JDM - General

Are JDM Cars Legal in the US?

At first, understanding the concept of which JDM cars are illegal or not can be quite confusing. But in reality, it is quite simple once you’ve understood why that is. The US government has implemented a law that dictates that certain vehicles must be at least 25-year-old before being allowed to be imported.

We have a complete stand-alone post going into detail on specifically what JDM stands for, and it’s meaning. Right Here.

However, there are a few exceptions that can be used in order to import a vehicle before it turns 25 years old, although quite a difficult process.

One way to work around this law is to import a car via the “Show and Display” ruling. This means, that cars which are specifically going to be used as a show, or display car may be eligible to be imported. But that means that you’re not able to drive. And if you decide to do it anyways may get quite a hefty fee, as well as seizing your vehicle. Only a handful of vehicles have been able to qualify via the show and display rule.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds a record of vehicles that cannot be imported prior to the 25-year-old ruling. However, for the cars not on this list a Registered Importer (RI) can legally import a car under 25 years old IF they also modify the vehicle so that it complies with government safety and emission standards. Each vehicle to be imported has to be approved by the Department of Transportation.

Why are JDM cars illegal in the US?

As we’ve mentioned, there is a 25-year-old import law on Japanese cars before they can be imported to the U.S. This law has been around for decades and will likely stay. But what is the reasoning for this law?

The U.S. regulation is due to a few major reasons.

  1. Different Construction Design (Right Hand Drive vs. Left Hand Drive)
  2. Different Crash Standards
  3. Different Emission Standards

First of all, due to the fact that Japanese cars are only right-hand-driven, there is immediately an increase in risk when driven in a left-hand-drive country. As the construction and structural integrity are different, a front collision between an RHD and LHD vehicle may have dire consequences.

Following through, Japan and the U.S. have two different crash test standards. The way these tests are measured, what they measure, and how they measure all differences between the countries.

Thirdly, is a difference in emission standards. A few different U.S. regulators such as the CAA, EPA, and NHTSA have all agreed upon the United States vehicle emission standards. Any road-legal vehicle which is to be driven on U.S. soil must pass these standards.

JDM Cars Legal In the US

In order to import JDM cars from Japan into the US, it has to be at least 25 years old from the time they left the manufacturer’s workshop. Usually, the manufacturer will attach a manufacturer’s label which clearly states the date of manufacturing. This will be required if you are to import a vehicle as you need proof of age.

That means a JDM car that was manufactured in December, 1998 can legally be imported at the earliest in December, 2023. So it doesn’t how old the “model” itself is. Just because you can import a 1995 Toyota Supra doesn’t mean you’re allowed to import a 1998 Toyota Supra with the same specifications. It’s all about the date of manufacturing.

10 JDM Cars Legal for Import 2022

For good measure, we’ll throw in 10 JDM cars that have become legal for import to the US in 2022.

  • Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS (WGNC34)
  • Subaru Impreza WRX STi Type R (GC8)
  • Toyota Aristo V300 Vertex (JZS161)
  • Honda NSX Type S (NA2)
  • Honda Civic Type R (EK9)
  • Subaru Forester S/tb / T/tb (SF5)
  • Nissan Laurel 25 Medalist / 25 Club S (C35)
  • Toyota Century (GZG50)
  • Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution (V55W)
  • Toyota Caldina GT-T (ST215W)
E. Lindgren

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