Once you’ve decided to get out on the roads here in Hong Kong, the next step is the daunting task of purchasing a car. Owning a car in Hong Kong, while certainly not a necessity, is a reasonably affordable luxury.
Due to cheap vehicle transfer fees ($1000), people here change their cars every couple of years. For that reason, second-hand cars are quite affordable.
First, have a read here about what’s involved in getting on the road here in Hong Kong. After that, let us delve into what are the tips and traps when purchasing a car.
7 considerations about Used Car Ownership in Hong Kong
There are a few key considerations when owning a car in Hong Kong.
If renting, expect to pay between $1500 to $4000 per month for a park. Whilst it’s obvious you’ll need a carpark before purchasing your first car in Hong Kong, there are also considerations if changing cars here. Firstly, you want to establish that size and accessibility is adequate.
• Can you open the doors/boot without hitting anything?
• Will the turning circle of your new car be tight enough to manoeuvre around the carpark and into your spot
• Do you have or can access power if buying an Electric Vehicle
2 Vehicle Size
How many seats do you need? If choosing a 7 seater, be aware that you will restrict yourself from access to many public carparks around Hong Kong if going for something like an Audi Q7. It’s worth having a look at the Public Carparks you expect to be used regularly before you buy to see just how challenging they are.
3 Vehicle Age
You will notice a drop in the price of used cars in Hong Kong once they reach about 5 years old. Reason for this is that all cars over 6 years old are required to pass annual roadworthy inspections ($585 + mechanic fee) to renew their registration. This time also coincides with most new car warranties expiring.
4 Service Records
Unique to Hong Kong, it is rare for owners to keep, or at least offer, their service records for a car when selling. This always makes me suspicious, as it’s quite common for people to sell their car every couple of years rather than servicing them.
As with most countries, you’ll get a significant discount if you have a No Claims Bonus (years accrued without making any insurance claims). The maximum is 6 years meaning 60% and the good news is that it is transferable between insurance companies within Hong Kong, but more importantly, from an overseas insurer within 12 months of arriving. There are some good Insurance Brokers here, one that I’ve commonly used is Kwiksure, they are easy to deal with. Have also been very happy with MSIG as they offer Free 24-hour Towing along with a host of other services.
6 Negotiate, Negotiate, NEGOTIATE!
Never pay the asking price here, start at about 30% less and go from there, depending on whether it’s Dealer or Private.
7 Research the Market
Before making an offer on a car, do some research to establish the market value of a car. There are some variables which I’ll detail below.
Where to buy Used Cars
Buying used cars can be daunting. Can I trust used car dealers here? Is it risky buying directly? All valid questions, which I’ll guide you through.
These are the options for where to search for cars –
• Used Car Auto Malls
• Dealership Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles
• Online Used Car Brokers
• Private sales
Used Car Auto-Malls
While a good starting point, this is by far my least preferred option for two reasons. Firstly, as you would expect, the prices here have a premium attached to the market rates. Secondly, and most importantly, you are not able to test drive the cars unless you sign a contract of purchase!?! (around 10% – 20% downpayment). There are then, however, only a couple of ways to get out of being locked into the deal if you don’t like the car. Those being, any serious engine or transmission issue. So, should you just not like how the car drives, or perhaps the blind spots are bigger than you’d like, you are locked into the deal. Many Dealers do offer a limited warranty with the cars, but these also are only for total drivetrain failures which are pretty unlikely.
What I recommend when starting, is go have a wander around these Malls and browse the wide range of cars to narrow down what type or model you’ll target. Then keep reading and follow the advice below.
Start with these Auto-Malls First
Located in the same area on Hong Kong Island, Vincent Motors and Vins Motors are separate companies which are more relaxed than the Auto-Malls. They have a decent range of lower-priced cars, which you can test drive without locking into a contract. Of course, they are still dealers though, so I would highly recommend insisting on an independent mechanical inspection of the vehicle before committing to purchase. Also, I would insist on a comprehensive warranty on the car for at least 3 months.
Dealership Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles
When purchasing a Used Car, for the best peace-of-mind, check out the Dealership Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles. Expect to pay around the same price as you would in the Auto-Malls, but with significantly better maintenance standards and trade-in options. You are also able to test-drive cars first. The Dealers you can consider are as follows –
• Mercedes-Benz (Zung Fu Company) – All cars are less than 5 years old / 100,000km / 3 previous owners. The cars have been serviced and passed a 150-point quality inspection. Mercedes then offer 24-hour Roadside Assistance for 12 months along with a limited Warranty.
• Volkswagon – Offers a 100-point mechanic inspection, guaranteed mileage and no serious accident history. Comes with a 36-month Power-train Warranty and accepts trade-ins.
