Owning a go-kart is exciting, but knowing that you cannot drive it legally wherever you desire can be an underwhelming feeling.
If you want to drive your go-kart, you can do it in approved designated locations. Places include private property, karting tracks, designated dirt trails, and more.
Let’s explore the legalities and safety requirements of driving go-karts and the best places to drive one!
Can I ride my go-kart in my neighborhood?
Go-karts are considered recreational vehicles. Due to this status, you can not ride them on public properties. These include:
- Public roads
- Other public areas.
Besides the law that considers go-karts as recreational vehicles, another major reason why you shouldn’t be driving your go-kart in your neighborhood is because of safety.
Go-karts are not safe to drive in public areas because they do not have safety features and equipment like horns, lights, blinkers, among many others. Driving a vehicle that is not roadworthy not only puts the driver at risk but others around them.
When it comes to parks, you must look up the rules and regulations of your state because the park could be public or private. Even if it is a private park, I wouldn’t recommend driving in the parks due to safety and noise concerns. Neighborhoods are considered safe havens for many, and a loud, rambling engine whirring around the block may not be welcomed by residents.
You can drive your go-kart on your private property, but for that, your backyard must be massive. I recommend having fun with your go-kart in approved destinations and designated trails.
Best places to ride go-kart
Since neighborhoods and other public areas are off the table, where can you drive your go-kart legally?
Here are some of the places you can enjoy riding a go-kart.
Indoor karting tracks
Not all people enjoy riding go-karts in extreme heat or during a heavy downpour. These weather conditions make indoor karting tracks the most popular choice for riding go-karts. These are the perfect places to floor the pedal on your go-kart and go, go, go since there are no weather changes to disrupt your laps. These places feature a cafe or a restaurant for you to relax and chat with your friends after the race.
Outdoor karting tracks
Located in remote areas, outdoor karting tracks are perfect for go-kart owners. However, since these places are not facilitated, you will have to bring your own safety gear. Outdoor karting tracks are spread across a vast land, allowing enough stretch of road to hit top speeds.
As the wind rustles through your hair and your go-kart’s tires grip the asphalt before swinging around the corner, you will feel the adrenaline kick in. It’s the perfect stepping stone to practicing for championship-level races.
Designated dirt trails are approved for riding off-road go-karts. Unlike indoor and outdoor karting tracks, dirt trails present exciting challenges such as uneven terrain, rocky trails, and more.
Here, the paths are longer. Each section will present a new obstacle to tackle, making the ride exhilarating. Not to mention the beautiful landscape scenes you get to witness here!
A crossover between an outdoor karting track and a dirt trail, dirt tracks are also a fantastic option to ride your go-kart. These are race tracks, but the asphalt is replaced by dirt.
Riding on dirt is different from riding on asphalt since the tires do not provide much surface grip. It’s really fun as your go-kart drifts or skids around corners.
How to make a go-kart street legal
If you own a go-kart, you’re not allowed to ride it in public areas. However, the law doesn’t stop you from making modifications to make it street legal.
Make the necessary modifications
The first step involves a lot of work, and you will need to add:
- Mirrors: side-view mirrors are required by law in most states. You can buy them at any auto parts store. This makes sure you can see other drivers behind you.
- Lights: you will need headlights, signal lights, and brake lights.
- Windshield: this protects you from bugs and debris that could otherwise fly up and hit you in the face.
- Seat belt: This is a must, for your safety and the safety of others.
- Tires: racing or off-road tires are NOT allowed on the street, so it’s important to replace these with DOT-approved tires.
- Exhaust system: go-karts are pretty noisy, but you can’t have a loud exhaust in public. You will need to install a muffler to reduce the noise. To reduce pollution, many states in the US require catalytic converters, which are quite expensive and heavy!
- Car insurance: a huge fine is usually levied if you’re caught driving without insurance. Make sure you get the right coverage before making your go-kart street legal!
Take the speed test
Once you’re done working on the go-kart, you must get it inspected before the speed test. After the inspection, schedule an appointment with your local DMV. The representative here will inspect your vehicle for safety and let you give a speed test. Make sure your kart can’t go over 25 mph or you’ll fail the test.
Register your go-kart
After passing the test, you will want to register your go-kart with the DMV. Registration will change the status of your go-kart from a recreational vehicle to a low-speed vehicle (LSV). You would also require a title and a license plate.
What is the penalty for driving a go-kart on the road?
Since a go-kart is not a registered vehicle, it does not comply with the US road regulations and safety requirements. If you get caught driving one on the road, you will have to pay a fine and possibly have your go-kart confiscated.
Imprisonment is highly unlikely unless the officers believe that you have been malicious in your actions.
The penalties for driving an unregistered vehicle on the road vary by state. It is important that you read the laws of the state you’re residing in. The penalty can be based on these violations:
- Unregistered vehicle
- No vehicle insurance
- Driving an unsafe motor vehicle (even if you’re just riding it, not driving, you can be still fined because other cars may hit you as you’re likely to be in their blind spot.)
Overall, the fine is NOT going to be small.
Whether you’ve fitted a new engine in your go-kart and want to take it for a test drive or simply want to have fun riding it around your neighborhood, you cannot drive your go-kart legally in public areas unless you make the necessary modifications and have it registered.
Race tracks are safe to max out your go-kart and generally more fun since there are others you can race against. That said, safety should be your #1 priority, so get the necessary safety gear before flooring your go-kart!