Buying a Car in Thailand: Toyota Vios

After 18 months of living in Thailand, I've finally purchased my own set of wheels. A new Toyota Vios for 659,000 Baht. Here are notes on the car itself and the process I went through in buying it.

The Car

The car is a Toyota Vios G, which is the top of the 3 standard models (J, E and G. There are also two limited models: G Limited and S, or Sports, Limited). It is a four-door sedan, equivalent to the Yaris Sedan in Australia. It has a 1.5 litre engine, and includes dual airbags, ABS and other standard features. The Toyota Thailand website has a good comparison of the features of the different models.

It is a silver exterior, with dark grey interior. The G model includes leather seats, as well as 60/40 fold down rear seats (so you can get into the boot/trunk). Also standard on the G model (compared to E/J) are: front fog lights, an improved speedo and information display, antenna printed on rear windscreen (as opposed to sticking up in the air), and the airbags. The optional accessories that came with the car are listed later when discussing the price. The Vios comes with

a standard 3 year warranty.

New Vs Used

After deciding it was time to buy a car, the first decision was new or used? The reason for buying a car was to travel around more on weekends and some nights. I don't intend to drive to work or into the city much, therefore I wouldn't be driving too often. I would have preferred buying a used car, as 650000 Baht is a lot of money for something to be used only a couple of times a week. However, after talking to other foreigners in Thailand, reading some forums and checking out used car prices on the web, I decided to go for a new car because:

  • Vehicles in Thailand retain their value quite well (especially the popular makes and models). Firstly, that means used cars a quite expensive. For example, a used Toyota Vios that is about 2 years old is about 100,000 Baht cheaper than the new car price. A 4 year old car is about 200,000 Baht cheaper than the new price. Spending an extra 100,000 to 200,000 Baht to get a new car (with 3 year warranty) doesn't seem like a bad option. Secondly, the resale price of the vehicle is therefore high. Although a new car has a high upfront cost, some of that may be recovered if I decide to move on from Thailand in 2-3 years.
  • With a used car, there is always an additional risk regarding the quality of the vehicle. With the language and cultural barrier between me and the seller, this risk is even higher. That is, it would be hard for me to be confident of the car's quality and value becuase I don't speak enough Thai.
  • I wanted a (relatively) stress-free process of buying a car, and was prepared to pay for this luxury. Looking for a used car, there are many other variables that need to be considered. If I was to consider all these variables, the process of buying a used car could take me months!

Cars in Thailand

The two most popular car makers in Thailand are Toyota and Honda. The other Japanese manufacturers (Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi) are present, as well as Chevrolet and Ford, however it made sense to stick to the popular cars (for service and support, and re-sale value). On a side note, pick-up trucks are extremely popular in Thailand (some say, second only to the US in number sold per year), with the Toyota Hilux and Isuzu Dmax the clear leaders. Despite their lower cost (at least for a 2WD) than the sedans, I wasn't interested in such a vehicle.

Both Honda and Toyota (as well as the others) have a standard line-up of vehicles:

  • 1.5 litre sub-compact 4 door sedan (Honda City, Toyota Vios)
  • 1.5 litre hatchback (Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris)
  • 1.6/1.8 litre compact sedan (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla)
  • 2.0 litre sedan (Honda Accord, Toyota Camry)

as well as people movers and 4WDs.

Hatchbacks are nowhere near as popular in Thailand as they are elsewhere (i.e. Australia): they are mainly marketed for female drivers and/or young trendy drivers. For example, at the Honda dealer, he showed me the Jazz and asked am I buying for myself or wife (I was there by myself?) and after saying for myself he said "You won't want the Jazz then".

The sub-compact sedan was what I was after, so that left a choice between the Honda City and Toyota Vios.

