Can You Drive a Right-Hand Drive Car in the US?
Before you buy, check out the safety, conveniences, and legality of owning and driving a right-hand drive vehicle in America.
You may be surprised to look in the mirror and see the driver in the vehicle behind you sitting on the “wrong” side of the cabin. Or you may have come across a similarly positioned steering wheel at a local enthusiast meet. Right-hand drive (RHD) cars are becoming increasingly common on American roads, but are there any special requirements involved in licensing, owning, or piloting these unique autos? We have the answers.
Are Right-Hand Drive Cars Legal in America?
There are no regulations prohibiting the use of RHD cars on public roads in the United States. As long as an automobile follows federal emissions and safety standards statutes, it can be licensed and used by anyone holding a driver's license. A vehicle at least 25 years old can also be legally imported whether it complies with all the requirements.
These RHD vehicles are usually no more difficult to insure than any other vehicle.
Where Do Right-Hand Drive Cars Come From?
There are two primary sources of RHD cars.
First, many are imported from countries that drive on the opposite side of the road as compared to the US, a list that includes automotive hot spots such as Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Of these countries, imports from Japan are the most popular, thanks to the generally good condition of its used vehicles, affordable resale prices, and the appeal to enthusiasts of their own unique or high-performance models that were never sold on this side of the Pacific Ocean.
Second, a surprising domestic source for RHD vehicles is postal service Jeeps. Jeep has a long history of building RHD editions of its various SUVs for use by postal workers, who can easily lean out the window and make their delivery into roadside boxes. The Jeep Wrangler is available in RHD in a single edition that pairs the Sport trim with a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive.
Are There Special Considerations to Make While Driving Right-Hand Drive Cars?
Driving on the curb side of a car in a country where the left side is the norm does raise a few issues regarding convenience and safety. Any drive-thru setup—whether a bank or a fast-food restaurant—will require reaching across the passenger seat to interact with the ATM or server. Another consideration is the gymnastics needed to access a parking lot ticket machine or highway toll booth.
There's also the question of visibility while passing other vehicles. It's more difficult to see oncoming traffic from the right side of the road compared to the left, and when turning left at an intersection. Some North American jurisdictions have seen a rise in RHD car crashes due to these safety concerns.