Buying a scooter in Taiwan – ex-pats assemble!
By Michael Glasek, Class of 2023
Foreigners coming to Taiwan are faced with many issues. Adapting to how the local driving culture operates is often counted among the biggest pains of everyday life. Most ex-pats find it a bit chaotic, dangerous and ill-organised. Everybody is entitled to their opinions, so I will refrain from judging the possible downsides of commuting in Taiwan but rather focus on the idea of living life here by the expression “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” (or for those learning Chinese 入鄉隨俗).
Buying, renting or … “ghost bike”?
Before we hop on the scooter and start exploring this beautiful island, one needs to buy (or rent) a vehicle first. First of all, I would like to mention that as much as I personally enjoy motorcycles, in Taiwan, I find scooters to be much more convenient for everyday life (think about the boot space), less troublesome and much cheaper to maintain. Buying a scooter is, in my opinion, best for foreigners who come here with the option of having an ARC or APRC. The reason is simple – to legally own a scooter in Taiwan, you need the local ID number. It is possible to “own” a so-called “ghost-bike” (buying a vehicle without transferring the ownership). Still, I don’t recommend this option as it is borderline illegal (and definitely unethical). The moment you experience some difficulties like being in a traffic accident or getting your scooter towed, it is impossible to deal with these issues without losing your dignity, money, and, worst-case scenario, your freedom.
How to buy a scooter in Taiwan
Before I explain the top three ways of buying a scooter in Taiwan as a foreigner, here is a quick note for people without ways to buy a scooter. It is common to rent a scooter in Taiwan based on your passport. If you are in the larger cities, the whole process can be conducted in English, from finding a rental online to signing the contract. If your Chinese isn’t great in the smaller townships, I suggest asking a local friend for help.
DISCLAIMER: When talking about the legality of owning a scooter in Taiwan, it is crucial to mention that you must have a valid driving license to ride a vehicle in Taiwan. If you have a motorcycle license from your country, check if ROC has an agreement with Taiwan so you could simply swap your license with a Taiwanese one (at your embassy). Suppose you are planning to come to Taiwan. In that case, I highly recommend making an IDL(International Driving Licence) or IDP (International Driving Permit), which will allow you to operate a vehicle in Taiwan for a given time since your arrival.
Begin the drum rolls… and we hit off with three ways of finding a scooter in Taiwan:
Buying from a friend
Unsurprisingly, our scenario applies the good ol’ “know the right people” truth. Buying a scooter for a friend comes is by far the best choice. Unless the scooter you buy turns out to be… disappointing. Then, you might feel a bit ripped off, and money might not be the only thing you will have lost. However, if everything goes well, what you will get is not only a sweet deal (in terms of money) but also know the history of damages and repairs, the option to continue maintaining the bike at the scooter shop where they already know the vehicle and what is the most important thing – you will have a scooter you can trust.
Buying from a shop
You can buy a scooter in an official shop like (Yamaha or Kymco), choose the supermarket options (yes, they sell scooters at supermarkets!) or buy a brand new bike at a mechanic shop. Buying a new scooter might be best in terms of quality. Still, they are relatively expensive compared to a lovely second hand one. I have never planned to buy a new scooter as they deteriorate (both in terms of parts and value) very quickly and are too much for a student’s wallet. It might be impossible to find a used bike at a dealer’s, but not at the mechanics. If you have a trusted mechanic or a repair shop (maybe ask your local friends where they service their vehicles), buying the bike (and maintaining it there) may be the very best option for the long run. You may pay a bit more than buying from a friend, but if you find a person you can trust and negotiate the price a bit, you might hit the jackpot!.
Buying on Facebook Marketplace and Facebook groups
Yes, I know how silly it sounds. Back in Europe, I would see a car or scooter ad on Facebook a bit surprising and not trustworthy. Here, the foreigners (and some locals) love to talk, sell, and buy online vehicles. I have helped many people get their bikes that way, and in general, it is pretty much the same as a deal with your friend – except if you are unlucky and come across THAT guy.
Having difficulties finding a scooter? Ask for help!
Those are the three main options for buying a scooter or a motorcycle in Taiwan. If you are not 100% sure which way to go, ask people around you. Taiwan is an island with the most helpful people in the world. You might be surprised by how happy people will be to help you and how many issues you might forget about thanks to them. So, procrastinate no more and off you go!