If you own a go-kart and asking the question about how to make a go-kart street legal, you have come to the right place. Since Art Ingles built the first go-kart in 1956, this particular motor vehicle had widespread popularity in the US.

Whether it’s just recreational driving, indoor racing, or off-road adventure trips, millions of Americans love the experience of riding this vehicle. However, when it came to its street legality, this motor vehicle definitely had some drawbacks and complications because of some characteristics it had.

Keep reading as I discuss the legality of go-karts on the streets and answer your questions related to this topic. Additionally, you’ll find a comprehensive guide on how you can make a go-kart street legal in the US. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Is It Possible to Make Go-Kart Street Legal?

Perhaps we often use the term “Street Legal” in a much broader sense. But if I try to answer this question with a specific Yes or No, I guess the answer would be a Yes. However, many variables come into play when we talk about making a go-kart street legal, and most of the go-karts are illegal on roads by default.

Depending on the type of go-kart and where you live, each go-kart’s laws and regulations change. For the most part, the street-legality of a go-kart involves making certain adjustments, especially in the safety department.

how to make go kart street legal
Photo by Rainer Oy from Pexels

However, doing that can also change the shape and characteristics of the go-kart and alter the purpose of a particular type of go-kart. If you are willing to make a go-kart street legal at any cost, you can definitely do it, but your go-kart might lose the exclusivity it had.

Step by Step Guide to Make you Go-kart Street Legal

We have reached the main concentration of this article. I know how fun it’s to drive around in a go-kart. But as fun, as it may seem, most of these motor vehicles are not road legal and strictly prohibited from running on the public streets. However, you might have noticed some go-karts on the roads driven without legal obligations.

Wondering how to make a go-kart street legal? Well, as we mentioned before, it’s entirely possible to make your go-kart street legal. The procedure might seem like a lot of work, but it’s well worth the time if you are a go-kart enthusiast. So stay with me as I show you the steps of making a go-kart street legal.

Step 1: Install all the necessary parts.

 First of all, get that your go-kart is not a regular vehicle like a car, truck, minivan, or motorbike. Instead, it is a totally independent class of vehicles. However, your regular go-kart probably lacks many safety features crucial for any vehicle to become road legal. So, let’s start with a list of such equipment/ parts, shall we?

  • Horn
  • Tires
  • Seatbelts
  • Solid Braking
  • Turn Indicators
  • Head and Tail Lights
  • Steering wheel (13″)
  • Windshield with Wiper
  • Side and Rear View Mirror
  • Speedometer and Odometer
  • Exhaust System
  • Safety Triangle
  • Car Insurance

This is a basic list of parts you need to install. Depending on the state, one or two things might change from the list. Still, these modifications indeed do sound like a lot of work. But that’s what we kart enthusiasts would do to take the fun out in the streets legally, right?

You can find these parts separately or in complete kits from local automotive stores and online. If you want to go cheap, you can go check out the local salvage yard too.

Step 2: Get the Go-Kart Inspected

 After you make all the necessary modifications, it’s time you get your go-kart inspected for a speed test. For most states, the DMV appoints an examiner to test the speed of your go-kart. Before that, a law enforcement officer will inspect if you have installed all the necessary parts.

The officer might ask you questions regarding the kart, answer them truthfully. Makes sure the go-kart stays in top condition while you take it for inspection. It’ll give a good impression about your go-kart, and getting the green signal would be easier.

Now, the parts that are going to be inspected differ from state to state. If you install everything from the list above, that should cover all the requirements by every state.

If you miss out on anything required by your state’s DMV, in that case, the officer will tell you to install that part and come back again for inspection at a later date. To ensure you get everything on point, you can check out your state’s DMV website and see the requirements.

Step 3: Speed Test

This is the final step if you have successfully passed the last two steps before starting the paperwork. In this part, the DMV instructor will take the speed test of your go-kart. In most states, go-karts are considered as LSVs (Low-Speed Vehicle.)

So, in this test, your speed should not cross the limit of 25 mph at any point in time. Anything higher, and you’ll fail the test. Don’t aim for the top speed here. The main goal of this whole legalization process is to imitate all the features, especially the safety of a regular motor vehicle like a car.

The speed, however, is the only thing you won’t imitate. Going at a slow pace like this will ensure your safety on the road, as well as others driving around you.

