Don’t Get Taken for a Ride: 😠 Scooter Rental Scams

The 5 Most Common Motorbike & Scooter Rental Scams in Da Nang

Vietnam Scooter Scams

Renting a scooter during my travels in Da Nang was exhilarating and allowed me a freedom I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

That being said, I don’t recommend learning to ride a scooter in Da Nang due to the levels of traffic and lack of road rules. Thanks to the ease of ride-hailing apps, it’s not essential to get around, but you will be missing out somewhat on the authentic Vietnamese experience.

Quick Guide: Renting An Apartment in Da Nang

If you do decide to rent in this beautiful, there’s a few scams you need to be on watch out for.

Don’t be like my French friend David who wake up to his scooter having gone walkies (aka stolen by the rental shop).

So to help you avoid falling victim to the most common rental scams, I’ve compiled a list of red flags to watch out for!

  1. The Vanishing Scooter
  2. The Dodgy Scooter
  3. The Trapped Deposit
  4. The Fake Documents
  5. The Bait & Switch

Travelling to Da Nang soon? bookmark this page – Da Nang Travel Tips & Guides

Scooter riders in Da Nang

Scam No.1 – The “Vanishing Scooter” Scam

Another deceptive practice I’ve encountered while renting scooters in Vietnam is the “vanishing scooter” trick.

In this case, the rental shop provides you with a scooter that they can remotely track, either through a concealed GPS device or by having a confederate shadow you discreetly.

When you park the scooter and leave it unattended, the rental shop or their collaborator swipes the scooter, making you accountable for the “vanished” scooter.

Upon returning to the shop to report the missing scooter, they demand a substantial payment for the lost vehicle.

To sidestep the “vanishing scooter” trick, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Examine the Scooter: Prior to departing from the rental shop, meticulously scrutinise the scooter for any concealed GPS devices or dubious signs of meddling. Although you might lack expertise in scooter mechanics, a swift visual inspection can help you detect any noticeable abnormalities.
  • Be Vigilant: Remain aware of your surroundings and pay heed to anyone who might be trailing you while riding the scooter. If you observe a consistent follower, contemplate altering your route or parking the scooter in a secure location to evaluate the situation.
  • Smart Parking: Always park your scooter in well-illuminated, populated areas, ideally with security staff or CCTV cameras nearby. This creates a hurdle for rental shops or their confederates to steal the scooter without attracting attention.
  • Employ Your Own Lock: Carry your own lock and utilise it to secure the scooter when you leave it unattended. This ensures the rental shop or their confederates cannot easily use their own keys to steal the scooter.
  • Note Rental Shop Details: Record the rental shop’s contact details, including their address and phone number. If the scooter does go missing, you can quickly inform them and request their help in tracking it down.
  • Opt for Insurance: Contemplate purchasing insurance coverage for the rental scooter if it’s offered. This can grant you additional protection and peace of mind in case the scooter is stolen or damaged.

By implementing these precautionary measures, you can reduce the risk of succumbing to the “vanishing scooter” trick and thoroughly savour your scooter rental adventure in Vietnam without unnecessary difficulties.

A list of helpful numbers if you need help from authorities in Da Nang from the US Embassy Vietnam.

No.2 – The “Dodgy Scooter” Trick

I’ll never forget my first brush with the dodgy scooter trick in Vietnam. Eager to start exploring, I picked up a scooter from a local rental shop.

However, just a few hours into my ride, I realised that the scooter had a flat tyre. As I discovered later on, there are some dishonest rental shops that purposely rent out scooters with existing issues, only to slap renters with exorbitant repair bills upon returning the scooter.

And it’s not limited to flat tyres – problems could range from worn-out brakes and faulty ignitions to inaccurate fuel gauges.

To steer clear of this trick, it’s crucial to carry out a comprehensive inspection of the scooter before renting. Here are some essential points to cover during your pre-rental check:

  1. Tyres: Inspect for signs of wear, uneven tread, or visible damage. Make sure the tyres are adequately inflated.
  2. Brakes: Test the front and rear brakes to ensure they’re working properly and smoothly. Pay attention to any odd sounds or grinding that might indicate worn brake pads.
  3. Lights and Indicators: Make sure the headlamp, rear light, and turn signals are all in good working order.
  4. Horn: Give the horn a quick honk to make sure it’s functional, as it’s necessary for safe navigation on Vietnam’s busy roads.
  5. Fuel Gauge: Check the fuel level in the tank to confirm the fuel gauge’s accuracy.
  6. Ignition and Engine: Start up the scooter and let it idle for a few minutes. Listen for any unusual noises or indications of engine trouble.

If you come across any problems during your inspection, don’t be shy about bringing them up with the rental shop.

Ask for a different scooter or have them fix the issues before agreeing to rent the vehicle. By being thorough during the inspection process, you can significantly reduce the risk of renting a dodgy scooter and avoid surprise repair costs.

No.3 – The “Trapped Deposit” Swindle

During my scooter rental adventures in Vietnam, I stumbled upon another widespread trick called the “trapped deposit” swindle.

In this scenario, the rental shop requires a substantial cash deposit or even demands your passport as collateral. Upon returning the scooter, they might allege that you’ve inflicted damage or violated the rental terms, refusing to return your deposit or passport unless you cough up a substantial fee.

Sometimes, the shop may even intentionally create the damage after you’ve left.

