Driving in Hong Kong – The How, What and Where!

Driving roads hong kong
Driving in Hong Kong

Owning a car in Hong Kong, while certainly not a necessity, is a reasonably affordable luxury. More expensive than the US, UK, or Australia, but far cheaper than somewhere like Singapore. 

Due to reasonably cheap vehicle transfer fees ($1000), people here change their cars every couple of years. For that reason, second-hand cars are quite affordable. 

Before you go out and purchase a car, have a read of these tips for car ownership in Hong Kong first.

Converting your Foreign Driving Licence in Hong Kong

During the first year in Hong Kong, you are able to drive legally using your Foreign Licence. That is, provided it is from an approved country. In the event your Drivers Licence doesn’t fall into the approved country list, you are able to apply for a Temporary Driving Licence, which will be valid for 12 months from your date of entry into Hong Kong. The form you need for that is TD181.

Following that you’ll need to convert your Foreign Licence. There are a few conditions to satisfy, but nothing too troublesome. Firstly, your driving Licence must be valid (or not expired for more than 3 years. Following that, reference to the country that issued your licence, you must have either lived there for at least 6 months. Had the licence for at least 5 years, or have a passport issued from the same country. I expect these conditions are to prevent someone from trying to convert a dodgy drivers licence printed in Bangkok!

Simply then head to one of the Transport Department locations with form TD63a and all the paperwork it requires, pay the fee ($900) and you’re done. I would recommend making a booking, especially during lunch hour as it can get very busy.

Getting your Drivers Licence in Hong Kong

Firstly, the process of obtaining your first Drivers Licence from scratch (if you haven’t driven before).

It’s quite a process gaining a full Drivers Licence in Hong Kong, best to just work your way through the steps one-by-one.

The main requirements are that you’re over 18 years old, and are physically sound without any significant issues.

The flowchart above is fairly straight forward, however, be prepared for there to be plenty of paperwork for each step. Your best point of contact for all the forms and tests is the Transport Department, which has four locations in Hong Kong. The process is as follows;

• Apply for a Learners Permit using the TD555 form
• Apply for a Drivers Test using the TD82 form
• If required, book into a Driver Training School for Driving Lessons
• Take the Driving Test – Written (multi-choice) and Practical Road test
• Apply for a Probationary Drivers Licence (P Plates) using the TD590 form.
* Don’t get any traffic violations or it’ll add another 6 months to your Probationary time*
• Minimum 12 months later apply for your Full Drivers Licence using the TD557 form

Driving test hong kong

Driving Style in Hong Kong

Whilst not difficult to drive here in Hong Kong, it does take a while to adapt to the different driving style. Let me break it down for you –

• Merging – Possession is 9/10ths of the law here! Rather than leaving enough gap for cars to merge together nicely, people will drive bumper to bumper until the traffic comes to a stop, then let each other in. Whilst daunting at first, go with it and people will let you in eventually.

• Indicators – Rarely used. At first, I wondered whether they were an option when buying cars here, as the majority don’t seem to know they exist! Frustrating, but predictable once you come to expect it.

• Hazard Lights – It has become accepted that you can stop virtually anywhere, provided you turn on your Hazard Lights! People also use them to warn others behind that they are slowing down rapidly (quite effective and thoughtful)

• Double White Lines – While it’s acceptable to stop anywhere, not indicate and in many cases not wear seatbelts. Drivers however, will never cross double white lines on the road.

• Parking – The only places that you can legally park in Hong Kong are in a private carpark or a public area which has Octopus Parking Meters. There are Yellow lines on the side of roads, you can stop on a Single Yellow line, but don’t stop or park on a double yellow line. Look out for signs which specify places that you can’t park.

No Parking sign Hong Kong
No Parking Sign

• Speed Cameras – Hong Kong is littered with fixed speed cameras. Most have a signpost with the camera symbol on it to warn you. Most cameras are in Orange or Grey boxes, often with a Red Light Camera attached at traffic lights. You will notice, however, that many cars don’t slow down for these cameras. The reason being that many aren’t loaded, so are empty boxes! Others, particularly before and inside tunnels, are a physical camera on a tripod when have to be removed from the box and set up. So these ones aren’t out too often.

