What Are The Most Affordable Import Cars?
May 17, 2022
Picture this - you spent the last two weeks looking for that new project car and you just keep coming up short. You can't find anything; you expand your search by hundreds of miles in all parts of the country, and everything is just either clapped out or overpriced.
Listen, we've all been there, and it's not a fun time. You can keep searching in hopes that something might just eventually show up, and odds are that eventually, if you wait long enough, that may happen. Or, you could expand your search to something a little further - maybe even outside the country.
Perhaps importing a vehicle sounds like something that is reserved for those with a ton of money, and while that can be the case - especially if you're looking at things like FDs and R33s - it can actually be a pretty achievable goal if you're looking at cars outside of that realm. Even though in the long run you might spend a bit more for something that's imported, you get the bragging rights and the cool factor of driving something that came from another part of the world. So, in today's piece, we'll be taking a look at some of the most affordable import cars you can get right now - let's see what we've got!
Table Of Contents:
Most Affordable Import Car #1: Mazda Miata
If you're in the market for a right-hand drive roadster that you can flat foot through every corner, drop the top, and crest over the 60 mph mark after around 8.86 seconds, then do we have the car for you - it's the Mazda Miata.
You can't really hate a Miata, unless you're like 6 foot 4 and weigh 250 pounds and can't get inside the thing. But it's a legendary, fun roadster and with the prices of first-gen models skyrocketing here in the US recently, more and more people have turned to importing them instead.
Read More: Mazda Miata Wheel Fitment Guide
How Much Do Imported Mazda Miatas Cost?
You can find some really clean examples with decently low miles for $10,000-15,000 - for a 28 year old roadster with a little over 100 horsepower that may seem like a stretch, but that's literally the market now. It's kind of insane, but at the end of the day, the Miata is a classic, fun car that you'd do well having in your driveway.
Most Affordable Import #2: Toyota Soarer
The Miata is fun and all, but maybe you're looking for something a little bigger - maybe something with a little more horsepower and a little different. How about a Toyota Soarer?
First introduced in 1981 as Toyota's luxury GT coupe, the Soarer was meant to be Toyota's halo car - the car that would compete against the Nissan Leopard and the Mazda Cosmo. It was a car that Toyota would introduce with all its new technologies added, with unique high-end car things like the Pegasus and precision-engineered, geometrically-advanced suspension (a fancy term for independent rear suspension).
The Soarer had three generations in its lifecycle, known as the Z10, Z20, and the Z30, the latter of which is best known in the US as we got a version of it. The third generation of the Soarer brought multiple engine and transmission configurations that had everything from a 1JZ turbo engine to a NA2JZ and classic 1UZ. Most of these that you'll find come with an automatic transmission, as they just weren't built with manuals for the most part, unfortunately.
How Much Do Imported Toyota Soarers Cost?
Last time we checked, the Toyota Soarer ranges anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 on the used market - again, that's quite a bit of money when you're looking at it, but keep in mind that for any imported car, the price to bring it overseas will cost you more than what you'd typically pick up stateside. That said, being compared to the range of the prices that other JDM cars are going for, it's not too shabby.
Read More: What Are the Fastest Cars Under $5000?
Most Affordable Import(s) 3: Kei Cars
The next car on our list is actually a gaggle of cars, because they all just fall in line together - this of course is the Kei Car, or "light automobile" in the Japanese translation. You should know these cars quite well; Kei Car is the designation for a lot of the tiny little cars that we have a soft spot for, like the Suzuki Cappuccino, Autozam AZ-1, Honda Beat, and things like that.
These cars had a limited size and engine regulations to fit into the Kei Car category of vehicle that the Japanese government created in 1949, and if you had one of them, you were eligible for things like insurance benefits and tax reductions because they were just so small and tiny - they used low amounts of fuel and saved room for parking everywhere else.
Since 1949, Kei Cars have been extremely popular in Japan, and examples are still even produced today. A lot of people have developed a love for these cars over here in the United States, specifically the ones from the 90s, and you can snag them for a pretty decent price. The jury's still out as to whether or not you could actually fit in one, but they look really fun to drive and some of them look damn cool.
Honorable Mention Imports: Honda and Acura
Getting back into some more reasonably sized cars again, Hondas and Acuras tend to always be overlooked when thinking about importing a vehicle, because, well, we have them here. We didn't get the cooler Type R's or anything like that and we kind of got left out of the really rad stuff, but if you're looking for a clean Honda hatch or Acura Integra that hasn't already been owned and driven by eight teenagers, you can find some decently clean low-mile Hondas and Acuras available for import right now.
Again, it's one of those things where you'll have to be comfortable spending upwards of $10,000 to $15,000 for a 30-year old Honda, but still, they're right-hand drive, they give you solid bragging rights, and they sometimes come with cool aftermarket Japanese parts on them that you'd have to pay an arm and a leg for anyway.
Why Do Imported Cars Cost So Much?
A lot of the cost on these imports comes from actually getting these cars over to the United States - you have to put them on a boat, ship it across the seas, and then figure out how to get it from the port to your house once it does arrive. Add that to the insane shipping costs right now, and you can see how the overall cost can keep ramping up and up.
Tips For Spending Less On Imported Cars
Our recommendation if you're in the market for an import but don't want to spend too much money would be to try and find one that's already over here in the US - there are a ton of dealers that have already done the hard part for you, making it pretty easy to get your hands on a legal, street-ready import.
Another thing we recommend is to keep an eye on some of the cars that are coming up for import eligibility - this could include cars like the Toyota Altezza (literally just the cooler Lexus IS300) and S15s, even though the latter is already marked up pretty high. Of course, Honda Preludes and Toyota Chasers and things like that are going to be fun in the next few years as more and more imports are eligible to come to the US. Also, many of these imports have also found their way to Canada, and they're available now if you're up for a drive north of the border.
Shop Wheels, Tires and Suspension for Import Cars at Fitment Industries
No matter what kind of car you drive, if it's an import or a domestic, we've got you covered with all the best wheels, tires, and suspension you need to help it stand out even further among the rest of the crowd. Check out our store and gallery today to find your perfect fitment and let us know if you have any questions or help finding the setup you need!