Despite some countries driving on the left side, right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles are not standard on many US roads.
And while most Americans and Europeans find driving in countries such as the UK unorthodox, it’s common to see some RHD vehicles in these countries.
But what do state and federal laws say about RHD? Can you drive an RHD in the US?
You can drive a right-hand drive vehicle in the US. There’s no regulation in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) that dictates a driver’s position. However, driving an RHD can be challenging on US roads. Be aware of the challenges of driving one before purchasing it.
Today’s article looks at right-hand drive cars, challenges you might encounter while driving, and how you can get one for yourself. Let’s get going.
What’s a Right-Hand Drive?
The right-hand drive is much similar to the left-hand drive, only that the steering wheel is to the right of your vehicle.
All controls are equally identical, but the gear shift stick is central and to the driver’s left.
Therefore, the drivers in right-hand drive countries drive on the left side of the road while oncoming traffic is to their right.
Can You Operate a Right-Hand Drive (RHD) in the United States?
Yes. You can legally operate an RHD car in the USA. The US postal service cars are right-hand drives.
Receiving mail can be very challenging for the United States Postal Service (USPS) employees if they drive left-hand drive cars.
Therefore, it’s easy for the mail carriers to access roadside mailboxes, while carriers in the city can work effectively without getting into traffic.
However, the USPS drivers receive special RHD training to earn a right-hand-drive certification.
Challenges of Right-hand Drive in the US
If you’re a right-hand drive enthusiast, you may be thinking about owning and driving one on the American roads. Well, as we’ve seen, that’s legal, and you can drive your RHD car without fear or intimidation.
However, driving an RHD on the right side of the road is very challenging since you’ll always be on the blind side of the lane.
Here’s a list of problems that you will experience:
1. Limited Visibility
You’ll need to be very cautious while overtaking since you won’t be able to easily see oncoming vehicles or vehicles ahead of you in your lane, especially on rural roads.
If you’re driving on a two-lane highway, it’s common to pull into the oncoming traffic lane to see if it’s clear.
However, an RHD driver sits on the extreme side of the car, much closer to the curb than on the inside of the lane.
To overtake a bigger vehicle such as a truck, the driver needs to pull towards the curb to allow him to see ahead.
Similarly, while changing lanes on freeways, the driver must rely on the passenger side’s rearview mirror before overtaking.
Overtaking is possible, but challenging and may take you some driving time before you get used to it.
2. Grabbing a Ticket Can Be Challenging
Accessing parking tickets in automated parking garages is challenging since most ticket systems favor left-hand drive cars.
Similarly, ordering food at a drive-through food chain will require you to shift to the passenger seat to make your order.
3. You’ll Be Shifting Gears With Your Left Hand
Some controls on right-hand drive cars are “inverted,” and you’ll have to train yourself and work against muscle memory to overcome them. For example, for an RHD, the gear shifter is on the left and your steering wheel to your right.
You’ll need to train yourself to shift gears with your left hand. The good thing is that the shift pattern and pedal arrangements remain the same.
Is It Legal to Import a Right-Hand Drive Car?
Right-hand drive cars aren’t built for the US market, meaning that they might not meet the US DOT and EPA standards on safety and emissions.
And as standards vary across the globe, US law prohibits any individual from importing vehicles less than 25 years old into the US.
And, if your RHD vehicle is younger than 25 years, you’ll need to prove that it meets US standards.
No rule applies to all RHD imports into the US, and hence, you need to be entirely cautious and follow the proper protocol before importing your car into the US.
How Do I Get a Right-Hand Drive Car in the US?
Getting a right-hand drive car into the US isn’t a straightforward exercise. You’ll need to find your vehicle, locate an exporter, clear your shipping charges, and go through massive documentation.
It will also cost you a lot of money, and the purchase will only make sense if you can’t drive a left-hand drive car.
Another option is acquiring one from an auction. It can be easier for you since you’ll have access to the car before purchasing. However, you’ll be subjecting yourself to a lot of challenges.
Auction cars can be overpriced, lack warranties, have more significant underlying issues, and may cost you even more to repair.
3. Converting Your Left-Hand Drive Car to Right-Hand Drive
Another option is converting your left-hand drive car to a right-hand drive. It’s a tedious process that may void your warranty or insurance cover.
Additionally, it’s expensive as you’ll have to buy a right-hand drive system, pedals, and dashboard conversion kits.
Also, the conversion kits may not suit your taste and might force you to spend more money customizing the car to your liking.
And as the process may include taking apart your car, it should be done by professionals. If you lack the necessary expertise, doing it yourself endangers the lives of other road users.
Having it done by a professional saves time but may require you to part with close to $30,000 or even $40,000.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Drive a Right-Hand Drive Car in California?
Driving right-hand drive cars is legal in California, provided that they have a turn signal system and a left-side rearview mirror,
Can You Drive a Right-Hand Drive Car in New York?
Yes. It’s legal. The vehicle must comply with the US Customs Service, DOT, EPA, and New York State safety and emission standards.
Can You Drive a Right-Hand Drive Car in Massachusetts?
Yes. It’s legal. The vehicle must comply with the US Customs Service, DOT, EPA, and Massachusetts safety and emission standards.