Purchasing a Motorbike Questions (yamaha Nouvo)

Dear all,

Greetings. I'm moving to Vietnam next week and will be there for a year or so. Looking at buying a cheap bike (USD 200+) just to get me to work, a 4.5km ride each way.

I'd like to ask, why are Yamaha Nouvos so cheap? Does it have anything to do with quality? Also would appreciate if anyone can recommend a good shop around D7 that sells and services 2nd hand motorbikes. I've rode a Wave 125 in Singapore between the ages of 18 and 21 and it served me well. How does the Nouvo fair against the Wave? Is the fuel consumption good? Is it a low maintenance bike?

Out of curiosity, how much does simple maintenance cost? i.e change of engine oil, changing spark plugs, changing air filter, tightening/loosening the chain, and the likes. I can do these on my own but if it is reasonable I'd just let the bike shop do it.

Also, to purchase a bike, what documents do I need other than my motorbike license?

Cheers guys!!

Lots of questions - short answers. I'm not a mechanic but maybe some useful info.

Nouvos are much cheaper to buy than an equivalent automatic Honda.
Vietnamese I have talked to have highest regard for Hondas, I don't know why, perhaps status, perhaps reliability, perhaps bc long time manufacturing in VN.
I have rented several Nuovos, they are ok, but I think a little quirky compared to Airblades, something about the auto clutch feel. Waves are semi-automatic and lighter than Nuovos, use less gas, only cost about US$1100 new.

Motorbike maintenance is very cheap at the local shops. There is a street in D8 along the river with dozens of shops, Pham The Hien, pretty close to D7. I got my 4yr old Airblade there with help of wife's family. It was $1300 vs $2000 for a new one. If I didn't have relatives to check it out, from a dealer they knew, I wouldn't have bought there as a new expat. This next statement applies to any 3rd world country: most people here are poor, and will out of reasons of survivability, spend as little as possible on non-critical expenses, like motorbike maintenance. They will go to the cheapest places for repairs and parts. The owners of the shops will use refurbished parts and creative ways of fixing things. So the odds are against you getting a quality used motorbike. $200 is definitely too little to spend, anticipate breakdowns and inconvenience, maybe worse.

If you really want to buy, I recommend going to an expat-friendly dealer. See craigslist vietnam. There is also a Facebook group you can join, Motorbikes HCMC. A couple dealers advertise a lot. I don't know how you can legally register either, mine is registered in my wife's name. Also it might be tricky to sell it when you leave if the registration is not 100% correct.

To start out, rent for a month. In fact, you should consider just renting and not buying. Chi's Cafe was $60/month (I don't know the current rate), mostly old Nouvos in $300 range. They took a deposit of $250 instead of my passport. They will probably be better maintained, no registration issue, no maintenance for you, if it breaks they will swap you another. Maybe they can give you a better deal for a year. Be careful, driving here is an experience.

Simplest tip ever:
Don't get a Nuovo.

Get the one that most locals drive:
Honda Wave or Future.

Yeah, do what the other guy said. Go to an expat-friendly dealer.

Steves bikes, I think one is called. Thai guy, seems nice and sells medium level bikes. He is one facebook too. I don't have any links. Just names.

Or, just go to Tigit Motorbikes in Hcmc and try yourself. They have a rent ---> buy scheme where you can buy a bike in three installments and you can trade it if you don't like it, just pay the rental fee of the bike you didn't like.

There is also one called the honda cub and 67 factory. It's expat owned and sells cool custom bikes. However apparently the parts are from China as the models aren't produced any more. That might not bother you though.


Honda have a better reputation because their repairshops (official ones) have better staff and more honest prices for services. Their staff have standardised training that is way better than what Yamaha offer apparently. Yamaha spare parts are cheaper too.

thanks for the replies guys! keep em coming.

What makes the nouvo so poorly regarded?

Cheap. Not good. Backed up with the fact that locals don't use them. Probably just unreliable. I would assume it's also because of the quality of reparshops? Not sure.

You may want to spend a bit more than 200 usd, for that price it will basically be very old and tired. I would look more to the 500 usd mark.

Thanks for the feedback guys. Looks like no Nouvos for me then!

