How (and Why) to Register a Motorbike or Car in Your Own Name in Thailand

If you are going to be living in Thailand for any great length of time you’ll naturally want to have your own vehicle to get around. It just makes life so much easier. When buying a new or used car or motorbike, you may be tempted to go the easy route and simply register the vehicle under the name of your wife, girlfriend, or partner. This is a huge mistake to make. Don’t do it.

Thai-vehicle-registration-bookl

Thai vehicle registration booklet

A vehicle registration booklet is called ทะเบียนรถ tha-bian rot in Thai. It’s a little green colored booklet like you see in the picture above. And it is your friend. You don’t really own a vehicle unless your name is in that book. When you go to buy a new motorbike, the shop might try to tell you that it’s either impossible or a big hassle to register a vehicle in the name of a foreigner. This is total BS. It is true that Thai law does not allow foreigners to own land, but there is no reason you can’t own your own car or motorcycle.


The obvious reason for not registering your vehicle in another person’s name is that if the relationship falls apart they can claim ownership of your wheels. But there is also another reason that you may not have considered—The person who has their name in the vehicle registration booklet can take it to a lending company and take out a loan with that vehicle as collateral. If they decide to not repay the loan, the lending company can come and confiscate your bike!

So how do you go about registering a vehicle in your own name? There are a few steps, and it might take a couple days to finish, but it’s not difficult at all, and definitely worth your time. The place to go is called สำนักงานขนส่ง sam-nak-ngaan khon-song, or the “Department of Transportation” for the district that you live in. If your vehicle was previously owned, you’re going to need a set of documents from there to take and get the old owner’s signature on them in a few places. You’re also going to need a signed copy of the previous owner’s National ID card and a signed copy of their household registration.

Normally, the person buying the vehicle will also need to produce copies of the same two documents. As a foreigner, however, you don’t have a Thai ID card and probably are not listed in anyone’s official household registration booklet. Instead you’ll need copies of your passport’s information page and the page which shows how long you’re stamped in until. In place of the household registration booklet, you’ll need either a copy of your work permit or a certificate of residence from immigration or from your consulate. If anybody tells you you need to have a work permit to own a vehicle, they don’t know what they are talking about. There are plenty of retired people, for example, who own vehicles and obviously don’t have a work permit.

If you know beforehand that you’ll need to get a certificate of residence from immigration or from your consulate, it will make everything easier if you do that first. To get a residence certificate you’ll need:

  • A copy of every important page in your passport. This includes the info page, page with your visa, page that shows when you last entered the country, page showing your current visa renewal (if applicable), and the page showing your last 90-day report.
  • A copy of the rental contract from your house or apartment, or house registration booklet
  • 2 visa photos
  • 500 baht  (even though the service is technically supposed to be free)
  • Residence Certificate application form (available at the immigration office)

When you get to your local immigration office it may very well resemble a madhouse or a can of sardines. The current immigration laws require foreign residents to appear in person at immigration way too often, and this causes overcrowding of the facilities. But nonetheless, you are only there to get a certificate of residence, so you won’t have to take a number and wait in the super-long queue. It is best to ask someone when you get there where to get the application form from. It is just one page, so you can fill it out in a couple minutes. Then you might need to wait in a short line to hand in your documents. At the Chiang Mai immigration office, there is a small room around to the back side of the building that is now dedicated to processing residence certificates.

Edit: As of June 2013, Chiang Mai Immigration office is no longer issuing residence certificates. As it turns out, they were supposed to be giving these documents free of charge. It seems somebody was pocketing the 500 baht fee. Now they’ve decided it’s not worth their time if they can’t make money off it. To get a certificate of residence now, you will need to go to your country’s consulate or embassy. The fee can vary greatly from country to country, so please contact your nation’s consulate for details.

Edit: As of November 22, 2013, the Immigration office is once again issuing residence certificates. The 500 baht fee seems to now be a suggested donation (to people who already have cushy government jobs?!), and it now takes a week to issue.

Edit: As of January 2014, Chiang Mai Immigration is now processing Residence Certificates from a special room around at the rear of the building. They accept the applications in the morning only from 8:30-12:00. There is now a sign posted to confirm that the service is free. Expect it to take a week to issue.

Edit: Immigration Office has once again stopped issuing Residence Certificates. They are now being issued at an office across the road from Promenada Mall on the far east side of Chiang Mai. And once again they are expecting everyone to pay 500 baht for a supposedly free service.

Remember when visiting any government office in Thailand to dress politely and not lose your temper, or you might find it takes forever to get anything done.


Once you have everything you need, go to the Department of Transportation and give everything to the person at the information desk. You’ll have to then proceed to the Inspection area, where they may or may not actually inspect your vehicle. Then you need to hop over to the Insurance office or room, where you pay for some ridiculously cheap personal injury insurance.

