Buying a used go-kart is one of the cheapest ways to get into the sport, as brand-new machines are often very expensive. However, to ensure you get the best deal, you need to know what to look for when buying a used kart on the cheap.
To buy a used go-kart cheaply, it’s often about who you know and not what you know. Ask people at your local track and even mechanics, family, and friends to find the best cheap used go-karts. Looking online might yield more results, but it’s best to buy in person if possible.
Below, I’ll draw on my own experience of buying used go-karts in the past to give you tips and tricks on getting a good deal. I’ll cover the key things you should look at when buying one, and I’ll offer some negotiation tips too.
What To Look For When Buying A Used Go-Kart
When buying a used go-kart, it’s important to look over the overall condition of the kart. The first thing you need to do is to give the kart a thorough visual inspection. Look for any signs of rust, dents, or cracks in the chassis, and check for bent steering rods. If the kart has been in an accident, there may be visible damage that you need to look out for.
Check for signs of wear and tear on the kart’s body, and check for dirt and oil stains on the frame of the kart, which could be indicators that the kart has not been well-maintained or has not been serviced regularly. It’s also important to check the brakes to ensure that they are working properly.
Don’t forget to check the engine casing as well. Look for any signs of leaks or cracks on the engine or on the frame next to the engine, and make sure to check the oil levels. If the oil is dark or the level is low, this may be a sign of poor maintenance or neglect. If you have time, you can also check the spark plug and air filter to ensure that they are clean and functioning correctly.
Once you have thoroughly inspected the overall condition of the go-kart, the next step is to run the engine. Before starting it up, check for rust or oil stains that indicate damage or leaks. If you notice any issues, mention it to the seller first. If you mention it after the engine has run, the seller might blame it on oil leaking from the engine being started!
Once you’ve inspected the engine and determined that it’s in good condition, start it up and listen for any unusual noises or vibrations. A well-maintained engine should run smoothly without any excessive vibrations or rattling. A plume of smoke on start-up is normal for a 2-stroke engine, but make sure to listen for any backfiring or bogging down when you press the throttle.
If you can, take the go-kart for a test drive to get a better feel for the engine’s performance. Pay attention to how the engine responds to acceleration and braking, and take note of any issues such as the engine bogging down under acceleration or backfiring. It’s also important to check the engine’s temperature gauge (if it has a MyChron) to ensure that it’s not overheating.
Make sure to ask the seller for documentation of any maintenance or repairs that have been done on the engine. Karting engines are meant to stay sealed, but if it has been opened you need to be able to prove that it’s still legal! Opening the engine may be done for rebuilds or to upgrade the kart to senior class, but always make sure you have all the bases covered.
Brand Of Kart & Engine
Some kart and engine brands are known for their quality and durability, while others may have a reputation for being less reliable or having poorer performance. Always make sure to invest in reputable brands and manufacturers and do thorough research on each brand before you inspect the kart. This can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Look for reviews from other kart owners and compare the features and specifications of different models. This information can help you make an informed decision and ensure that you’re getting a quality kart for your money.
Also, some engines are more powerful and efficient than others, which can affect the performance of the kart. The most important factor to keep in mind is that you need to invest in an engine that has a championship available in your area. Championships are typically single-make when it comes to engines, so don’t buy a Rotax kart if there’s only a Rok championship in your area!
It’s also worth noting that some brands and engines are going to be more expensive than others, so factor this into your budget when considering your options. While a higher price tag may sometimes mean better quality, it’s not always the case, so be sure to do your research and compare different options before making a purchase. Let’s talk a bit more about the price before moving on to where to buy a used go-kart.
Compare The Price
The price of the kart is ultimately what will swing your decision the most as a buyer. It’s important to research the market and understand the average price for the specific make and model of the go-kart you’re interested in. Remember, if it’s second-hand, it should be substantially cheaper than the same kart if it was new.
Don’t be afraid to ask the seller if they are open to negotiation. If the price seems too high, point out any issues or concerns you have noticed during the inspection process. Be prepared to make a counteroffer based on the condition of the go-kart and the fair market value for that kart on the second-hand market.