To safeguard yourself from the “trapped deposit” swindle, keep these tips in mind:

  • Seek Reliable Rental Shops: Prior to renting a scooter, search for trustworthy rental shops by asking for advice from fellow travellers or local residents. You can find valuable insights in online forums or regional Facebook groups.
  • Capture Photos or Recordings: Before departing from the rental shop, capture the scooter’s condition in photos or videos, highlighting any existing damage. This evidence can help counter any fraudulent damage allegations.
  • Lock Your Scooter: Always secure your scooter with a lock when leaving it unattended, even for brief periods. This minimises the chances of the rental shop tampering with the scooter or someone stealing it.
  • Retain Your Passport: Refrain from handing over your passport to a rental shop. Offer a photocopy of your passport and/or a cash deposit as an alternative. If they decline, it’s wiser to find another rental shop with less stringent requirements.
  • Examine the Rental Contract: Thoroughly read and comprehend the rental contract before signing it. Ensure you agree with all the stipulations, and seek clarification on any ambiguous points from the rental shop.
  • Be Ready to Bargain: If the rental shop attempts to hold your deposit or accuse you of causing damage, stay composed and present your photographic or video evidence to dispute their claims. If necessary, contact local authorities or your embassy for support.

By following these protective measures, you can better handle the “trapped deposit” swindle and relish your scooter rental escapades in Vietnam without unwarranted anxiety.

No.4 – The “Counterfeit Paperwork” Ploy

Another disreputable tactic I’ve stumbled upon whilst renting scooters in Vietnam involves the “counterfeit paperwork” ploy.

In this instance, the rental establishment supplies you with fabricated registration papers or a fake driving permit, potentially causing problems if local authorities stop you.

Should the police pull you over, they might impound the scooter, issue a fine, or even solicit a bribe due to the illegitimate documents.

In extreme cases, using counterfeit documents could result in legal troubles.

To circumvent the “counterfeit paperwork” ploy, bear in mind these suggestions:

  • Examine the Paperwork: Prior to renting a scooter, ask to inspect the registration papers and any other necessary documents. Confirm that the document details correspond to the scooter’s make, model, and number plate. If you’re uncertain about the authenticity of the documents, it’s best to rent from another shop.
  • Secure a Legitimate Driving Permit: Ensure you possess a valid international driving permit (IDP) or a local Vietnamese driving licence before renting a scooter. Possessing the appropriate documentation can decrease the likelihood of complications with local authorities.
  • Investigate the Rental Establishment: Seek reviews and recommendations for trustworthy scooter rental shops in the vicinity. Insights from fellow travellers, expats, or residents can be invaluable in pinpointing reliable businesses.
  • Capture Photographs: Before departing from the rental establishment, take pictures of the scooter and the supplied documents. This can act as proof in the event of disputes and may prove useful if the authorities stop you.
  • Acquaint Yourself with Local Traffic Regulations: Study the traffic rules in Vietnam and adhere to them whilst riding your scooter. This can assist in avoiding drawing the attention of the police and potentially being caught with counterfeit documents.

By adhering to these precautionary steps, you can reduce the risk of succumbing to the “counterfeit paperwork” ploy and confidently rent a scooter in Vietnam, secure in the knowledge that you possess the required and legitimate documentation.

No.5 – The “Bait and Switch” Scam

One more crafty tactic I’ve come across during my scooter rental escapades in Vietnam is the “substitution trick” swindle.

In this case, the rental agency initially displays a top-notch, well-kept scooter, but when you come back to pick it up, they hand over a completely different, substandard model.

The exchanged scooter might have mechanical faults, worn-out tyres, or aesthetic damages, which could negatively affect your riding experience and even pose safety hazards.

To dodge the “substitution trick” swindle, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Closely Examine the Scooter: Prior to agreeing on renting a specific scooter, meticulously inspect it for any indications of damage or mechanical issues. Test the brakes, lights, and horn, and confirm that the tyres are in decent condition.
  • Snap Photos of the Scooter: Capture images of the scooter you decide to rent, focusing on any pre-existing damage or wear. These photos can act as proof if the rental agency tries to swap the scooter or hold you responsible for damage that was already present when you return it.
  • Take Note of the Scooter’s Details: Record the scooter’s make, model, and registration number. When you collect the scooter, double-check that these particulars match the vehicle you originally agreed to rent.
  • Choose a Reliable Rental Agency: Opt for a rental agency with favourable reviews and endorsements from other travellers, expats, or local residents. A reputable shop is less likely to engage in underhanded practices like the “substitution trick” swindle.
  • Pick up the Scooter Straight Away: If feasible, plan to rent and pick up the scooter simultaneously, minimising the chance of a swap happening when you’re not there.

By adhering to these tips, you can sidestep the “substitution trick” swindle and guarantee an enjoyable and secure scooter rental adventure in Vietnam.

Vietnam Scooter Scams – Final Thoughts…

In conclusion, scooter rental scams are an unfortunate reality for travellers in Vietnam.

By being aware of the common pitfalls, such as faulty scooters, the “held hostage” deposit scam, the “lost scooter” scam, the “forged documents” scam, and the “substitution trick” swindle, you can take precautions to avoid falling victim to these deceptions.

Always inspect the scooter thoroughly, take photos, confirm its details, and choose a reputable rental agency.

Collect the scooter immediately, if possible, and never shy away from asking questions or seeking advice from fellow travellers or local residents.

With these guidelines in mind, you can navigate the scooter rental landscape in Vietnam with confidence and enjoy a safe and pleasant riding experience during your stay.

Safe riding!


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