Buying a car in KL

Ok... so, can someone explain to me why Malaysian cars are much maligned?

I'm trying to figure out a budget and the relative prices of domestic cars and imports are hard to ignore.

Please bear in mind that the aesthetics are lost on me - I'm a safety/reliability/fuel efficiency man when it comes to the family car...



by much maligned you mean they have lesser safety packs in overall?
If you put safety/ reliability and fuel efficiency together, you may look for the newer certified pre-own germans or lexus, you saved at least half compared to buy a new one from the dealer.

I would  definitely opt for the Lexus, instead :cool:

Even the Maserati has it's own "unique" issues, to be tolerated, despite the purchase price tag.

Malaysian manufactured autos are great Equatorial region vehicles. They are also excellent medium-to-high performance, low-maintenance values for the money, in our experience. :top:

There are Malaysian cars e.g. Proton models, then there are Malaysian assembled cars (a selection of foreign models imported at lower cost) then there are imports, which have heavy import duty. Proton has just sold off its sole ownership to a Chinese company. The last Proton model actually was billed as having safety features equivalent to vehicles in Australia.  But you have  pretty wide range of "foreign" cars available (local assembly). They would be standard builds. The climate takes it toll on vehicles as well as local driving styles..... Apart from the Expat Car Guys there is also City Motors in Bangsar which buys and sells vehicles previously owned by expats.

Yeah City Motors is good. Speak to Peter the boss, I sold my car to them when I left Malaysia. I sold it so cheap that either City Motors is made a huge profit or they in turn sold it on very cheaply :)

Nobody has answered the poster's question so I will.

There are two local cars, Proton and Perodua, and of the two it is Proton which carries the poorer reputation even though both brands deserve the worst rating possible.

Lets get Perodua out of the way since its the lesser evil. Perodua are Daihatsu cars of Japan which is not saying much because in USA for example, Daihatsu was always at the bottom along with Hyundai and Kia. But....Toyota bought Daihatsu and in Malaysia the cars are assembled with Toyota quality control engineers and so they are put together somewhat better than Proton. However, both cars have traditionally had no safety features built-in, so in accidents the occupants often died instead of being injured. But neither the Malaysian people nor the government have much interest in safety and dont count safety as a measure by which to judge a car, and certainly not the way westerners would. Malaysians judge on engine reliability and fuel consumption and thats it. If a car is cheap to run, its a good car in the Malaysian mind. Perodua, even as secondhand, carry higher price tags because of these two factors. So, we wrap up Perodua as saying that its body is put together better and the reliability is good. That said, any Perodua, particularly the Kancil model, have thin steel and weak frames and people get severe injuries or die in accidents.

Proton is made up differently. The Mitsubishi engines were imported to be put into locally produced bodies. The poor reputation of Proton stems from the design, fit and finish of the bodies, while the drive trains remained basically serviceable. The most recent cars are better but not up to USA standards of safety and after decades of accumulating a poor reputation its hard to convince anyone they are actually good cars. A Proton dealer told me just one month ago that despite improvements there is no Proton model that doesnt share the long-time thread of crapness, meaning that Protons use cheap parts put together badly. Dealer said that he, as a consumer, wouldnt buy any Proton older than 3-4 years. People buy Proton for one reason only, its cheaper than a Honda, Toyota or continental car. I never once heard of anyone actually wanting to buy a Proton and if they had any access to more money would avoid them. There is no Proton sitting in the garage of a mansion.

The other problem that contributes to the poor reputation of the Proton (and anything else, too) is that the average Malaysian refuses to properly service and maintain the cars. They refuse to spend money, period. When something is wrong, they either ignore it or get it fixed in the most substandard way if it means saving money. They use cloned spare parts because the original parts cost more, and have the work done by the shop with the lowest labor price, including having work done by people who work under trees. So, the cars become wasted and ground down and when something cracks, they just push it off and get another one. This mental posture isnt limited to cars but all motor vehicles. Also, Protons engines and gearboxes are OK, what is not OK are all the peripheral components like AC compressors, brakes, window regulators, alternators, wiring harnesses, interior parts, steering system which are all produced locally and are of substandard quality, even though there has been improvement in recent years. Even when the parts are brand new they still not not deliver great performance.

It comes to this:
1. Any car will be ok if bought new, driven sensibly and very well maintained, no matter what the cost.
2. Since USA-spec cars dont exist in the country, next best is a fully-imported continental car or higher end Japanese cars which are very good but to my knowledge they are no longer imported but pieced together in the country in assembly factories. This means that some of the parts will be Japanese, some will be locally produced. If I could buy any main-brand Japanese car that was Made In Japan, sure that would be good, and much cheaper than buying a Mercedes or BMW.
3. My first choice, especially for safety wouldnt be a car at all but the largest lorry one could drive without a special licence. Next choice would be a pickup truck. I dont believe in or trust any of the cars even though I drive one. Next vehicle will be a truck. With even just a 1-ton Innocom lorry, in an accident you get a short-term headache and the other guy will die. I dont want to be the other guy anymore.

