RightHandDrive.ca/blog Canadian Right Hand Drive News and Thoughts


Why are are all Right hand drives in Canada 15 years old or more?

"Is it legal to import Right hand drives into Canada?" "Is it legal to import Japanese cars into Canada?" "Why are all right hand drives in Canada old?"

This is a common question, and has a pretty simple answer. This is, of course, Canada specific.  Provinces vary in the way they handle RHD vehicles (*cough cough* Quebec) but at a national level there is a single answer.

When vehicles get imported into Canada, you must go through the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV), whose website is http://www.riv.ca/. The have certain criteria that must be met for a vehicle to be officially imported into Canada. This information can be viewed at their Vehicle Admissibility page.  There you can see a list of vehicles that can be imported into Canada. If your car is on that list, you should have minimal problems.  If it's not... you're trying to import a 'grey market vehicle'.  (Hot tip: all RHDs are grey market vehicles).

Moving down that page, you'll see

Grey market vehicles (excluding buses) less than 15 years old from the date of manufacture and buses (including school buses) manufactured on or after January 1, 1971 are inadmissible for entry into Canada.

Alright.  15 years.  That's our first indicator that we can import our RHD.... where did they pull this magical 15 years from?

Let's go to where our loophole resides.  The Exemptions page.

Vehicles are exempt from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration if they are imported under one of the following conditions:

  1. Vehicles older than 15 years
  2. The vehicles (excluding buses) are 15 years old or more based on the date of manufacture, or are buses (including school buses) manufactured before January 1, 1971. The importer must be able to prove the age of the vehicle.

Yay!  This paragraph is why we are allowed to import our RHD cars after they are 15 years old.  They don't have to meet any standards, and are rubber-stamped into the country.

There is a drawback to this.  This also means that your car may or may not meet safety standards for Canada (Kei trucks would never ever ever pass Canadian safety standards....).  They're not designed for this environment, so you have to really watch what you're buying.  I believe that all provinces require a 'safety' before the vehicle can be registered, so that's something, but buyer beware.

So, yes. It is legal to import Japanese cars into Canada.... you just have to be patient.


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Pro and Anti-Right Hand Drive talk in the same newspaper

I maybe can't even say newspaper, more than publication. Check it out. Two writers for the same paper have vastly different opinions in regards to right hand drive vehicles. Both the writers work for the Victoria Times Colonist, and both articles were published this month.

May 2nd, Peter Hamer presented his arguments to impose strict limits on right hand drive vehicles. He makes some good points, then undermines his own points saying that he's done it and it was fine.  Very odd.

Michael Cane then seems to have a direct rebuttal. He addresses the points that Hamer makes, but the tone is unfortunately that of a sibling argument that just ends in 'Nah-uh!'.

I'm glad that right hand driving in Canada has become a topic of discussion in mainstream media. Sadly, this is quite often the outcome. Two people with vague, hand-wavy stats that proudly announce that 'they say' that something is or is not something. And newpapers wonder why people are going to the internet for their news.


Update: And yet another! This one makes reference to another study they call 'recent' (yeah... recent in the last 10 years). Don't they have a conference table to decide what they think?


Right hand drive conversions

ur doin' it wrong

RHD conversion?

It's about time this topic comes up.  I'll state, right off the hop, in general I think this is a large waste of money. There is a case for doing a right hand drive conversion in a few cases

  1. The front of your existing car is 'written off' and you need to redo the whole thing anyway
  2. You really really want a right hand drive and this is the only way to get one
  3. You have too much time and money and you're doing this to stay out of trouble.

But, let's get to the meat of it.

What is it?

It's taking a car that is a left hand drive and turning it into a right hand drive. Hence, conversion.

How is it done?

a front clip

S2000 Front Clip

There are a few ways of doing this. The easy way (and as far as I'm concerned, the right way) and the hard way.

The easy way

Basically, buy the front end of the same car and merge them. The front end, or front clip, usually,  has the engine, dash, steering wheel, suspension, and occasionally even wheels. Basically, it's a the front of a car.  Usually it was a car, and the front was removed, so the motor has mileage on it.  The history of these clips is usually super vague.  Some of the cars could have been rear-ended... some just old and then chopped. If you can get a history, you should.


Civic with Integra front end

So, you have a car dashboard-forward from one car, and your existing car. Now... make one car. That's it. Cut off the front of your existing car and add the front of another. Some people do weird things like put the front of an Acura Integra onto a Honda Civic. Although it's cool and unique it looks like the bastard child of 90s Japanese cars. (Nabbed from Stance is Everything - no offense to the owner.)

At any rate, it's still a lot of work. Check out the video below (credit to Duc) to get a glimpse of how much work it is, and see the parts and tools you'd need.

The hard way

Do it yourself. This could go a thousand different directions, so I can't really get into it.  Some people fab their own dashboard, steering everything... it's kind of crazy.  There's some really neat stuff people do, but it's a lot of hard work.  The difficulty depends on what kind of car you have.  Look under your hood and see where the steering column is, and where you could put one.  There's conversion parts available for various models online, again, check out what there is for your model.

Purchasing a Right Hand Drive that's a Conversion

This question comes up a lot.  The main reason why, is that there is no good answer to this question. Every car that's been converted has it's own story and is done by someone with a different skill level.  Some might be Joe Shmow in his garage, and it could be horrible. Some might be Joe Shmow in his garage and be perfect.  There are some shops that specialize in conversions, even those could be hit or miss.

Overall, if you're interested in one, look it over in detail, especially at the welds. The welds will be by the A pillar and in front of the doors on the chassis. Look under the car, if you don't know what you're looking for, ask the dude that's selling it.

If a job is poorly done, the car will look like it's sagging.  The extra force on the A pillar will put pressure on both the windshield and the top of the car doors.  If the doors 'shut really tight on the bottom', that's a bad thing. If the glass is starting to unexplainably crack in weird places.... that's a really bad thing.

Is it Dangerous?

It sure as hell can be.  Even if the car isn't sagging and is done pretty well, you're driving two cars that have been frankensteined together.  If you get in an accident the welds might not hold up like the factory welds, because they're not as thoroughly tested as a regular car. Conversely, if the person knew what they were doing it could be better, and up to racing standards. Each one of these cars is so unique it's impossible to say.