Every year, there is a new generation of foreign vehicles that have just celebrated their 25th birthday and are now old enough to be legally imported in the US. If you’re one of those aficionados who are currently on a mission to find one of the best import cars for yourself, you’re at the right place. Importing a vehicle used to be a hassle and pretty much mission impossible, but now there are no legal obstacles to driving some of the legendary JDM vehicles, for example.
Imported vehicles got notorious due to various scams and claims that they are not safe enough and that they don’t meet US criteria. Back in 1985, there was a thriving gray market for importing foreign vehicles. Allegedly, around 60,000 autos were imported just that year. Affordable prices and a wide range of car models attracted many Americans. However, in 1988, the personal importation of vehicles not intended for the US market was banned, and years went by until that law loosened up and allowed us to shop vehicles from abroad. At least those that are 25 years “young.”
What Cars Can Be Imported in 2020?
This year, vehicles produced in 1995 and older, can be imported, just pay attention to the date of manufacturing. Some of these vehicles starred in some of the best car movies ever, as well as video games. So, if you want to drive one of these cool autos along the most famous routes in the US, then exotic auto transport is the path you should take. However, you don’t have to go for the youngest one. There are many great models from the ’80s and ’90s that are in good condition and can still be very fast on the roads. But let’s take a look at some of the novelties available to us from this season.
- Nissan Skyline GT-R, R33, produced from 1995 to 1998.
- Toyota Mega Cruiser, only 148 of these were made from 1995 to 2002.
- Honda Civic EK version, produced from September 1995.
- Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, EVO III, produced from January 1995.
- Mitsubishi Pajero Mini, produced from December 1994.
- Honda Integra Type R, first produced in 1995.
Nissan Skyline (GT-R)
As an absolute star of video games, car movies, magazines, and a living icon in the automobile industry, Nissan Skyline is one of the most popular sports cars in the US. Its value is increasing rapidly regardless of the generation, but especially in the GT-R trim level. It is popular for drag races and can often be seen in events organized by tuning magazines. It was produced until 2002.
This model belongs to the golden era of Japanese autos produced during the so-called bubble economy. In 1990, this car absolutely ruled the Australian Touring Car Championship, which is how it got its nickname, “Godzilla.” Purchasing this model is certainly an investment worth taking because its value is still rising.
Nissan Cima, Chassis Code: Y32
Cima, Gloria, and Cedric are models that are preferred among those who want a dash of luxury. These models are inspired by British sedans and popular in the VIP community. You can choose between rear and all-wheel drive, as well as several engines, which gives drivers a great diversity of options.
SW20 Toyota MR2 is a very desirable model and an excellent investment because it was not produced in large quantities, so it’s expected that its value continues to rise. But, keep in mind that it is not easy to find one that is well-maintained or was not involved in an accident. Toyota is a reliable producer that designed this mid-engine two-seater inspired by Italian sports autos.
The first generation was launched in 1984, and it achieved massive success, but the engineers wanted a more exotic appearance. So they handed over the design to Kunihiro Uchida, who made it more similar to Italian supercars. Hence, W20 was often referred to as “baby Ferrari.” If you’re looking to buy an MR2, make sure to check its VIN code online; it could give you a lot of information you should know.
Toyota Mega Cruiser
This is an interesting example of a Japanese car, and in a way, it is their version of the well-known Hummer. Although it is not entirely the same, it is obvious that that is the look they went for. Initially, it was designed for military use, but it is mega cool to see it on the roads next to other regular autos that look like toys compared to the Mega Cruiser. Plus, it looks more exotic because it’s hard to get, which makes it even more desirable.
Honda Integra Type R
Integra is a model that came between Civic and Accord and brought so many changes. This pocket rocket was incredibly fast, light, and its enhanced performance finally justified the brand’s reputation and experience in building superb Formula 1 engines that secured five championship titles in total for Senna, Mansell, and Piquet.
Engineers managed to reduce the weight by using thinner glass, lighter engine, steering wheel, seats, and removing heat and sound isolation, so they got around 143 pounds lighter in total. The engine is a 1.8-liter DOHC VTEC, 4-cylinder, and can produce 200 PS.
