There has been an update to this post dated 22 Apr 2017 so you will find it at the end of this section.
I am not writing this post as a “how to” entry for the blog. In my stories I mostly just pass on my experiences based on actual events and there will be aspects that might apply to others and some that won’t. There were other things happening around the purchase to make it an interesting few days rather than a bland list of do’s and don’ts.
The decision to replace the Mazda 2 we bought over three years ago in Chiang Mai has been on the cards for a little while now. It was now seven years old and although it has been a terrific vehicle for us I wanted to do some longer trips later in the year and big is better once you get off the main roads in Thailand. A four door pick-up would give us greater versatility and give me extra status in the village (only joking).
The choice came down to a Ford Wildtrack or the Nissan NP300 and the latter won out because I got an exceptional trade-in for the Mazda from Nissan in Udon Thani and generally I preferred the looks inside and out. Both cars are highly rated by the reviewers, with the Ford mostly ending up as the best pick. However some of this is based on off-road driving and having just spent a million baht on a new car the last thing I want to be doing is taking it anywhere which might dirty the wheels! I am sure that 90% of people who buy these trucks almost never take them off the bitumen.
To pay for the pick-up I would be putting in more than 2/3rds and financing the remainder. Dealer arranged interest rates are extremely low here and I wanted to preserve my retirement capital. I only share the financing details because some aspects of this post revolve around that.
So let me step you through the process as it applied to us. We called into Siam Nissan in Udon Thani (recommended) on the way back from a day trip we made to Nong Khai for my stepdaughter’s holiday treat, which will be the subject of a post shortly. As always having a Thai speaker is essential because the staff have almost no English and how you’d get through the process without a translator is a mystery. They had a NP300 Sportech, the model I wanted, on show and the trade-in valuation and repayment options were all done on the spot. I didn’t make a decision then as Gaun needed to be fully agreeable to a financial decision this size. Having done the figures and got Gaun’s OK over a couple of beers later in the week we decided to go ahead and drove back to the dealer on Monday this week to order the car.
Now if you are buying a car outright, as I did with the Mazda, then a farang can have it in his/her name without any mention of the Thai partner. BUT if you have finance then the loan is in joint names or just in the Thai name, even though the income is most likely yours, and the car has to be in the Thai partner’s name. Now this may vary so double check. If the farang is 60 years old or over then the car HAS to be in the Thai name – you have no right of ownership. Now many farang would have a stroke at hearing this but, although it wasn’t my preferred position, I trust Gaun and if that’s how it had to be then that’s how it would end up.
Funnily it didn’t end up like this because during the discussions with the bank representative, all in Thai of course so I had no idea what was going on, Gaun pushed to have the car in my name and because I had a 2/3rds equity in the Nissan they finally agreed. So for all those skeptics out there pushing the “Thai women are only in a relationship for the money” here’s a situation where Gaun could have had a one million baht asset in her name but instead she didn’t take that easy option. The bank could have still made the offer to put it in my name and if Gaun didn’t let me know I would be none the wiser. Thank you Gaun.
That was the good news. Getting a loan and the car just in my name is not an easy process. The only bank that will look at it is Kasikorn and the paperwork involved is horrendous. I have individually signed well over 200 documents, most of them duplicates, and all of the official ones in Thai so who knows what they were.The loan has to be approved in Bangkok and so far it has taken four days and counting. The dealer also arranged for another bank to give pre-approval in case the Kasikorn loan fell through. This one was in Gaun’s name as would be the truck. Approval took one hour!
So Day 1 – Monday, has us signing paperwork, the people who were buying the Mazda came over to look at it and the bank representative arrived to complete their paperwork. It all took five hours. My best tip for anything that you think will be a straightforward process in Thailand is BRING A BOOK. While we were there the pick-up itself arrived in the showroom so there seemed to be confidence that all would be well with the financing.
Day 2 was on Wednesday. Although the finance hadn’t been approved Nissan were happy to give us the car, which isn’t something you’d see too often in Australia. I thought all the remaining paperwork would all be a done in the hour and I would pay the rest of my contribution and we’d be off. Yuan, Lud and Peng wanted to come along for the big event and we were going to a temple afterwards as it was Peng’s birthday. Well. By the time it was all done another four hours had passed and the temple was no longer on the agenda!
Pick-ups (utes in Aussie-speak) have come a long way in specifications over the years. This one has a 2.5 litre twin turbo diesel engine, keyless entry and push button start, dual climate control, a large entertainment screen with sat nav, LED lights and the list just keeps on. Just what you need to get to the building site!
If buying a new car in Thailand you will find that comprehensive insurance is often included in the price for the first year. Registration is a two part process. The car can be sold with no plates, but I think you run the risk of the police having some problems with that although you do see a few new cars driving without plates. The best option is to pay a 4,000 baht deposit and get what’s called red plates, which stay with the car until the permanent ones are ready, which takes a number of weeks. The oddity of red plates is that when you get them you also get a book. If you travel to a different province then you have to record your trip in the book, something we did straight away as we were buying the car in Udon Thani province and driving it across the “border” to Nong Bua Lamphu province! If the police stop you and you haven’t got this book up to date and if you are out of the car’s “home” province then you will be fined. Obviously once the real plates come in none of this applies.
Finance still unapproved (although the backup was in place by now) the keys were handed over and off we went. Being Peng’s birthday she had asked for a Isaan buffet at a place in Si Bun Ruang. Normally we would have taken two cars but now in true Thai style everyone piled into the pick-up. Seven people with plenty of space to spare. I have finally become a local.