I agree with you about Daihatsu cars. They are cheaply made and the steel is famously ridiculously thin, so they are a bit of a death trap if you happen to have a serious accident. Don't put your family in one of those if you care about them. The classic is the Daihatsu Luxio which is a kind of poor man's MPV for those who want to look as if they have a nice car but can't afford one. The starting price of those cars used to be around Rp90 million in Indonesia (about MYR30,000) being one of the cheapest cars ever, and certainly an attraction to those who know absolutely nothing about cars, but the price has increased since then. But this car is based on the Daihatsu Gran Max which is a commercial vehicle, and the Luxio has been compared to a tin can on wheels, such is the thinness of the steel and it's lack of protection in an accident. A definite "no" if you want to keep your family safe.

So if Perodua is basically a Daihatsu then personally I'd leave it alone. I've never been a fan of Proton either. They seem to age really badly, a car that is five years old looks like it is almost ready for the scrapyard.

I'd stick with Japanese cars with the exception of the Daihatsu. If you want something nice then Honda, Toyota and Nissan or Mazda all have nice models. If you are only looking at fuel economy then also consider Suzuki. Even the small Suzuki Karimun is far better than the Daihatsu Luxio and can do as much as 25 km per litre.

But for a good family car, SUV's are nice, and the Honda CRV, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota Fortuner are all great. The Mazda CX-5 is supposedly in the same class as the previous SUV's but is a bit small inside for Western families and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport has a low roof (my head touches it if I sit at the back).

Kia and Hyundai are popular in Malaysia but less so than the Japanese cars. I test drove a Kia Sorrento once, and it was awful to drive, but the car is well equipped with lots of nice features.

Thanks for your advice CVCO - very detailed and much appreciated, although very depressing!  Seems like it is going to cost a bit for 2 cars if the local brands are off the menu - lots to think about...

Leasing or hiring may be a better option when considering depreciation (depending on how long you will be staying in Malaysia and if you can negotiate an allowance as part of your package).

Actually if you don't mind a small car then a Myvi is not bad for a local one. They are quite popular. But Gravitas is spot on about depreciation of car values in Malaysia.

CVCO already did a good job explaining the 2 different brands of local cars. I believe I can help you further with the diff types of foreign cars n how to choose which type is probably the best for you.

In Malaysia, there are 2 types of foreign car models: CBU (Complete Built Up), and CKD (Complete Knock Down).

CBU simply means that the cars are imported whole and already assembled.
CKD means that a certain % of parts are imported, and the rest being sourced locally, and then assembled within Malaysia. This is meant to keep costs lower.

Historically, CKD cars was always limited and difficult to get approved. This was to protect the local car brands. But over the last 3 years, it has relaxed somewhat. So more foreign brands are opting to localize their assembly process to sell at lower prices.

Today, when you go to a non-local car dealer, you should always ask if it's CBU or CKD. The price difference for the similar range models during the transition phase when both are still available could go for as much as 35% cheaper!

Another important thing to note is financing for cars, which is also a huge cost factor.

Taking a bank loan for local brand vs foreign brand, foreign brand cars would have cheaper interest rates. And since CKD cars only carry a small premium over local makes, it should factor into your overall cost decision as well.


So, to summarise my situation:

- I need a small car, for me, simply for travel to/from work. Ideally the smallest, cheapest, petrol efficient car I can find. It sounds like a Malaysian brand would fit the bill, provided I can get myself (un?)comfortable with the safety concerns. Based on the posts, I would have to pay a rock bottom price as such a car would likely have no resale value 3/4 years down the line. It sounds like there will be a lot of availability, however, so perhaps I can be aggressive on the price.

- I also need a family car (preferably with 7 seats). The emphasis here is safety, reliability, purchase cost, petrol efficiency. So it seems that I will likely need to buy an imported car in order to tick these boxes, probably 4+ years old in order to keep the cost down.



Au Contraire, general rule of thumb here in Malaysia:
- Local cars have good resale value
- Japanese cars have good resale value
- Other types of cars have bad resale value

If buying new, cheap, reliable & efficient with good resale value comes down to these cars:
Local - Perodua Myvi without a doubt. Can't go wrong.
Japs - Nissan Almera, Toyota Vios, Honda City

If buying 2nd hand then the opposite holds true. Look for those with bad resale value. Some good value for money is Korean makes. Somehow the market doesn't really favor them in secondary market. But stay away from continental cars unless you know what you're doing, (esp brands like peugeot).

Keep in mind, 2nd hand cars also have a higher cost of financing if you're taking a bank loan.

For a MPV:
Local - Perodua Alza. Or Proton Ertiga (Proton rep is a lower build quality than perodua)
Foreign - Toyota Unser or Innova, Honda Freed

If 2nd hand, follow the above rules.

You can also browse these sites for some ideas according to your budget:

These are the popular classifieds in Malaysia

Cheers!  Will be buying second hand.

You may find this FB group useful (Expats in/around Mont Kiara) to see if any expats are selling vehicles -

Have mentioned elsewhere

Expat Car Guys - Expat Car Guys Car List - (
City Motors (

who both are dealing with vehicles previously owned by expats.

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There is the option of purchasing a used car in the US and ship.  I handle this for individuals in SE Asia.

If you willing to buy a used / recon car, I suggest u go They provide good customer service. The second hand cars condition is excellent too. They are a good & friendly recon car dealer in Malaysia.

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