2 December 2014

How to buy a car in Sarawak

We were one of only a handful of expats to buy a locally registered car (as opposed to a diplomatic registered car) in Astana.  The whole process was long winded, tiresome and incredibly confusing.
Here in Sarawak most expats buy their own car and the process is very easy.  

Miri is home to many second hand car shops (and a number of dealers).  Most cars for sale are either the Malaysian brands (Perodua and Proton) or Japanese models.  If you buy a new Japanese car you should check whether it is CBU (completely built up or made in Japan) and CKD (completely knocked down or build on license in Malaysia.  Second hand cars may be ‘recon’ (reconditioned).  Unfortunately most cars are automatic and it is difficult to find a car with a proper transmission.

Many people choose to buy a 4x4 – either a double cab flat bed truck or a seven seat/five door car.  I have wanted a flat bed for many years but sadly it is not practical for us here in Miri as the dogs need an air-conditioned boot to ride in so we went for the seven seater option.  This has the benefit of ensuring that all the family plus dogs can travel in the one car and that we can transport visitors without the need to take two cars on trips. 

Most dealers will sell the car with a finance package, road tax, registration and insurance.  If you prefer you can take out finance with your bank.  As with most car finance packages the larger the deposit the better value the repayments.  We looked at several finance options on newer cars but we wanted to buy something fairly old but in decent condition that would hold its resale value reasonably well and preferably to buy outright rather than finance (we had the proceeds from our Astana sale).  We had heard that it can be difficult to get financing on cars older than 10 years in any event.  It is also possible to purchase cars through private sale - many local internet forums list cars but make sure to check any judgements outstanding against the car and make sure that the ownership is proved if you decide to go this route. 

A colleague of my husband’s had an older car he wanted to sell so after a few test drives and an independent garage check we decided to buy it – we are now the proud owners of an ancient Mitsubishi Prado.  It certainly seems comfortable and the kids are looking forward to my being able to give their friends lifts home for play dates.  We decided to register the purchase in my name – the Astana car was in my husband’s as I was out of the country when the purchase went through.  This caused us endless problems as he had to  authorise any work, be present for the annual check and sign all sale documents.  Finding time in his schedule was next to impossible.  I was slightly worried that the authorities would not want me to own the car as I am on a dependant visa and driving on an International Driving Permit and not a Malaysian licence.  This did not, however, seem to cause any problems at all.

The purchase and insurance process was fairly simple and is handled by the JPJ (Road Transport Department) in Miri. We used an agent to help us as all registration papers are in Bahasa Malay.  We had to provide passport and licence copies for all named drivers, the passport of the seller and my passport as the purchaser.  We had to sign the transfer ledgers in the presence of the JPJ official and the registration paper was then stamped in my name, I paid for the Road Tax (about 800RM (£150)) and insurance for a similar amount.  The tax sticker and cover note were issued immediately and the car was mine to drive.  The whole thing took less than an hour - much simpler than the multi-step/multi agency process in Astana.  

The tax sticker, certificate of ownership and proof of insurance have to stay in the car at all times and must be produced if required by the police.

Click on the picture for more posts on life in Borneo.

Ersatz Expat


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  2. This type of 4x4 is very sought after by thieves/car theft syndicates. They target these cars to sell to plantation owners, sell across the border to Indonesia and to sell as scrap parts. Please do not leave your proof of ownership ( green card) in the car. Hope you enjoy malaysia :)

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  5. You might feel like selling it to the private car dealer but the money that you will get will not be worth for your old car.

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  7. Thanks for the sharing. But sometimes I'm not really confident dealing with jpj myself when buying cars. Luckily the car dealer that sells the cars to me really settled up all my needs.
    I buy cars from M Motor in Miri. You can look for them here. I do recommend them. Really helped up with the services required. https://www.facebook.com/mmotorsarawak/