Are Gokarts Street Legal? Gokart Laws in the States

Go-Karts have received immense popularity in recent years. The introduction of kart racing as a public sport has attracted great interest and has led to many enthusiastic people investing in buying the hefty models for themselves. However, before you get your hands on a brand new piece, you ought to know your state’s laws and regulations regarding go-karts!

Many people ask whether it’s ok to take out their go-karts on streets or in public places like parks. Well, the answer varies according to what state you reside in. The law identifies each model according to its specifications; your cart can be a low-speed vehicle, a utility vehicle, or even an off-street model.

We know this sounds complex! So, sit back as we cover the regulations in major states regarding this vehicle. We’ll also discuss some of the steps you can take to ensure you’re maximizing the benefits of having a go-kart for yourself without actually bending the laws!

Texas

The lone star state has some general regulations that apply to all low-speed vehicles. These cars require a tail-light, side indicators, a windshield, a seat belt, and should have a maximum speed of up to 25 mph. Apart from the specifics of the model, you also need to have a general driver’s license to drive outdoors!

If you have a recreational model, you can apply for an off-highway license plate. This allows you to take your go-kart out on a regular freeway. Highways will remain restricted. The registration process however means you can now drive at a speed up to 35 mph. You’d need to deploy a spark arrestor, a muffler, and properly tested brakes to drive on public roads!

The decal for your off-highway model has to be approved and registered by the texas parks and wildlife development. The state laws also provide the local cities to govern their own regulations. Thus, some cities might restrict the use of these vehicles in certain areas. Your off-highway license plate becomes very crucial in cities with tighter regulations!

California

The bear flag state has very concise and simple laws regarding go-karts. Based on the model you’ve purchased, the vehicle will be classified either as a low-speed vehicle or an off-highway vehicle. LSVs have to weigh under 3000 pounds and have four wheels. This eliminates all dirt and sand bikes from the category.

LSVs are restricted from driving in certain areas and have to fulfill very basic requirements of having a properly functioning brake, headlights, a tail light, and a seat belt. In case your model qualifies as an OHV, you’ll be asked to get it registered by the State. Apart from the regulations applicable for an LSV, this vehicle will need a pollution control device and either a muffler or spark arrestor.

The state assigns a green sticker to go-karts that abide by the no-emission regulations. You can also get a highway permit if your model meets further speed and safety requirements. Models that emit harmful gases however are assigned a red sticker. These go-karts can come out on unpaved roads in the riding season only!

New York

The state of New York has one of the most stringent regulations when it comes to go-karts! This makes sense due to the heavy traffic and hefty population in the state. You’re more likely to go off easy in case your model qualifies as an LSV. For this purpose, you need a driver’s license, a four-wheel car with functional brakes, headlights, taillights, and make sure you’re driving on streets with a speed limit of less than 35 mph.

However, the recent go-karts do not qualify as LSVs. They’re rather treated as all-terrain vehicles. This too includes cars weighing under 1000 pounds. Heavier models are not registered for use in public spaces until the area is completely dedicated to this recreational activity.

The registration process is also quite detailed. You need a license, proof of ownership, approved insurance, and need to pay a fee to go through the process. The headlights also have to illuminate a specific light color, while the tires need to hold up to mentioned thickness standards. In most cases, the use of such go-karts will be restricted to private properties only!

Washington

The capital state is gradually moving to eliminate non-electrical vehicles off the roads. This is an initiative to protect the environment and ensure a safer lifestyle. Thus, all LSVs in the state must be electrically powered apart from having reflectors, four wheels, headlights, taillights, and a speed limit of 25 mph.

All off-road models have to abide by the regulations relating to ORVs. These models are licensed for use in recreational activities. You may not drive the go-kart on highways and public roads. Specific trails have been designed to accommodate such vehicles and allow for registered models to run on them.

A license plate is assigned to the owner which has to be displayed at all times. The mainly approved use is to drive the go-kart on private property! Additional safety regulations include a muffler on the car, and either a seat belt inside or a proper helmet with the driver.

The state has authorized children as young as 13 to drive go-karts as long as they’re accompanied by an adult with a driver’s license!

Florida

The sunshine state also identifies go-karts in two major categories! If your model has four wheels, is electrically powered, and runs at a speed ranging between 20-25 mph, it will qualify as an LSV. A seller is not allowed to vend an LSV that has a speed limit of more than 35 mph. You can take such models out on public roads with a limit under 35 mph.

The regulations regarding off-road go-karts are slightly looser here. Florida’s state laws do not require or provide the option of registering these vehicles. Thus, you won’t have a license plate on your vehicle. 