Speed Camera Hong Kong
Speed Camera

Traffic Infringement Points System

The traffic infringement system in Hong Kong is based on points. You start at 0, over a rolling two year period. Should you reach – 

• 8 Points – Expect a letter in the mail advising that you if any more points are accrued, things will get tricky.
• 10 Points – As the letter mentioned, now it gets tricky. You will be required to do a Mandatory Driving Improvement Course, within 3 months. There are a number of Driving Schools that provide this course, expect it to take about 8 hours and be at your own expense. For your troubles, you’ll get 3 points back, so you still need to be careful and drive safe!
• 15 Points – Time to dust off the suit, as you’ll receive a summons to Court. Expect a 3-month suspension for a first-time offence.

Always try to avoid travelling more than 15Km/h over the speed limit, as below this number you won’t incur any Infringement Points. More information with a detailed Points table can be found here.

I've had an Accident, what to do??

Heaven forbid you will ever need this advice, however, it’s better to be forewarned than forearmed. Firstly, always carry your insurance details in your glovebox. 

A common practice here is to not move the vehicles until Police arrive. Often the Police will then call an Ambulance. Keep in mind, there is no requirement to call the Police for minor bingles unless there are any injuries involved. This is your main area of concern, try and establish immediately from the other party that they are not injured. Get it in writing if possible. 

For minor scratches, it is advisable to make a settlement on the spot determining who’s at fault and, should you not want to claim through your insurance, decide on compensation. Be aware, however, should you not inform your insurance company of the incident, if the other person decides months later that they were in-fact injured, your insurance won’t cover as they weren’t informed.

Car Repair Hong Kong

Roadside Assistance

Highly recommend that you give some consideration to what you do should your car breakdown. Many Insurance policies include 24-hour free towing. That’s great, but be sure to know which mechanic you plan to send the car to in this case. As you will be on the spot otherwise. Hong Kong is scattered with private garages, ask around to find one that comes well recommended.

Hong Kong Automobile Association offer reliable Roadside assistance 24/7. Membership currently runs at $1180 per year (+$300 joining fee).

It’s time now to go car shopping! Be sure to read our post on Buying Used Cars in Hong Kong for some great tips and tricks for purchasing used vehicles. Drive safe and get out there and explore Hong Kong.

Buying a Used Car in Hong Kong – Everything you need to know!

Check engine buying a used car
Family car hong kong

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.

1 Carpark

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.

5 Insurance

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.

New car hong kong

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

• The Automall – Located in the Basement (B1) of Hong Kong Exhibition Center (Old Wing) 1 Harbour Road, Wanchai
       • Kowloon Bay Integrated Auto Mall – Basement (B3) KITEC, 1 Trademart Dr, Kowloon Bay

$   • i-Auto Mall – UG/F, Wo Yi Plaza, 26-30 Wo Yi Hop Road, Kwai Chung

$.  • Vincent Motors – Upper G/F, 14 Tin Hau Temple Road, Tin Hau
$   • Vins Motors – G/F, 42 Tin Hau Temple Road, Tin Hau

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.


Used car mall

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.

Audi (DHC) – All cars are required to pass a thorough inspection, and come with a 6 month / 6000km 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.

Online Car dealer hong kong

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

used car website

The Process

  • Narrow down your search

    Work out what type of car you're after. SUV, Wagon, Sports Car, Electric Vehicle (EV). Following that, do some market research using the sources above.

  • Inspect the Car Yourself

    Follow my guide below for all the tips on how to look like an expert when viewing a used car.

  • Schedule an Independent Inspection

    While the below tips are a good starting point, there are limitations to what you can do yourself. Most mechanics offer a complete vehicle inspection for around $1500. Certainly worth it for the peace of mind. 

  • Agree on Price

    Be sure to negotiate, but be careful coming to a price before it's been properly inspected. Draw up a basic contract for you both to sign stating the details of the transaction.

  • Organise Insurance Cover-Note

    To enable the vehicle to be transferred you will need a cover-note to prove the vehicle is insured.

  • Go together to the bank then Licensing Department

    Firstly, visit the bank to transfer funds. After that go together to one of the Licensing Department offices to finalise the transfer. The fee is $1000 which is paid by the buyer. That's it! Enjoy your new wheels.

Car love Hong Kong

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.

Car mileage 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.

Check engine car• 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 carseat• 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

child carseat