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Left Hand Drive vs. Right Hand Drive: Can You Export Cars to Different Driving Countries?

The orientation of driving, whether on the left-hand side or right-hand side of the road, has deep historical roots and cultural influences that have shaped traffic regulations across the globe.

For international travelers and expatriates, the choice of driving side becomes crucial when crossing land borders. It can prove tricky to adapt to driving on the opposite side of the road, requiring a heightened awareness and adjustments to driving behavior.

When expatriates move to a country with a different driving orientation, they often encounter the dilemma of whether to import their vehicles or purchase locally-made ones. The choice between left-hand drive vs right-hand drive vehicles becomes a crucial consideration in ensuring a smooth transition to driving on the opposite side of the road. Some individuals may have a strong attachment to their vehicles and find it challenging to adapt to the change.

Car enthusiasts, too, are deeply interested in driving orientation, as it often affects vehicle availability and model choices in their respective countries. Some rare and sought-after vehicles may only be produced in one driving configuration, making them inaccessible or extremely expensive to import in regions with a different driving tradition.

This article will explore the legal implications of driving vehicles with different driving orientations on various road types. We will also examine the factors we must consider when moving between countries.

Historical Origins: Why Do Some Countries Drive on the Left Side of the Road?

Firstly, let’s consider why countries drive on opposite sides of the road.

One of the earliest known reasons for left-side driving can be traced back to ancient Rome. Romans predominantly drove their chariots on the left side of the road, allowing them to have their right hand – usually their sword hand – free in case they needed to defend themselves against oncoming threats.

This tradition continued into medieval times when horse-drawn carriages, carts, and other wagons followed the same practice.

How Many Countries Drive on the Left?

Over time, other regions adopted left-side driving for various reasons. In some cases, it was to facilitate overtaking or to accommodate the dominant hand of the majority of the population, as most people are right-handed. Consequently, driving on the left side became the norm in the British Empire and the British Colonies, including countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Japan, among others.

Today, approximately 66 countries still adhere to the left-hand driving tradition, with the majority being former British colonies, island nations, and some countries in southern Asia.

Right-Hand Side Driving

On the other side – quite literally – we have the majority of countries driving on the right side of the road. The shift to right-hand driving is often associated with historical developments in France during the late 18th century.

In 1794, during the French Revolution, a decree was issued to keep to the right to standardize transportation practices. Other countries in mainland Europe followed suit, influenced by France’s significant political and cultural influence.

Why Does the USA Drive on the Right?

Unlike many other countries, the USA switched sides from driving on the left side of the road to the right side. Initially influenced by British tradition, driving on the left side was common during early colonization and the American Revolution. However, as road infrastructure expanded during the Industrial Revolution, the need for efficiency led to a shift to driving on the right side of the road.

The mass production of the left-hand drive Ford Model T further solidified the change. Uniform vehicle regulations advocated by AASHTO standardized right-hand driving. Today, the USA firmly adheres to right-hand traffic driving, with states transitioning between 1917 and 1930. Notably, the U.S. Virgin Islands remains an exception, continuing to practice driving on the left side.

Can You Convert a Car from a Left Hand Drive Vehicle to a Right Hand and Vice Versa?

Absolutely! The conversion of a car from left-hand drive to right-hand drive (or vice versa) is indeed feasible; however, it is a complex undertaking that demands meticulous attention. The process necessitates extensive modifications to the steering wheel, dashboard layout, pedals, and other integral components to seamlessly accommodate the new driving orientation and relocate the driver’s seat.

Importantly, the associated complexity and financial implications can vary substantially based on the vehicle’s make and model.

However, while this conversion is possible, it may not be a straightforward endeavor for all vehicle types. Certain cars, given their design and structure, may lend themselves more readily to this alteration, while others may pose more significant challenges.

Prior to embarking on this conversion path, thorough research is essential. Seeking guidance from seasoned mechanics or conversion specialists is paramount. Their expertise can offer invaluable insights and aid in assessing the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of this modification for your specific car model. By making informed decisions, you can confidently navigate the process with precision and attain optimal results.

How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Left-Hand Drive Car to Right-Hand Drive?

Before starting the process of conversion, remember that converting a car from left-hand drive to right-hand drive or vice versa can be a complex and costly process. This cost can vary depending on the make and model of your car, as well as the specific modifications that you require.

Generally, the cost of converting your car can range from a few thousand to several thousand dollars. That’s quite the investment!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Left-Hand Drive vs. Right-Hand Drive

There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both left-hand drive (LHD) vs. right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles:

Advantages of Left-Hand Drive:

Global Prevalence

Left-hand drive vehicles are more prevalent worldwide – making up about 65% of cars. This prevalence makes LHD cars more readily available to purchase, cheaper, and easier to find spare parts and service centers globally.

Safer Overtaking

In countries that drive on the right side of the road, left-hand drive cars offer better visibility during overtaking maneuvers. The driver has a clear line of sight of oncoming traffic when passing slower vehicles, enhancing road safety on highways and busy roads.