When I went, it was a little more than 200 baht which will cover up to 50,000 baht per person involved in an accident. Finally you hand over everything to one of the people behind the counter at the Department of Transportation, and they’ll give you a numbered card. Then you can go home and come back the next day, show them your number, and they’ll fish out your vehicle registration book from a stack of completed ones. Inside you’ll find your name, and you need to also sign your name in the booklet. Ask the person behind the counter where you need to sign your name if you’re not sure.

There is a vehicle registration tax which needs to be paid yearly. It is not expensive. In my case, the old tax sticker had expired, and so the total for registration and tax was around 300 baht. Somewhat annoyingly, the tax sticker is not really a sticker. It’s just a square piece of paper, and you need to get a clear decal or use clear tape to attach it somewhere visible on your bike.

This was all based on my experience registering a motorbike in my name in Chiang Mai. If you are a resident of a different city in Thailand your mileage may vary.



Comments

How (and Why) to Register a Motorbike or Car in Your Own Name in Thailand — 35 Comments

  1. UPDATE on Certificate/Letter of Residence in Chiang Mai as of Nov. 21st, 2013.

    They are (again) issuing these certificates/letters and now have a small office between building #3 and #2. The service is also now free, however, I think the main officer appreciates something in the tip box, possibly to help cover his assistant.

    It also takes one week to process. They gave me a small slip of paper with the pickup date and time on it.

    Good luck.

    • Thanks for the tip. This is good to know, since the US consulate charges a lot for residence certificates, and I imagine it’s similar for many other country’s consulates.

      A week to process seems a little ridiculous, but if you plan ahead, it’s worth using this service to save money.

  2. Pingback: How to Get a Thai Driver's License - And Why You Should - Siam and Beyond

  3. I just got me Cert of residence from CM immigration.
    my hotel receipt was not good enough – immigration wanted a lease agreement.
    it took me about 3 weeks. Communication problems at my hotel and Thai time took about a week. Songkran delayed things again. I had copies made of my passport, visa and photos take at immigration for a cheap price. I got a slip of paper to come back in a week. I came back agitated but I showed the official respect and got my cert quickly.

  4. Hi, in october we are coming to Thailand for holidays and planing to be there half a year or longer. we would like to buy a motorcycle there honda wave 110cm or similar. I`ve found that cheapest ones starting price is 34,000 THB. Is it possible to register it on my name? and also is there any restrictions or difficulties to go with it to any of these countries Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, or Indonesia? many thanks

    • My understanding is that if you are here on a tourist visa, Immigration will not issue the residence certificate that you need to take to the Transportation Office. So in that case, you may need to get a certificate from your embassy or consulate instead. Honestly, though, if you plan to be around less than a year it might make more sense to just rent a motorbike. You can probably rent one for around 3,000 per month, or maybe even less if you make an agreement to rent for multiple months.

      As for taking a bike across borders, I honestly don’t know. Taking it to Indonesia would require shipping it across the sea, which can’t be very cost effective. It might be easier to rent a different bike in each country if you plan to move around a lot.

      • Thank you for information! We started to check out rent company`s but all i can found is that there is many different agencies and i`m hesitating is there a chance to rent a motorbike for i.e. in bangkok and return it in chiang mai. so we wont have to go back to bangkok and go straight to laos from there. if you know some companys which has offices in different cities it will be very helpful. thank you again!

      • Thai vehicles can’t enter Vietnam except if you go on a tour. A recent article on ttrweekly.com has suggested that Thai cars can no longer enter Vietnam at all, even if you go on a tour. A Thai motorcycle can probably still enter, but only on a tour, with all the permits organized well in advance, you can’t just show up at the border as the Lao or Cambodian officials won’t even let you leave their country.

        Laos allows larger Thai motorcycles to enter at the main Nong Khai-Vientiane 1st Friendship Bridge crossing if more than 250cc. Smaller bikes can only enter on a tour, or perhaps if piggybacked on a pickup both ways across the bridge. At other crossings motorcycles may or may not be allowed across, irrespective of size, but generally speaking none of the other Friendship Bridges allow them except with an escort, if pre-arranged arrangements have been made or if they are piggybacked.

        Cambodia is OK but not at all borders.

        Malaysia is fine.

        Myanmar only Mae Sai to Tachilek for up to 14 days and you can’t go far outside the city limits. At this or every other crossing (usually Mae Sot to Myawady or Phu Nam Ron to Htee Khee) only with a pre-organized tour.

        Indonesia? Maybe – but I’ve never heard of anyone on a Thai motorcycle heading there.

  5. Does anyone know specifically where the office is across the street from the promenade mall? I am having a lot of difficulty finding it?

    • Haven’t had to go yet, so I’m not exactly sure either. But they’re sending all the Burmese to get processed there now, so if you see a building with dozens of Burmese immigrants waiting around, that’s probably the one.