Honda NSX Type R
NSX Type R is a coupe known as one of the most effortless autos for handling ever since it is very drivable. Its futuristic appearance was a great hit in the ’90s, but it is still a head-turner and an eye-catcher on the roads. It is a car you can use daily, but you can also take it for a spin on a race track, and it won’t let you down.
Mazda RX-7, Chassis Code: FD3S
Another stellar example of a sports car is RX-7. Like the Skyline, it became a legend because of its numerous appearances in video games and car movies, such as the Fast and Furious franchise. However, a significant difference is that this model was actually sold in the US from 1993 to 1995. Finding a good and clean model is hard nowadays, which is why many are looking for the cheapest way to ship a car from abroad. Also, abroad you can find an RX-7 with low mileage and different trim levels that weren’t available in the US.
RX-7 came in several trim levels and used the potential of a rotary engine to the maximum, but it burns oil as well, so be careful because you shouldn’t use synthetic oils. Synthetic oils don’t burn and can damage the car, so focus on mineral oils containing zinc. The key difference between the RX-7 sold in the US and in Japan is that in Japan, the car had a 2+2 seating arrangement. However, keep in mind that that certainly is not the most comfortable experience for those sitting in the back.
Mazda Lantis Type R
Those who are looking for a compact coupe with four doors on a budget should seriously consider Lantis. This 5-door hatchback was overshadowed by many other JDM vehicles with a more futuristic and bold appearance, and Lantis somehow never became so widely popular. That is good for one reason: the Type R was sold only in JPN, and it can now be found in good condition and at a low price.
What Is a JDM Car?
One of the most popular categories of vehicles older than 25 and ready to ship is JDM vehicles. JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market, and until recently it was almost impossible to find them. These vehicles age like wine, and 25 is that long-awaited milestone after which they are welcome in the US. After R32 Nissan Skyline turned 25, our market started changing. Dealerships specialized for importing vehicles popped up across the country, and the resale value of these models went up in no time.
These are certainly not the best cars for families that you can find, but if the idea of driving a Japanese car doesn’t give you driving anxiety, feel free to go for it. They are considered collectibles, and people who buy them don’t have a dilemma when it comes to modern cars vs. classic cars. However, there are some things you should watch out for when buying a used car, so just keep in mind these tips for buying a used car.
What Cars are Legal to Import From Japan?
Basically, any vehicle older than 25 is eligible to be imported. The expected duration of car shipping varies. Roughly said, you can expect to wait for anything from 10 days to a month. Both left and right-hand drive autos are allowed in from abroad. Just make sure to check regulations in your state. California has the strictest laws, and to register your imported car, you’ll have to meet some environment and safety requirements.
What Is the Best Japanese Car to Buy?
The most selling car brand in Japan for 2019 was Toyota, followed by Honda and Suzuki. Among those famous brands, Nissan is in 5th place, followed by Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi. Although we can’t look at the newest models, we can trust Japanese people’s tastes and learn from them; after all, they know how to make a good car.
There are many misconceptions about new cars, but even more about the old ones coming from abroad. Scams can happen, which is why so many people are wondering how to avoid car shipping scammers when shopping for a JDM car. This is not the time to stress about what’s better, open trailer or enclosed trailer; your vehicle will arrive on a boat from the other side of the world.
You need a reliable company with experience based on real deals and no scamming history, so prepare to do thorough research. If you want a car that is still not 25 years old, some companies offer the possibility of free or paid storage, until it is good to go. This is in case you find an excellent deal, a car in great condition at an even better price, and want to invest.
What You’ll Need to Import a Car Older Than 25 Years:
- Bill of lading, issued by the auto shipping company
- Car title
- Export certificate translated to English
- Commercial invoice in English
- Importer Security Filing (ISF) form
Best Import Cars – Are They Worth Buying Instead of a New One?
A new car has never been used. It is clean, fresh, and everything works like a clock. But there is something about those old models, that are a bit retro and classic. With models dating back to 1992 or 1993, you’ll have to learn how to drive a car in a good, old fashioned way. That means without too many buttons, multimedia, displays, and all those cool contemporary features. If you like to own rare and collectible vehicles that are more than just a means of transportation, then importing is the right thing for you.