What Is a Ricer Car? Definition and History of Ricers

Have you seen cars with body parts that extend far out and are not the standard parts you see in conventional cars? Some people call them Ricer cars. What is a Ricer car? Here’s a look at what they are and where they came from.

Ricer car is a term that some people use to refer to cheap cars manufactured mainly by Asian carmakers. What makes them different is that their owners modified them in a brash and showy way. The origins of these cars make this term somewhat pejorative with a racist connotation.

The term ricer is a free-form abbreviation of the phrase Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement. So, a ricer car is a car with race-inspired cosmetic features. This means the racing elements in these cars improve their appearance and make them look like race cars, but they are not. 

Read on to learn more about ricer cars, what they are really, and where they came from.

What Is a Ricer Car?

what is a ricer car

Taken from the Phrase Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancements

The name ‘Ricer Car’ is taken from the phrase Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancements. Cars of this type on the road are different from conventional cars because of their cosmetic enhancements. Their modifications made them look very different from traditional cars.

Enhancements Do Not Improve Road Performance

Their owners’ enhancements on these cars do not improve their road performance. They may look like race cars, but they are not. They look better – in the eyes of their owners, but not necessarily in the eyes of a common bystander.

Some People Consider Ricer Cars as Cheap

Some people, primarily those who know about performance cars, give somewhat a disapproving look at these cars. They would consider ricer cars cheap, even if they were manufactured by known and dependable Japanese car manufacturers like Honda and Subaru.

Brash and Showy Modifications

They look at ricer cars demeaningly because their modifications are bold and showy. Some car enthusiasts even say that some of the changes on these rice cars are tasteless.

Also Called Rice Burners

Even worse, the name is now attached to non-Asian cars. The beginnings of ricer cars made it a pejorative term with racist connotations. Incidentally, they are also called rice burners.

People Attach This Term to the Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda Car Brands

Often, you will hear people attach this term to Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda cars or motorcycles. The word ‘rice’ is there because rice is the mainstay or staple of the Asian diet. Some say that the name is not meant to be derogatory. But as you can see, it went that way as time went on.

More on Ricer Car Definition

Owners Overdid External Modifications to a JDM Car

Technically speaking, a ricer car is a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) car. A JDM car will only become a ricer car if its owner modifies its appearance excessively. In other words, ricer cars were called that way because their owners overdid their external modifications.

Sample Modifications

Typically, you will find a ricer car equipped with the following:

  • Huge mag wheels,
  • Lots of LED lighting,
  • Styling kits,
  • Stylish fenders and spoilers, and
  • A flashy custom paint job.

To the eyes of their owners, these ricer cars are cute babies.

Usually Come from Japanese Carmakers

But to the objective observer, they are eyesores. They wonder why these people spend so much money upgrading the looks of their low-end vehicles. Ricer cars usually come from Japanese carmakers like:

  • Subaru,
  • Honda, and
  • Mitsubishi.

May Refer to Other Cars Made by Non-Japanese Carmakers

But now, the term rice car also refers to other cars made by non-Japanese carmakers. If the car in question is looking ‘over the top’ because of the attached aftermarket parts that do not enhance its road performance – it is considered a rice car.

Common in High-performance Tuning Circles and Street Racing Circuits

You will usually see these car types in high-performance tuning circles and street racing circuits. Unfortunately, it is a derogatory term that refers to the car and its owner. Often, a person saying this phrase is mocking the car and its owner.

West Coast of the United States Has Plenty of Ricer Cars

Surprisingly, even with its pejorative connotation, the West Coast of the United States has plenty of ricer cars. You can also find ricer cars around the world, mostly where there are car enthusiasts who love to modify their stock cars to make them look like sports cars.

Common Features of Ricer Cars

what is a ricer car terms

Perhaps you have already seen rice cars, but you were not just aware that they are. To help you better picture them, I will describe how they appear. Just keep in mind that rice cars usually have unnecessary modifications. Their owner did this to make them look faster.

Here are the usual changes they do on rice cars:

1. Huge Exhaust

This does not serve any purpose but makes the car’s exhaust sound louder.

2. Expensive Rims

The cost of the rims is typically more than the car itself.

3. After-market Company Stickers

Stickers from popular carmakers and auto part companies are on the vehicle to make the car look cool.

4. Huge Spoilers at the Back

These big spoilers look like they are designed to be mounted on Boeing 747s.

5. Special Body Kit

This is done so the car will appear lower and is usually accented with chicken wire.