  6. I would like to know if a foreigner living in Thailand with a Non-immigrant B visa has to pay higher tax when buying a car? I know that when I bought a motorcydle several years ago the Honda dealership in Hua Hin asked me if it would be in my Thai partners name or in my name. I also recall that it was an extra ฿900 to register it in my name. I didn’t mind having to pay this amount for having the motorbike in my name but would the same apply when buying a Toyota car and if so how much would the tax be?

  7. Hi Ryan,
    I’ve bought a condominium in Bangkok for a lot of money and face the problem that I want to buy a BMW R1200 GS and register here in BKK. Of course I have a permanent address but a normal visa on arrival only. With the title deed I’ve got a bank account already but the residence permit looks like a big problem. What can the German ambassy do? I did not understand what they can issue to me. Because it’s a internal Thai document,or?

    Greetings Andreas

    • Sorry I’m so slow to reply. I’m guessing you probably got your problem sorted out already.
      By the way, we’ve got the same last name, nice!

      • Actually an answer to this would be handy. I bought a bike. And do not have a residence permit. Can’t get one since i’m on a two month double entry tourist visa.

        How can my embassy help me?

    • Yes, thanks. This is where you need to go now to get the Residence Certificate.
      If you’ve got a work permit, however, you don’t need this, as the work permit serves as proof of address too.

  8. As of March 2016, Immigration Offices are now BACK in Promenada Mall and Residence Certificates are processed in GAT, a separate shop next to the photocopy services – still 500 baht for next day service…

  9. Hello i have a question i want import new scooter from china i m leaving in pattaya .I have no idea what paper should i need for get the immatriculation register in thailand . do you have any idea of what certificat or paper should i need ? thank you very much

  10. I have a question. I have been living and working in Thailand for 2 years. I bought a Honda PCX on 2014, no problems, showed passport and residency certificate. Was issued insurance, 1st and 3rd class. I never got a Thai driver’s license. I understand that is not good but have no problems since then. I also understand if I am in an accident, the inusrance can refuse to pay. The problem is I wanted to buy another bike from the KTM dealership. They told me I needed a driver’s license, I told them I didn’t have one. They said OK and said give me your Passport and Work visa. Now they tell me that they can’t register the bike without a driver’s license. I am in the process of getting one but it is not a one day process anymore and can take up to a month depending on the queue. Is it true that they can not register without a driver’s license? I can’t find anything on the internet stated this is true.

    • When I moved the registration on my bike to my name a few years ago I didn’t have a Thai license yet. So I’m sure it was possible then. I don’t know if they changed the regulation in the meantime. I think the large number of Chinese tourists driving on the road without even a license from their own country may be causing a rethink in the requirements, but who knows.

    • Now,he is telling me that I need a residency certificate to register the bike when I have given him my Work Permit already.

  11. No change in laws, my friend owns one of the largest Honda dealerships in Thailand, all of his family own delearships, and he tells me only a Passport and Work permit is needed. We are trying to find something in Thai that states this. Thanks for the reply.

  12. i would like to get a Residency Certificate in order to have my own motorcycle in Chiang Mai so is the edit below still correct and in action as of now September 2016

    Edit: Immigration Office has once again stopped issuing Residence Certificates. They are now being issued at an office across the road from Promenada Mall on the far east side of Chiang Mai. And once again they are expecting everyone to pay 500 baht for a supposedly free service.

    • The Promenada immigration office is located inside the mall now. The latest that I heard, however, is that they are not issuing and certificate of residences there. If this is true, than your options are to get one from your embassy/consulate or possibly from the local police.

  13. hello i am in thailand on a turist visa i come here every year
    i had my motorbike on my gf name but now i need to change the name to be on my name what do i need so i can change it to be on my name?

    A copy of every important page in your passport

    i been here now abot 30 days so how can i get.. 90-day report?

    A copy of the rental contract from your house or apartment

    2 visa photos

    500 baht

    Residence Certificate application form (available at the immigration office) i dont understand this part residence certificat??

    do i need something else

    of course i need have my x gf with me.

    pleas help me lol

    • Just worry about getting the residence certificate first. You can get it at the Immigration Office at Promenada mall.
      Of course you wouldn’t have a 90 day report if you’ve been here less than 90 days, so no worries there.

      Your ex-girlfriend doesn’t actually need to be with you at the Transportation Office to switch over the title if she’s already signed a copy of the necessary papers. But it’s probably easier if she goes, assuming you are speaking terms.

  14. im here on a turist visa 2 months and then il get a new one i wil stay 5 months but i come here everey year.

    can i still change motorbike to be in my name and how i can do it?

    • As I said, just worry about getting a Certificate of Residence first. Go to the Immigration office at Promenada mall for that. Not sure how much trouble you’ll have getting that on a tourist visa, but the Motor Vehicle office doesn’t care what visa you’re on. They just need proof of your address.

  15. For a use motorbike does the seller and the buyer need to go to department of transportation for changing the name of the registration?

    • seller doesn’t need to go in person if he or she signs the paperwork and gives copies of needed documents.

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