Car ownership in Thailand
Published: 07/15/2010 by Thomas Gennaro
While public transport is nearly ubiquitous, many people will still want their own car for various reasons, such as exploring on their own, driving to a seaside resort, etc. However, if you haven't made a decision yet on whether or not to rent or buy a car here, bear in mind that driving has considerable risks in Thailand. Most foreign drivers are not accustomed to looking out for motorcycles or to the customary ‘rules of the road’ in Thailand. Be especially careful about motorcycles, as Thailand is full of them and it is fairly easy to cause serious injury or death to someone on a motorcycle.
In theory, foreigners cannot legally own a car and register it in their name unless they hold a non-immigrant visa and either a work permit or a proof-of-address document from the Immigration Office for a fee of 500 baht. Usually, a foreigner who is a shareholder in a company uses the company to purchase the car, or else the foreigners’ trusted girlfriend or ceremony-married wife owns the car. If the marriage is legally registered, then the wife married to a foreigner cannot own the car, this largely due to a history of sham marriages to foreigners for the purpose of buying up property in Thailand. When you buy a car, the dealer normally handles the registration process. However, if you are transferring a car to a new owner privately, then you do so at the Department of Land Transport. Registration cost is based on the engine size.
Every car must have two stickers on the windshield. One is for the license plate registration and is renewed annually when you pay tax. The other one is your mandatory car insurance. The car vendor will usually get your tag registration for the first year, but you will need to renew it. Make sure both are current, both year and date. The date will be in the Buddhist year, currently 2552. Car insurance is mandatory and inexpensive – it ranges from 3,000 to 20,000 baht a year depending on the level of coverage. Expired car insurance entails a very large fine if the police catch you. Liability has no limit if you're in an accident without car insurance.