Comfort for Passengers

With LHD cars, passengers often experience greater comfort, as the driver’s position allows for more space in the cabin. This layout creates a feeling of openness, making long journeys more enjoyable for everyone.

Easier Manual Gear Shifting

In left-hand drive vehicles with a manual transmission, the right-hand handles gear shifting, which can be more intuitive and convenient for drivers in countries with right-hand traffic.

Disadvantages of Left-Hand Drive

Challenges in Left-Hand Traffic Countries

Driving a left-hand drive vehicle in a left-hand traffic country can be challenging. Poor visibility of oncoming traffic and positioning differences may affect the driver’s ability to maneuver, particularly during overtaking or navigating tight spaces.

Driver’s Position

The driver’s position on the left side of the car may pose difficulties while attempting to gauge the distance from obstacles or other vehicles, especially for those accustomed to right-hand drive.

Manual Toll Booths

In most countries with manual toll booths, reaching the window to pay can be cumbersome for drivers of LHD vehicles on left-side traffic roads.

Advantages of Right-Hand Drive

Suitable for Left-Hand Traffic Countries

In countries with left-hand traffic, RHD cars offer better visibility and positioning for drivers. Overtaking and handling road hazards become more manageable due to the driver’s position on the right side of the car. Moreover, road signs and road markings are better aligned with the driver’s perspective, enhancing overall road safety and driving experience.


For drivers accustomed to right-hand drive, RHD cars provide a sense of familiarity and ease of use, contributing to a smoother driving experience.

Efficient Manual Gear Shifting

In right-hand drive cars with a manual transmission, the left-hand handles gear shifting, which can be more intuitive for drivers in left-hand side driving countries.

Disadvantages of Right-Hand Drive

Availability in Certain Regions

In countries that drive on the right side of the road, finding RHD vehicles may be more challenging, limiting options for buyers and creating potential difficulties in sourcing parts and services.

Passenger Comfort

Passengers might experience reduced legroom and less comfort due to the driver’s position on the right side in RHD cars

Why is a Right-Hand Drive Vehicle More Expensive?

You might be wondering why right-hand drive or RHD vehicles tend to be pricier than their left-hand drive counterparts. Well, there are a few reasons behind this cost difference that are worth knowing.

Vehicle costs

Firstly, production volume exerts a significant influence on vehicle costs. LHD vehicles enjoy widespread popularity across the globe, especially in countries like the United States and most of Europe. Manufacturers respond to the high demand by producing a larger quantity of LHD vehicles, benefiting from economies of scale and thereby reducing production costs.

Production Costs

On the flip side, RHD vehicles cater to a more limited market, predominantly in countries with left-side driving norms.

Consequently, manufacturers produce fewer units of RHD cars, which can escalate production expenses and ultimately impact the final price.

Another crucial factor affecting the higher cost of right-hand drive vehicles lies in the manufacturing process itself. As manufacturers set up production lines for both left-hand drive and right-hand drive cars, they must make various adjustments, such as reconfiguring the steering system and dashboard layout to match the respective driving orientation.

These modifications entail extra costs, which contribute to the pricing disparity of RHD cars.

Compliance Costs

Additionally, adhering to distinct regulations and safety standards in various regions can also impact costs. Depending on the country, specific requirements may be in place for left-hand drive or right-hand drive vehicles to meet safety and emissions standards.

Ensuring compliance often entails additional engineering and testing, leading to heightened production costs and, in turn, higher prices for consumers.

Moreover, importing RHD cars to countries that drive on the right side of the road, or vice versa, can incur additional expenses due to logistical and legal compliance matters.

These extra costs add to the price difference between the two driving orientations.

Are Right-Hand Drive Cars More Expensive to Insure?

The question of whether right-hand drive cars are more expensive to insure is a common concern among road users.

The cost of insurance for right-hand drive vehicles can vary based on several factors. Insurance companies typically assess risks associated with a vehicle before determining the premium, and the driving orientation can be one such consideration.

One reason why right-hand-drive vehicles might be perceived as more expensive to insure is their relatively lower prevalence in certain regions, such as countries that drive on the right side of the road.

The rarity of right-hand drive vehicles in such areas may lead insurance companies to perceive them as less familiar, potentially affecting the assessment of risk and, subsequently, the premium.

Moreover, the visibility and positioning differences of right-hand drive cars in countries that drive on the right can also be a factor in insurance rates. Some insurers may consider the potential road safety implications of driving a car with a non-standard driving orientation, leading to a higher premium for RHD vehicles.

On the other hand, in left-hand driving countries where RHD cars are the norm, insurance rates for these vehicles might not differ significantly from left-hand drive vehicles.

Since RHD cars are more common in such regions, insurers are likely to have more experience and data on these vehicles’ safety records, which can influence their risk assessment and premium calculations.

It’s essential to keep in mind that insurance costs for any vehicle depend on multiple variables, including the car’s make, model, age, the driver’s age and driving history, and the region’s accident rates, among other factors.

The driving orientation, whether left-hand or right-hand, is just one of many considerations insurers take into account when determining insurance premiums.

Can I Buy a Right-Hand Drive Car in the USA?

