Why Are There So Many Motorcycles In Vietnam?

credit: Peter Parker

If you’ve visited Vietnam, you may have been surprised to see so many motorcycles on the roads. With 67 million motorcycles in the country, they outnumber cars (22.5 million) almost three to one! But why are motorbikes so popular in Vietnam? There are many reasons and some of them may surprise you.

There are so many motorcycles in Vietnam because they are a more affordable, maneuverable, and reliable form of transport for most Vietnamese people. The country’s climate suits open motorcycles, and the Vietnamese government subsidizes the manufacture of motorcycles driving supply and demand up.

Why Are Motorcycles So Popular In Vietnam?

The five biggest contributing factors to why there are so many motorcycles in Vietnam are:

  • Motorcycles are affordable and attainable by most Vietnamese people.
  • The culture in Vietnam has shifted towards a culture of motorcycle ownership and use.
  • Motorcycles have become a symbol of freedom in Vietnam.
  • The Vietnamese climate is suited to motorcycles.
  • Motorcycles have become a versatile mode of transport for people, goods, and services.
  • The Vietnamese government has made policies that make motorcycle manufacture, ownership, and licensing easier.

With motorcycles being affordable and easy to get in Vietnam, their popularity and versatility have skyrocketed. 

Do Motorcycles Make Good Financial Sense In Vietnam?

Vietnam is a developing country, and many economic factors face Vietnamese people every day. So, when it comes to choices of affordable transport, most Vietnamese people look to the options that make the most financial sense – and motorcycles tick all the boxes for them:

  • A motorcycle is cheaper to buy than a car
  • The running costs are lower
  • Repairs and maintenance are cheaper and more easily available
  • Motorbikes are easier than cars to maneuver and park

Compared to cars and public transport, a motorbike in Vietnam is a very cost-effective choice.

Is The Cost Of A Motorcycle Less Than A Car In Vietnam?

Motorcycles in Vietnam offer three big benefits to people: transportation of people and goods and easy maneuverability in congested streets. On the other hand, cars cost significantly more to purchase in the first place and get stuck in traffic easily.

Because motorcycles are a low-cost option for most Vietnamese, 85% of Vietnamese households own a motorbike. The most popular brands of motorcycle that make up this 85% are Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki, but many other brands are also available.

Are Motorcycles Cheaper To Run Than Cars In Vietnam?

In addition to the lower cost of buying a motorcycle compared to buying a car in Vietnam, once the bike is on the road, it is also cheaper to run and maintain than a car:

  • Gas costs are far less than a car
  • Consumables like tires and spares are cheaper
  • Repairs, servicing, and maintenance are cheaper on a smaller vehicle.

The motorcycle industry in Vietnam has created a saturation point for consumables, spares, and servicing. The demand for parts and repairs is so high that parts will always be available. The spares and repair industry has also grown to meet demand, providing jobs and skills development. 

The ease of repairs for owners and readily available spares also reinforce the popularity of motorcycles. With so many motorbikes needing repair and maintenance, the competition to fill this need is high, keeping costs down, and spares are always easy to find.

Have Motorcycles Changed Vietnamese Culture?

With 67 million motorcycles in Vietnam and 85% of households owning at least one motorcycle, they have become so common that motorcycles have started to influence Vietnamese culture. Not only how people get around but also the status that comes from owning a motorcycle is an important factor in society.

As the culture of Vietnam is influenced by motorcycles, more people buy and use them, increasing the number of motorcycles on the roads.

One of the reasons the culture in Vietnam shifted to a motorcycle culture is that traffic and congestion in the cities reached a tipping point. As congestion worsened in Vietnam, navigating a bike through traffic became easier than a car. 

The popularity of motorcycles began to rise because of their better maneuverability in congested traffic. More people bought motorcycles to deal with the traffic, and the cycle continued until the predominant transport culture was invested in motorcycles.

The problem is even bigger with public transport. Busses follow pre-defined routes and travel through traffic much slower than motorcycles, so many people prefer to go by motorbike instead. Added to this is that the average cost of using public transport is often the same or more expensive than riding. 

Are Motorcycles A Symbol Of Freedom In Vietnam?

Motorbikes can squeeze through gaps that cars can’t, keeping the rider moving when a car gets stuck. This ability to move with and through traffic makes motorbikes far more attractive to commuters. The freedom to commute easily in the city is a powerful symbol. As this symbol of freedom grew in Vietnam, more people bought motorbikes, reinforcing the popularity of motorcycles.

There are so many motorcycles in Vietnam because this cycle continues. The more people realized motorcycles were affordable and allowed them to navigate congested roads and park in areas where space is limited, they continued to gain popularity.

Why Is The Underbone Motorcycles So Popular?

The most popular type of motorcycle in Vietnam is the underbone. Compared to traditional chassis motorbikes, underbone motorcycles are lightweight but strong. The reduced weight also makes them more maneuverable and fuel-efficient, which makes them adaptable to people’s needs. The more they meet the needs of people, the more motorbikes will be on the road.

The popularity of motorbikes has also overflowed into the rural areas. Motorbikes are easier to maneuver over uneven terrain and are less likely to get stuck on mud roads than cars and trucks, making them a good choice in rural areas of Vietnam too.

Because they are cost-effective, maneuverable, and popular, motorbikes have changed the culture of transport in Vietnam. While cars, buses, and trucks still have their place, changing the culture of riding motorbikes will be hard.

Is The Vietnamese Climate Suited To Motorcycles?

The Vietnamese climate is hot and humid throughout the year, which allows people to ride bikes without weather protection almost all year round. Compared to other countries where riding a motorcycle becomes difficult in winter. In Vietnam, the climate makes it possible to ride throughout winter, and is preferable to a car in summer.

How Are Motorcycles Used In Vietnam?

Because the culture of Vietnam has swung away from cars in favor of motorbikes, many people also use them for transporting goods, services, and passengers. 

While you might think cars and trucks are better suited than motorcycles to transport goods and services: ropes, nets, and bales are common solutions for transporting large goods on the back of a motorbike. Examples of it are seen all over Vietnamese cities. If transporting goods on a motorcycle is cheaper and more maneuverable, there will be more of them on the road.

Do Vietnamese Policies Make Motorcycle Ownership Easier?

Vietnam has the fourth largest density of motorcycles in the world, and the Vietnamese government has responded to this by bringing in policies to make purchasing and owning motorcycles easier.

Is It Easy To Get A Motorcycle License In Vietnam?

The government has removed many barriers to getting a license in terms of licensing policy, meaning more people qualify for and complete the licensing process. Once someone has a license, they are far more likely to start riding a motorcycle. Easier licensing drives up the demand for motorcycles.

Does The Vietnamese Government Subsidise Motorcycles?

Also, the Vietnamese government has responded to the demand for motorcycles by granting subsidies to motorcycle manufacturers allowing them to produce more than if the subsidies were not in place. 

Again, with more motorcycles available for purchase and the subsidized cost of manufacture, more motorcycles are available on the market to meet demand.