– These cars can all be legally imported.
– They’re fast, fun, and often cheap.
– It’s a great time to buy a JDM car.
Importing cars to the U.S. is frustrating. Sure, you’re free to import any car you want, but only if it’s 25 years old or older. If you import a newer car, it could be destroyed by customs.
That law is, frankly, ridiculous. But you shouldn’t assume that there’s a lack of older cars worth importing. JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars from the early 90s offer superb performance and gorgeous looks.
The only problem is, their value is ever increasing due to their rarity. Want to know which models to grab? Then read on!
Nissan Skyline R32 (1989)
The Nissan Skyline R32 is a proud member of the JDM legends club. One of the most celebrated cars for street racers ever made, the R32 packed power, looks, and fun into an affordable package.
Their value is increasing dramatically, year-over-year, so if you’re looking for an investment JDM car, the R32 is a great starting point. It’s also incredible to drive. Get in, peel out, and see what made this car famous.
Mazda RX7 (1992-2002)
Yes, the Mazda RX7 was released in the US. It just never really proved as popular as in Japan, so there are fewer models in good condition. That’s a problem because its rotary engine needs to be rebuilt every 80,000 miles. If you want to find an RX7 in good condition, and experience insane power from a 1.3 JDM engine, look to the east.
Toyota Supra (1993-2002)
Drifter cars don’t come much more famous than the Supra. This JDM legend is most famous for its engine. The 2JZ-GE engines are exceptionally tuneable. Owners have gotten them up to 1,000 horsepower before. Yes, really. This car is a dream for any tinkerer.
Toyota MR2 (1989-1997)
Want Italian-style supercar looks without the price? The MR2 is the car you need to be looking at. These gorgeous cars were always pretty rare, so prices are rising, but they can be had for around $10-20K. They’re very reliable, and certain models come with superb performance from a turbocharged engine.
Toyota AE86 (1983-1987)
This JDM car may not look amazing. Indeed, it may not sound amazing, being a first-gen Corolla. However, its twin-cam 4AGE engine is absolutely incredible. It may just be 1.6 liters, but it’s an absolute riot. It’s never going to break any speed records, but if you’re looking for the most fun you can have, in a cheap package, you need the AE86.
Toyota Land Cruiser (1990-1997)
The Land Cruiser can handle absolutely any terrain, and is incredibly reliable.
If you’re looking for an off-roader that can take on anything, a classic Land Cruiser is your best bet. These trucks can handle absolutely any terrain and are incredibly reliable. Import one, and you can get two JDM engines that were never offered in the US. There’s a strong gasoline engine, and a turbo-diesel, both of which offer fantastic power.
Nissan Silvia S13 (1989-1994)
The Nissan Silvia helped to kickstart the drifting scene, and is an incredible performer, even today.
Another JDM legend, the Silvia S13 was immensely popular in its native country. It helped to kickstart the drifting scene and is an incredible performer, even today. Its 2.0 liter turbo engine, combined with its RWD set up lets you absolutely throw it into corners. The lightweight and fun drive make it a compelling import choice.
Although the domestic market is the first stop, always look at importing, especially old JDM cars. They offer superb performance and reliability and are becoming collector’s items. If you want a unique vehicle, a JDM might just be the option.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
Whichever vehicle you drive, just be glad it’s not one of these.
Which designers possibly thought these were sound ideas?
Buying a used car? We’ve got some great tips to help you out.