Having bought a new car the next step is to get it blessed. Thailand is a very superstitious place especially in country Isaan. I am totally happy with this as having driven here for four years I realise that you need all the help you can get seen or unseen. In our case we wanted a monk called Dit to do the blessing. He’s a lovely man and a friend of Yuan as they went to school together. They both left at the same time aged twelve, Yuan to the farm and Dit to become a monk something they are both still doing thirty years later. He has started building his own wat on family land just down the road from the family farm.
This temple is in the Thai forest wat tradition and therefore you will find most of them use a lot of timber in their construction. Timber is donated by other more advanced forest wats who have trees and also by people who want to gain merit.
So our new family member has been christened Chang, which means elephant in Thai. It is in reference to its size, which is substantial when compared to the Mazda and also elephants are considered good luck in Thailand. I hope we have as many safe and comfortable trips exploring Thailand as we did in our little Mazda. Plenty to keep this blog active for a while yet.
Update 22 Apr 2017:
I thought I would write this update as we have now had the pick-up for a month and there are a few things I would like to share.
Firstly eight days after applying we had word that the loan from Kasikorn Bank had been approved in my name as is the car. Gaun received two additional phone calls from Kasikorn Bangkok after I signed all that paperwork. The first call seemed to cover aspects that we had already supplied in vast and repetitive detail. The second wanted to get my address in Australia! Seeing I had sold my house there four years ago I didn’t see the point but you just have to go with the flow. All good news in the end. Funnily the news of my success came from Nissan not Kasikorn. It has been almost three weeks since then and I haven’t heard any more! No paperwork, no repayment advice nothing. An Australian bank would be pretty quick in getting you to start paying them but that seems to be less of a priority here. I am loosing absolutely NO sleep over it 🙂
Secondly how is the Nissan performing? Shortly after we got it a friend arrived from Australia and we set out on a 500 km road trip to Chiang Khan and Nong Khai, which will be covered in a blog post shortly. This gave me a chance to evaluate the truck on a trip that had varied road surfaces with a few steep climbs.
My first impressions were overall pretty good. After the Mazda it was a big change in size. This is a large piece of metal and it always feels that way. I enjoy the higher seating position and the lazy diesel power. This is a vehicle that feels slow but when you look at the speedometer it is actually travelling faster than expected. Although the change between the high revving petrol engine of the Mazda, which was an enthusiastic performer, and the low revving diesel is a total contrast the Nissan’s twin turbo does the job and this is a safe overtaker with plenty of grunt. We had a couple of very steep climbs (short runs) on our road trip where Thais had left their non-diesel vehicles at a lower level and although the Mazda would have made it it would have struggled. The power of the Nissan made it easily with heaps of reserve.
Inside this is a very comfortable place to be with seats that work well over an extended trip and big easy to read white on black instruments. At night the Mazda had red panel lighting, which may make the marketing department happy but for ease of reading was absolutely hopeless. Even school kids know that red on black is the worst combination for clarity but Mazda must have missed that class. The dual climate control air con is very efficient and has no trouble quickly cooling the car and keeping it at the set temperature. For those of you with Thai partners you will know that they have a different temperature setting than you. In the Mazda I was happy in short sleeves while Gaun had a blanket! In the Nissan we can both set our preferred temperature and everyone’s happy. Just to note that Nissan is the only (I think that’s right) pick-up with air vents to the rear seat passengers and that’s a real bonus.
The extra space inside is welcome and the cockpit looks nothing like a pick-up. It is really pretty upmarket and I think looks flash. The sound system is OK but nothing special. The sat nav is a revelation after my current Garmin portable version, which produces nothing on anything you search for. I have entered several addresses on the Nissan version and nearly fell out of the car when they came up with the places I was looking for. The rest is Garmin standard so pretty good except for the usual Thai odd directions sometimes taking you into backstreets for no obvious reason before rejoining the main road.
The reversing camera is pretty good except where the sun strikes the screen. In western versions you also have the reversing audio warnings but these are an optional extra here. I am getting these plus ones for the front fitted (you have no idea what’s happening low down in front) next week. There are so many unexpected objects in Thai streets that it seems like a good investment. I had them put on the Mazda after I reversed into a low concrete plant pot in Chiang Mai, which luckily only dented the rear bumper and it was able to be pushed out again.
My main concern was that the Nissan had a really firm ride. I was expecting it to be harsher than the Mazda (pick-up v’s sedan) but I wasn’t expecting it to be so unforgiving on choppy roads. It was only after our road trip that I thought about tyre pressure and when I checked they were all pumped to 42 psi while the recommended was 35 psi, except if fully loaded when the rears should be 41 psi. Reducing the pressure made a huge difference and the vehicle now rides surprisingly well and is acceptably comfortable even for an ex-sedan owner. Phew.
Fuel consumption seems to be sitting on around 8.1 litres per 100 km or 35 mpg in the old imperial terms (29 mpg US). As this is around what I was getting with the Mazda I am happy with that. The running cost difference is that the Mazda used E20 petrol (Ethanol) while obviously the Nissan is diesel, which is more expensive. Still the difference isn’t too dramatic although filling a 80 litre tank does make the eyes water slightly when paying the bill the double range between fills is a bonus.
If I think of anything else I will add it in further updates.
Thanks for reading.