How does paperwork transfer work with second-hand bikes in Vietnam

How does paperwork transfer work with second-hand bikes in Vietnam?

1. First considerations: Licence plates for locals and foreigners in Vietnam

Among the different types of licence plates in Vietnam, we must differentiate the ones for locals and for foreigners. These are the main differences:

For LocalsFor foreigners (NN licence plate)
ExpiryNone.Based on the owner’s visa expiration.
RenewalNone needed.The renewal must be done at every visa and it takes under a month. The new visa must be valid for at least 3 months.
Registration processStraightforward in 2 easy steps.Added documentation and steps are required, coffee money occasionally required to smoothen the process.
Re-saleEasy transfer with signature of one contract. Only the seller’s ID is necessary along with the spouse if married or a single certificate if celibate (obtained at the local police station.)NB: The certificate of celibacy has a validity of 3 month from issuance.For a foreigner to re-sell a bike legally, the following documentation is required:
_ Passport with valid visa._ If married, both spouses must sign together presenting a translated and notarized copy of their marriage certificate._ If celibate, the seller must prove celibacy with a certification from their original country (according to the passport.) This certification of celibacy must be translated and notarized.
NB: Most embassies do not provide this certification. For most foreigners, going back to their country of origin is the only option to obtain this document.
Re-sale valueStandard Market value.Locals will not purchase NN plate bikes as they know the complications for transfer. Locals will take the time and effort to do so only if it is worth it, like for a rare bike or a highly valuable one.Foreigners that buy NN plate either usually do not care about the paperwork transfer or are unaware of it. Foreigners that know the complications will avoid.The value drops drastically given the extra complications to transfer. 

Given these facts, it is no surprise that most informed foreigners will prefer to purchase bikes with Vietnamese plates rather than NN plates. It is also the reason why most foreigners prefer not to register on their names and will rather look for a Vietnamese friend to register for them.

2. Full transfer of motorbike ownership

A full transfer of ownership means that the registrant of the motorbike will change, hence the name on the registration card will change to that person. The licence plate may also need to be changed.

The licence plate must be changed if the new registrant is from a different province than the first one. Or for example if changing from a foreigner to a local or vice-versa. If both parties are locals and from the same province, then the licence plate does not need to be changed.

How it works

For professional discretion purposes, we will only provide a rough description of the process and not the detailed steps. NB: There are several variations to this process depending on the provinces involved, the type of plates or documentation. We are only indicating the rough process for the most common one.

  1. Both parties meet at a notary office to sign the sales contract.
  2. The buying party must provide the sales contract, the licence plate (if necessary) and the registration card to the traffic police to initiate the process. From this stage, the motorbike may not be driven as there is no licence plate.
  3. The buying party pays the new road tax, it is important at this stage to make sure that all the paperwork was filled in correctly, which means the names cannot differ.
  4. Once appointed by the police, the buyer may take the motorbike to the station to obtain the new licence plate. 2 weeks after the new registration card will be ready at the same station.

This process is time consuming, very tedious, uncomfortable given the behavior of the functionaries in charge of it, and the costs vary a lot based on the situation. In some cases, motorbike transport and shipping are necessary, depending on the provinces involved and their policies. As a rule of thumb most transfers vary from 3,500,000 VND to 8,000,000 VND. Lower amounts are possible for very old and worthless motorbikes and higher amounts are possible for the priciest motorbikes. At The Extra Mile we charge a standard of 7,000,000 VND for A1 category motorbikes and 10,000,000 VND for A2 category motorbikes for the full service requiring very none to very little time of the customer.

3. Transfer by power of attorney

The power of attorney (POA) is a document that authorizes a person to all the legal rights on the motorbike. These rights include ownership, sale, gift, the authority to sign paperwork and more. Basically, it makes the authorised person a full legal possessor of the motorbike who has the right to re-sell it without needing the original owner. This document is signed at a notary office or at an authorized entity capable to certify a POA (we are for motorbikes that are registered to us.)

Technically, according to the POA the original owner is still responsible for the motorbike and could be held liable for damages should the motorbike be used illegally. However, this is practically never enforced except in some extreme cases. The authorities understand and tolerate that the POA is used as an easy way to transfer ownership, especially since it’s the most convenient way for licensed second-hand shops to sell used motorbikes.  With a POA the new owner can feel satisfied and secure as a legal owner, and it even provides the right to acquire professional insurance on their names.

The POA may only be done twice on one registration, by the third transfer only a sales contract is possible which requires a full transfer of ownership. This POA can easily be done for locals and for foreigners which makes it a great solution for foreigners to legally own motorbikes. These documents vary in costs depending on the notary offices, we have seen fees all the way from 100,000 VND to 800,000 VND. Be mindful that notary offices have all different policies when it comes to paperwork to be presented and rules to enforce, it is a good idea to check which are the documentation policies at the notary office in question. For foreigners, technically a licensed translator is required to be on site who can be hired externally or within the office if available (most offices do not have in-house translators.)

At The Extra Mile, we also offer the option to sign the POA for the customer in case the latter does not have sufficient documents to be able to sign. We charge from 600,000 VND to 1,200,000 VND depending on the location and motorbike to sign a POA on our name on behalf of the customer. This is also a popular option for customers who believe will not stay in Vietnam long enough to make their ownership worth and prefer to count on our support until their depart.

Final considerations

We frequently get calls and messages from desperate customers who seem stuck in the re-registration process. This is very common due to a massive lack of information both online and offline and many misunderstandings and misconceptions being diffused all over social media. We have seen multiple cases of foreigners unable to transfer the ownership after the sales contract or who get stuck without a plate for several months. As a result, several of these motorbikes end up being sold without a legal transfer for half their value or less, or even end up being donated or abandoned.

The Extra Mile has become an authority in motorbike paperwork throughout the years and we have solved cases that were thought unsolvable. Not only because of our knowledge and experience in the matter, but also because of the important network we have built with the relevant government bodies involved in these processes.

What we cannot do however,

We are not able to get involved in a transfer process if another agent or shop has already started it. Customers frequently come to us to ask for our help, but they have started working the process with another agent or shop and that makes it impossible for us to step-in. A common message we receive is “I wish I knew about you guys sooner”. Which is why we are now publishing this article online.

Feel free to contact us for information and support.