If you’re a fan of imported cars, you may have come across some with right-hand drive. A common question that arises in the mind of every automobile enthusiast is, are right-side cars legal in the US? The answer is not so simple, and there are some things you should know before deciding to bring one onto American roads. Whether you’re chasing down a vintage Japanese sports car or just want to stand out on your daily commute, the legality of right-hand drive vehicles in the US is an important and often murky topic.
The issue of right-hand drive cars in the US is one with a lot of layers to it. Many enthusiasts and collectors love cars from Japanese and European manufacturers, which often come in right-hand drive models. But as with importing any vehicle, the legality can vary significantly depending on many factors. If you’re considering bringing a right-hand drive vehicle over to the States, there are many things you need to know to avoid any legal headaches down the road. So, let’s dive into this topic to help you better understand whether right-side cars are legal in the US or not.
Ultimately, the answer to this question is relatively complicated, and there’s no exact yes or no answer. It’s crucial to know the laws governing vehicle importation into the US, especially when it comes to the steering wheel placement, as they can vary depending on your state of residence. This makes researching and understanding the regulations for right-hand drive cars essential before you even consider buying one. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the legal ins and outs of importing and driving a right-side car within the United States.
History of Right Side Cars in the US
The concept of right-side driving dates back to the early days of horse-drawn carriages. It was considered more practical for the driver to sit on the right-hand side of the carriage so that they could keep their right hand free to hold a whip and use their left hand to control the reins. When cars started to become popular, this tradition carried over, and most countries adopted right-hand driving.
However, the United States chose to adopt left-hand driving. This was partly due to tradition but also because of practical reasons. When America was first colonized, most people traveled on horseback or by walking. Since most people are right-handed, it made sense for them to stay to the right-hand side of the road so they could defend themselves with their right hand if necessary. When cars began to be introduced on American roads, it made sense to adopt the same driving system that had been used for horse-drawn vehicles.
- Throughout the history of the automobile, a few American car manufacturers did produce right-side driving cars for export. However, these were usually specialty vehicles designed for specific export markets, and they were never widely used in the US.
- Today, there are still a few circumstances where right-side cars are used in the United States. For example, postal workers who deliver mail in rural areas often use right-hand drive vehicles to make it easier to deliver mail to curbside mailboxes without having to get out of the car. Additionally, some car enthusiasts import right-side drive vehicles from other countries to use as personal vehicles, although this is relatively uncommon.
- Overall, right-hand driving has never been widely used in the US, and there are no laws specifically governing the use of right-side cars on American roads. If you do choose to import a right-hand drive vehicle for personal use, you may need to take some extra steps to ensure that it meets US safety regulations and is legal to operate on American roads.
Differences between left and right side cars
When it comes to cars, an important consideration is which side the driver’s seat is located on. The majority of countries around the world, including the United States, drive on the right-hand side of the road. As a result, most cars manufactured in the US have the driver’s seat located on the left-hand side. However, some countries drive on the left-hand side of the road, and therefore have cars with the driver’s seat on the right-hand side. These cars are often referred to as right-hand drive vehicles or RHDs.
Unlike left-hand drive vehicles, right-hand drive vehicles provide the driver with a clearer view of the side of the road that is closest to the curb. This can be particularly useful when driving in countries where traffic flows on the left-hand side of the road.
In left-hand drive vehicles, the driver uses their right hand to shift gears, while in right-hand drive vehicles, they use their left hand. This can take some getting used to, but can ultimately lead to a more comfortable experience for drivers who are accustomed to using their non-dominant hand to shift gears.
Left-hand drive vehicles are more widely available in countries where traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road, which means they’re often less expensive and easier to find than right-hand drive vehicles.
In addition to these differences, there are also some drawbacks to driving a right-hand drive vehicle in a country where traffic flows on the right-hand side of the road. For example, overtaking can be more difficult in a right-hand drive vehicle because the driver has a limited view of the road ahead. Additionally, driving a right-hand drive vehicle in a country where traffic flows on the right-hand side of the road can make parking, entering and exiting garages, and making left-hand turns difficult.
Overall, while driving a right-hand drive vehicle in a country where traffic flows on the right-hand side of the road may take some getting used to, it can be a viable option for those who are traveling or living abroad. It’s important to take all of the differences between left and right-hand drive vehicles into consideration and choose a vehicle that best suits your needs and driving environment.
|Left-hand drive vehicle
|Right-hand drive vehicle
|Driver’s seat located on the left-hand side
|Driver’s seat located on the right-hand side
|Gears shifted with the right hand
|Gears shifted with the left hand
|Wipers on left-hand side of windshield
|Wipers on right-hand side of windshield
*Table shows some differences between left-hand drive vehicles and right-hand drive vehicles.
Regulations on Importing Right Side Cars to the US
Bringing a right-side car into the US can be a complicated process, so it’s important to understand the regulations and requirements involved before making any purchases or importation plans.
- Compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) – Any car imported into the US must comply with FMVSS standards to ensure it meets US safety requirements. This includes features such as airbags, seat belts, headlamps, and more. If the car does not meet these requirements, modifications will be necessary.
- EPA and DOT compliance – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) have regulations in place to ensure that imported vehicles meet US emissions standards. This can be a complicated process if the car was not originally manufactured for the US market.
- Grey market import restrictions – In the past, it was possible to bring almost any car into the US through the “grey market.” However, since 1988, many restrictions have been put in place, and only vehicles over 25 years old are eligible for importation without modifications.
Overall, importing a right-side car to the US can be a daunting task, so it is advisable to consult with an experienced importer or lawyer to ensure compliance with all regulations. Additionally, it’s important to budget for additional costs for modifications, transportation, and customs fees.
Here is a table outlining the general process to bring a right-hand drive car into the US:
|Verify vehicle eligibility for importation
|Ensure compliance with FMVSS and DOT regulations
|Apply for and obtain EPA clearance
|Arrange shipping and transportation to the US
|Pay customs fees and obtain clearance at the port of entry
|Complete any required modifications for compliance
By following these steps and working with experienced professionals, it is possible to successfully import a right-side car to the US and enjoy a unique driving experience.
Safety Concerns of Operating a Right Side Car in the US
While driving on the left-hand side of the road is common in other parts of the world, it is not the norm in the United States. Therefore, operating a right-hand side car in the US can come with some safety concerns. Below are some of the most significant risks to consider.
- Visibility: Driving a right-hand side car in the US means the driver sits closer to the center of the road, which can lead to visibility issues. Blind spots may be more difficult to see, and overtaking other drivers on narrow roads can be particularly challenging.
- Passenger Safety: When driving a right-hand side car, passengers are on the side of the car closest to oncoming traffic. This increases the risk of injury in the event of a head-on collision.
- Pedestrian Safety: Approaching pedestrians from a different angle than drivers are used to can lead to confusion and make it challenging to anticipate their movements. This can result in an increased risk of accidents.
It is also worth noting that although it is legal to drive a right-hand side car on US roads, many states have additional regulations in place. For example, some states may require additional mirrors to improve visibility, and certain modifications may be necessary to pass the required safety inspections. It is essential to research and comply with all local laws and regulations.
Furthermore, some insurance companies may have additional requirements for insuring right-hand side cars, and obtaining appropriate coverage may be more difficult or expensive.
|Blind spots and passing on narrow roads
|Risk of injury in head-on collisions
|Difficulty anticipating their movements
If you decide to operate a right-hand side car in the US, it is crucial to be aware of these safety concerns and take steps to mitigate them. This may include additional driver training, installing safety equipment, and adjusting your driving habits accordingly.
Popular Models of Right Side Cars in the US
When it comes to right-hand drive (RHD) cars, the US market has a diverse selection of imported models to choose from. Some of the popular RHD models available in the US are:
- Nissan Skyline GT-R: The Nissan Skyline GT-R is a high-performance sports car that has a cult following among car enthusiasts in the US. It was never officially sold in the US, but can be imported under the 25-year rule.
- Toyota Supra: The Toyota Supra is another Japanese sports car that has gained a lot of popularity in the US. Like the Skyline, it was never sold in the US but can be imported under the 25-year rule.
- Mini Cooper: The Mini Cooper is a British-made car that has been in production since 1959. It is a popular choice for RHD enthusiasts in the US.
- Jeep Wrangler: The Jeep Wrangler is one of the few RHD cars that are easily available in the US. It is mainly used for rural postal delivery, but there are plenty of enthusiasts who enjoy driving it on regular roads as well.
- Subaru Legacy: The Subaru Legacy is a mid-size sedan that has been produced since 1989. It is available in both RHD and LHD configurations, making it a popular choice for RHD enthusiasts.
While these models are popular, it is important to note that importing a right-hand drive car into the US can be a challenging and expensive process. The car has to meet safety and emissions standards, and it also has to be shipped and registered with the DMV.
Overall, the availability of RHD cars varies greatly in the US. While there are some popular models that can be imported under the 25-year rule, the process can be difficult and expensive. If you are considering buying a RHD car in the US, it is important to do your research and make sure you understand all of the requirements and costs involved.
Availability and Pricing of Right Side Cars in the US
Are right side cars legal in the United States? The short answer is yes, but the availability of right side cars in the US is limited. Most cars available in the US are left-hand drive, which means the steering wheel is on the left side of the car. However, there are some right-side-drive vehicles available for purchase in the US, though they are often limited in their selection and pricing.
- Availability: Right-side-drive cars are often imported from countries where driving on the left side of the road is the norm. These cars may be harder to find and purchase in the US due to limited availability and import regulations. Some popular models that are available in right-hand drive include the Jeep Wrangler, Ford Mustang, and Nissan Skyline.
