Want some wheels of your own? If you’re ready to hit the road, the independence and savings on tuk-tuks and motodops are worth it almost immediately.
If you’re planning to stay in Phnom Penh for an extended period, it’s worth buying a motorbike as it should work out cheaper in the long term than renting. Navigating the city’s streets is easiest on a small (50-125cc) “moto”, especially the automatic versions where you don’t need to worry about changing gears manually.
Cambodia’s heat, dust and erratic driving is hard on vehicles – keep this mind when considering whether to buy new or second hand. Either way, for a good deal bring a dependable Khmer friend and/or mechanic along and let them do the talking.
Most expats needing a ‘get-about-town’ moto opt for 50-125cc models. As a rule of thumb, a four-year-old Honda Dream with 20,000km on the clock will set you back around $750, and a Wave around $600.
For competitively-priced serviced motos, visit Hengly Motor Shop (#171) or Best Bike Shop (#135), both of which are on Sihanouk Blvd. For bargains, check out the shops on St.432 and around Orussey market, or search for deals on Facebook groups like “Phnom Penh Buy and Sell”.
If you’re in the Kingdom for several years, a new moto is worth the dollar you’ll save on repairs, and popular models hold their value. New Hondas and Suzukis up to 125CC retail for around $1,200-1,800. Authorised outlets like Japan Motor (#420, Monivong Blvd.) offer pre-sale quality checks, warranties and free maintenance checks in the first year. If you want more revs and can swallow the heavy import taxes, KTM (#10, St.163), Keeway- Bennelli (#426F, Monivong Blvd.) and NSP bikeshop (#54, St.432) are also good bets.
Be aware that there have been recent changes in the law as regards registering motorbikes and scooters. Foreigners can no longer register a second-hand motorbike in their name. They can only register a brand new bike, or one that has recently been imported and is being registered for the first time. That said, there is nothing in Cambodia law which states that you must be the registered owner of the bike or vehicle you are riding/driving. One solution is to register your bike in the name of a partner or trusted Cambodian friend. But here is where another – of the countless – quirks of Cambodian law comes into play. If you are registering in your or someone else’s name, you must follow these rules, AND can only do so at the Department of Public Works and Transportation office in Chroy Changvar, Phnom Penh.
- The registered owner must attend.
- The seller must attend.
- The current plate number must be from Phnom Penh
- Copies of buyer’s, seller’s and registered owner’s Cambodian ID cards must be submitted.
There is also a $30 application fee which applies for any moto of any size.
Now all that may sound very off-putting, but the fact is that you are very unlikely to be asked for your registration. In fact, we are unaware of any incident where police have asked to see these documents. So, unless you have a rare or high value bike, the best option is to simply make sure that you obtain the most recent registration card when you buy the bike, along with a bill of sale, and these will be accepted in the unlikely event of you every being asked.
More than 90% of car purchases in Cambodia are second hand, with major players Toyota getting in on the pre-owned action in their showrooms. Official dealerships offer the peace of mind of vehicle history and appropriate maintenance. If that’s too rich for your blood, try Hak Car Shop (#33, Norodom Blvd.), Ratana Auto (#68AEo, St.215), or talk to Australian Noel Hunt at Western Motor Garage (#24, St.420). Another, highly recommended option is Matt at CNM Motors (096 7007 434) who offers a range of services including buying, selling, rentals and inspections. CNM have a professional approach and are well regarded within the expat community.
Before committing to a sale, get a tax certificate and agree a full pre-sale once-over at a garage like WMG. If the latter proves difficult, do the same as you would do at home and take an experienced mechanic with you when viewing the vehicle. Ask at the businesses we have listed and they may be able to provide one for you.
There’s never been a greater range of new cars available for purchase, but be ready to cough up to cover the import tax – 137.6% for cars under 3000cc, and 152.45% for cars over 3000cc, and those figures are for any year of car, with the bracket starting at 2004.
If nothing but new will do, head for an official dealership. You should know that there is a thriving grey market in Cambodia; cars which are not configured for the region, cars which have been accident damaged, and new stock which has been damaged by flooding or other causes. The official dealerships will be able to spot these a mile off, and many of them will simply refuse to do any repair or maintenance work on one of these cars. Any money you save on a selling price buying from the grey market may quickly disappear with expensive repairs or modifications!
All vehicles should come with a licence plate and matching ownership card. It’s best to avoid any without – they may be stolen and will be difficult to sell on.
Keep in mind too that you will need to pay an annual road tax for cars (motorbikes are exempt). The fee varies depending on the engine size – a 3000cc car currently costs 600,000 riel ($150) a year. Below 3 litres is cheaper, above is more expensive. You can pay the tax at ACLEDA Bank.
For the possibility of a frank conversation about automobiles in your own language, check out the online classified sections of Khmer 440, Cambodia Expats Online, Cambodian Parents Network, Bongthom, and expat Facebook Groups.
If you are looking to purchase or sell a vehicle in Cambodia, but are feeling overwhelmed, CNM Motors is just what you need! offer many other door-to-door services, including vehicle inspections, change of car ownership, car rentals, combined with expert knowledge and advice on local car sales. Don’t speak Khmer? No problem! CNM Motors is a bilingual provider that will ensure that you feel comfortable and informed every step of the way.
Good luck driving a hard bargain and finding a safe vehicle!
At time of writing (December, 2018) all information was correct, but may have changed since. If there’s something you read here which you feel is incorrect or requires updating, please let us know.