand. Your options are to pay cash, use a credit card if you have enough credit available, or buy through a Thai citizen.
The car can be purchased in a foreigner’s name. If you opt for financing through a Thai friend, you must be absolutely certain he is someone you can trust. If the person is not trustworthy, he could let you make all the payments and then make the final payment himself and take the car. The car is in his name and there would be no recourse for you. However if he is trustworthy, after making the final payment the ownership of the car can be converted to your own name.
Thailand is a right-hand drive country. If you are from a country that is a left-hand drive country, you will have to accustom yourself to right-hand driving. For some it is a difficult adjustment, especially if you are driving a stick shift. For others it is easy.
While buying a used car is available, it is probably best for most foreigners to buy a new car through a reputable dealership. In most cases the only cars on the lot will be display vehicles. You will most likely have to order the car and wait for delivery, which can take as long as two to three weeks, depending on your location.
If you wish to purchase options, in most cases you must pay up front for them.
Service is readily available throughout Thailand. If you buy a common brand, such as Honda, Mitsubishi, or Toyota, most cities have at least one dealership. Independent service shops are everywhere, even in some of the smallest towns. Maintenance is relatively inexpensive in Thailand. Parts and labor are also relatively inexpensive.
Service stations in Thailand are full service. If, for example, you come from the USA, then you are probably used to self service. In Thailand, however, the service stations do everything from pumping the fuel, to checking your tires, to washing your windows.
All fuel in Thailand is price regulated. All service stations sell fuel at the same price throughout the country. Car washes normally cost between 120 to 140 baht.
Car insurance is relatively inexpensive in Thailand. There are three classes of insurance. First class covers collision and personal injury protection. There is no deductible. Second class covers collision and personal injury, but will be covered only if an accident is determined not to be your fault. If the police hold you at fault, then there can be a large deductible or refusal to pay, in which case you would be responsible for damage to other involved vehicles and any injuries. Third class covers personal injury protection, but does not cover collision.
It is recommended that foreigners carry the first class insurance. In most cases, provided there have been no claims during the year, depending on the make and model of your car you can expect first class insurance to cost between 18,000 baht to 25,000 baht annually. You must pay the full premium annually.
Most insurance policies do cover other drivers of your vehicle if, and only if, the other driver holds a valid Thai driver’s license and is sober. If he is under the influence when an accident occurs, many insurance companies can refuse to pay.
You will be covered if you are sober and either hold a valid Thai driver’s license or have both a valid driving license from your home country and an International Driving Permit. You must have both. Despite the fact that an International Driving Permit has a one year validity period, Thailand honors it only 90 days from the date of your entry into the country. Thai law requires you to have the license and your valid passport with you at all times when driving a car.
Talking on a mobile phone while driving is prohibited in Thailand. If you are caught talking on a mobile phone, the fine is 2000 baht.
You are required to display a valid insurance sticker and a valid road tax sticker on the left side of the car’s windshield. The annual road tax depends on the make and model of your car. The tax is usually about 2500 baht. You can normally pay the road tax through your insurance company. If you prefer, many bank branches can handle it for you.
One consideration is dealing with the police. Quite often the police set up road blocks and flag down drivers if you have made a violation or if they wish to inspect your documentation. Thailand does not have probable cause rights, so the police are at liberty to stop you even without cause. For minor violations the fines are usually 200 baht to 500 baht. Quite often the police officer will allow you to pay him immediately, without having to find and go to a police station. If the police officer decides to send you to the police station, in most cases the police officer will confiscate your driving license and return it only when you bring a receipt proving that you paid the fine. If the police officer confiscates your license, make sure to ask where he can be found after you pay the fine. If you are driving in an unfamiliar locale and are sent to the police station, if the police officer does not accompany you, then in order to find the police station it may be necessary to hire a taxi lead you to the police station.
If there has been an accident that resulted in injury or death, even if you are clearly not at fault you still may be arrested and released on bail while a final determination of fault is taking place.
The vast majority of Thai drivers were licensed without any kind of driver education at all other than a 2 hour film they must watch at the time they apply for a first driving license. That can make driving quite hazardous and it is imperative that you drive cautiously at all times, making sure to be very observant. The sheer numbers of motorcycles on the roads can make driving all the more hazardous.
While becoming accustomed to driving in Thailand can often be unnerving, being able to drive a car makes shopping much easier, getting to and from wherever you wish to go in the rain much easier, and opens all of Thailand for exploring. You might also wish to get a GPS. You can find a good GPS easily in Thailand, loaded with highly detailed Thai maps, but all in the English language. Having a GPS makes finding your destination quite easy and it can be very reassuring. Driving from city to city with use of a road map is fairly simple, but once you arrive in an unfamiliar city having a GPS can be extremely helpful.
cc ThailandVisa.com 2009-2014