From my own experience in this field, I’m going to share all manner of wisdom, hints and tips about how you can race karts competitively without breaking the bank in the process.
Securing great deals and knowing the best ways to get them will be something invaluable as you progress further into karting, so without any further delay, let’s jump right in!
Know Where To Look
Just like there are all kinds of places to browse for new karts, you’ll be surprised how many resources are available at a base level for you to get an idea of prices.
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Before you look at pre-owned rigs, I’d absolutely encourage you to become familiar with the cost of brand-new rigs and parts. That way, you’ll start to get an idea of what is a reasonable price for used items in go-karting.
Say, for example, that you know a new TopKart Twister chassis model starts at $4,000 off the bat, it stands to reason that a pre-owned version of this (albeit an older variation) should be something approximately half the price.
Using this method of trial and error, you can start to build a picture of what your budget for a pre-owned kart should look like; the very rough outlines, at least.
After spending this time gaining a background knowledge in full pricings, you can start browsing websites that will offer used parts and builds. It’s important to compare prices between listings, and also refer back to what you found in new product listings on manufacturer websites.
This base level of understanding will really help you find parts for a steal by comparison!
As for specific places to frequent in your search, 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, that ever-constant 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. It definitely stands to reason that if you can sell your car using eBay motoring, you’ll be able to dig up some gems for go-karts!
I would definitely recommend using eBay as a place to look for parts as opposed to whole rigs, unless the advertisements are exceedingly detailed as to what will be included. At least with the purchasing of gently used parts, the descriptions will be more straight-forward and specific.
My dad spent many an hour browsing eBay listings to pick up new-to-us tools and spare parts for the kart we owned, and when he entrusted this past-time 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, and for bigger parts, it’s important to arrange a viewing of some kind; similar to buying a car.
This goes without saying for if you find a steal of an old chassis on eBay, you’ll absolutely want to go and check it out in person before securing a purchase, but if the seller is local to you, try to arrange a pick-up of the product just so you can check it over.
We did this once or twice when buying 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.
Sometimes, It’s About WHO You Know!
Now that I’ve given some basic insight into how to begin looking for used go-karts, and where you can often find these great deals, I’m going to delve into perhaps one of the most important areas when it comes to go-karting as a whole.
You’ve got a whole community of go-kart enthusiasts in your local area; I can guarantee that!! Not only will you be able to make friends and rivals to race against, but you’ll have access to a whole wealth of knowledge and buying potential.
Because you spent some time every weekend at the track, you met Ben, and because Ben remembered his early days of go-karting, he immediately thought of you when buying a new rig and thus needing a new home for the old one.
You should really never underestimate the power of “I know a guy” in the motorsport industry at large, not only because it can result in sponsorship if you want to get serious, but also because you can meet all kinds of people like Ben!
Everybody is keen to share what they know and to help one another out, so you can guarantee that great used go-kart deals will follow the makings of good friendship.
Aside from being sociable in person with your local scene, you can take to the internet and utilize different ways of socializing. The age of technology has been fantastic for go-karting, because all of a sudden, this motorsport which was based largely in word-of-mouth has expanded into something that everybody can contribute to online.
You’ll find sub-Reddit boards dedicated to discussions about what go-kart rigs people have, how much they spent, where they could have saved money… the possibilities in this realm are truly endless!
Everyone wants to make sure that you are united with the go-kart for the best possible price, and I can guarantee that starting a forum-based discussion about what you’re looking for will spark a huge call to help you out.
A lot of go-kart drivers will actually use these forums to sell their old parts and rigs, so you can get a better picture of whether those specific things would fit you personally.
For example, you found a great forum discussion about beginner go-kart drivers talking about their set-ups and why it benefitted them specifically: You can use that information going forward and if you yourself are new to the sport, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for.
Another valuable tool, similar to forums but more local-centric, is the usage of Facebook! Now, bear with me on this one. If you’ve been using Facebook recently, you’ll be aware of the social media platform offering a Marketplace, where users can buy and sell things similar to eBay and other selling sites.
