For years, motorsport has been considered a sport for the elite, and a playground for the rich. Unfortunately, today, it is still the same. Motorsport is still expensive. Karting is the gateway to motorsport, being the most affordable form. But, is karting expensive?
Karting is expensive. A racing kart will cost around $8000, plus $1000 for a decent set of gear. If you are going to participate in championships, there are extra costs such as entry fees, fuel, consumables, repairs, and travel. This brings the cost to around $11,000 for a year of competition.
In other sports like tennis for example, you can simply buy your racquet and tennis balls and get started. But karting requires some running costs which make it more expensive than other sports. In motorsport, it costs money if you want to race. I researched all the possible costs you might be facing in order to set out this perfect starter guide.
The Costs Of Kart Racing
The engine that you buy will be based largely on two factors. The first is the class that you will be running in. The class you will run in is based on your age, and of course the younger the class the cheaper the engine. The second factor is the popularity of engines in your local championships. Most championships will focus on one make of engine in order to keep a level playing field.
I have compiled some prices for new engines. These prices can vary, and you may find some that are cheaper, especially if they are second-hand. You may find some that are more expensive than these prices depending on their availability in your region. I have also selected Rotax as the engine supplier as they are extremely popular and seem to be used in most championships around the world.
|Bambino 6-8 years old||Micro Max||$2000|
|Mini 8-13 years old||Mini Max||$2200|
|Junior 12-15 years old||Junior Max||$2600|
|Senior 15+ years old||Senior Max||$2800|
|DD2 15+ years old||DD2 Max||$3500|
As you can see, the engine costs are a big part of your starting budget. But there is some good news to this. If you are a younger driver and say you start in the junior class, you can upgrade your engine. This will save you a lot of money as opposed to buying a brand-new engine when you move up a class.
The important part of this though is to take good care of your engine, especially if you are competing and need your engine to last. You can have an engine rebuild; however, these can also become expensive as it will need to be done by a mechanic, and it will need to be resealed if you are competing in a championship. It’s a good idea to do your engine rebuild with your class upgrade if it’s within your budget.
Chassis are all very different. There are a ton of different brands out there, and there are new ones that come along every year. It’s important to note that some chassis are branded as different ones but made by the same factory. For example, the Charles Leclerc kart is made by Birel, and FA kart is made by OTK (Tony Kart). So, at some point you might find the exact same chassis, for a higher price which has simply been rebranded.
Always do your research behind the chassis, where they come from, their racing pedigree etc. All chassis have different features so its important to take note of this and use it to your advantage. Some chassis are more suited for braking, some for slow corners, some for high speed corners etc.
Kartmasters is a one-make engine tournament that some of the best karting drivers in the world take part in. I reviewed the latest edition of this series to have a closer look at what chassis the top 10 finishing drivers use. Of course, there is the factor of driver skill, but there are some chassis that ‘dominate’ a class. This can show which chassis tend to perform the best.
Starting off with the Mini class, majority of chassis in the top 10 spots were the Synergy chassis. They are around $3000. The rest of the top 10 positions consisted of Tony Kart chassis, which are around $2500.
Looking at the junior class, at first it looks like there is a wide variety of chassis being used, including Alonso kart, Kosmic and Tony Kart. But if you do some research, you will see that it is dominated by one factory. This factory is the OTK group. Junior class had 8 chassis all made by the OTK group in the top 10. That means that 80% of the junior class’ best finishers were using OTK chassis. The other chassis in the top 10 positions was Compkart.
An OTK junior chassis will cost you around $3850, and the Compkart will cost around $3880. So not a big difference between these two. You just need to choose which colour you like best!
Finally, the top category is KZ, as Kartmasters does not run the senior class. Now this is a step up from the senior class, but you can expect a similar range of chassis to be used in a senior class race. This class had a much larger variety of chassis in the top 10 positions, but this shows ust how close the competition is when it comes to the actual chassis.
In no particular order, the chassis featured in the KZ class top 10 were CRG, Birel, Compkart, and Kart Republic. So, some more familiar names like CRG and Birel showing up here, but interestingly Compkart featuring once again just like in the junior class.
