Which Right-Hand Drive Cars can be Imported into the U.S.?

Depending on where you live in the country, most people have seen a right-hand drive car pull up next to them at a stoplight. It’s a weird sight at first, not seeing anyone in the driver’s seat and then wondering, “What car is that?”

It’s nothing new

Since the turn of the century, and the rising popularity of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, obtaining an old Nissan Skyline or another Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) vehicle has crossed just about every import enthusiasts’ mind a least once. After all, if you’re into modifying Japanese cars like Honda Civics, Toyota 86’s, Mazda RX-7’s, etc., then getting to drive a car straight from the motherland would be a dream come true.

Luckily, the rising popularity of this dream spread nationwide in the last decade and it’s now easier than ever to get the JDM dream car that you’ve always wanted.

1994 Nissan Skyline GTR interior
1994 Nissan Skyline GTR interior | Toprank Importers

Which RHD cars can be imported?

There’s technically a blanket answer for that question: Almost anything that is 25 years old. This is because, in the U.S., cars that are 25 years old or older qualify as “antiques” or “classic cars.” In 1988, Congress put the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act into effect, which essentially banned the import of cars that were not intended for the American market.

However, written into the act was the provision that cars that are 25 years of age or older are exempt. Don’t get too excited for the 1996 Nissan Skyline just yet, though. Subtract 25 years from today, as a general rule of thumb.

Where can you get one?

There are a couple of ways to obtain your right-hand-drive dream car. You can import a car on your own by finding a car that you like online, finding an exporter, and organizing shipping, transportation and all the needed documentation from your state. It’s the cheaper route in the long run, but it’s tedious.

Fortunately, there are now a number of dealers in the U.S. that import RHD cars regularly and even have them in stock. A quick Google search will net you a few pages worth of dealer websites, however, you might want to read all of the frequently-asked questions and any reviews possible to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

The dealers do make it much easier, though. For example, Japaneseclassics.com is a reputable dealer located in Richmond, Virginia that regularly has a multitude of Japanese classic cars that all fall under the 25-year law. Everything from old Mitsubishi Delica vans to Nissan Skylines.

Have a look at their inventory yourself and be prepared to drool. If you do find a car you like, they make it pretty easy to obtain it via a few different funding options including financing through one of their partners. You can pick up the car from their facility or have them ship it to you.

Dare to be different

If you do end up buying a JDM right-hand drive car, just remember that it will come with its own inherent challenges since you’ll be driving on the “wrong side” of the car. Yielding left turns can be a pain and so can drive-thru lanes, but the plus side is that parallel parking will be a little easier, depending on which side of the street you’re on. At any rate, enjoy the car and just remember, the blinkers and the windshield wiper stalks will be opposite as well.