You sure can! Some dealerships and importers specialize in offering RHD vehicles to cater to specific preferences and niche markets. They have a variety of RHD models available, including popular ones from countries like Japan and other nations that drive on the left side of the road.

However, keep in mind that importing an RHD car into the USA may involve some extra steps and considerations. Ensuring that the vehicle meets all the required safety and emissions standards for registration and road use is crucial.

This might involve modifications and inspections to comply with the country’s regulations.

Also, it’s worth noting that some RHD vehicles might be classified as “gray market” imports, meaning they weren’t initially intended for the US market. Working with reputable importers and thoroughly checking all the necessary documentation will help ensure everything is above board.

Can You Ship a Right-Hand Drive Car to America?

Yes, you certainly can ship a right-hand drive vehicle to America and also drive it on US roads. While left-hand drive vehicles are the norm in the USA, there are still ways to import and legally drive an RHD car in the country.

Firstly, you’ll need to make sure the RHD vehicle complies with all relevant regulations for registration and road use in the USA. This might involve some modifications and inspections.

Next, you’ll need to work with a reputable shipping company to transport your vehicle. They can assist you in navigating the legal and logistical aspects of shipping a car from another country.

Once the RHD car arrives in the USA, you’ll need to go through the proper customs clearance procedures and pay any applicable import duties or taxes.

It’s essential to have all the necessary documentation and paperwork in place in order to ensure a smooth and hassle-free process.

Can You Ship Left-Hand Drive Vehicles Out of the US?

Certainly! It is also possible to ship a left-hand drive vehicle to a left-side traffic only country.

When doing so, you will need to prepare the necessary documentation for customs clearance and export purposes. This may include providing proof of ownership, vehicle registration, and relevant certificates, among other paperwork.

Working with a reputable and experienced vehicle shipping company can simplify this process. They can guide you through the paperwork, arrange transportation, and ensure compliance with all necessary regulations.

Keep in mind that international vehicle shipping can involve additional costs, such as shipping fees, import taxes, and customs duties. It’s essential to factor in these expenses while planning to ship your LHD car abroad.

Is It Legal to Drive a Right-Hand Drive Car on US Roads?

If you are thinking about driving a right-hand drive vehicle on the right side of the road, or vice versa, you may have many questions about the legality and safety of this. Whether it makes sense or is legal very much depends upon your destination country’s specific road traffic regulations.

For example, in some countries where right-hand traffic is the standard practice, using a right-hand car might be subject to certain restrictions or requirements.

Temporary use for tourists or visitors could be allowed, but it often comes with specific conditions, such as obtaining a temporary driving permit or registering the vehicle locally.

What might be commonplace in one country could be entirely different elsewhere.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Check the local traffic laws to know if it’s legal.
  2. Get any necessary permits or paperwork required for driving a foreign car.
  3. Make sure that the vehicle to be shipped meets the relevant safety and emissions standards of your destination country.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the road signs, traffic signals, and driving habits in that country to avoid confusion and accidents.

By being well-prepared and abiding by the appropriate rules, you can have a smoother and stress-free driving experience in your destination country.

Remember to stay safe and considerate of other drivers to make everyone’s journey enjoyable.

How Can CFR Classic Help?

Are you looking for a reliable and professional solution to import or export your left-hand drive or right-hand drive vehicle? Look no further! CFR Classic is here to assist you every step of the way.

With years of experience and expertise in international vehicle shipping, CFR Classic ensures a seamless and hassle-free process for transporting your cherished car across borders, whether into neighboring countries or further afield.

Our dedicated team of experts will handle all of the necessary paperwork, compliance checks, and logistics to ensure your vehicle reaches its destination safely and on time.

We understand the unique requirements and regulations associated with shipping cars to various countries, including the UK, mainland China, South America, Australia, the British Virgin Islands, and Caicos Islands. Wherever you are headed – we can help!

At CFR Classic, customer satisfaction is our top priority. We take pride in delivering exceptional service, giving you the peace of mind you deserve when entrusting your beloved car to us.

So, whether you’re an avid car enthusiast, an international traveler, or an expatriate, CFR Classic is your ultimate partner for smooth and reliable vehicle shipping.

Contact CFR Classic Today

Take the next step and get in touch with our team today. Experience the ease and efficiency of shipping your left-hand or right-hand drive car with CFR Classic.

Joey has spent his entire teen and adult life in cars. Joey's father owned a Jeep store, and Joey had his own used car lot that he ran himself from age 22 until I was 30. At 30 years old, Joey got "out of" the car business and joined CFR Rinkens. Joey started when there were only 9 people at CFR, but the company grew to over 150 employees during his time there. When Joey started, CFR Rinkens was shipping about 40 vehicles per week from Los Angeles. Joey established locations in Houston, Miami, and New York and within the first year, CFR went to shipping 150 cars per week. Joey started as a customer service rep and later moved up to sales manager, operations manager, and marketing manager. Joey then moved to Europe for two years and spent the entire time traveling through Europe meeting with clients. In 2022, Joey and his partners purchased CFR Classic from CFR Rinkens and he returned to California to watch over the operation more closely.

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