6. Performance Intake

This is a tube connected to the hood. Its function is to feed cold air to the engine in places where excessive heat develops.

7. Clear Tail Light and Corner Signals

8. JDMs

Most of these cars are from Japan, such as:

  • Subaru Impreza,
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse,
  • Accord,
  • Honda Civic,
  • Honda Integra,
  • CRX, and
  • Honda RSX.

Should You Use the Term Ricer Car?

Now that you know that the word ‘ricer car’ has a somewhat negative connotation, is it right for you to use it? Should it be a part of your vocabulary? This is the reason why you need to know what this word means. It is now getting common, so you should know its meaning.

Term Used by Car Hobbyists

Interestingly, car hobbyists use the word ‘ricer car’ in their car tuning community. This group of like-minded people makes modifications to their cars to improve their cars’ performance or enhance their looks. They are legitimate car modifiers.

Refer to Extensively Modified Cars

So, when these people talk about ricer cars, they refer to extensively modified cars. In particular, they are saying that the modifications done on ricer cars are non-functional, tasteless, and expensive.

Owners Have Done a Terrible Job of Modifying Their Cars

They mean that the owners of ricer cars have done a terrible job of modifying their cars. So, be careful in using this term when you are in the circle of ricer car owners.

Has Originated in Anti-Asian Racism

Even if this term is generally used today, it has originated in anti-Asian racism. In other words, be very careful in using this term, especially if you are with people who love to modify their cars.

Origins of the Term ‘Ricer Car’

May Have Appeared in the Early 2000s

Language experts are not completely sure when the term ‘ricer car’ first came into being. Still, some people think it appeared in the early 2000s, when “The Fast & Furious” movie was released.

In that film, Paul Walker played the role of an undercover cop who infiltrated a street racing team led by Vin Diesel. That film sparked the interest of car enthusiasts in JDM car modifications. People say that this film also popularized car modifications and street racing.

Rich and Racer

Rice University Neologisms gives a good take on this term. They said that the term ‘ricer car’ combines effectively with ‘rich’ and ‘racer.’ Rich is in the phrase because it takes big money to modify an ordinary car into a street racing car.

Acronym of Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement

And then some believe that ‘rice’ is the acronym for ‘Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement.’ However, some people say there is no evidence that this phrase is where they got the term ‘ricer car.’ They even say that it is a backronym, an acronym after the word was formed to explain what it means.

Again, what is a ricer car? Ricer car, rice burner, or rice car is a pejorative describing Asian-made, especially Japanese-made motorcycles and automobiles. Some people also use the word rice rocket for Japanese sports bikes.

Is It True That Ricer Car Is a Racist and Offensive Word?

what is considered a ricer car

From Rice Burner

The term ‘ricer,’ others say, originated in ‘rice burner,’ which is a word that first appeared in British motorcycle periodicals in the 1960s. The word ‘rice burner’ referred to Japanese-made motorcycles.

Convey the Inferiority of Asian Products to European Products

You see, rice is the staple food in Japan. So, now you can connect it to the word ‘rice burners.’ The word was meant to convey, at that time, the inferiority of Asian products to European products. By extension, Asians are also inferior to Europeans.

Had Obvious Racist Meaning During the 1970s

And then came the 1970s. The term ‘rice burner’ started to appear in the United States. This was when the Honda Accord, a Japanese-manufactured car, started to cut into the sales and profits of American automobile manufacturers.

Like what happened earlier in the U.K., the ‘rice burner’ term had obvious racist meanings, even if those who are using the term have no intention of doing so.

Refer to Car Modifications and People Who Raced in Asian-made Cars

The same way happened in car tuning and its related past time of street racing. When the ‘Fast & Furious’ movie sparked auto-tuning and street car racing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, people used the word ‘ricer’ to refer to car modifications and people who raced in Asian-made cars.

They used the word to differentiate the ‘ricer cars’ from the supposedly more aesthetically pleasing, more powerful, and faster domestic vehicles since they are made in the United States of America.

Car Driven by an Asian Person

And by extension, the term ricer car was also used to call a car driven by an Asian person, thus, making the word more racist. Currently, ‘ricer car’ is attached to any unusual car modification, no matter whether the manufacturer or driver of the car comes from Asia.

The question is: is it wrong to use ‘ricer car’ in your vocabulary? Will you offend people if you call their vehicle a ricer car? The simple answer is it depends on the person you are talking to.

Some People Consider This Term Racist and Some Don’t

Those in the auto-tuning circles don’t know where this word came from. They assume that it is a common word used by others, so they use it themselves. Some people of Japanese-American origins said they also use the term. They don’t think it is a racist word.

