What Is Considered A JDM Car? 3 Common Myths Dispelled

At Garage Dreams we are big fans of JDM cars (read our guide here to what JDM means if you aren’t sure).

One thing we have noticed over our time researching and writing on JDM is that there are many myths about what JDM cars actually are.

As such, we decided to put together this short article that dispels common myths about Japanese Domestic Market vehicles, to answer the question definitely “what is considered a JDM car”.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and look at the myths and realities of JDM.

What Is Considered A JDM Car? Top 3 Myths Busted

All Japanese Cars Are JDM

The most common myth we see repeated is that all Japanese cars are JDM. This simply isn’t true.

JDM refers specifically to cars produced for the Japanese Domestic Market. In other words, if the car was not built to be sold new in Japan then it is not JDM.

A Toyota Corolla built in Japan but sold new in Australia, for example, is a Japanese car but NOT JDM.

JDM as a slang term has come to refer generally to any interesting/quirky/legendary Japanese car, but that isn’t correct.

JDM Cars Are Only Available In Japan

While JDM cars are built with the intention of being sold new in Japan to the domestic market, it is also possible to get them outside of Japan.

Generally this occurs when the original Japanese owner trades back in or sells the car (read our guide here on why Japanese cars have such low mileage and get sold early for more information on the reasons for this).

These cars then go to auction and are often purchased by car importers and dealers in other countries like New Zealand, where they are imported, complied and then able to be sold and drive on the road.

All JDM Cars Are Sporty & Fast

When you ask someone to name a JDM car, you will probably hear something in response like “Toyota Supra” or “Nissan Skyline”.

However, not all JDM cars are performance monsters.

In fact, many JDM cars are fairly mundane, economical commuter cars or other practical vehicles.

Does this Nissan Cube look a fire breathing monster to you?

In a recent article about why Japanese cars are often small, we looked at some of the reasons why the Japanese “system” incentivises the building of smaller, practical, economical cars.

Of course there are many excellent performance-focused JDM cars as well (including some great sleeper cars like the Supra engine-powered Aristo Twin Vertex, which is better known in the US market as a Lexus GS).


To wrap up, let’s revisit what is truly considered a JDM.

A “true” JDM car is a car built by a Japanese manufacturer for the Japanese domestic market.

This means it was built with the intention of being purchased new and driven within Japan.

As such, JDM cars can have a number of differences to their export counterparts. For example, you’ll find that older JDM cars are limited to 180kph.

What are the most common myths/misconceptions you see about JDM cars? Let us know in the comments below – we would love to hear from you!

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