Before going to the test, check the engine thoroughly to don’t stop during the test. Changing the oil in your go-kart is an important part of regular maintenance that you should do every 10-20 hours of use. Check other engine fluids too. Again, be extra cautious so that nothing goes wrong in the testing.

The test usually starts with a safety gear check, and then it moves on to the driving and speed test. Some people might say that you can put the reflective triangle indicating LSV later. However, I think you should put it before the test. It would show how sincere you are about the safety of your go-kart.

One weird thing I have noticed people do is that going to the test riding the go-kart. I have absolutely no clue why people do that. Your go-kart is not approved yet! Doing crazy stuff like that will get you nothing but a ticket, and your belove go-kart will get impounded before it gets legalized. You can carry it to the test on the back of your truck or by disassembling it.

Step 4: Registering the go-kart

After all the tests and modifications made, we are only left with the necessary paperwork. So, for a better understanding, I am dividing up the whole registration process into three parts.

  1. Insurance for the kart
  2. Application for the title
  3. Registering the kart

The first two parts need to be complete before you can register for your go-kart. Let’s get into the details a little.

  1. Insurance for the kart

Like any other motor vehicle, go-karts are also eligible to have their insurance. Except for Virginia and New Hampshire, insurance is mandatory for any motor vehicle. Getting insurance for your go-kart comes with a to of benefits.

Insurance not only protects the go-kart but also protects you from any legal and financial liabilities. Depending on the coverage of your insurance companies you are protected from,

  • Accidental damage
  • Personal injury
  • Theft
  • Fire hazards

These are some very common coverage types I mentioned; you can get extra too if you choose the company wisely. However, the number of companies which will offer you go-kart insurance is very limited. Depending on the state, you can get the insurance before or after the registration.

Some state requires the insurance as a pre-condition of getting registered. So keep that in mind and check with the DMV before you are going to register for the go-kart.

2. Application for the title

If you happen to build the go-kart on your own by sourcing each part separately, in that case, getting a title and VIN can be tricky. Rule and regulations for these DIY go-karts are different in each state. Still, I am trying to give you a rough idea about the title and VIN application process. For more accurate info, you’ll need to contact the DMV.

  • First, you’ll need to fill up a form provided by DMV requesting a title and VIN.
  • After filling that up, you have to provide proof of your address. It’ll ensure that you are a permanent resident of a particular state. Driver’s license, voter ID, bank statement, or utility bill, any of these following will work as proof.
  • As you built the go-kart with separately sourced parts, you need to submit the bill of sale for key parts like the engine/ drive train, cab/ glider kit, frame, and body. If you salvaged any of these parts instead of buying from a store, you’ll have to submit proper paperwork proving the origin of those parts.
  • Lastly, you’ll need a statement about how you sourced the parts and assemble the go-kart. You might also need to attach some front and rear photos of the kart you built with that statement. For legal authenticity of the statement, have that statement signed by a notary public.

3. Registering the kart

Assuming you have passed the tests and managed all the necessary paperwork, you are almost at the finish line here. Now let’s revise the standard registration requirements again.

  • Installed all the necessary parts
  • Weighs less than 3000 lbs
  • Max speed under 25 mph
  • Have at least four wheels

If the go-kart checks these boxes, then it’s eligible for registration. Now, the DMV will ask you to submit some documents to complete the registration.

However, there is no specific list, and the documents required may change depending on the state. I am giving you a general idea.

  • Title and VIN of the go-kart
  • Bill of sale
  • Standard driver’s license

Usually, these documents are used to verify the ownership and the driving capability of the owner. Once the registration is complete, keep the documents in a safe place for the future. Depending on which state you live in, you might be pulled over by the cops pretty often. Without the paperwork, you might end up getting a ticket.

How to Make a Go-Kart Street Legal in Texas?

Texas is another go-kart hotspot with lots of varieties in landscape and warm weather. Again the rules are a little different here for off-highway vehicles. They are not allowed to have a standard registration here in Texas.

However, the city or county transport office where you want to go-kart has the right to issue a license plate as an off-highway vehicle after some minor modifications are made. After the modifications, your go-cart will be considered as a recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV).

With the license plate always-on display, go-carts can be legally driven o roads with a speed limit of not more than 35 mph. There are some exceptions too, in those cases, you can drive go-karts without a license plate.

Most of them are for work purposes and formal use by city offices or law enforcement agencies. You can check out more about the exceptions and eligibility to become an off-highroad vehicle here.

How to Make a Go-Kart Street Legal in California?