Used Go-Kart Checklist
The most important checks to make when buying a used go-kart are:
- Check the frame for cracks or signs of damage
- Inspect the steering system for any signs of wear, bent rods, or damage
- Check the brakes to ensure they are working correctly
- Examine the engine for signs of wear and tear, including any leaks or rust
- Test the throttle and check the cable to ensure it is working properly
- Inspect the fuel tank, lines, and filter
- Look for signs of rust on any of the metal components
- Check the seat to ensure it is secure and not damaged
- Check the chain and sprocket for signs of wear and tear
- Check the electronics, including the battery and wiring
- Look for any missing parts or components.
- Check the exhaust for any rust and to see if it’s loose
- Test drive the kart to ensure it handles well and performs as expected
Now let’s consider where you should look when buying a second-hand go-kart on the cheap.
Where To Buy A Used Go-Kart
You should really never underestimate the power of “I know a guy” in the world of motorsport. Most racers are keen to share what they know, so you can guarantee that great used go-kart deals will follow the makings of good friendship. Plus, many kart racers will let their friends at the track be the first ones to know they’re thinking of selling their rig.
When looking to buy a used go-kart for cheap, I’d start with the online world simply to help grow your repertoire of understanding. And perhaps one of my favorite places to check is, without a doubt, eBay. You can set all kinds of filters when searching, and over the past few years, the buying and selling site has seen a rise in motorsports enthusiasts utilizing its services.
I would definitely recommend using eBay primarily as a place to look for parts as opposed to whole rigs unless the advertisements are exceedingly detailed as to what will be included.
My dad spent many an hour browsing eBay listings to pick up new tools and spare parts for the first karts we owned, and when he entrusted this pastime to me as I got older, he issued a solid piece of advice:
Always check the seller’s credentials and rating to make sure that you’re buying from somebody trustworthy. For bigger parts, it’s important to arrange a viewing of some kind, similar to if you were buying a car.
Facebook offers their own marketplace system, where users can buy and sell things similar to eBay and other selling sites. This can be a great alternative to eBay, or simply another site to check each day when you’re looking for a second-hand kart.
Verifying In Person
It goes without saying that, if you find a steal of an old chassis on eBay, you’ll absolutely want to go and check it out in person before handing any money over.
We did this when buying go-kart tires through eBay, and on one occasion, it saved us from blindly paying for a set of racing slicks that were barely track legal!
Another invaluable place to search involves a much more personal approach, and the potential for bargains is almost without limit. Find a go-kart track close to you, and take a trip over there to do some research and potential bartering. Race tracks will have their own rental karts, and when these rigs get replaced, they’ll need somebody to take the old ones off their hands.
Now, the old rental kart chassis will likely be pretty banged up. But with some TLC, you’ll find that it can be a solid starting rig. It was through keeping a good rapport with our local track that my dad was able to secure the purchase of our first go-kart, and it was race ready, albeit in need of fresh paint and some much-needed tweaks!
KEY POINTS• There are lots of things to consider when buying a used go-kart
• A great place to find old kart parts is eBay
• If you can, arrange to see the kart/parts in person before you buy them
7 Negotiation Tips For Buying A Used Go-Kart
1. Do Your Research
The most important thing to remember when buying a used go-kart is to make sure you do your research. Having knowledge about the kart you’re buying is how you can hold the power in the negotiation. Start by researching the specific make and model of the kart you’re interested in buying, as well as the market value of similar karts in your area. This will give you an idea of what a fair price range is for the kart you’re looking at.
You should also research the seller to get an idea of their reputation and history with selling karts, or even their history in the sport. Look for online reviews or feedback from previous customers, and try to get an understanding of how they conduct business. This will help you determine whether the seller is trustworthy and whether the kart is in the condition they claim it to be in.
Try to determine why they’re selling the kart. Is the kart old and performing poorly? Are they moving on from the sport or moving to a different class? Or is it a second-hand karting shop? By doing your research ahead of time, you’ll be better equipped to negotiate a fair price for the kart and avoid being taken advantage of.
2. Inspect The Go-Kart
Always make sure to inspect the entire kart thoroughly. Bear in mind my checklist from earlier in this article, and you’ll be able to cover all the most important parts.
Taking the time to inspect the kart thoroughly will give you a better understanding of its condition and help you negotiate a fair price for it. If you’re unsure of what to look for or how to check things, consider bringing a knowledgeable friend or a mechanic with you to inspect the kart.
3. Use The Inspection As Leverage
If you find any issues or damages during the inspection, use those as talking points to negotiate a lower price. Be polite but firm in your negotiations, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the seller isn’t willing to budge on the price if there are indeed issues with the kart. By using the inspection as leverage, you can ensure that you’re getting a fair price for the go-kart.
