10 JDM Cars With The Lowest Maintenance Costs

The demand for JDM cars continues to grow every year, as more enthusiasts who grew up idolizing them start to reach the age where they can afford to buy one for themselves. As a result, many have seen dramatic rises in value over the past few years, meaning the days of true bargain JDMs are largely now gone. If you're going to be spending a significant chunk of money buying a JDM car in the first place, the last thing you want is to be hit with sky-high maintenance costs once it's actually in your garage. It's one of the biggest problems that first-time JDM buyers can face, but luckily there are plenty of models that are still both affordable to buy and very cheap to maintain.

It's worth noting that the cost of maintenance can vary a lot based on the individual condition of your car and how well the previous owner looked after it. With that in mind, it's always best to buy the best condition example of a car that you can afford, to try and minimize the chance of costly problems arising from previous improper maintenance. Assuming you don't get unlucky though, these ten JDM cars should all prove to be not only the cheapest to keep maintained but also great to own and drive.

Honda Del Sol

It might not be the fastest or sharpest-handling car of its era, but the Honda Del Sol is packed full of fun features that make it a great option if you're looking to get your hands on a Japanese classic without breaking the bank. Used prices have remained fairly low over the years, with pristine examples being available for less than $20,000 and more well-used examples easily attainable for four-figure sums. The Civic-based Del Sol shares most of its internals with its best-selling hatchback sibling, which means it's also very cheap to maintain.

Data from RepairPal shows an average maintenance and repair cost of $366, and if you're willing to work on the car mostly by yourself, you can push that average down even further. Like any older car, it's important to thoroughly inspect a car before purchasing, to ensure there are no nasty surprises later down the line. In particular, check for evidence of leaks from the Del Sol's roof, which can be tricky to fix, and for hidden rust. Honda owners' forums are full of advice if you do find rust after your purchase, but since it's getting increasingly difficult to find spares for the Del Sol's model-specific parts, none of the fixes will be particularly easy or cheap.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Buying one isn't going to win any prizes for originality, but there's a good reason that the Mazda MX-5 (or Miata in America) is one of the best-selling sports cars of all time. They're fun to own, cheap to buy, and even cheaper to maintain. There are now several generations of affordable used cars to choose from, with the NA still being the top choice for many enthusiasts. However, its age means that it's also the most prone to rust, and since they're a favorite for modders, there are now fewer examples out there in original condition.

Exactly how much your MX-5 costs to keep running will vary greatly depending on its condition when you bought it, but WithClutch estimates a yearly cost of $429 on average. The good news is that Miatas are some of the easiest JDM cars to work on yourself, and parts are generally not difficult to find thanks to the wealth of spares and donor cars out there. With some wrenching and some carefully-sourced used parts, you shouldn't have to shell out too much cash even if something more major does go wrong.

Toyota MR2

Not only is the Toyota MR2 one of the most reliable convertibles out there, it's also one of the cheapest ways to buy a mid-engined car, period. The MR2 lasted three generations from 1985 to 2005, with the second-generation car being the best option for JDM fans at present. Third-gen cars are the newest, meaning there's less chance for them to have had an owner that skimps on maintenance, but the 25-year import rule means that you won't be able to import a JDM version until 2024 at the earliest.

Their balanced handling and modest power make them perfect for first-time buyers, but they'll make a fun runabout for more seasoned JDM connoisseurs too. According to Your Mechanic, the average annual maintenance cost is $454, with reliability generally remaining strong as the car gets older. Like most other cars of their age, however, rust can be an issue, especially since manufacturers don't tend to apply as much rustproofing to Japanese-market cars as they do for cars destined for international markets.

Honda Integra

While the top-spec Integra Type-R is generally considered to be one of the best-handling front-wheel drive cars ever made, lesser versions of the Integra are still a solid choice if you're looking for a fun, affordable JDM. The Integra Type-R has seen prices steadily rise over the last few years, with the lowest-mileage examples even selling for six-figure sums. However, it's still possible to get a Type-R for under $20,000, and lesser-spec cars from the Integra range can be picked up much cheaper.

Because of the large variation in rarity between different versions of the Integra, pinning down a single average maintenance figure can be tricky. Data from Your Mechanic shows a yearly average of $652, although buyers of non-Type-R cars who can do some of the work themselves should average significantly less than that figure. Another big variable will be how well the previous owners maintained the car, not to mention how carefully they drove it.

Toyota Celica

The Celica's legacy has always been slightly overshadowed by the infamous Celica GT-Four rallying scandal, which saw Toyota banned from the World Rally Championship after evidence of cheating emerged. However, look past that and you'll find a great sports car with a cheap price tag, and it's not expensive to run either. Your Mechanic estimates annual maintenance costs to work out at around $310, making this one of the cheapest cars on the list.

