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 in the city, definitely not. Public transport here is fantastic and so cheap!. You have all your needs covered without needing your own car. If you live off the island, in Sai Kung or elsewhere and have more space, having a car would be a convenience.” – Alex
“I didn’t have a car for the first 13 years or so but have had one for the past 12 and couldn’t do without it. It’s not necessary for most able-bodied people, as public transport is excellent. But I love my car and I love driving. Parking… not so much!” – Ruth
“It really depends on where you live. The public transport system is a dream and most places are well connected. If you’re in areas like Mid-Levels, Wan Chai or anywhere within walking distance to an MTR, don’t bother with car. If, like me, you have small kids and live in an area without an MTR, then yes, your own set of wheels can be a game changer. A car certainly makes carting around the 357 baby items I need (maybe not quite that many, but it sure feels like a lot) with a baby and a rambunctious toddler much easier.” – Julie
“For convenience, if you have a family, I’d say yes. If you’re on your own or just with a partner, I struggle to see the need, as public transport and taxis work very well. Running a car in Hong Kong is more expensive than in Europe (though still not a patch on Singapore!) but additional parking costs are a consideration. But for the petrol heads out there, there are some great deals on second-hand cars at the moment!” – Ross
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.