CRG is the most expensive, likely because of their experience and racing pedigree at $6250. Next up is Birel at $5700, as they also are quite well known and have some strong history to their name. Closely followed by the Compkart chassis at $5600. Kart Republic produces the most affordable chassis in this category at $4250.
Your chassis is important. Think of it as choosing your car manufacturer. Each one has its positives and drawbacks, and that is what you need to be looking at. If you are starting karting as a hobby, maybe go for a cheaper chassis. If you have a big budget sponsor, then go for the best chassis on the market.
Safety Equipment Costs
Most people underestimate the cost of the safety gear when it comes to karting. Despite being the cheapest form of motorsport, you still need to have the right gear in order to safely compete, and its not cheap.
Below I have made a list of the equipment that you will need in order to start karting, and the average cost of the equipment. You can find gear for lower or higher prices, but I decided to go for a mid-price to give you a better idea of what you need to budget for when it comes to safety gear.
Let’s start off with fire resistant underwear. This will include bottoms, shirts, socks and balaclavas. You will be looking at around $125 per set. That means one set of pants, one top, one pair of socks, and one balaclava. If your budget allows, its best to get 2 sets of clothing in order to rotate them between track days.
It’s always a good idea to have 2 or 3 balaclavas as these may need to be rotated between sessions (yes, you sweat a lot under that helmet!)
Next up is your race suit. There is a huge variety in race suits, and you can find a lot of different brands that offer a lot of different prices. I think that a good quality race suit is important, so I set the budget for this to around $150.
Yes, there are top of the line race suits that can go for double that price, and there are race suits that can cost slightly less, but I think you can get a decent suit for this price.
Gloves can go for around $35, and these can still be from a good brand like Alpinestars. Then if you are looking at boots, $70 is a good price range for that. These two don’t need to be the top quality, most expensive products. Mid-range or even some of the cheapest ones are fine. Your gloves will wear down even if you buy the most expensive ones, and I have found that karting shows are quite resilient.
Your helmet will probably be the biggest expense in the safety equipment category. I decided to look for the cheapest karting helmet I could find, and then also the most expensive one. This helped me to find a price range for helmets. What I found was $90 – $600. There are some helmets that go even more than $600.
Now, the issue here is that some karting leagues only allow a specifically homologated helmet in their races. So, if you were to ask me, I would say you should be safe and get an Arai or Bell helmet. A typical Arai helmet is around $500. And if you have such a helmet, you will be good to race in any karting championship around the world.
On top of this, your helmet will be a standard white shell (unless you get the Bell helmets with premade designs on them). So, if you want to personalise your helmet, you will need to pay a company for designs and painting, and all costs vary in this department.
Now that we have the basic safety gear requirements we can move on to the extras. These items are not mandatory in most karting leagues, so it is up to you to decide whether you want to invest in these extras or not.
The first item we will cover is a rib protector. I would highly recommend one of these simply for the comfort it provides in a karting seat. It will prevent a lot of bruised ribs and it will help you keep your performance up in the kart. This is especially useful for circuits with fast corners where the kart can throw you around in the seat a bit. A good quality rib protector can set you back around $150, but the quality of these are not as important. As long as it has sufficient padding, you’ll be good to go.
The next item I can’t recommend because it is a personal choice. The neck brace is a highly controversial item in karting for various reasons. On one hand, people have said that a neck brace has saved them from severe injuries.
On the other hand, people have said that a neck brace has severely hindered their vision (ability to turn their head to look around) and actually caused injuries. At the end of the day, you will need to do some research surrounding this one and decide for yourself whether you would like to use one or not.
If you do choose to use one of these, make sure you get a good quality one. Never use the foam donut neck braces; every karting driver can agree that those give you absolutely no support. A good neck brace can cost around $200 and more.
Since you will be maintaining and taking care of your own kart, you are going to need the right tools for the job. I will list a few of the basic tools that you will need, but in some cases, there might be one or two different tools that you don’t use often.