• BMW – Inspect their cars before sale, but don’t offer the same guarantees as the other manufacturers.
• Volvo – Cars receive a comprehensive safety inspection and software upgrade. Volvo offers a Warranty plus Roadside Assistance with their pre-owned cars.
• Honda – All cars have passed a 110-point inspection, come with a 6-month warranty, and have full Honda service records.
Online Used Car Brokers
Relatively new to the market, online brokers now offer a hassle-free way of viewing used cars. Beyond Cars is one such option, which will deliver the car to your door for a test drive for a $500 fee. Sounds pricey, but you would be sure to keep this in mind when negotiating the purchase price.
Used Car Private Sales
For the more adventurous amongst us, there are plenty of great deals to be found via private sales. There are also plenty of lemons! Having bought and sold a few cars here privately, let me point you in the right direction.
Where to search for Private Sales
Gone are the days of checking the Classifieds section of the local Newspaper for cars for sale. Aside from a few Notice boards in building Lobby’s etc, you’ll need to get online to find some Used Car Classifieds.
The main websites where you’ll find Used Cars for Sale in Hong Kong are –
• HkCartrader – Great site gaining traction in Hong Kong
• Asiaxpat – Can find some great deals when people leave Hong Kong in a hurry
• Carousell – Quite popular here, however, has a very local following
• 28car – The biggest database of Used Cars in Hong Kong. However, it’s only in Chinese. Follow the instructions below to search the model of the car you’re interested in. You’ll then be able to see some images, contact info and if need be, translate the description
Inspecting a Used Car - What to look for?
Whether you know which way to hold a spanner, or are new to car ownership, here are some tips to convince the best of sellers that you know what you’re talking about. Take this as a checklist for purchasing a used car in Hong Kong.
• Mileage – On average, cars in Hong Kong travel about 4000 – 8000km per year. Do the maths on how old the car is. If the mileage doesn’t make sense, then investigate further. It is not uncommon for the mileage to be wound back on cars here. Best way to tell is to either, view the service records as they record the date and mileage each time. Failing that, the wear on the interior is often a sign of mileage. As are scratches around the door handle, especially near the mirror adjustor area.
• How many Owners – Listed on the Vehicle Registration Document is the number of owners the vehicle has had. Bear in mind that the first owner is number 0 (so a 1 owner car has had 2). I don’t have an issue with high owner cars, provided there are service records kept ensuring the car has been serviced regularly. However, it can affect resale to have a high number of owners on the record.
• Service Records – I place a high value on service history. Most of all, Dealership serviced cars are ideal, as generally no corners are cut on maintenance. What you’re looking for in these records are the dates/mileage at each service to reconcile that the vehicle has had the fluids replaced at regular intervals. Plus, as above its a gross error check for the mileage.
• Registration expiry – Vehicle registration fees are paid either yearly or 4-monthly. The fee depends on the engine size, with larger engines costing more to register. Expect the fees to range from $3929 to $11,329 annually, find out more here. For cars over 6 years old, also ask when the Government Inspection is due, as this is annual so may no line up with the registration expiry.
• Indoor vs Outdoor Parking – This is a consideration depending on the age of the vehicle. The heat and humidity are brutal on cars here, especially the rubber and plastics in the engine. Preference goes to cars that have been parked indoors throughout their life.
• Major Engine Service – Do some research on the particular model of car for when the major services are due. Most commonly they are at around 60,000km and often involve timing belt/chain replacement which can be quite expensive.
• Any Accident History – Always need to ask the question. Telltale signs to look for of previous accidents are slightly different coloured panels. Look closely at the gaps between panels also, as they should be perfectly even all the way along.
• ISOFIX – For those planning on installing child-seats, the safest method of attachment is via ISOFIX. These are solid brackets attached to car’s body at the base of the rear seats. It’s worth ensuring the car has them, and also will the number of seats you plan on installing fit? You’d be surprised how few cars you can fit 3 child-seats across all using ISOFIX.
• Tyres / Brakes / Battery – These are consumables, but should be factored into your price. Run your fingers through the tyre tread, there are small lumps in the grooves which are the wear markers. Once down to these marks they need replacing. You will find stamped on the sidewall of tyres are the date of manufacture, albeit in an odd format. Written as 4 numbers with the first two being the week number (01-52) and the second the year. Tyres shouldn’t be over 5 years old. 6
Get out there and explore Hong Kong!
Now you are armed with all the knowledge to navigate buying used cars in Hong Kong, get out there and put it into action!
For some great tips for all you need to know about driving in Hong Kong, check out our Driving in Hong Kong – The How, What and Where