Are Right-Hand Drive Cars Legal in the U.S.?

You can legally drive a right-hand drive vehicle in the U.S.—but doing so comes with some safety and logistical challenges.
Written by Jacqulyn Graber
Edited by Pat Roache
It is perfectly legal to buy, own, and operate a right-hand drive vehicle (RHD vehicle) with the steering wheel located on the right side of the car in the United States.
  • American cars are generally left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles—that is, the driver’s seat and steering wheel are located on the left side of the car. 
  • Car buyers seeking right-hand cars (RHD) can purchase new vehicles with RHD modifications, used RHD vehicles, or imported cars from Japan or the UK that are more than 25 years old.
  • Right-hand vehicles are easier to parallel park and enter and exit, but they carry a lot more risk and logistical challenges when driving on public roads designed for LHD cars.
No federal laws prevent you from buying, owning, or operating a right-hand drive vehicle in the United States.
Keep in mind: American roadways are designed for left-hand drive vehicles. You’ll still have to follow all of the traffic laws that apply to LHD vehicles if you choose to drive an RHD car on American roads. 
While not impossible, this will definitely take some getting used to.
Fun fact: The United States Postal Service (USPS) regularly uses RHD trucks so that mail carriers can easily access mailboxes on the side of the road without exiting their vehicles. 

How to buy a right-hand drive car in the U.S.

A handful of American companies sell factory-made right-hand vehicles in the States to the USPS, but vehicle aficionados can absolutely purchase one if desired. 
Consider the following tips when
purchasing a car
with RHD in the U.S.:
  • Buying a new right-hand car: Private car buyers often go for the Jeep Wrangler. The easiest way to purchase an RHD model is to head directly to your local Jeep dealer and customize a brand-new Wrangler. 
  • Buy a used car online: Websites for used vehicle sales often allow you to filter your search to only show RHD results.
  • Import a right-hand drive car:
    U.S. importation laws
    allow consumers to import vehicles as long as they are less than 25 years old. Keep your eyes peeled for
    classic cars
    from the United Kingdom or Japanese domestic market to utilize this option.
Finally, you can always
convert your car
from left-hand to right-hand drive. Car conversion kits are an accessible DIY method, but you can always hire a professional if you don’t trust yourself.
Keep in mind: If you have the money to buy an imported vehicle, you’ll need to make sure it abides by the following:
  • Federal motor vehicle safety standards
  • NHTSA safety laws 
  • EPA guidelines for emissions standards

Pros and cons of using an RHD car

Right-hand driver pros:
  • Parallel parking
    is easier because the driver is at a better vantage point to judge the curb.
  • Entering and exiting the vehicle is safer because the driver is next to the curb, rather than active traffic. This is great on busy city streets.
  • Left-handed drivers may be more comfortable
    operating a manual transmission
    with their left hand.
  • RHD cars carry a certain level of novelty that appeals to certain American drivers.
Expert tip: If your heart is set on purchasing and learning to drive a right-hand drive car, we suggest sticking to rural areas with minimal traffic while you’re getting used to driving.
That said, there are several downsides to consider before repositioning your steering wheel. Here are the major cons of right-hand drive cars:
  • Driving on the right side of the road while sitting on the right side of the vehicle can be quite disorienting—especially if you’re used to driving a left-hand drive car.
  • You are at an increased risk of getting into a car accident because your ability to see oncoming traffic on a two-lane highway can be impeded by the vehicle in front of you.
  • Parking garages, toll booths, and drive-throughs in a left-hand drive country are set up with the expectation that the driver will be on the left side of the vehicle. 
  • Many imported RHD vehicles utilize manual transmissions, which can be difficult to operate if you don’t already know how.
Keep in mind: Postal workers receive special training to safely operate RHD vehicles without issue. RHD mail trucks are also equipped with special warning lights and are typically driven at a slow pace on the right side of the road.
“My old insurance renewed at double my previous rate, so it was time to switch. Because of
, I’m a 22-year-old with full coverage from Nationwide at $130/month and a $250 deductible. That’s unheard of!” —Isaac S.
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