Toyota Vios Vs Honda City

After looking on the Internet and talking to people, I was leaning towards the Honda City. Although the main specs (engine, reliability, size) put the two almost identical, I just had a personal preference for Honda over Toyota. I had also seen on a Singapore website that the Honday had rear seats that folded up, as well as providing access to the boot (I later found that this was not on the Thai models). But after seeing the two cars and going for test drive, my preference shifted to the Toyota for several reasons:

  • The interior on the Toyota seemed better than the Honda. Maybe it was only small things, like an armrest with lid between the two front seats (as opposed to just a cavity in the Honda), but its something I noticed almost immediately after sitting in the cars.
  • The shape of the Toyota was nicer than the Honda. The Honda looked too high and/or thin at the back.
  • The Honda has a continuous variable transmission (an automatic with no gear changes), which is supposedly good to drive, but didn't feel right in the test drive. Alternatively you can select up and down between one of the 7 different ratios using paddle shifts on the steering wheel. Sounds cool, but I didn't see myself using it much (that is, 7 is too many options). I have since discovered the automatic on the Toyota to be quite good. I use Drive (4-speed auto) all the time, except when wanting to get some power to overtake a car, when a very simple shift of the gear stick to the right shifts into 3rd gear.
  • The Honda did not have fold-down rear seats.

Perhaps the main thing against the Toyota (and a reason my initial preference was for the Honda) was tit has the drivers console (speedo, odo, clock) in the middle of the car (not behind the steering wheel). This is strange - instead of glancing down to see your speed, you glance down and to the left.

The two dealers I visited where next door to each other. Both are new showrooms opposite Future Park, hence reasonably convenient for me to get to. The Toyota dealer had in fact just opened 3 days before I arrived - it was a second showroom for Toyota Petra, which luckily enough has their headquarters showroom near St Carlos Medical Centre, which is on the way to, and 5 minutes away from, my work.

After several days of looking on websites, considering the options and talking to some people, I visited the Honda and Toyota showrooms on a Saturday. The models I was initially looking at were the Honda City ZX V with Safety (598000 Baht)and the Toyota Vios E with Safety (609000 Baht). The Safety options includes airbags and ABS. The more expensive Vios G was also an option because of the fold down rear seats and nicer interior.

I spent the weekend considering which car to go for, and first decided on the Toyota Vios. Then, after learning the E model would not be available for around 2 months, with the seats and leather interior I decided on the Vios G model. The car was in the showroom on the Friday, and I drove it away the following Monday.

Price and Accessories

The price for new cars are not very flexible. 659,000 Baht is the sticker price for the Vios G. However, dealers often include 20,000 to 30,000 Baht of extras. In my case I wasn't very pushy because, apart from a couple of basics, I wasn't aware of any accessories that I really wanted. The sales agent kept looking for things to include:

Her: Anything else you need?
Me: Not really.
Her: I will include a luggage tray for the boot
Me: Oh, ok.

I initially ordered a spoiler, but then decided against it. I think it only looks ok when the full body kit is included (front, side and rear skirts), but I decided I want a plain looking car that doesn't stand out.

The accessories that were included were:

  • Rear parking sensor (it beeps when you get close to something while reversing)
  • Carpet floor mats
  • Luggage tray for boot
  • Side scuffs on the inside of doors
  • 1 year of insurance
  • Tinted windows (60/40 Hi-Kool)
  • License plate covers
  • Hazard/emergency kit (jump start cables, flashlight, tow rope, hazard sign)
  • Chrome exhaust pipe extension

So thats it. I am now driving around Thailand in my new Toyota Vios, after after 2 weeks and about 1400km, I am satisfied with the choice.

Later I will write a bit more about the paper work process (registration, license, etc).

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Comments

Had a good look at car and it looks very nice. You should need sticks to knock them back.

Don't forget to take CS student to lunch sometime krub :-)

Your new Vios looks so nice. How's about interier inside? I wish i'll have a chance to risk my life on your new car :p (Ps. I never had experience on Vios G, you got one year insurance so..could i test on your new car ?..eiei)

Hey Stevo, nice choice on the car.

I see you are pretty good with the research and decision making. Would you believe that Meg thinks that I do this as well???

Happy trails.
Rob

nice one mate!! Mine is 2006 model and it's still be a good partner to me..