Used examples of the Celica vary in price significantly depending on age and condition, and if you're just looking at a Celica primarily as an affordable sports car, you'll have to decide whether it's worth the effort of buying a JDM example when USDM (American market) cars are both cheaper and easier to come by. Still, the amount of shared parts between most Celicas and other Toyotas of their era means that in general, sourcing parts for either shouldn't be too much of a headache.

Honda Prelude

The fourth-generation Honda Prelude debuted in 1992 and remained in production until 1996, meaning all examples of the car are eligible for import under the 25-year rule. With a reasonably potent engine yet more grown-up styling than many of Honda's other sporty cars, the Prelude carved out a niche for itself as the sensible person's sports car. You'd be sensible to buy one today too, as they're temptingly cheap to maintain. RepairPal estimates that buyers should be putting aside around $375 for yearly maintenance.

Preludes had a reputation when new for being able to go toe-to-toe with much more expensive rivals and come out on top, and today they're still great value for what you get. It's worth looking around for an American-market car in good condition before heading straight for a Japanese-market car though, especially since there isn't a huge amount of difference between the two. Putting the money you'll spend on importing a JDM car towards a pristine USDM instead might be the better call, but if you're set on JDM, then at least you should have too much trouble with parts compatibility.

Subaru SVX

The SVX was a sales flop for Subaru, with only around 14,000 units sold before it was unceremoniously axed. However, today it's become a bit of a cult classic, with its unique Giugiaro-penned bodywork still standing out in a crowd of other Japanese cars from its era. The brand's trusty "Boxer" engine sat under the hood, and most models were all-wheel-drive, so the grip was impressive. The SVX's mixed reputation and unusual looks have helped keep resale prices down over the years, so not only is it affordable to buy today, but it's also cheap to maintain too.

On average, RepairPal estimates the yearly maintenance cost for an SVX to be $420, with many of the car's common issues easily fixable. Like any rarer car, one of the biggest headaches with SVX ownership will be finding replacement exterior and interior trim, so buying a car that's not only mechanically, but also cosmetically sound is the key to hassle-free ownership.

Toyota Crown

After half a century away from the U.S. market, the Toyota Crown has relaunched for the 2023 model year as an oddly-styled car that splits the difference between a sedan and a crossover. Despite its absence from America, the Crown has remained a strong seller in Japan for decades, and as a result, there are plenty of classic JDM Crowns to pick from. The most affordable variants tend to be from the early '90s, with importers like Duncan Imports stocking several Crowns that have already been registered Stateside.

Your Mechanic shows the average cost per repair for the Crown to be around $261, and with Toyota's famed reliability, those repairs shouldn't be too frequent. The Crown is a little different from most of the other cars here in that it wasn't designed to be sporty or handle particularly sharply, but rather it's built to ferry its occupants around in complete comfort. If you're looking for a plush, practical sedan that'll haul a family and their luggage but still stand out from all the other people movers, then the Crown is a good shout.

Nissan 180SX

Nissan's S-chassis cars hold a special place in the hearts of many JDM enthusiasts, since they're excellent for drifting and boast one of the widest ranges of aftermarket parts on the market. However, not all S-chassis are equal. While American buyers got the 240SX, Japanese buyers got the arguably superior 180SX, with a higher power output and some extra futuristic tech features to boot. Finding a JDM 180SX that hasn't been extensively modified or thrashed will be a challenge, and clean examples have substantially risen in price over the past few years.

You might have to stretch the budget to afford one in the first place then, but once you have one, they're fairly cheap and easy to maintain by JDM standards. Finding reliable data for 180SX costs is difficult, but the closely related American market 240SX should cost about $409 to maintain annually, according to Your Mechanic. Japan-specific parts will be a little trickier to source, but assuming you'll be doing most of the work on the car yourself, maintenance of a well-looked-after car should still be cheaper than you'd expect for such a coveted JDM classic.

Toyota Supra Mk2

Despite their advancing age, Mk2 Supras have proven to be fairly reliable over the years, and as a result, they're relatively cheap to maintain. With a car this old, the main concern any buyer should have is how well the previous owners took care of the car, especially with regard to rustproofing. The engine and transmission are generally reliable, so they shouldn't cause trouble, but finding interior and exterior trim is tricky. To keep costs down, be prepared to spend a long time browsing auction sites like eBay for the bit you're looking for.

A general estimate for yearly Supra maintenance from Your Mechanic is approximately $577, although, like most of the other cars here, that figure can vary depending on how much of the work you're looking to do yourself. The Mk4 Supra might get all the glory with its near-unbeatable tuning potential, but the Mk2 is an excellent sports car in its own right, and used prices are much more affordable than those of the later model.