Buying a car

spelunkus (81 posts) • 0

Hey everyone,

I'm going to be coming to Kunming in 2 weeks and am going to get a driver's license, then try to buy a car and drive around China for a few months.

I have a few questions:
1. I will be coming on a tourist visa. I heard that you cannot buy a vehicle without a residence permit. Is this true? I've heard both that it is and isn't and it's really hard to find credible info.
2. Can one transfer a registration from a prior owner? I assume this would require a residence permit as well? e.g. I want a used van so I can put a bed and a stove in it. I don't want anything new.
3. Can you drive someone else's vehicle? What are the laws / restrictions governing that?
4. I know there are some restricted areas (obviously TAR). Does anyone have a list or some useful way of figuring out what areas are restricted?
5. I also heard there are some restrictions in some cities based on which city your vehicle is registered in? Can anyone elaborate?


tigertiger - moderator (5084 posts) • 0

From what I understand, but could be wrong or something lost in translation.

3. Yes, providing you have a valid Chinese drivers licence for that class of vehicle. The vehicles here are insured for any driver, it is not the driver who is insured.

5. I know there are some restriction in Shanghai. If the vehicle is registered outside the city you are not permited to use the elevated highway and major bridges. You must use the surface roads and non major tunnels. The little vans (Mian Bao Che/'bread vans') are not allowed into some central areas of Shanghai, at any time.
Assume there are similar restrictions in some other Tier 1 cities.

In other cities, there are some restrictions on classes of vehicles. For example pick up trucks are not allowed into central areas of many cities. Some larger vehicles are restricted on some highways at some times of day. Motorcylcles over 150CC not permitted into some urban areas.

Danmairen (510 posts) • 0

So to sum up, you're coming to get a driving license, buy a second hand van, fit it with a bed and a stove and then drive around China? And you're bringing your wife and kids (from another thread)? Have you thought this through? Lived in China before? Fluent in the language? I'm not saying it's impossible but there are definitely better countries than China to pick for such kinds of exploratory road trips.

You can get a brand new van for 30.000 and a decent second hand one for 10-12K, but they're all unreliable and not something I'd drive my family around in, both for safety reasons and the fact that they can break down anywhere and any time. The upside is that repairs and parts are cheap and can be done everywhere, but it's not too cool to be stranded in ShittyVillageInTheMiddleOfNowhere for 3 or 4 days while they're changing your gearbox.

spelunkus (81 posts) • 0

@tigertiger thank you. Those are the kind of details I'm looking for.

@Yuantongsi I have read in several places that you can get a drivers license on a tourist visa. Do you have information showing you must have a residence permit?

@danmairen yes on all counts except I have no kids. It's just me and my wife. We have lived in China before. We are not fluent but we studied in Beijing for five weeks and are staying in Kunming starting in about two weeks to study more (if you know of a homestay let me know).

We have been living in different countries for the last two years, learning about different cultures and languages. We prefer to travel in our own vehicle even if it is a pain to acquire and maintain. We just spent a month on a motorcycle in India, and that was full of uncertainty and at times mortal danger. I don't assume driving in China will be like prior experiences, but we have done this kind of thing before.

Thanks for the info about vans.


YuantongsiYuantongsi (716 posts) • 0

Hi, I only know that our expat staff needed a Residence Permit to get a Chinese Licence.

I have also heard on the internet that you can get a temporary licence on an L visa, but I am not sure if its practically possible. You would need to talk to the Traffic Police about that.

spelunkus (81 posts) • 0

@AlPage48 that's great to hear. Would you mind asking her if she had to jump through any particular hoops or was it pretty straightforward?

Danmairen (510 posts) • 0

Line the hoops up and she had to go through them. Sorry, I've become a little cynical regarding Chinese bureaucracy over the past couple of years.

AlPage48 (1237 posts) • 0

The whole process seemed a little strange to me. I'm used to the Canadian way where the dealer handles safety check, tax and licensing. Those were all done separately here and it took almost a whole day to process the paper.

I guess the inefficiency keeps people employed.

Also, this was more than two years ago. The way they change rules without really telling anybody could mean the process is different now.

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