Just arrived in Hong Kong and wondering whether you should buy a car? It’s a big question! Here are our tips on buying a car here to help you with your decision.
Do your homework
First, make sure you’re legally able to own a car and drive on Hong Kong roads. You’ll need a valid HKID card, a local address for car registration, and a valid HK driver’s licence. Transferring your home country’s driving licence to a local one is usually straightforward; just visit the Transport Department at Admiralty and apply.
Registration varies in price depending on the type of vehicle and where you’ll be driving. Licencing fees are based on engine size; a private car with a 1,500cc or lower petrol engine can pay around HK$4,000 a year; bigger 4,500cc engines are nearly three times that. Also consider the cost of fuel, annual vehicle examinations, tolls and parking fees around town (which can be exorbitant!).
Choose your ride
For a tiny island, Hong Kong has lots of cars – and lots of options when buying. You’ll need to decide first of all whether you want brand new or secondhand; new cars are appealing for the excellent condition and the manufacturer’s warranty, but they can be expensive thanks to high import taxes. Most big name brands have car dealerships in HK, so just choose what you want, pop in for a test drive, and make the purchase.
Second-hand cars are often quite affordable, but unless you buy from a reputable dealer or someone you know, there’s no way of knowing the car’s history. Look at dealer websites and keep your eye on expat forums for deals. Insist on a test drive, and always ask for a vehicle history report (via the Transport Department) and get a pre-purchase check (the Hong Kong Automobile Association can help, or ask your own mechanic).
Ready to go?
To own a car in Hong Kong, you must take out insurance. The minimum required coverage is third-party, but this only covers damage to other people’s property if you’re involved in an accident. A more comprehensive plan, while more expensive, will cover damage to your own vehicle.
If you choose electric, suppliers like PCCW can fit your parking space with a charger. Or, use the free super charging stations at shopping centres, you just pay for parking.
Transport Department: td.gov.hk
Hong Kong Automobile Association: hkaa.com.hk/en
HK Car Trader: hkcartrader.com
DCH Quality Used Car Company: dchucc.com
The Automall: automall.com.hk
Hear it from the residents
Is it worth having a car here?
“If you live on HK Island, then no. Taxis are cheap and everywhere, and the MTR is very practical and reliable. Buses and minibus are good for areas that are less well served by MTR. If you live in New Territories, then it’s a different story.” – Nico
“Given the cost and inconvenience of parking locations, I would regard it as a luxury having a car. I have lived here for more than 20 years and have owned a car for only a year – it was more trouble than it’s worth.” – Jacinta
“For the first four years of family life here, we didn’t have a car and we didn’t feel we were missing out. Then we got one and it has changed our lives! It’s given us freedom and the flexibility to be more daring with our day trips. Still, for the first year or so, depending where you live, I would say discover Hong Kong using public transport!” – Claire
Uber or Hong Kong taxi?
“Uber, if you want to guarantee a ride at an exact time and you don’t care about the price, but I use HK taxis almost exclusively; they’re iconic!” – Claire
“Almost always a taxi, unless we need a seven-seater car for larger groups of people.” – Murray
“Depends on the situation, but I mostly use Uber due to my job; I can’t always find a taxi at peak hour when I need to travel.” – Maria
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.