- Pricing: Due to their limited availability, right-side-drive cars can often come with a higher price tag than their left-hand-drive counterparts. Additionally, the cost of importing these vehicles can add to the overall cost.
- Customization: Some car enthusiasts may opt to have a left-hand-drive car converted to right-hand drive. While this can be done, it can be quite expensive and may involve modifications that could void the vehicle’s warranty.
If you are interested in purchasing a right-side-drive car, it is important to do your research and understand the specific import regulations and costs associated with purchasing and owning one. While it may be a unique and fun option, it may not be the most practical or cost-effective choice for all drivers.
Here is a table summarizing some popular right-hand-drive vehicles available in the US:
|Make and Model
|An off-road SUV with a distinctive look, the Jeep Wrangler can be purchased in a right-hand-drive configuration for mail carriers or other driving needs.
|The Mini Cooper is a stylish and compact car available in right-hand drive for a unique driving experience.
|A popular Japanese sports car, the Nissan Skyline can be imported to the US in right-hand drive for those who want a high-performance driving experience.
Overall, while right-side-drive cars may offer a unique driving experience, they can be difficult to find and come with a higher price tag. It is important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision on purchasing one in the US.
Pros and Cons of Owning a Right-Side Car in the US
Driving a right-side car in the US can be an exciting experience for many car enthusiasts. However, there are also certain drawbacks to owning a car with a steering wheel on the right side. Here are some pros and cons to consider if you are planning to own one:
- Increase in visibility – One of the biggest advantages of driving a right-side car is an increase in visibility. With the steering wheel on the opposite side, the driver has a clearer view of the road ahead, especially when driving on the left side of the street.
- Intriguing design – Right-side cars are visually appealing and unique. They add an element of sophistication and fun to your driving experience.
- Great for mail delivery or courier services – If you’re working in a mail delivery or courier services, driving a right-hand car can be beneficial. It makes it easier to access mailboxes or packages without leaving the vehicle.
- Expensive – The cost of owning a right-side car in the US can be higher than owning a left-side car. Imported cars are more expensive, and they may require more maintenance since parts need to be specially ordered.
- Hard to sell – Right-side cars are considered niche vehicles and might be difficult to resell, especially in areas where they are not commonly used.
- Dangerous – Driving a right-side car in the US can be more hazardous than driving a left-side car. Since it is primarily designed for left-hand traffic, it can lead to blind spots in certain road situations, such as overtaking or merging onto highways.
Driving a right-side car can be an exciting and fun experience, but it is not without its drawbacks. Before purchasing one, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons to ensure that it meets your needs and budget. It is also important to check with your state’s regulations to determine if it is legal to drive on US roads.
If you decide to buy a right-hand drive car, make sure to conduct thorough research, and find a reputable dealer that specializes in importing vehicles to avoid any confusion or legal issues.
|Expensive to purchase
|Hard to sell
|Great for mail delivery or courier services
|Dangerous for left-hand driving countries
Ultimately, the decision to own a right-side car is a personal one that should be based on individual circumstances and preferences. Keep in mind that driving a vehicle with a steering wheel on the right side requires an extra level of attention and caution, and it is not recommended for inexperienced drivers or those uncomfortable with the additional challenges.
FAQs about Are Right Side Cars Legal in the US
Q: Can I legally drive a right side car in the US?
A: Yes, it is legal to drive a right side car in the US.
Q: What are the requirements for importing and driving a right side car in the US?
A: In order to import and drive a right side car in the US, it must comply with US safety and emissions standards. Additionally, it must be registered, insured, and titled in the state where it will be used.
Q: Are there any restrictions on where I can drive a right side car in the US?
A: There are no specific restrictions on where you can drive a right side car in the US. However, it is important to be aware of any local laws or regulations that may affect your ability to drive on certain roads.
Q: Are there any known issues with right side cars on US roads?
A: There are no known safety issues with right side cars on US roads. However, it may take some time to get used to driving on the right-hand side of the road if you are not accustomed to it.
Q: Does insurance cost more for a right side car?
A: Insurance rates for right side cars are typically the same as for left side cars. However, rates may vary depending on the specific make and model of the vehicle.
Q: Can I modify a right side car to meet US safety standards?
A: It is possible to modify a right side car to meet US safety standards. However, it is important to consult with a professional mechanic or body shop to ensure that the modifications are done correctly.
Q: Are there any US car manufacturers that produce right side cars?
A: No, there are no US car manufacturers that produce right side cars for the US market.
Thank You for Reading!
We hope that this article has answered any questions you may have had about the legality of right side cars in the US. Remember to always follow local laws and regulations when driving, regardless of the make or model of your vehicle. Thanks for reading, and come back soon for more informative articles!