The main difference, however, is the fact that Facebook can use your location to make sure that you’re only getting local offers. Not only will it be easy to pick stuff up if you buy anything, but you can be pretty assured that the engine you just nabbed for a steal price was a great fit for your local track.
Different go-kart tracks run different race series, after all, and it would be exceedingly pointless to buy a Honda GX35 engine when everyone else is using Comer C51s! Using Facebook will combine your more personable research and connections by visiting the local tracks, with an assurance that you’ll be able to use what you’re buying. Always a plus!
A Bargain To Last
As with things in general life, different brands will be more or less expensive depending on their availability. There is a little bit of this evident in go-karting, but for the most part, brand pedigree is down to a personal preference.
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In single-speed karting, a Briggs & Stratton isn’t more or less favorable than a Honda; it simply depends on what you’re looking for in an engine. However, there is definitely something to be said in sometimes committing a bit more of your budget to buy something that’ll last a longer time to save money in the long-run, so let’s look into that a bit more, shall we?
When buying a used go-kart, there are certain parts of that build which can be skimped on a little more than others. You’re better off buying an older chassis and cleaning it up, for example, and all go-kart seats are going to be uncomfortable plastic no matter where you look so there isn’t much point trying to scour for a padded, luxurious one.
The bodywork of your kart is going to see a lot of damage over its lifetime, also, so I’d always advise to look at substance over style. Any big kart manufacturer will be a solid bet in that regard, and you’ll want to steer clear of more luxury brands like Praga if you’re looking to save some pennies.
Top Kart and Tony Kart are great, solid brands that are widely available, and as long as the chassis is structurally sound, you’re basically laughing.
Go-kart tires are vastly important, especially when considering that they’re the things keeping you on the track when squealing around a corner at 60mph, so you definitely want to be very diligent when buying those second-hand.
Branding on these is certainly important and you should look for tire manufacturers like Bridgestone, since they’re used in proper races for their reliability. They’ll be more expensive than off-brand tires, but you’ll be able to get far more use out of them and won’t run the risk of failures on the track!
Another crucial area that needs a bigger budget portion is definitely the engine. Like I said, the engine brand isn’t actually important as long as it’s being used in the local race series, but the type of engine is certainly something to think about.
Most commonly, two-stroke engines are used for their simplicity and higher raw speeds, but these bad boys can wear out pretty darn quickly if you aren’t on top of maintenance. They’re cheaper to buy, too, which make them a very attractive option. However, I’d encourage you to consider picking up a four-stroke engine for a couple of reasons.
Sure, they may be more complicated to take apart and fix, but they’re overall a more reliable piece of machinery. Four-stroke engines will also save you some good cash amounts in fuel consumption, because they’re more efficient than their two-stroke counterparts.
It’s definitely a cost to think very carefully about, and sometimes the cheapest option at the time won’t stay that way going forward due to breakages or failures down the line.
Become A Mechanic! (Or Make Friends With Mechanics…!)
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:
Buying broken parts and repairing them is way cheaper than buying working stuff!!
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This fact 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 dad was a mechanical kind of wizard and he had worked on a lot of cars growing up, so I’d have struggled if not for his know-how. But truly, you’d be surprised how often people give away broken parts when, really, they just need very minor fixes.
We 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 why 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, 9 times out of 10, 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 a mechanical know-how will help you look after the kart better all around, 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, else you’ll be defeating the purpose of saving money to begin with!
It goes without saying that there are a lot of ways to save money and buy a go-kart cheaply, in spite of how expensive motorsport is. A lot of enjoyment for go-karting can come from managing to get that great deal, and with the money you saved by grabbing a second-hand rig, you can actually partake in race series!
With so many options out there to make karting more affordable and all of the people that love the sport with such passion, you’re guaranteed to buy a kart for a complete steal; especially when following the advice in this very article.