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There are plenty of easily updated JDM cars you can buy for under $5,000. First-time buyers or those looking for a cheap project car have a lot of options at low prices. Japanese cars are often easier to find used. Their reliability means more survive to be resold. With a little investment in parts, JDM cars can hang with some of the pricier models. What are a few of the best and cheapest?

JDM cars awaiting import | Koichi Kamoshid via Getty Images

The Nissan 350Z is one of the easiest JDM cars to modify

There is something to be said for popularity. The Nissan 350Z has a huge selection of aftermarket parts waiting for drivers. Nearly any part that can be imagined already exists for this whippy and affordable car. The Nissan 350Z’s interior has been widely criticized for feeling cheap. This is a perfect opportunity for budget shoppers to buy cheap and modify to their tastes.

The Mazda RX8 has interesting quirks

Red Mazda RX8 coupe JDM car parked on a hill
2004 Mazda RX8 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

This is a great car for anyone who appreciates unique features. The RX8 has a rotary engine under its hood. It’s the last production car ever to use the technology. Automakers no longer use rotary engines for a number of issues, including advances in emissions and new regulations. One of the biggest drawbacks to the rotary engine is the common failure of the apex seals. It can also chug fuel. The oddities don’t stop there.

Mazda RX8 drivers will notice nods to the car’s rotary engine throughout the interior. The car’s sun visors are made of mesh, allowing more light to filter through than opaque shades. The RX8 has fascinating doors that give the car a distinctive look. Rear half doors provide access to the RX8’s rear seats and open up a huge portion of this vehicle’s side.

The Honda Prelude SH is an offbeat choice

This car doesn’t earn itself many favorable rewards for hard performance driving. In general traffic conditions, it performs much better. The Honda Prelude might have the most outdated interior of any car mentioned here. It certainly lacks the style of the 350z’s formed leather seats. The Prelude features heavy velour. Outside of cosmetic updates, this car could be a fun choice in this price range.

Once very popular, the Acura RSX is now a great bargain

The i-VTEC engine of the Acura RSX JDM car
2006 Acura RSX i-VTEC 2.0 Engine | Ryan Born/WireImage via Getty Images

The Acura RSX was once as popular as the Nissan 350Z. Car and Driver gave it rave reviews. Because so many were sold, there are plenty of them still around on the used market. The Acura was modeled after the Honda Civic. It sits lower to the road with a wider wheelbase. The RSX came standard with a laundry list of features. The car was luxe for its time. Used shoppers may be able to find an Aura RSX that already includes a number of after-market mods.

The Mitsubishi Lancer is an average car and a great deal

The Mitsubishi Lancer is cheap and fun to drive. Its responsive steering and agile handling make it a good option for a driving enthusiast with a budget. The lancer meets with a lukewarm reception from reviewers, but its small price tag makes it a good entry point. For a first-time JDM Car buyer, the Lancer is cheap and ready to be modified.


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