On the other side of the coin, some people consider this word racist. They say that it is impossible to forget its original meaning, which has a derogatory nature, regardless of what it means today.

Safer to Avoid Using Ricer Car

But outside of the auto-tuning circles, some are not familiar with this word and its use. These people would likely consider it offensive if they learned its true origins. So, to avoid conflict, it is much safer to stay away from using ‘ricer car’ or any of its derivatives.

You don’t know who you are talking to and how they will react to these words. So, refrain from using ‘ricer car’ when referring to car modifications and heavily modified cars rather than being misunderstood.

Characteristics of Ricer Cars

Just so you can determine if the car you are looking at can be defined as a ricer car or not, I will now give you some of their general characteristics. Usually, the car owner does not call their car this way.

Those performing legitimate auto-tuning and performance tuning are the ones who do:

1. Body Modifications

You can tell if a car is a ricer car or not by its body modifications. What are these modifications?

  • Beautifully designed body kit that seems to enhance the car’s aerodynamics but not functioning.
  • Front bumper equipped with bumper canards
  • Spoilers and wings that serve no purpose but only increase drag and decrease traction
  • Improper suspension lowering: The stock springs were heated and cut to shorten them. It could also be an improper wheel alignment that resulted in excessive negative camber.
  • Carbon fiber hood or fiberglass replica.
  • Huge wheels or rims that only reduce acceleration because of higher rotational inertia. Handling of the vehicle is also adversely affected because of the additional weight.
  • Hood scoops that serve no purpose

2. Lighting

  • Extra bright headlight bulbs – while these bulbs provide better lighting than standard halogen bulbs, they are of illegal specs and not properly aligned. Colored bulbs are also used for side-markers and turning signals.
  • Lights with the ‘Altezza’-style that is associated with the ‘Lexus’ lights in Europe. Altezza is a word from the JDMs of Toyota Altezza. They are popular as the Lexus IS300 in the United States. Toyota uses this lighting style in their ES sedan and RX crossover SUV.
  • Decorative LED and neon lighting are added to the stock head and tail lamps and brake and turn signal lights. These are underbody neon lighting, lighted tire valve caps, and lighted windshield washer nozzles.

3. Aesthetics

  • Digital turbo – such as speakers mounted under the car that simulates the sound of a turbo engine.
  • Stickers and decals for aftermarket parts that are not found on the vehicle.
  • A loud and free-flowing exhaust system features a big cylindrical resonator mounted at the back of the car. They call it “fart cannon.”
  • Bright paint or bright interior, often in contrasting colors.
  • Name badges from high-performance vehicles or JDM tuning companies such as Nismo, Mugen, etc.

Sample Use of Ricer Car in Sentences

If you want to familiarize yourself with how some people use ‘ricer car’ in their sentences, look at the following examples:

  • The car owner of that ricer car took its modification too far. It is more like a spaceship than a car.
  • That’s what a real ricer car is. I can’t imagine myself being caught in it.
  • Look at that ricer car over there. Look at the size of its hood scoop and its wings. They’re hilarious.

The above examples illustrate how some people negatively look at ricer cars. To them, ricer cars are almost comical in appearance. So, if you hear someone saying that your car looks like a ricer car, you know what that person means.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions that people frequently ask about ricer cars. This will give you an idea of what ricer cars mean to some people:

What Is a Ricer Car?

A ricer car is an overly modified JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car. Some people believe that the word ‘ricer’ was taken from the phrase Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement.

This term was initially attached to low-end Japanese-made cars. Legitimate auto-tuning and vehicle performance-enhancing companies’ over-modification of such cars is frowned upon.

Why Do They Call Some Cars Ricers?

Some people call them Ricers in a derogatory way. They also call these cars ‘all show and no go’ and boy racer. The reason is that most of the modifications done on these cars only make them look like race cars. The modifications serve no purpose but reduce the car’s performance.

Why Do They Call Some Honda Cars Ricers?

They call cars made by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Subaru. They are called “Rice Burners” because they are made in Asia, particularly Japan. That term is used because rice is the main staple diet in Asia. To some people, it is not a derogatory term, but for some, it is.

Conclusion: What Is a Ricer Car?

Ricer car is the term that some people use to call cheap cars that Asian car manufacturers mostly make. These cars are very different from conventional cars because of their owners’ modifications.

Most of the modifications were done in bold and demonstrative ways. The origin of the word ‘Ricer Car’ has a somewhat racist connotation.