Top 12 Cheap JDM Cars Offering Enjoyable Performance Without Breaking the Bank

As an increasing number of automobiles from Japan’s golden era meet the eligibility criteria for importation to the US under the 25-year rule, the average values within this sector exhibit an upward and unidirectional tendency. Nevertheless, despite the market’s ascent, many cheap JDM cars remain available to cater to collectors of all kinds. Bear in mind the rarity of certain vehicles implies that acquiring them necessitates a slightly greater exertion than usual. However, if you manage to locate one, each vehicle is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment.

Our Top 12 Cheap JDM Cars

Unveiling the best deals on affordable Japanese imports! Explore our list of 12 cheap JDM cars for car enthusiasts on a budget.

1. 1997 Toyota Century V12

Toyota possesses a reputation for fabricating top-notch passenger automobiles and customarily delegates the responsibility of constructing opulent vehicles to Lexus. Nonetheless, an enduring Toyota deluxe sedan model has persistently challenged the dominance of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for several decades – the Century.

1997 Toyota Century V12
Image credit: Flickr

In production since the late ’60s, the Century continues to emanate from Toyota’s manufacturing establishments at present. Serving as Toyota’s prominent model for years, the Century has managed to elude the awareness of many, courtesy of Toyota’s decision not to market it beyond Japan.

The Toyota Century’s second iteration made its grand unveiling in 1997, and recently, a few moons ago, it met the criteria for importation into the United States. For car enthusiasts with a penchant for opulence and luxury that rivals the grandeur of Rolls-Royce, the Century offers an impeccable choice, all at a minuscule proportion of the cost. Adding to its allure, the second-generation Century boasts a V12 powertrain, making it the solitary Japanese automobile ever to embrace such a formidable engine.

2. Autozam AZ-1

A daring interpretation of a Kei vehicle in the ’90s emerged from Autozam, formerly affiliated with Mazda. Autozam constructed the AZ-1 in 1992, deviating from the conventional Kei car models that preceded it.

Autozam AZ-1
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The primary allure of the AZ-1 resided in its aesthetics. Despite its diminutive size, the AZ-1 showcased a dynamic design adorned with extraordinary gullwing doors. Furthermore, it housed a 656cc three-cylinder engine procured from Suzuki, generating 64 hp, a sufficient amount to deliver an enjoyable experience.

3. MKIII Toyota Supra GA70

The Supra could be an iconic designation, yet few recognize it entails a price tag under $15,000 to possess one. Intrinsically, with the MKIV Supra attaining a genuinely unparalleled value, the majority of Supra enthusiasts might need to seek alternatives.

MKIII Toyota Supra GA70
Image From Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the era of Fast & Furious, the MKIII was deemed one of the finest performance vehicles of the 1980s. Endowed with commendable power output, proficient handling, and an exceptional platform for customization, the MKIII might alleviate those Supra cravings for certain individuals while serving as a remarkable entry into the realm of automobile alterations.

4. Toyota MR2

Scarcely any, if at all, mid-mounted automobiles on the marketplace come at a lower price point than the Toyota MR2. The roadster’s third iteration showcases precise steering, a cozy interior, and a lively powerplant. Additionally, with its economical 1.8L engine, fuel expenses remain minimal. Toyota’s exceptional craftsmanship is evident in its construction, and it secured a prominent position in our compilation of the most dependable convertibles available for purchase.

Toyota MR2
Image credit: Flickr

The inherent mid-engine configuration endows the vehicle with a naturally enhanced handling profile in comparison to numerous other vehicles from its era. This advantage is further bolstered by a featherlight curb weight, which imparts a perceptibly accelerated sensation during operation when combined with the driver’s low seating position.

Similar to the Mazda Miata, the MR2 presents an economical and easily accessible avenue for drivers to relish without the apprehension of exceeding speed limits and jeopardizing their driving privileges. However, it is vital to bear in mind that this offering is strictly reserved for weekend indulgence. Owing to its midship configuration, practicality in terms of luggage space is nonexistent, thereby rendering it rather impractical for everyday commuting, even by sports car standards.

5. Honda/Acura Integra (3rd Gen)

The Honda Motor Corporation of Japan constructed the Integra (Integura) between 1985 and 2006, with production resuming in 2021. In the North American market, it was marketed as the Acura Integra. Throughout its entire production period, experts and purchasers lauded the performance and handling capabilities of the Integra.

Acura Integra
Image credit: Flickr
Model Acura Integra 1994 Sports Coupe 1.8i
Engine Power (hp)142 HP
Maximum torque172.0 Nm
Transmission Gearbox – Number of speeds 4-speed Automatic, 5-speed manual
AspirationTurbocharger, Intercooler
Top Speed 210 Km/h
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h7.3 s
Fuel Consumption – Economy27 L/100 Km
Fuel type Petrol
Average Price Around $ 15000

This Japanese-crafted front-wheel-drive vehicle possesses a prestigious legacy and an imposing reputation. It must embrace this responsibility with elegance. The range-topping Type-R is destined to etch its name in the annals of automotive greatness, despite the car’s unassuming facade and relatively modest engine.

