It’s probably happened to you before: you pull up next to a car at a traffic light and are shocked to see that no one is sitting in the driver’s seat. When you look more closely, you realize that even though left-hand drive cars are standard in the United States, the driver is sitting on the right side of the vehicle.
Encountering a right-hand drive car raises several questions, like “Can you buy right-hand drive cars in the USA?” And “Can you convert an existing car?” Read on to find out everything you need to know.
Since they’re non-standard, the legality of driving a right-hand drive car, or RHD, in the United States is probably the first question you have. The short answer to whether or not it’s legal to drive this type of vehicle is yes, it’s perfectly legal.
The postal service is a fantastic example. Receiving mail would be very difficult indeed if right-hand drive cars were illegal because all mail carrier vehicles must be right-hand drive. What’s more, is that anyone can buy them after these vehicles retire from service.
The caveat is that, just like any other car, right-hand vehicles must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as written in the NHTSA regulations, EPA regulations, and have the proper registration. There are also some limitations on imports, which we’ll talk about shortly.
The simplest way to buy a right-hand drive car in the USA is to buy one that’s factory made. There are a handful of companies that sell factory made right-hand cars; in fact, there are specific models that are only available as RHD in the United States.
The target market for these models is generally postal service workers, but car aficionados will be happy to know that they are also available for purchase by the general public. If you wanted to buy one, you could walk into your Jeep dealership today and drive off with a right-hand drive Jeep Wrangler.
Curious about how much it’ll cost you? A quick online search for the Jeep Wrangler reveals that new car prices range from as low as $20,000 to upwards of $60,000, and this model is just one example. You can use an online car finder to search for companies that sell factory made right-hand cars, where you’ll find both new and used options.
While some of the newer RHD cars can get quite expensive, auto enthusiasts will be pleased to know that they can find plenty of unique options to meet their right-hand drive needs. Used car values in this category can vary greatly, perhaps even more than new cars, and range from as low as $9,000 to up to $95,000.
If you’re thinking about going the secondhand route, vetting a used car is a critical part of the buying process and the reason that you shouldn’t skimp on a vehicle history report. You can complete one with Autocheck before purchase to help ensure that there are no unforeseen issues with your vehicle.
Though importing may seem like a great way to obtain a RHD car, US law prohibits consumers from importing any vehicle that’s less than 25 years old. Any RHD import you see that’s less than 25 years old is illegal and could be impounded, seized, or destroyed.
While this law does prevent you from obtaining new cars from popular RHD countries like Japan and the United Kingdom, there are still plenty of older models you can import that are fun to own.
Besides buying or importing a right-hand car, there’s another way to get one of these vehicles: you can convert an existing LHD to RHD. Some people have the time and resources to go this route, and there are two ways to do so.
Car conversion kits are the most straightforward and most accessible DIY method. They only cost a couple of thousand dollars and achieve the desired effect, but they’re not the best looking way to convert your car.
You can also do a proper conversion by completely taking your car apart, but this method is not for the DIY novice. Converting your vehicle on your own requires you to dismantle the inside of your car entirely, may be time-consuming, and is dangerous if done incorrectly.
If the thought of taking all the parts out of your car and putting them together again is a formidable one, have no fear. There are a handful of companies dedicated to LHD to RHD conversion.
Professional conversion is the safer, less time-consuming option, but it’s also incredibly expensive. Having this done to your car can cost up to $30,000, so if you paid just a few thousand dollars for a used vehicle, this investment might not be worth it.
As long as the car meets US safety standards and is properly registered, there are no penalties or fees for driving a right-hand drive vehicle.
Now that you know a bit more about RHD vehicles, you may be wondering what it’s like to drive on the right side in a LHD world. Having one certainly makes you stand out and is an excellent conversation starter, but are they practical in the US?
All novelty aside, having a RHD car in the United States is mostly impractical. Drivers mention that there are serious safety issues when it comes to things like changing lanes or overtaking other vehicles on two-lane highways. And utilizing drive-up windows like any drive-through lane or trying to pay at tolls is challenging if you’re by yourself.