Thanks colinoscapee and lolpol. Appreciate your helpful feed back :)

I like Gobot's advice in that he laid out the options very well.
Frankly, I'm not sure that if you pay $400 versus $200, you will get double the motobike.

I paid about $280 for mine, it's a semi-automatic which is what I wanted, and I like it, though it is a bit of a piece of junk.

I didn't want to have a lot invested in my first bike here. So that works for me.  I would have gone with the Nouvo had I wanted an automatic.

The Wave has bad reputation, as the cheapest Honda, and it's front drum brake is prone to failure, which is dangerous.  I would never buy anything with front drum brake.

Good luck.

Just buy a Wave with a disc brake on the front.

Thanks! Haven't heard of any criticisms about the wave but I'll hear the front brake in mind. What do you ride and where did u get it from?

I bought a (Chinese?) Honda Win off a leaving visitor/backpacker for $150.

Have had it more than a year, runs like a tank! Never had any problems.

However, it's manual, not automatic. Something to consider.

Driving an old motorcycle around with helmet on will reduce your chances being pull over by the traffic polices as you're not attractive enough.

Well, we have 2 nouvos, love both of them.  1st one i bought on my own and probably paid a little more than market, but I needed a motobike as I did not want to take taxis everyday for everyday life.  Glad i bought it, well worth it.

The 2nd nouvo and you probably do not have this option, my VN wife got a steal on a used nouvo that is practically brand new and she paid less than I did for an older and much more used one.

That's nice to hear your bike is serving you well! Would you care to share where you first got it from? I understand if you'd rather not for any personal reasons.

Good day!

villanova :

That's nice to hear your bike is serving you well! Would you care to share where you first got it from? I understand if you'd rather not for any personal reasons.

Good day!

As another mentioned, Tigit motorbikes (located in HCMC not far from Dist 1).  Western guy runs the shop and he has a website where you can view the bikes, he has a variety to chose from.  I was pleased with the service and the bike.  He accepted payment via PayPal.

Thank you sir. Much appreciated. Have a pleasant week ahead!

Make friends with a local and look through the local ads like Cho Tot or Mua Ban Xe May.

Moderated by Priscilla last year
Reason : please post in the classifieds section
We invite you to read the forum code of conduct

Dunno why Nouvos get such a bad rap. They seem perfectly fine to me and I have some experience with the brand, but as some people have said, Vietnamese think Hondas are superior -- which may help at resale time.

If it helps, see my article in last month's #iAMHCMC:

Buying a Motorbike


Everyone in HCMC rides a motorbike. How do you join them?

Body text:

You move to HCMC and soon notice that the seemingly chaotic traffic is quite civilised without necessarily adhering to road rules, and there’s very little if any road rage. The give-and-take seems to work well.

You also realise that some sort of motorbike could be very useful, and that nothing beats it for (relative) speed and ease.

Unfortunately you’ll need a Vietnamese motorbike licence. You don’t need a licence for anything under 50cc, which may be enough for city traffic if you don’t carry too many passengers; but otherwise, you’ll have to convert your foreign licence or get a local one. The legalities of foreign licences and International Driving Permits are unclear – government announcements seem subject to different interpretations, and police on the ground may be characteristically ignorant of them.

You can do this either yourself for a few tens of dollars if you’re willing to run around for lots of make-work bureaucracy, or go through an agent for a few hundred dollars where you’ll still need to run around a bit with them. At least they’ll take care of the theory test in Vietnamese if you don’t have a foreign bike licence (you’ll still have to do the practice test yourself – see Google Videos).

Keep in mind that if you convert a foreign licence, it will only be valid for the duration of your visa or foreign licence, whichever comes first.

Get the mandatory third-party insurance, less than VND 100k a year, sold by women (always women) by the side of the road. The police like to see that. Much more importantly, however, check your own medical insurance about riding a bike.

Scooter or ‘Proper’ Motorbike?

Many foreigners and aspirational Vietnamese want Vespas, especially the vintage two-strokes with their tiny, dangerously unstable wheels. Modern Vespas are more stable, like their (much cheaper) Asian counterparts. Scooters have the advantage of bodywork (floorboards, leg shields) that keeps you relatively dry on flooded roads.