You shall not encounter a more exceptional cheap JDM vehicle than this one. It stands as the ultimate drifting machine you can acquire. Given the exorbitant costs associated with its replacement or even self-repair, the assurance of its remarkable durability and resistance to failure under normal usage is a comforting prospect.

This automobile emerges as the ideal choice for those aspiring to venture into the realm of drifting without an excessive abundance of funds.

6. Mitsubishi Starion

A two-door, four-seat hatchback sports car, Mitsubishi manufactured and marketed the Starion from 1982 to 1989. In North America, rebranded adaptations of the Starion were marketed under the Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth monikers as the ‘Conquest.’

Company Mitsubishi 
Model Mitsubishi Starion 2.0 Turbo (1982-1985)
Engine Power (hp)168 HP
Maximum torque245 Nm
Transmission Gearbox – Number of speeds 5-speed Manual
Top Speed 220 Km/h
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h7.6 s
Fuel Consumption – Economy9.6 L/100 Km
Fuel type Petrol
Number of Seats2
Average Price under $10,000

One of the finest Japanese domestic market vehicles below $10,000 in 2022, it is widely recognized for more than just its collectible worth. It is the sole rear-wheel drive car ever manufactured by Mitsubishi and delivers a substantial impact. It represents a significant advancement beyond front-wheel propulsion yet falls slightly short of the performance provided by an all-wheel drive (AWD) (FWD) setup.

Mitsubishi Starion
Image credit: Flickr

Automobiles teetering on the brink of collectability serve as excellent investments, as they can be restored and cherished for years to follow.

Hence, keeping an eye out for the Starion ESI-R model is advisable.

Noteworthy attributes encompass retractable headlamps and a five-speed manual gearbox, adding to its special allure.

7. Honda Beat

It is a petite mid-engine two-seater convertible manufactured from 1991 to 1996. The Beat is a ‘kei automobile,’ which falls under a vehicle category that provides Japanese owners with reduced road tax responsibility due to its diminutive size and limited engine capability.

However, not all cheap JDM cars are dedicated to street racing, and the Beat’s diminutive 656cc engine generated a mere 64 horsepower, resulting in a modest top speed of only 84 mph.

Honda Beat
Image credit: Flickr

The rationale behind considering the Beat as an exceptional JDM car stems from its status as an uncommon and unparalleled vehicle. It persists as one of the most peculiar designs encountered on the streets.

While the ’90s witnessed the production of more than 30,000 units, a significant majority remained confined within Japan, rendering them an exceedingly scarce spectacle on American and global roads alike.

The scarcity has led to a surge in their worth, and the presence of a 3-cylinder engine should not deter you. With its exceptional handling capabilities, this diminutive roadster continues offering an abundance of amusement for drivers with the expertise to extract its fullest potential.

8. Toyota Celsior

The Toyota Celsior stands as a formidable opulent sedan crafted to rival the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes S-Class, presenting a proficient V8 powertrain. Its introduction in 1989 marked Toyota’s flagship model, and beyond Japan, it graced the market as the Lexus LS, exhibiting subtle distinctions from its JDM counterparts. The robust 4.0-liter V8 generated a substantial 250 horsepower, adorned with a plethora of cutting-edge technologies that epitomized the era of the ’90s.

Toyota Celsior
Image From Wikimedia Commons

Presently, both the primary and secondary generations of automobiles persist as cost-effective options, notwithstanding their standing as some of Japan’s most opulent vehicles ever manufactured.

They present an exceedingly comfortable journey with exceptional dependability, rendering them superb choices for leisurely cruising. However, their subpar fuel efficiency may result in high operational costs.

9. Toyota Mark II

If you’re in search of a comparatively economical version of the Celsior, then the Mark II should be your prime choice. The Mark II stands as a relatively unpretentious lavish sedan, yet it exudes an abundance of panache.

The inception of the seventh generation transpired in 1992, offering a selection of powerplants ranging from 1.8 liters to 3 liters and even accommodating a turbo-diesel alternative for individuals seeking frugality at the fuel stations.

Toyota Mark II
Image credit: Flickr

As one would anticipate, the compartment boasts ample space and serves as an excellent abode. The journey proves highly comfortable, and the automobile presents a myriad of standard features, including air-conditioning.

Given its Toyota lineage, you can be confident that the dependability surpasses expectations and the craftsmanship is of the utmost quality.
Despite its seemingly mild appearance, the Mark II has garnered popularity within the realm of drifting, with numerous captivating owners who opt to shed the luxury components in favor of a full-throttle experience on the track.

