With convenient and extensive public transportation networks around Hong Kong, it is not necessary to buy a car to get by. In fact, private car ownership is discouraged by the Hong Kong Government because of pollution levels in Hong Kong.
However, to some of us living away from city areas in Hong Kong or used to driving, not having a car is unbearable.
If you are intent on buying a car, regardless of it being used or new, from a dealer or private market, you will need to be a resident.
In all cases, you will require a Hong Kong Identity card (HKID), local driving license, Hong Kong address for registering a new car or transferring ownership from a used car – and the same information is required when applying for insurance.
Now, this is where it becomes tricky, as new and used cars are both expensive when you factor in miscellaneous fees such as vehicle license fees, insurance, repairs, and general maintenance. Expect a good condition, second hand European luxury car from around HKD $150,000 and Japanese cars from around HKD$80,000, depending on their age and model.
Although there are definitely cheaper models out there, they are usually older. Thus, it is tempting to buy used cars from dealers advertised on online forums, such as Geo Expat, supermarket noticeboards, and other dealers who offer models at decent prices.
However, while some expats have had wonderful experiences buying used cars from dealers, there have been cases where others were scammed by having to pay a much higher price, or finding the vehicle history and mileage given were inaccurate.
So, no matter how economic the model is, remember to always search the internet or ask friends about the dealer to avoid being a scam victim. Furthermore, when buying from the dealer, always negotiate -but bear in mind that your model, age, condition, and mileage are factors that will influence the price of your car.
There are some expats that have had successes buying used cars through private sales from other expats who are moving to another country, but again, always do your research and expect negotiations.
Once you have settled on your model, it is unfortunate that it is standard practice for dealers to clock the mileage to get a better deal. But bear in mind that because of limited driving opportunities in Hong Kong, the mileage is also limited.
As with every vehicle purchase, always ask to have a drive in the garage or showroom so you can test drive the vehicle and check if there are any problems before completing the deal.
This applies especially to those who are interested in buying used cars: always, always ask for the vehicle history, even if you have had a good experience in your test-drive and are satisfied with your negotiations.
Aside from avoiding dodgy cards, it is worth paying for a trusted mechanic of your choice – or one from the Hong Kong Automobile Association (HKAA).
HKAA’s pre-owned car inspection will check vehicle body and structure, electrical equipment, engine, ignition and fuel system, cooling system, air conditioning, transmission, steering system, wheels and tires, brakes, suspension, and arrange a road test before your purchase.
Aside from HKAA, you may also want to consider pre-owned car inspections from Hong Kong Motor Inspection (HKMI).
For approximately $1000, the inspection includes thickness and depth of vehicle body and structural areas, under carriage inspections including oil leaks and checkups on air conditioning systems, gas leakage, tires, suspension, engine oil, safety reflector, CV joints, air filters, suspension, and a road test.
This is particularly important, as you are responsible for applying for a Certificate of Clearance before the transaction. By applying for this certificate, you certify that the car is free of outstanding penalties and not subjected to licensing suspension.
Finally, the last mistake that is commonly made is forgetting the many registrations for licenses and taxes that are required for vehicle owners in Hong Kong. If you have purchased a new vehicle, remember to pay your first registration tax, which is calculated by the published retail price or provisional taxable value, assessed by the Custom Excise Department.
Concessions will be offered to those who purchased environmentally friendly and low emissions vehicles to encourage environmental awareness. After you have received your vehicle license, be sure to display it on the left side of the windscreen and renew the license once a year, or once every 4 months.
If you want a personalized vehicle, you can bid for your personalized registration after you are approved, but otherwise the license will be a generated randomly.
After you have completed the paperwork, you are all set to go with your new car. However, don’t forget that all private cars that are 6 years or older must undergo annual vehicle examinations at Designation Car Test Centres, and this includes used cars.
Simply make an appointment to apply for a mechanical examination with one of these testing centres.
If buying used cars or new cars doesn’t sound appealing to you, but you still need that vehicle, you may want to consider whether you should import your own car. Keep in mind that your car will need to comply with Hong Kong’s exhaust and noise standards, and require custom taxes and an import return form.
After your vehicle arrives in Hong Kong, be sure to have it examined by contacting the Vehicle Examination Office, as with a new or second hand vehicle. You will also be required to register and obtain a license for your vehicle. As it is the first vehicle you have in Hong Kong, your imported vehicle will also be subjected to a First Registration Tax.