‘Proper’ motorbikes have larger wheels that are more stable through potholes and over bumps, and are more comfortable for country trips. Many popular models provide the best of both worlds with large wheels and some bodywork.

What to Look for?

Depending on specifications, you can buy a popular Honda Wave (motorbike, little water protection) brand-new from around US$800, or a Honda Airblade with some bodywork from US$1,400, right up to a delectable Honda SH150 for US$4,000. Yamaha Nouvos and Suzuki Hayates are other sensible choices. Taiwanese Sym Attilas are popular too, though their tiny wheels are less than ideal. A new Piaggio (Vespa) will set you back around US$6,000. Steer clear of the China-built Honda Win 110cc, advertised by backpackers who come down from Hanoi two-up with luggage: they don’t have the legendary reliability of ‘proper’ Hondas.

If you buy second-hand, do it from a resident expat who knows a bit about bikes, or at least from someone who understands regular maintenance – not just workshop visits when something snaps. Servicing receipts are priceless.

Regular engine oil changes are crucial – the oil breaks down quick smart at low speeds in stop-go city traffic. Caring owners change the oil monthly or every 1,000km, which takes less than 10 minutes at a dealer for VND100k max.

Also look for clean air filters and decent tyres, along with a near-new battery (batteries don’t last long in this heat).

Where to Buy?

If you can afford to buy new, see what the official dealers can offer. Go there in person and bring a Vietnamese-speaker. Do an all-in offer with cash on the table. Avoid their second-hand bikes, you don’t know the history.

Try to get the bike registered in your name, which may or may not be possible without a Vietnamese partner – see how you go. Until recently, if you bought a bike second-hand, holding the blue registration card was proof of ownership, regardless of the named first owner three steps removed. Apparently this is now illegal, but no-one really knows.

Expats advertise second-hand on anphuneighbours.com, phumyhungneighbours.com (find them on Google Groups), www.expat.com/en/classifieds/asia/vietnam and several other such sites. Make sure the sellers have cared a bit about servicing, and check all details on the registration card!

I have a 10 year old Nouvo that I bought for $150.00 usd. I had to have a few things fixed. I have another $75 into it. I have been driving it for 3 months no problem. I had a recent post about a mechanic I found who is very good at fixing bikes and he is cheap too. He told me that he prefers Hondas but they are more expensive so that is a decision you have to make. The Yamaha doesn't get as good mileage as the Hondas but honestly the distances we drive around here make it kind of a non issue. Many guys drive the Yamahas here so I would say you will be all right with one. Have a mechanic check it out before you buy.

I drive a Yamaha Nouvo (2006), which I purchased on the cheap when I first arrived last November.  For the cost, the bike has been an excellent purchase, as I clock up a lot of mileage with my job.  However, I am now starting to have a few problems, but maintenance is cheap, as long as you go to the right place.  The only problems I will say the bike has, and I drive a Nouvo 1 so this may be different with later versions, is firstly the bike is not good with pot holes, uneven roads or off road terrain, where I have nearly lost control lots of times and had one or two minor accidents (One of these was however travelling off road through a building site to get to a job, not good for this sort of thing, but there are also lots of pot holes in Ho Chi Minh).  Secondly, as mentioned previously, petrol/gas consumption is really high, but petrol/gas is really cheap and I filled my tank today from nearly empty for 65,000 dong - 2.86 usd, thirdly, there is not much storage space in the compartment, besides these flaws there is not much wrong with the bike except minor maintenance.

Interesting to hear you had problems with potholes on your Nouvo. It shouldn't be such an issue. Do the rear shock absorbers still work properly, i.e. does the back 'bounce' when you give it a quick, strong push? Then you need to replace them, which is cheap.

And when was the last the front fork oil change? They never seem to do it here, you have to insist.

Is there play in the steering head bearings? Check this by putting the bike on its centre stand and yanking the forks back and forth, there should be no free play, it should feel solid. Also, on the centre stand with the front wheel off the ground, slowly turn the handlebars from side to side: there should be no 'notch' you can feel in the middle. If either of the above, replace the bearings, also fairly cheap.

Good luck!


New topic