American Cars vs. Japanese Cars: Which is best?

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Difference between American Cars and Japanese Cars

For many people, making the choice between American cars and Japanese cars was traditionally a simple one, either way the decision went. Most people only have to decide if they want to buy local or go foreign-made, with the manufacturer's country of origin being the only point of contention. Things aren't quite so straightforward nowadays however, as more and more factors come into play, among them fuel efficiency, quality and performance. Both American cars and Japanese cars have their relative strengths and disadvantages, and here we look at the most significant ones.

Market Profile

According to a report released in 2005, more than 11 million cars were produced in the United States that year compared to the more than 10 million the rolled off Japanese assembly lines. It is interesting to note that despite the lower number (or perhaps partly because of it), Japanese cars generally made a strong showing in numerous “top ten cars” lists, sometimes even taking over the list completely.


All things being equal, American cars are generally cheaper than foreign cars including Japanese ones, although Japanese cars have traditionally been more economical over the lifespan of the car. Over the years however, American cars have managed to close the gap somewhat.

In addition to being more expensive at the outset, Japanese cars can also be more costly to maintain, due to the relative unavailability of parts. Furthermore, Japanese cars are often more expensive to insure.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency could be lumped in with the cost category, but given its environmental implications, we thought it best to assign it its own category. For most people, the desire to drive a U.S.-made vehicle is outweighed by fuel efficiency considerations. Unfortunately, American cars lag far behind Japanese cars on this score. Part of the reason for this is that U.S. car manufacturers typically focus on SUVs, pickups and vans, all of which generally produce more emissions and have less favorable mileage.

Japanese car manufacturers on the other hand–Honda and Toyota among them–focus on sedans and the like, many of which feature electric/gasoline hybrid engines that enhance fuel efficiency while reducing emissions. Among the manufacturers of Japanese cars that produced the most fuel-efficient and less polluting models is Honda. Toyota is also known for its line of fuel efficient designs.


American Cars

  • More than 11 million produced in 2005
  • Generally cheaper than foreign cars
  • Certain models still offer quality and reliability
  • Generally less fuel efficient

Japanese Cars

  • Just over 10 million produced in 2005
  • Consistently dominates top ten vehicle lists, sometimes even taking all ten slots!
  • A generally more economical option over the life span of the car
  • Higher maintenance and replacement costs
  • More fuel efficient models and lower-emission models released

American Cars and Japanese Cars Video

Which car do you prefer to drive?
  • American Cars
  • Japanese Cars

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