4. Start With A Lower Offer
The most important rule in negotiations is to always start with a lower offer than the asking price. This gives you room to negotiate and allows you to reach a price that works for both you and the seller. However, it’s important to be reasonable with your offer and not insult the seller with an unreasonably low price.
Consider factors such as the age and condition of the go-kart, the brand, and any additional features it may have. Research the market value of similar go-karts to get an idea of what a fair price range would be. With this information, you can make a reasonable starting offer and begin the negotiation process.
5. Be Willing To Walk Away From A Bad Deal
You should always be willing to walk away if the seller is not willing to offer what you believe to be a fair price. Remember that there are always other karts out there, and getting a good deal is not worth overpaying for a kart that may have hidden problems. If you buy the wrong kart, you might end up paying much more in maintenance costs later on.
If the seller is not willing to come down to a price that you think is fair, thank them for their time and politely move on. You may find that they come back to you with a better offer if they realize that you’re serious about finding a good deal. After all, if a driver doesn’t have any use for their kart or they’re looking to upgrade, they’re likely going to be desperate to sell it.
6. Don’t Rush The Negotiation
Always take your time and don’t rush the process of buying your second-hand kart. Rushing could lead to impulsive decisions and overpaying for a kart that may not be worth the price. Take the time to thoroughly inspect the kart, research its value, and carefully consider your offer.
If the seller is pressuring you to make a quick decision or is rushing the negotiation, it could be a red flag that they are hiding something or trying to take advantage of you. Take a step back and consider whether the deal is really worth it. Remember that there are always other karts out there, and it’s better to wait for the right one than to rush into a bad deal.
7. Be Respectful
You should always be respectful throughout the entire negotiation process, even if it becomes frustrating. Keep in mind that the seller is also trying to get the best deal possible, so approach the negotiation with a friendly attitude. Avoid being aggressive or confrontational, as this can quickly prevent any further negotiation.
Building Your Own Go-Kart From Used Parts
Aside from finding raw bargain deals on go-kart parts and chassis, the biggest money-saver you’ll find is being familiar with what you’re buying on a mechanical level. This is for a multitude of reasons of course, with perhaps the biggest one simply being that buying (slightly) broken parts and repairing them can be way cheaper than buying working stuff! You could even fully restore an old kart if you have the time.
Repairing Broken Parts
This isn’t without risk of course, and you should be very familiar with how to fix things before committing to this course of action. One of the biggest contributing factors to how my dad and I raced for so long on such a tight budget was because we picked up all kinds of broken components to fix for our rigs.
I was very lucky in this regard because my dad was a mechanical wizard, and he had worked on a lot of cars growing up, so I’d have struggled if not for his know-how. But you’d be surprised how often people give away broken parts when, really, they just need very minor fixes.
For example, we once grabbed some chassis tubing for free because one end of it was cracked the tiniest amount, and after a quick welding session, we had replacement tubing in great condition. Frequenting junkyards can yield some gems every now and then, and it’s another reason making go-karting friends is very important because you can often grab some great freebies.
Another vital reason why being mechanically inclined is a great boon boils down to how much cheaper it is to build karts by hand. Spending $800 on a used rolling chassis, $30 for a set of racing slick tires, and $200 for a solid engine will, nine times out of ten, work out far cheaper than grabbing a fully constructed pre-owned rig.
Provided you have the space to build the kart, or you know somebody who does, you can save a lot of what my dad used to call ‘convenience money.’ There’s also something pretty damn rewarding when you can step back from the rig you built by yourself, knowing that you:
- Saved a small fortune
- Have a kart courtesy of your own two hands!
Not only is it important to stay savvy when buying replacement parts and such going forward, but you’ll save a solid chunk of cash by installing upgrades or replacements as your own mechanic.
That, and having mechanical know-how will help you look after the kart better as well, which will mean it’s way less likely that you’ll over-exert it, or ruin tires, or let your engine run out of oil. Being careful with cash when buying a go-kart needs to extend into maintaining it, or else you’ll be defeating the purpose of saving money to begin with!
There are plenty of ways to buy a used go-kart and save money in the process. As long as you know where to buy one, such as on eBay or Facebook or down at your local track, and you’re willing to apply a bit of your own mechanical knowledge and negotiation skills, you’ll be able to find good deals!
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.