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Buying a Car in Indonesia: A Comprehensive Guide

buy a car in indonesia

Buying a car in Indonesia as an expat can be a complex decision. This guide will equip you with the essential factors to consider, empowering you to make an informed choice that aligns with your needs and circumstances.


New cars offer the latest features, technology, and warranty coverage, but come at a premium. Used cars can be a significant cost saver, but require thorough inspection and research to ensure they’re in good condition and have a clean history.

Consider how long you plan to stay in Indonesia. If it’s for a shorter period, a used car with good resale value might be a better option. Additionally, factor in maintenance costs.

Newer cars might have lower maintenance needs in the short term, but as they age, repairs can become expensive. Compare the total cost of ownership for both new and used cars to make an informed decision.

Buying a New Car

Requirements for Expats:

  • Valid Passport and KITAS/KITAP: A valid passport is mandatory, and you must hold either a KITAS (temporary residence permit) or KITAP (permanent residence permit) to legally own a car in Indonesia.
  • Letter from Sponsoring Company (if applicable): If your employer is sponsoring your car purchase, you’ll need a letter from them authorizing the purchase.

Requirements for Indonesians:

  • KTP (Kartu Tanda Penduduk): Indonesian citizens need to present their national identity card (KTP) for car registration.

Financing Options:

  • Cash Payment: The most straightforward option, but requires having the full purchase price readily available.
  • Car Loan: Expats may face challenges securing car loans from Indonesian banks. However, some automotive finance companies affiliated with dealerships offer financing options, often requiring a down payment of at least 25% of the total cost.
  • Leasing: Some joint venture finance companies offer leasing contracts for expats, particularly for vehicles from their affiliate companies. This option typically requires a letter of guarantee from your employer and a down payment.

Documents to Receive Upon Purchase:

  • STNK (Surat Tanda Nomor Kendaraan): Vehicle registration document, which must be carried in the car at all times.
  • License Plates (Plat Nomor): Official license plates for your vehicle.
  • BPKB (Buku Pemilik Kendaraan Bermotor): Proof of ownership book; keep this document safe and avoid storing it in the car.
  • Faktur (Original Invoice): Invoice for the car purchase.
  • Kwitansi Pembayaran (Receipt): Receipt for the cash transaction.

Processing Time:

After purchasing a new car, it typically takes about a week to process the STNK and license plates. You can take possession of the car immediately, but remember you cannot legally drive it on the streets until you have the STNK and plates.

Buying a Used Car

Important Note: It’s illegal to import used cars into Indonesia. Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, as some importers may try to pass off older vehicles as new.

Common Practice:

In Indonesia, it’s common for car ownership to remain under the original owner’s name even after the car is sold. This is done to avoid the costly “balik nama” (change of ownership) fee. While not encouraged, understanding this practice is crucial when buying a used car.


  • KTP (Kartu Tanda Penduduk): Sellers usually require the buyer’s KTP. Other forms of identification like passports or KITAS might be accepted, but it depends on the seller.
  • Cash or Financing: Similar to buying a new car, you’ll need either cash or a financing option to purchase a used car.

Documents to Receive Upon Purchase:

  • STNK (Surat Tanda Nomor Kendaraan): Vehicle registration document.
  • BPKB (Buku Pemilik Kendaraan Bermotor): Proof of ownership book.
  • Faktur (Original Invoice): Original invoice from when the car was first purchased.
  • Kwitansi Blangko (Blank Receipts): Three copies, with the first filled out with car details and signed by the original owner. The other two copies remain blank but signed by the original owner. These are essential for potential future resale.
  • Kwitansi/Tanda Terima (Receipt): Receipt for the transaction amount.
  • Photocopy of Seller’s KTP or KITAS: Needed for renewing the yearly STNK.pen_spark

Needs and Lifestyle

Before investing in a car, consider your needs and lifestyle in Indonesia. How often will you use the car? Will it be for daily commuting, weekend getaways, or occasional errands? The type of car you choose should align with your usage patterns. Here’s a list to help you decide:

  • City dwellers with frequent short trips: Consider a small, fuel-efficient hatchback or compact sedan for easy maneuverability and parking.
  • Families or those who frequently travel long distances: Opt for a larger sedan or SUV with ample cargo space and passenger comfort.
  • Those who prioritize off-road capability: An SUV with all-wheel drive might be suitable for venturing beyond paved roads.
  • Eco-conscious drivers: Explore fuel-efficient options like hybrid or electric vehicles, if available and fit your budget.

Driving Conditions and Infrastructure

Indonesian traffic and driving conditions can be quite different from what you’re accustomed to. Before buying a car, assess your comfort level driving in such an environment. Ensure you have a valid international driving permit or an Indonesian driver’s license.

Familiarize yourself with local traffic rules and regulations. Additionally, consider the parking situation in your area.

Is parking readily available or will it be a constant challenge?

Alternatives to Car Ownership:

Owning a car isn’t the only game in town when it comes to transportation in Indonesia. Here’s a breakdown of some alternatives to consider:

  • Public transportation, while not as extensive as in some other countries, can be a viable option for certain commutes, especially in larger cities.
  • Ride-hailing services like Grab and Gojek are incredibly popular in Indonesia and offer affordable on-demand transportation.

You might also consider renting a car occasionally for specific trips, which could be more cost-effective than full ownership, especially if your car usage will be infrequent

Long-Term Plans

Your long-term plans in Indonesia should factor into your decision. If you intend to stay for a short period, buying a car might not be the most practical choice. Consider the ease of selling the car when you eventually leave the country. If selling seems like a hassle, alternative transportation methods might be more suitable.

Buying a car as an expat in Indonesia requires careful consideration of various factors. By thoroughly evaluating your budget, needs, driving conditions, legal requirements, and long-term plans, you can make an informed decision that best suits your lifestyle and financial situation. Remember, car ownership is a significant investment, and exploring alternative transportation options is always wise before taking the plunge

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