Getting your own set of wheels

In Hong Kong, owning your own car isn’t a given. For a start, getting around without one is easy with the MTR covering much of the city, and the bus network filling in the gaps.

Platform screen doors

For this reason most Hong Kongers see cars as a status symbol, not a way getting around. This is reflected by the statistics: over the past decade private cars made up only 10 percent of Hong Kong’s total daily passenger journeys, with ownership rates of around 50 private cars per 1,000 people during the same period. (source)

If you are still dying to get your own wheels, you had better have deep pockets. Even before you get your new car onto the road, three government departments have their fingers in the pie, the first charge being the “First Registration Tax”. Calculated on the taxable value of your vehicle, multiplied by the appropriate tax rate, for private cars it is as follows:

  • 40% on the first $150,000 of taxable value )
  • 75% on the next $150,000
  • 100% on the next $200,000
  • 115% on the remainder

An example is an entry level Toyota Camry with a RRP of HK$249,690 (around US$32,000) – after the First Registration Tax this is HK$384,457 or a 53% tax take.

Don’t think you can avoid taxes by purchasing a second hand car: you also need to pay an annual “Vehicle Licence” fee to keep your car registered. The cost is dependant on the engine capacity, as follows:

  • HK$3,929 not exceeding 1,500 c.c.
  • HK$5,794 exceeding 1,500 c.c. but not exceeding 2,500 c.c.
  • HK$7,664 exceeding 2,500 c.c. but not exceeding 3,500 c.c.
  • HK$9,534 exceeding 3,500 c.c. but not exceeding 4,500 c.c.
  • HK$11,329 exceeding 4,500 c.c.

For the Camry mentioned before you will have to fork out HK$5,794 each year (around US$740). If that wasn’t enough, once a private car reaches age six, they are required to undergo an annual vehicle examination before they can be re-registered: an extra HK$530 a year.

With all those government fees and charges, once you get your car home I hope you have somewhere to park it. If you are lucky enough to be living in a newer apartment complex, then there are probably spaces available in the basement, provided you are ready to pay the monthly rent to use one. If you live in the older areas of Hong Kong you will not be as lucky, instead you will need to fork out $$$ at whichever parking garage is the closest.

Prices for car parking in suburban Hong Kong

To drive anywhere, you are going to need petrol, which is another big expense. The cost of unleaded is around HK$15 a litre (or US$1.90 a litre) – HK$6.06 of which is fuel taxes.

HK$15.13 a litre for petrol in Hong Kong

At least now you have to open road to yourself: Hong Kong’s freeway network is surprisingly uncluttered, at least from the two weeks I spent around the city.

Hong Kong freeway, or scene from an arcade game?

Just keep away from the quagmire that is Hong Kong Island…

Waiting for pedestrians

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6 Responses to Getting your own set of wheels

  1. xahldera says:

    Personally, having been there, I don’t see much point having your own car. Really makes me wish I didn’t have to drive everywhere back home in the UK, where public transport is a joke outside of London.

    • In Hong Kong cars seem very much a status symbol than an essential item to own. I was amazed at the out of the way places that were served by bus routes, meaning you don’t even need to drive if you want to get out into what passes for the local countryside.

  2. Alan says:

    Personally, in a city like this, I’d be taking out a bike and a bicycle; but interestingly enough, the use of motorcycles in HK is the lowest among its neighbours with similar situations: congession and crowded in mainland and Taiwan. While mainland China is seen to be less developed then HK, a car is part of everyday life for the middle class city dwellers.

  3. Alan says:

    To me, HK is not a cycle-friendly city. though it is building connecting cycle paths throughout the NTs, new satelite towns in Kowloon like Cheung Kwan O have patchy bike paths which is not of much help. KCR banning Roll-on Roll-off bikes in its service is another stupid move. There has been calls for the govt. to converted the old Beacon Hill Tunnel to a cycle path connecting NT and Kowloon. Though a bicycle is defined as a “vehicle” in HK, it is technically illegal to ride more than 1.5m away from the curb.

    Being born and lived in HK for more then 14 yrs before I moved to AUS, people of HK perceive motorbikes as “dangerous” which may be true, but for traffic as busy as the urban areas, I don’t see the reason to make a big deal out of it.

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