10. Nissan 350Z

The 350Z, or Fairlady Z as it was denominated in Japan, debuted during a period of considerable uncertainty for Nissan. The downfall of the Japanese economy had propelled the company to the verge of insolvency, and it had engaged in a collaboration with French car manufacturer Renault in an endeavor to maintain solvency (as per Britannica).

The 350Z was devised to return the Z lineage of sports automobiles to its fundamental principles, forsaking the technology-laden, exorbitant approach that resulted in the discontinuation of the 300ZX without an immediate successor (according to MotorTrend). Instead, the 350Z concentrated on the fundamentals, i.e., a proven 3.5L V6 powerplant, exceptional maneuverability, and an economical price tag.

Nissan 350Z
Image credit: Flickr

An assessment from Car & Driver during the vehicle’s unveiling highlights the notable value superiority of the 350Z compared to its competitors: it commanded just a few additional thousand dollars compared to a Toyota MR2, yet it flaunted nearly twice the horsepower.

In truth, it fell only a few horses short of the entry-level Porsche 911 from that era, a vehicle that incurred more than twice the costs of the 350Z. It goes without saying that the reintroduced Z vehicle witnessed immense sales triumph, and this widespread acclaim has contributed to maintaining reasonable resale prices to this day.

As an added benefit, utilizing those interchangeable components within the vehicle positions it as one of the most dependable sports cars available on the market, thereby nullifying any concerns regarding maintenance expenses.

11. 2nd Gen Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX

You can initiate your journey into the world of drifting with the second-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX without burning a hole in your pocket. This vehicle offers an exceptional opportunity for amateur racers as it is dependable, cost-effective, and boasts a superb power-to-weight ratio.

2nd Gen Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
Image From Wikimedia Commons

Considering the second-gen Eclipse’s production span from 1995 to 1999, sourcing replacement parts shouldn’t be an issue. To prepare for drifting, simply seek out a model with a roll cage, and you’ll be good to go.

Furthermore, you can spot these cars in drifting communities all across the nation.

12. Infiniti G35

This automobile is likely among the finest bargains you can obtain within this price range. Despite its luxurious nature, it boasts performance capabilities akin to an authentic JDM vehicle, as it is derived from the Nissan 350Z. Simply put, the G35 presents a budget-friendly alternative to the 350Z.

You have the opportunity to select from two distinct body styles: a 4-door sedan, which serves as the more economical choice, and a 2-door sports car.

Infiniti G35
Image credit: Flickr

Which choice is preferred for our purposes? We would probably concur that the 2-door coupe represents the epitome of excellence, but the 4-door sedan can also exude a remarkable appearance with the appropriate styling modifications. Furthermore, opting for the latter grants you additional admiration for embracing uniqueness!

Given that this prototype derives from the same framework as the 350Z, you can anticipate a comparable astounding modification adaptability. In its unmodified state, it generates an impressive 260 hp, which is commendable, yet its adaptability for modifications truly distinguishes it. By enhancing it with a turbo kit, you can manifest a genuinely opulent under-the-radar vehicle that is bound to unsettle certain faster stock cars.

The encouraging aspect is that you can acquire one for a price below $8,000. Therefore, it is unequivocally advisable to explore the G35 and contemplate embarking on a test drive to ascertain its compatibility with your needs.


Are JDM cars affordable?

The affordability of JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars can vary depending on several factors, such as the specific model, its age, condition, availability, and any modifications or customizations. Some JDM cars, particularly older or more common models, can be relatively affordable, especially when compared to their performance capabilities.

What is the best and cheapest JDM car?

When it comes to affordability, there are a few JDM models that are often considered good options:
1. 1997 Toyota Century V12
2. Autozam AZ-1
3. MKIII Toyota Supra GA70
4. Honda/Acura Integra (3rd Gen)
5. Toyota MR2
6. Honda Beat
7. Mitsubishi Starion
8. Toyota Mark II
9. Infiniti G35
10. Infiniti G35

What cars are actually JDM?

JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) refers to vehicles that are specifically manufactured and sold for the Japanese market. These cars are designed to meet the regulations and specifications set by the Japanese government and are often equipped with features tailored to the preferences of Japanese consumers.

How long does JDM last?

The longevity of a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car, like any other vehicle, depends on several factors including maintenance, driving habits, environmental conditions, and how well the car has been cared for over time. However, JDM cars have a reputation for being durable and reliable, which often contributes to their long lifespans.

Final Thoughts

There exists an entire array of cheap JDM cars that might have been included in this compilation, but these 12 distinguish themselves as the utmost advantageous investments within an enduringly favored market. With an increasing influx of import-friendly JDM vehicles every year, all these models present exceptional options for those seeking entry into JDM motoring, each presenting its distinctive allure.

Jasper has been an enthusiast of the automotive and IT industries since the age of 16. He independently writes on the auto industry's recent happenings.