Are Right-Hand (Right-Side) Drive Vehicles Illegal?

How a person can own and operate a right-hand drive vehicle in the United States.

Right-hand drive (also called "right-side drive") vehicles are rare in the United States but generally perfectly legal. Typically, vehicles with the driver's side on the right are driven by postal workers and car enthusiasts.

New Right-Side Drive Cars

Some car companies manufacture new vehicles for sale in the United States with the steering wheel on the right side. For example, while it may be more expensive, anyone can purchase a brand-new Jeep Wrangler with a right-hand steering wheel. These Jeeps are often used by rural letter carriers to reach mailboxes more easily.

Though legal, operating a right-side drive vehicle might not be the most prudent or practical choice. For example, using a right-hand steering wheel can make highway merging more difficult and dangerous. And ordering food at a drive-thru window will be interesting, to say the least.

Antique and Custom Right-Side Drive Cars

Antique vehicles, such as a 1908 Daimler TC48, have the steering wheel on the right side. And car aficionados might opt to build a vehicle from the ground up and put the steering wheel on the right side.

However, when someone builds or restores a right-hand vehicle, he or she generally must obtain a vehicle inspection to verify certain vehicle safety features.

Imported Vehicles With the Steering Wheel on the Right

Another source of right-hand cars is international importation. Though some vehicles with the driver's side on the right can't be lawfully imported to the United States, these prohibitions have nothing to do with the location of the steering wheel. For example, a right-handed 2002 R34 Nissan Skyline is illegal in the United States because it doesn't meet federal crash-test requirements. And before you get any smart ideas about finding a workaround to the import ban, getting caught with a car that isn't allowed to be imported can result in smuggling charges and a date with the car crusher.

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