JDM Engine Buying Guide – Getting the best deal

JDM Engine Buying Guide – Getting the best deal


So you’ve saved up enough money to finally make the jump to the engine swap you’ve always dreamed about. You’ve got the ideal JDM engine lined up, and you know once you get it swapped in you can really begin modifying your vehicle. Before you can get to that point however, there’s quite a bit of choices and potential pitfalls in the way.

Not only do you have to plan out your motor mounts, engine wiring and the right parts to make things fit, but you’ve also got to find the best deal on a JDM engine. Because it’s undoubtedly the most expensive part of your engine swap, you don’t want to spend too much but you also don’t want to get stuck with a lemon either.

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Good news is this guide can help you make the right choice when it comes to picking your JDM engine. Because there are so many engine importers out there now, the selection makes it both easy and hard to find the best deal.

On one hand you don’t want to overspend for a motor. Asking yourself “How can I buy a cheap JDM engine” might not always be the best approach, but money talks. Spending all of your hard earned cash on the engine leaves very little for modifications after you are done swapping it in.

However you don’t want to buy a bad JDM engine either. Being stuck with a lemon engine is one of the worst experiences you could ever suffer through. If the engine you buy ends up needing repair or isn’t reliable, all of your effort and money will have gone to waste.

This is where this comprehensive guide to selecting the right JDM engine importer really can help. Let’s begin with the basics to picking the engine swap that you want, without breaking the bank.

Research your JDM engine importer

The process of buying a imported engine can seem daunting at first. You are talking about giving a company a lot of money for an engine you’ve never seen in person. It’s traveled thousands of miles and has an unknown history. You don’t know how long it’s been out in the elements or if the previous owner even bothered to take care of it.

All these things can raise serious warning flags in your mind, and rightfully so. That’s why doing the right amount of homework on your JDM engine importer is important.

Despite of what you may have heard however, many JDM engine transactions go smoothly. Many engine importers have good reputations with plenty of happy customers, you’ve just got to do the research to find them.

Because many of these JDM engine importers have much of the same kind of inventory the important factor to your purchase is finding a company with good customer service. Finding an importing service that’s willing to work with you and answer all of your questions puts them at the front of your buying decision.

Like any decision to spend on a large ticket item, this kind of research should be conducted with the importer in question. Browse through automotive forums, review boards and see what people are saying about the JDM engine importer you are looking to buy from.

Learn about your JDM Engine


JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market and unlike the US or European markets, JDM vehicles are often more modified or powerful. So you can understand why naturally most US enthusiasts look for JDM engines to transplant, swap or modify.

Known for their highly advanced technological engines and generally smaller in displacement, most JDM engines do not break the regulated 280hp limit. But that doesn’t stop manufacturers from overengineering their engines and vehicles that take well to aftermarket support and modification.

jdm engine 3No matter what JDM engine to buy, understand the common problems or issues to look out for. If the engine you are looking at comes turbocharged, ask the proper questions about turbocharger issues and mileage.

Many of the JDM engine choices out there will also feature turbochargers with ceramic wheels. These exhaust wheels deteriorate over time, so you are best served by asking your JDM engine importer the right questions. The last thing you want to do is replace your stock turbocharger after spending thousands on your imported engine.

jdm engine 5Ask the importer if you can see pictures or images of your engine and under your oil cap. Knowing more about your target engine allows you to plan ahead, and avoid making potential mistakes. If your importer seems resistant to providing you images or helping you make the right choice, it might be time to move on to another company.

If buying local is possible it’s best to stay within your area. This makes it easy to see the engine or see who is importing your engines. Many JDM engine importers have yards that you can come and inspect the goods so to speak. Although many of these import yards may charge more than the unknown entity over the Internet, it’s worth the peace of mind.

Think about spending your hard earned cash with a company that’s willing to work with you. Avoid buying through an online entity that lacks a phone number or physical address. Buying through Ebay is one of the bigger mistakes when you want to buy a JDM engine. Unless the seller on Ebay has a long history of outstanding customer service, look for local importers in your area.

What comes with your JDM Engine?

One of the most biggest hurdles to swapping your JDM engine is finding the proper accessories to make it work. Ask your engine importer what comes with your engine swap. Whether you are upgrading your engine by swapping it, or simply installing a factory JDM engine replacement for your bad motor, you need to know what it comes with.

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Any JDM engine importer worth their salt will be able to tell you what harnesses, accessories and sensors are included with the price. Find out what condition these components are in so you can plan for your engine swap. Many times you won’t need or don’t want the accessories your engine comes with. You can sell them to help offset the price of your JDM engine set.

No matter what your operating budget, this is an important part of your buying decision. Finding the best price for your JDM engine swap is vital, because none of us are made of money. Exhaust manifolds, air conditioning compressors, and wiring harnesses might not be needed for your swap, but could be valuable to others.

Flip a JDM Engine Clip

Not everyone has the space or the tools to do this, but many times it can pay to just opt for a full front clip. This will usually bring you a horde of goodies you can sell on the open market for a profit. There’s literally no chance of you missing anything in your engine swap, and if it’s a popular model everything right down to the RHD firewall can be sold.

This doesn’t include the front suspension, brakes, hood, fenders or front fascia, any of which can really put some cash back in your pocket.

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As you know most JDM vehicles come with bigger and better parts than their USDM counterparts. These are all things that you can sell to recoup your cash, not to mention most JDM engine importers have some wiggle room when it comes to front clips.

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If there are things missing from your front clip, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Try to negotiate with your importer when it comes to these front clips, and find your best deal. JDM engine front clips won’t always come in great condition, so adjust your budget accordingly. Remember that these things have come across an ocean and often time sat in a shipping container for long periods of time.

Get a JDM engine budget

Time to start crunching numbers as you set about writing out your engine swap budget. This guideline can help you make the right choice and save money where you need to. It’s a good idea to write in some “fudge” or reserve money, in the event you need an emergency part or something goes wrong.

Understanding that these engines often come from performance machines is an important fact to remember. Many JDM engine shoppers believe that all engines have just 40,000 Km on them and have been lightly driven are sadly mistaken. If you purchased a Mazda RX-7 or Nissan Skyline, is there a good chance the JDM RB26DETT or JDM 13B is “lightly driven?”

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While the process of buying a JDM engine has certainly become much better over time, it’s not guaranteed. There’s quite a bit of misinformation out there when it comes to imported engines, so make sure to do your homework to get the best deal.

Buying a cheap JDM engine isn’t hard to do, but it will involve some time and legwork. Make sure to do your homework so you get the best value for your imported engine. Have any questions about our primer on JDM engine swaps? Want to learn more about engine swaps or your legality when it comes to engine swaps? Subscribe to My Pro Street to get all the latest tech tips and How To guides on JDM engine sets.