I recently spotted foreigners driving around Shenzhen and thought: how did they buy their car? And more broadly speaking, how do foreigners buy cars in China?

What does the registration process look like? Do they need a local Chinese driver’s license?

With these questions in mind, the GiC team put together a “foreign's guide to driving in China" in hope of helping others get around this issue.

Buying a car

1 Requirements

A valid passport and residence permit are required to buy a car in China. The actual process of buying a car is the same as for Chinese citizens.

There are two types of cars you can buy: brand new and second hand.

2 Get the car license plate

In order to get the identity certificate of your new car, you’ll need a valid passport and other travel documents held at the time of entry, a valid visa or residence permit with a residence period of more than half a year, and your relevant accommodation registration certificate issued by the local public security organ after you moved into your home in China.

Take the qualified certificate of the car, the invoice from your car purchase, a copy of the tax form, relevant identification proof and your registered application plate number to your local DMV.

3 Register for the lottery

In many cities, a car’s license plate number can be obtained easily. But for those big cities, you should obtain it via a lottery system. Taking Beijing as an example, anyone from the following places can apply for a Beijing license plate:

Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese and foreigners who hold valid identity documents and have resided in Beijing for more than one year;

Driving a car

1 How can foreigners obtain their Chinese driver’s license in China? 

Foreigners already in possession of a driver's license from their home country can receive a Chinese driver’s license via “replacement”.

If you do not already own a driver's license, you can attend a training session at a driving school and then take a driving test.

Review this article to know how to get a driver’s license: What You Need to Get a Driving License in China

2 What are the requirements for foreigners to own a Chinese driver's license? 

First of all, foreigners should have legal identity certificates, such as residence certificate, entry certificate, passport, etc.

They should then collect any relevant document and have their existing driver’s license translated into Chinese.

After that, the applicant can apply at a local vehicle management office and take the theory test. If he/she can pass the test successfully, he/she can obtain the Chinese driver's license for the corresponding model without the need for a road test.

Can the "international driver’s license" also be used in China? 

Foreigners with an "international driver's license" are not allowed to drive directly in China.


4 What happens in the event of an accident if I can't speak Chinese?   

Driving in China, of course, requires that you must comply with its national traffic rules. In the event of an accident in which a foreigner was involved as a driver and cannot speak Chinese, the traffic police officer on site can contact the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration and request that they send an interpreter to come facilitate the conversation.

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