OHVs are restricted to certain public roads and specific unpaved lanes in the state. The places are quite restricted and clearly mentioned. Unlike in New York, you can’t upgrade your go-kart to meet the requirements of a vehicle licensed for use on the highway!

Illinois

If you’re a go-kart lover in the land of Lincoln, you’re up for a treat. The Illinois state’s major focus lies upon the registration of your vehicle. For your model to qualify as an LSV, it needs to have a speed limit under 25 mph. There must be reflectors placed on its backside, adjacent to turn signals, headlights, taillights, and functioning brakes.

To take such a model out in the streets, you need a driver’s license and ensure that the official speed limit of the street is under 35 mph.

As far as off-road go-karts are concerned, these vehicles must be registered at the Secretary of State’s office. You’ll receive a license plate that allows you to drive the kart on certain unpaved lanes. For proper usage on public roads, however, you’ll have to apply for a decal. Mind you, the access will remain restricted to approved public areas.

Although you don’t need to be 18 years old to drive a go-kart, a parent/guardian must accompany an under-aged driver even when driving on public trails!

New Jersey

The state of New Jersey has very strict requirements for LSV. Your latest go-kart model won’t fall under this category. Apart from the basic functional conditions like a brake, turning signals, headlights, taillights, and a seat belt, your vehicle needs to be powered by an electric source. 

A regular go-kart that runs on gas won’t qualify as an LSV. It would rather fall under the off-road vehicle category. These can further be categorized as either class 1 or class 2 models.

Class 1 ORVs are allowed to drive on public streets and even highways in some cases. These vehicles have to be fully registered, insured, and consist of all the safety equipment clarified by the state laws.

In case your model doesn’t qualify as a class 1 vehicle, it will fall under the class 2 category. These models can safely be allowed to drive on private properties and specific public roads. Their speed limit however should not exceed 25 mph. Additionally, the state allows you to operate this vehicle without an approved driver’s license.

Alaska

The gold country, Alaska has enforced some heavy regulations on go-karts for the past few years now. The harsh weather in this northern state makes it very important to ensure that road safety measures are met in the winter season.

Thus, your go-kart has to have a speed limit ranging between 20-25 mph for it to qualify as an LSV. Its weight must also be under 3000 pounds and additional conditions of red reflectors, side mirrors, proper brakes, and a professionally installed windshield must be met. You also have to get the model registered and install a number plate on its back.

Making an off-highway vehicle street legal is even tougher. The go-kart should be registered with the DMV’s office. The authorities will issue a decal that permits the owner to drive their go-kart on public streets. 

The only exception made to public access is during the harsh snowfall. You may be allowed to cross a road in such a vehicle when other cars cannot sustain in the rough snowy terrain!

Arizona

Most people prefer buying an off-road go-kart in the grand canyon state of Arizona. The sole reason for this is the tiring process of registering an LSV. The model must not only abide by the general speed limit of 25 mph, but it also has to be listed with the DMV. You’ll receive a license plate only after providing proof of proper liability insurance!

The state’s green policy also means that these vehicles have to be emission-free to be approved for usage on public roads! ORVs, on the other hand, have to weigh under 2500 pounds. Once you pass due process, your go-kart will be declared street legal and can be used on multiple public trails.

A decal application has to be filed at the time of registration. It will only be certified once the vehicle meets all safety standards. You can renew the certificate for a menial fee of 25 dollars every year!

Oklahoma

Well, if you reside in Oklahoma state you better opt for an LSV over an ATV. The state abides by federal regulations for low-speed vehicles. Your go-kart should be equipped with safety accessories like a seat belt, windshield, and brakes. Most importantly, it should be registered with the state’s office.

If the vehicle’s speed limit is under 25 mph, and you have a driver’s license, you can even take it out on public roads! The off-road models are referred to as all-terrain vehicles in this state. These models have to be equipped with four strong-grip tires. 

You also have to make sure the vehicle is less than 60-inches wide and weighs less than 1500 pounds. The go-kart will be registered with a license plate and be listed under the state’s tax commission after 30 days of purchase! Unfortunately, even after abiding by such strict measures, you can only drive your beloved vehicle on unpaved roads.

FAQS

Do you need a license to drive a go-kart?

The general answer is no. You don’t need to have a license or be of age to drive a go-kart in recreational spaces. Your state, however, might impose this as an additional condition to make the vehicle street legal!

Are go-karts safe to drive?

Go-karting is a perfectly safe sport when monitored under proper safety regulations. If you’re a cautious driver operating a vehicle with standard wheels, brakes, and other safety equipment, you’re in for a ride!

How do I make my go-kart street legal?

The exact measures will vary from one state to another. However, almost all localities require the model to have a seat belt, turning signals, reflectors, windshields, speedometers, and functioning brakes. Some states impose an additional requirement of registering the vehicle.

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