Thanks for your very helpful comments and comparisons re- buying new or 2nd hand car here in Thailand. Wish I'd read them 4 months ago.
Only want a car for weekends so thought buying 2nd hand best option. Bought Honda Civic 4 years old for 600,000 Baht with only 30,000 km on the clock. Turned out to be a complete nightmare - would not start, change battery, spend money on big service, had to disengage alarm system, etc. So go to Honda garage re-exchange for new car and they check the car and say really done 300,000+ km.
So part-exchange about 460,000 Baht.
Taking it back to the original seller but sure to lose money - as well as several times being stranded because would not start.
I brought my UK car experience to BKK but a different country.
Anyone reading this - if you can possibly afford it - buy new.
Or just use taxis.

Great advice - thanks.

My wife and I just spent several days looking closely at the 2011 Toyota Vios and Honda City cars. We ended up choosing the City by a wide margin. We're in Thailand, BTW.

We preferred the Toyota dealer, who does a great job and is close to our house. The Honda dealer is further away and does not offer the same level of elegance the Toyota dealer offers to customers waiting for service. (The Toyota dealer has a coffee shop, internet computers, TV lounge, and even a couple of small movie theaters. Their waiting area is amazing!)

The Honda dealer is pleasant, but sold out for the next 4 months. And there's no negotiation on price or package. The salesperson explains the deal and that's that. 3000 Baht buys you place in line with no guaranteed price or delivery date. Best estimate is full retail with a 4 month wait. But if the price when the car comes in is 30,000 Baht or more above the price quoted now, you can cancel and get your 3000 Baht back. Joy.

But we bought the City anyhow because, to us, it was a lot better in almost every way than the Vios. More legroom, huge trunk, GREAT seats, great ride, great dashboard, shift lever where it's easy to reach, and an overall more comfortable and roomy feeling than the Vios. Also at least 20 more nice features that reflect a lot of thought and care designing every element of the City. We kept finding more to like the more we drove it.

After driving a City for 3 days (Avis rental), we sat in a Vios for a test drive and it felt smaller, a little tired, and kind of junky. The junky parts were the small handles and fittings in the passenger compartment. To us, the Vios just didn't have the same "look and feel" of the City. We didn't take the test drive because we didn't want to waste the salesperson's time. After 60 seconds sitting in the Vios, we looked at each other and knew we weren't going to buy it. We also eliminated the Nissan Latio the same way and for the same reasons.

So despite the terrible terms of the deal, we're buying a City. Everything about the deal is terrible except the car, which we think is amazingly good for its class. Actually pretty darned good compared to most of the cars we've ever seen, and we've seen a lot of cars.

Other people might disagree, but for what it's worth, this reflects our experience and impressions today. Hope it's helpful.

I hear that the import tax is very expensive when purchasing a car in Thailand. Do you have any information related to this tax?

I'm planning to relocate to Thailand from USA. I'm planning on purchasing a high end exotic such as Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini. I was told that the mark up can be very high due to import taxes. Is that Import tax charged on New cars and Used cars? It should not be charged on used cars.

Don't know the details but I think taxes on any imported vehicle (new or used) are very high, in the order of 2 to 3 times the value of the car (as determined by Customs, not you).

woow
great read i'm lucky to have found this as i've just started looking for my 1st car in thailand & already it was narrowed down to the vios or the city
Thanks

I just bought a 5 yo vios in Singapore for b948,000. No it wasnt a typo n no Singaporeans are not rich either. We are just up to our eyeballs in debt and its the banks that own most of the things you see around. The car has only 5 yrs left on the rd given tax structure for cars here. I'm thinking of bringing it to Thailand after i dereg the car 5 years later as my wife and i go to Thailand quite frequently. Its such a lovely country isn't it? Is it illegal to drive a car into Thailand and leave it there? Can i register the car in Thailand? I bought the car for its reliability and i reckon it can still last me another good 10 yrs before it is due at the scrappers. How difficult is it for a foreigner wo residential or work permit to own a car in Thailand? Thanks!

hi there , u brought your vios for b948,000 at sg ? thats very cheap given that car prices in sg are very high , i got my subaru 1.6i at b107,0000 same left 5 years car

Steve, Your article really helps for the people who are new to buy a car in Thailand.
Eaery waiting for your next articale about registration process etc.

Thanks, again.