How much does it cost to import a jdm car?

import JDM cars

If you are thinking about importing a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car, you are likely interested in how much it will cost you. You will want to know what the import taxes will be, how much shipping costs might be, and how much labor will cost you if the vehicle needs to be brought into compliance with US regulations. The following should help you estimate those expenses to figure out how much it might cost you to get your dream car from Japan and into your driveway.

Why We Buy JDM Cars

Importing a JDM car might seem like a grand idea, but it’s one of those things you don’t do for yourself. We buy and import JDM cars because we want our friends and family to be impressed. Sure, there are practical reasons behind choosing one car over another, but when push comes to shove, most people agree they want something that makes them look cool or unique. 

If you’re looking at getting your first JDM ride, remember that if you can afford anything on your list, there’s always going to be something that looks better than whatever you end up with. Of course, once you have your first JDM vehicle, it’s important not to stop there; cars are status symbols, after all!

What are we looking for?

Before figuring out how much anything costs, we need to know what we’re looking for. That’s why JDM is awesome! For starters, JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market. And yes, there is an export market; but that’s not what we’re discussing here. When people talk about importing cars from Japan, they refer to cars built and sold in Japan. 

Many of these cars were never exported outside of Japan (hence why they’re called JDM imports). As you might imagine, these cars are cheaper than their overseas counterparts because they weren’t designed with US or European safety and emissions standards in mind (and also don’t have big marketing budgets behind them). Many of these vehicles can be imported at a fraction of their original price tag—and some even come with warranties!

Importing from Japan

Expensive imports aren’t just for American drivers. It can be costly to import a Japanese-made car into other parts of Europe. It’s all due to different safety standards. Suppose you’re driving an uncommon vehicle, including cars designed for right-hand drive but manufactured in Japan or cars that don’t comply with European emissions standards. 

In that case, you may need to undergo some testing and modifications before they are deemed safe enough for road use in your region. This can add up when importing from Japan, where costs often include hefty shipping fees plus inspections and tests by local officials once your vehicle arrives in your country.

Shipping a Car from Japan to America

Although not part of importing a JDM vehicle, these three steps can set you back some serious dough if you don’t do your homework first. In most states, you’ll need to register your JDM with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before you can title and plate it. 

Your registration costs will vary by state, but they typically run in the $100–$300 range (and maybe even higher depending on where you live). If that sounds expensive, wait until you get hit with titling and plate fees. In most states, titling and plates will run between $100 and $400—but I’ve seen them as high as $750 for certain rare cars!

Registration, Titling, and Plates in the US

You can’t just show up at a port and expect to ship over your car. The process is quite lengthy and includes four main steps:

  1. Registering, titling, and plating in your home state
  2. Exporting from Japan
  3. Importing into the US
  4. Registering, titling, and plating in your US stateLet’s

 Take an in-depth look at each step… The Steps for Importing a JDM Car into the United States: Registering, Titling, and Plates in Your Home State: While many states do not require vehicles to be registered before export or importation, they will need you to register them after they’ve arrived.

State Inspections in the US

Before driving your car legally on US roads, you need to get it inspected by a certified mechanic and pass an emissions test. The process varies by state; for example, your JDM vehicle must undergo two inspections in California. First comes an initial inspection that includes visual checks of essential parts like brakes and exhaust systems. 

Your car will then go through final testing at a licensed station once you have installed all of your equipment and purchased any necessary parts like grille emblems or Japanese-style license plates. Prepare to pay $80-$150 per month for inspections and $500-$600 each time you have your JDM imported as part of shipping costs.

Buying Insurance In The US For Your JDM Car

Unlike your typical Honda, Toyota, or Nissan in America, Japanese cars are generally stripped of their warranties once they cross our borders. This means that parts can be costly, and you’ll have to be diligent about properly maintaining your vehicle if you want it to last as long as possible. 

The best way to ensure that you don’t break your bank is by doing lots of research on your specific model before importing it. Most models will come with an owner’s manual that has maintenance information specific to that vehicle and how and where owners in Japan were able to purchase parts for their particular needs.

Maintenance Costs & Warranty Parts In The US

Your budget will vary depending on whether you have an imported engine or one built in Japan. Imported engines tend to be less expensive upfront but require more maintenance and are typically void of any warranty in the US. Still, they’re cheaper than an entirely new vehicle, and many enthusiasts suggest starting with one before deciding if owning JDM parts is right for you. 

According to our experts, these are roughly your costs: Engine + Transmission = $12k-$18k; Interior (seats, steering wheel) = $2-3k; Exterior (hatch/nose/etc.) = $1-3k; Wheels & Suspension = $2-4k.