JDM cars are becoming increasingly popular outside of Japan. As we discussed in a recent article on whether or not JDM cars are better than the competition, there are a number of appealing reasons for considering such a car (primarily access to rare and interesting cars that weren’t originally meant to be sold outside of Japan).
If you’ve read our guide to what JDM means, then you’ll know that JDM cars are vehicles made in Japan for the Japanese domestic market.
As you are probably already aware, cars in Japan are generally right hand drive (that is to say that the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car) and you drive on the left hand side of the road. This is the same as in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries including India.
RHD cars and driving on the left is definitely in the minority when it comes to “global steering wheel placement”, as this convenient map shows – blue being RHD countries:
It therefore stands to reason that most JDM cars would be right hand drive. But are all JDM cars right hand drive?
Let’s say you’re living in America and want a JDM car but don’t want the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car – is it possible to find a cool, unique JDM vehicle with a steering wheel on the freedom side?
Let’s find out!
JDM Cars With Left Hand Drive – Do They Actually Exist?
Do any JDM cars exist with left hand drive?
To our knowledge, no they do not. Maybe there are some “JDM unicorns” out there with the steering wheel on the freedom side, but that seems very unlikely.
Japan uses right hand drive (i.e. the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car, and you drive on the left hand side of the road). This is similar to the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand etc.
Cars built in Japan for the Japanese domestic market are all right hand drive.
Japanese cars produced for export (such as to the United States or continental Europe) are made in left hand drive, although they can also be exported in right hand drive configuration for sale new in markets such as the UK, Australia and NZ.
So, are all JDM cars right hand drive? Yes, they are.
While not all Japanese cars are right hand drive, JDM cars definitely are. Make sure you have read our guide to the meaning of JDM if you’re uncertain as to the difference between a Japanese car, and a JDM one.
Why Are There Japanese Import Cars With Left Hand Drive?
What about imports from Japan that are left-hand drive?
Does this not mean that there might be some rare, LHD JDM cars out there?
If you’ve seen LHD cars on Japanese auction sites, for example, you’ll notice that they are all European or American vehicles.
For example, you can sometimes find rare European classics like the Lancia Delta Integrale for sale in Japan:
This is because buyers in Japan value these kind of cars, and so had them brought over to Japan to use; and now they are being sold off.
The great thing with finding these European and American cars in Japan is that they are often in excellent condition.
To our knowledge, there are no conventional passenger cars produced for the Japanese domestic market that were made in left hand drive configuration. Of course if you know of something that was made this way, please let us know!
Conclusion – Are All JDM Cars Right Hand Drive?
Yes, all true JDM cars (that is to say cars built in Japan for the Japanese market) are right hand drive, i.e. the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car, with the intention of the car being driven on the left hand side of the road.
Export Japanese cars are obviously available in left hand drive configuration, for sale new in the United States, continental Europe and other markets in which the steering wheel is on the left hand side of the vehicle.
If you live in a RHD country like the United Kingdom or New Zealand, then buying a JDM car really isn’t too much of a consideration at all in the “practical” sense of how easy it will be to live with, because the steering wheel is on the correct side of the car for your location.
However, if you are in a LHD country such as the United States, then you will need to think a great deal more about whether JDM is right for you.