Go-karts are insanely popular in California partly because of the suitable landscape and rocky mountains. The first cart that Art Ingels built was in California too. With one of the highest number of kart tracks in the US, the karting scene in California has developed drastically over the years.

As fun as driving a go-kart, California state authority has their own rules of regulations to legalize a go-kart for the street. I have already described the method with a step-by-step guide above. So here, I’ll talk about some exclusive specifics here.

Under California’s Vehicle Code, go-karts are strictly off-road vehicles used for recreational purposes and should not be operated on public roads and highways. The process is almost the same as I mentioned before, but there are some unique requirements too.

For example, engines of off-highway vehicles like a go-kart need to have the California Air Resources Board (CARB). For go-karts that meets emission standard receive a green sticker. On the other hand, the red sticker is for those go-karts with the model year 2003 and newer.

Karts with red stickers are strictly restricted to riding seasons only. If you are a California local interested in making your go-kart street legal, make sure to check out Division 16.5 of the California Vehicle Code, which discusses the details and requirements that your go-kart has to fulfill to qualify as a street-legal vehicle.

Do You Need a License to Drive a Go-Kart on the Street?

The main goal of a driver’s license is to authorize yourself as a qualified person to drive a particular motorized vehicle. Without the license, you are not permitted by law to operate that vehicle on public roads. So again answer to this question, whether you need a license or not for go-kart, has different answers.

There are two possible scenarios here, one is go-kart specific license, and another is a standard vehicle license. If it’s a specific go-kart license you are talking about, then No, no state in the US neither authorizes nor requires a specific go-kart license.

Do you need to have a standard vehicle license? Yes, absolutely, if you are willing to make the adjustments to your go-kart and drive it on the street. Because after the adjustments, a go-kart can be qualified as a low-Speed vehicle (LSV) or off-highroad vehicle (OHV), which requires a regular driving license.

However, if you want to drive for recreational purposes, like indoor or outdoor tracks and trails, you won’t need any form of license.

How Old Do You Have to be to Drive a Go-Kart on the Road?

The answer to this question is actually highly related to the previous question. As I mentioned previously, you need a regular driver’s license issued by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) in each state.

I also mentioned if you make your go-kart street eligible, it will be qualified as a low-Speed vehicle (LSV). So the more appropriate question will be how old you have to be to obtain a full-blown driving license.

And the answer? Well, as you might already know, it varies from state to state. You can check out and compare the minimum age in different states to obtain a driving license here.

Where Can I Drive My Go-Kart Legally?

If you are an adult and own a go-kart yourself or thinking about getting yourself one, you might be wondering where you can ride them legally. Fortunately, there are quite a few places where you are allowed to drive your go-kart legally.

Additionally, if you customize your go-kart to be street eligible, then many options might open up for you. I’ll discuss that part later. For now, except streets, you can drive a go-kart in race tracks, designated karting trails, private property, and in certain approves public areas.

  • Race tracks are the most common and safest place to drive a go-kart. In a controlled environment, whether indoor or outdoor, you can get a complete go-karting experience there. Even if you don’t own a go-kart yourself, you can rent one here with other safety equipment too.

Different tracks offer different types of go-karting like recreational riding or racing. These tracks are permitted by the authority and pretty common around every corner in the US. All you might need is a photo id to have a fun time there.

  • If you want a little more challenging experience, then the trails and dirt tracks can be a great choice for you to go-kart legally. These, too, are one kind of race track, but a tad bit intense than regular kart tracks with uneven rocky terrains and slopes. However, these trails are less available than standard race tracks.
  • Lastly, you are totally allowed to drive your go-kart on your private premises. Whether it’s the backyard or huge farmland you own, you can drive there without any legal restrictions and licensing.

Additionally, some public areas also approve go-kart driving for recreational purposes. One of the most common examples of such a public area is the beaches. These places are approved by local authorities. So if you want to drive in such places, make sure that particular area has proper approval.

Wrap Up

As we are at the end of our article, I hope you’ve got a comprehensive idea about the legal status on the street. The answer to this question of how to make a go-kart street legal is not simple. As the laws differ from state to state, the fundamental rules are still the same in every state.

If you have decided to make your go-kart street legal, start planning from today. Follow the steps I mentioned in the guide, and eventually, you will successfully make your go-kart street legal. I assure you, all the hard work you put in it will be all well worth once you get to ride your go-kart on the street with pride. 

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