Buying a JDM Car: What To Consider

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So, you’re considering buying a JDM car? Congratulations! Buying a Japanese Domestic Market car can be a great experience, but it’s important to do your research before you buy.

In this article, we will discuss all the things you need to know before making your purchase. By the end, you’ll be ready to make an informed decision about your new JDM car.

So, what should you consider before buying a JDM car?

Import regulations, the steering wheel on the wrong side, and the availability of spare parts are all important considerations when buying a JDM car. Each of these aspects should be carefully evaluated before making your purchase.

Let’s take a closer look at the intricacies of buying a JDM car, and what you need to consider before making your purchase.

What are the benefits of buying a JDM car?

JDM cars are becoming increasingly popular among car enthusiasts in the United States and elsewhere around the world, and many people consider them to be better than domestically produced rivals.

They’re known for their high quality, unique styling, and excellent performance. While high-performance JDM cars can be more expensive than other types of cars, regular examples can actually be more affordable.

JDM cars offer a number of benefits that make them well worth the investment.

Nissan Skyline GTS R33
Nissan Skyline R33 GTS

First and foremost, JDM cars are built to last. They are designed and engineered to withstand the rigors of everyday driving, and many JDM owners report that their cars rarely give them any trouble when cared for correctly.

In addition, they often come with a wide range of features and options that their rivals don’t have, whether that be high-tech infotainment systems, all-wheel drive, or luxurious interiors.

The ease at which JDM cars can be tuned and customized has also made them popular among enthusiasts.

With a little bit of work, it’s possible to turn even the most mundane JDM car into a high-performance street racer, with the owner’s personal touch added for good measure.

Finally, many JDM cars come with an interesting backstory that can be appreciated by enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.

A proportion of the most appreciated JDM cars have strong links to racing, rallying, and the drifting scene in Japan, and this can be a major selling point for some buyers.

Whether it’s a rare limited edition model or a car that’s appeared in The Fast and the Furious, there’s something to be said for owning a car with history.

But there are some considerations to be made when buying a JDM car as well. Let’s take a closer look at those.

What are the import regulations for JDM cars?

To be clear, you don’t have to import your JDM car; you could buy one from a JDM import specialist, or even a private seller who has already been through the import process and owned the car for some time.

But if you do decide to import your car from Japan, there are a few things you need to know.

In the United States the rules are quite strict. JDM cars must be at least 25 years old to be eligible for importation into the country.

This is due to the fact that the U.S. has strict safety and emissions standards that were previously not being met by many grey-market imports.

As a result, you won’t be allowed to register a JDM car on the road until it essentially becomes a classic.

Subaru Impreza WRX
Subaru Impreza WRX

Thankfully, importing a car from Japan is actually relatively easy once its over 25 years of age (as long as you’re not in California!). All you’ll need is the export certificate, the invoice, and a couple of other pieces of paperwork to satisfy customs.

According to the NHTSA, they can be imported without regard to whether they comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which is great news for those who love ’90s JDM classics.

Then, once you’ve been through the reasonably arduous process of getting a new title to register it on the roads, you’re good to go.

The import regulations for JDM cars do vary depending on the country you live in, and thankfully other countries don’t enforce the same 25 year rule.

In general, however, JDM cars must undergo certain government tests and adhere to particular safety requirements in order to be imported.

Are they difficult to drive with the steering wheel on the wrong side?

JDM cars have the steering wheel on the right-hand side, which can be confusing for drivers used to the conventional left-hand side.

As well as giving you a different field of vision on the roads, the controls may be on the opposite side to what you’re used to, and you will need to shift gear with the opposite hand if it’s a manual vehicle.

However, once you’re used to it, it’s not necessarily more difficult to drive a JDM car. It can feel awkward at first, but with practice, it becomes second nature. You just may want to take a little extra care when overtaking!

Safety and emissions concerns with JDM cars

When it comes to JDM cars, there are a few things to keep in mind in terms of safety and emissions.

For starters, JDM cars may not meet all of the safety standards required in your home country.

However, they were still designed to meet the safety standards in Japan at the time of manufacture, and Japanese cars are some of the safest in the world.

JDM cars may also emit higher levels of pollutants than other cars on the road.

While this might not be a concern in some countries, it is something to keep in mind if you are planning on driving a JDM car in an area with strict emissions regulations, or if you simply prefer to do your bit for the environment.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if the safety and emissions concerns are worth worrying about.

Spare parts and service availability for JDM cars

It can be tricky to find spare parts for certain JDM cars, particularly those that are uncommon in your country. JDM cars sometimes use different parts to their foreign-market export equivalents.

As a result, owners of JDM cars often have to be proactive in sourcing parts and finding qualified mechanics.

However, the situation is slowly improving as the growing popularity of JDM cars means that there is an increasing demand for aftermarket parts and services.

A yellow Honda Beat
Parts can be hard to find for the rarest JDM cars

Other concerns such as the language of the infotainment system and owners’ manuals shouldn’t be overlooked, as they can be difficult to use if you don’t speak the language.

How do I know if a JDM car is right for me?

When it comes to choosing a car, there are a lot of factors to consider. But if you’re looking for something that’s both stylish and high-performance, a JDM car may be the right choice for you.

JDM cars are known for their attention to detail and quality craftsmanship.

They’re also typically very lightweight and aerodynamic, which makes them ideal for driving on winding roads or on the track.

If you’re looking for a car that’s both unique and fun to drive, a JDM car may be the perfect match.

But before you dive head-first into the world of JDM cars, it’s important to ask yourself whether one is right for you.

  • Are you prepared to deal with the additional import regulations and paperwork that come with owning a JDM car?
  • Are you comfortable driving on the opposite side of the car?
  • Can you easily find spare parts and service for your JDM car in your area?
  • If you’re buying a rare JDM car, are you happy to pay a premium?

If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, a JDM car may not be the best choice for you.

Final thoughts

So, should these considerations stop you from buying a JDM car?

JDM cars are still a great choice for those who want something unique and stylish, but whether you actually buy one does depend on your needs and preferences.

JDM cars offer style, performance and quality that is hard to find in other cars. But you do need to be aware of the additional import regulations the potential lack of availability of spare parts, along with the fact that the steering wheel will be on the other side of the car (if you live in a country that drives on the right).

If you’re prepared to deal with these concerns, a JDM car may well be a great choice for you.

There are still plenty of cheap JDM cars out there for you to choose from, so don’t be put off by the additional hassle.

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Adam Chinn writes about the intersecting worlds of classic cars, driving pleasure, and smart investment strategies. Starting his journey at 26, he’s proven that one doesn’t need to be wealthy to begin investing in classic cars.

Adam’s insights have been recognized on platforms such as MoneyInc, Swagger Magazine, and Top Speed.

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