Find Out if You Can Drive a Right-Hand Car in the USA

Seeing a right-hand drive car, whether in a movie or personal life, might feel strange to you if you’re living in the United States. So, you may have wondered why American cars drive on the left instead of the right. That said, your inner self might feel surreal when you get the chance to experience driving a right-hand car instead of the standard left-hand drive you were used to. If you want to know whether or not it’s possible, keep reading to find out. 

Can You Drive a Right-Hand Car in the USA?

Historically, the United States was once among the countries that followed a right-hand driving system until the early 1900s. It changed when Henry Ford developed his Model T in 1908, switching the steering wheel from the right over to the left side of the car; that’s why it became a left-hand car now. 

Fortunately, if you’re planning to buy and drive a right-hand car in the states, you can legally do so because there are no regulations prohibiting people from driving right-hand drive cars on public roads. Keep in mind, however, that you can only do so if your car is registered and insured and you comply with the state’s federal emissions and safety standards statutes. Otherwise, you could suffer from paying fines or suspending your license.  

What Is a Right-Hand Drive and How Is It Different From a Left-Hand Drive Car?

Knowing the difference between left-hand and right-hand driving will benefit you if you plan on visiting a country that drives on the opposite side of the road from your own.  

A right-hand drive refers to a configuration of the car in which the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle, and the gearshift is on the left. This driving scheme is most common in many countries, where traffic drives on the left side of the road. These include Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom. 

Left-hand drive cars, on the other hand, position the gearshift on the right side of the vehicle, and the steering wheel is placed on its left side. This design is seen more frequently in the United States and Canada, where traffic drives on the right side of the road.  

What Are the Benefits of Driving on the Right Side of the Road?

Nowadays, about 65 percent of countries drive on the right side of the road, and the rest is on the opposite side. The primary reason behind it is that it covers several benefits, including:

Improve Visibility and Safety

In some cases, driving on the right side of a two-lane road is much safer than driving on the left. This is because, as a driver, you can see more of what is happening around you and anticipate potential issues. Also, you can see the curves in the road more easily, giving you a better view of what’s going on with oncoming traffic. This also allows you to react quickly, which can be beneficial if you encounter an unfamiliar road.

Passing on the Highway Made Easier

On highways, drivers typically use the left lane to pass other drivers and merge into faster-moving traffic. This can be difficult in a left-hand car as you may need help to easily see if another vehicle is approaching from behind, making it harder for you to get back to the right lane when you are done passing. However, if you are driving on the right side of the highway, it can be much easier to judge where you need to be and when it is safe to pass.

Ideal for Parallel Parking

Driving on the right side of the road is also ideal for parallel parking because the driver has a clear view of the curb using the left-hand car. This makes it easier to judge the distance and ensure that the car is properly aligned. These cars are also often narrower than right-hand drive models, making them easier to maneuver into tight spots. Additionally, driving on the right side of the road has a greater turning radius, which can be helpful when making tight turns into a space. 

Getting Out of the Car Is Also Much Easier

By driving on the right side of the road, you can open the door and get out without worrying about opening it onto traffic passing by on the left side. This makes getting out of the car easier and safer, especially in busy areas or on narrow roads.

Mailboxes Are Easy To Reach While Inside the Car

Drivers of the left-hand drive cars—who drive on the right side of the road, can easily reach out the window and grab mail from their mailbox without getting out of the car. This is because the mailboxes are usually located on the right side of the road.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Driving a Right-Hand Car in the USA?

While there are several benefits to driving a right-hand car, there are also some disadvantages, including:

  • Left-hand turns can be more difficult: This is because you need to check the opposite side of the road first and be sure that no vehicles are approaching from behind, especially at a busy intersection.
  • Limited availability of cars: The limited visibility from the driver’s seat means an increased potential for blind spots, making driving more difficult.
  • Costly maintenance & repair parts: Because there is limited availability of right-hand drive vehicles, maintenance and repair parts can be more expensive, making it difficult to keep up with regular vehicle maintenance.
  • Limited visibility and blind spot issues: The limited visibility from the driver’s seat means that there is an increased potential for blind spots, making it more difficult to drive safely.
  • Passengers have to exit on the traffic side: Right-hand drive cars require the passenger to exit on the traffic side, which can be dangerous in certain situations.

Factors To Consider Before Purchasing a Right-Hand Car

Having a right-hand drive vehicle makes a good impression and offers several advantages, but there are a few things to consider before purchasing.

  1. Safety: Whenever driving, safety is the primary concern. Since most Americans are used to left-hand driving, it can be difficult and dangerous to drive a right-hand car if you are not accustomed to it.
  2. Familiarity: Make sure you understand and are comfortable with the vehicle’s safety features and design before you drive it. For instance, you may struggle with where the turn signals or windshield wipers are located while driving in an unfamiliar environment.
  3. Suitability: Driving a right-hand drive car in the USA requires understanding and adhering to road signs and other rules specific to your state. You will also need to get accustomed to different traffic and driving regulations that could cause you to incur fines or even a suspension of your license.
  4. Cost: Insurance, registration, and maintenance costs for right-hand cars in the US can be significantly higher than standard cars. This is due to the limited availability of parts and specialized services for these vehicles.
  5. Availability: Although some dealers offer right-hand drive imports, finding the right car with the features you desire is challenging. You may even need to pay extra for customizations and other features that can add up quickly.

Conclusion

No regulations in the US prevent people from driving right-hand drive cars on public roadways. Thus, you can legally drive using such a car as long as you comply with federal emissions and safety standards. Remember that although having such a vehicle can be a great conversation starter that offers a few advantages, you will need to ensure your comfort, suitability, cost-effectiveness, and availability before making the switch. Importantly, weigh all the pros and cons before taking the plunge. Otherwise, you could risk your life if you’re not good at such a driving position.  

About the author, Laurence Perkins

Laurence Perkins is the passionate car enthusiast behind the blog My Auto Machine. With over a decade of experience in the automotive industry, Perkins has knowledge and experience with a wide range of car makes and models. His particular interests lie in performance and modification, and his blog covers these topics in-depth. In addition to his own blog, Perkins is a respected voice in the automotive community and writes for various automotive publications. His insights and opinions on cars are highly sought-after.