I won’t be including any prices in this section as tools will vary in price from store to store. There is a large variety in the quality and prices of tools available, and I would suggest checking a few different hardware stores before you decide where to buy. Tools are also available online and could be found at a better price.
The first thing you will need is a kart trolley. Your local karting shops will most likely have them, but you could even build one yourself if you are decent with welding and DIY building. Next, you will need a few jerry cans, this is just to keep your kart’s fuel in. Have a good quality one that will last long and won’t spill during transport.
You will need various spanners. It’s best to get a whole set so that you have a wide variety of ones you might need. You can also get a few different sprockets for your kart’s gearing. It’s best to find 3 within close range of each other in order to change your set up if you want to. You will also need different sprockets for different circuits.
The next item is a foot pump for your tires. Most circuits do have pressurized pumps though, so just check your local circuit if you need to get one. Staying with the tires, you will need a tire pressure gauge. The best investment is a good quality digital tire pressure gauge as they can be more precise. However, there is nothing wrong with an old school analog tire pressure gauge.
You will need a soft faced hammer or mallet (these are generally made from a hard rubber). This will be helpful when you are working with your rear axle and adjusting the rear track width. Hex keys or Allen keys will become pretty essential when you are working on your kart and having a full set of these is very important.
Cable ties can be always useful to have when working on your kart. You will also need both a Philips and flat head screwdrivers, a spark plug wrench, pliers, cutters and some measuring tape. I can also highly recommend investing in a small weather meter that can give you info on the air pressure, temperature and humidity. This will help you a lot with tire pressures and jetting.
These are the basic tools that you will need when you are getting started. There may be one or two other small items, but they will likely be for more specific parts of the kart and not used very often. The only item that I haven’t mentioned is a kart trailer in order to transport the kart to and from the circuit, and again these can go for various prices.
A part of what makes karting so expensive is that it’s not only the high start-up cost, but there is also a running cost. In a sport like soccer for example, there’s an initial investment of boots and a ball, but playing in the park or kicking the ball around the garden is free. With karting, you are paying every time you drive the kart.
The first expensive is fuel. This will vary a lot depending on the cost of fuel in your area. Generally, karts can run quite long on a tank of gas, but it all depends on your engine settings and jetting. So, it’s best to test how much fuel you are using per lap and per session to get a reference. In addition to this, you will also need 2-stroke oil to mix with your fuel.
The next consumable is tires. Again, this will vary on the brand of tires you are using but expect to buy a new set for each race. Most leagues require you to use a brand-new set of tires per race meeting. Mojo have good quality kart tires and those cost around $100 per set. Tires can still be used after a race, so be sure to keep some sets for testing and practice.
The next is chemicals that you will need in order to keep your kart running smoothly. Your local kart store will be the best place to find these, but you can also have look online to see if you can find better prices. You will need brake cleaner, chain lube, brake fluid and engine oil.
You might have some other consumables; however, they are less frequently used and not as essential as the ones mentioned above. In this case, your biggest expenses will be your fuel and tires.
As mentioned above, most championships will require you to bring a brand-new set of tires to each race meeting. This is of course a huge cost, but there are more costs that people do not think about or realise.
Most championships have an entry fee that has to be paid by the driver in order to secure their participation in the event. Some championships allow you to enter per race meeting if you are unsure of attending all the races throughout the season. The other option is to enter for the entire season up front. This means that the cost of your entry will be slightly cheaper but be aware that if you were to miss a race meeting due to illness or a damaged kart, you won’t get refunded!
Most championships will also require you to get some form of a racing license. There is a small cost to this, as well as a visit to a doctor for a general check up on your health conditions and possible risks.
These costs will all be different depending on where you are racing, and its best to contact your local circuit and ask around. Speak to a few drivers and the race organiser to get an idea of these costs.
Travel And Accommodation
If your championship is traveling from circuit to circuit, you will also incur traveling and accommodation costs. Remember, you will need to transport your kart, plus all the required equipment to the circuit.
Spare Parts Costs
There are some parts that are extremely fragile on karts that you will most likely need to replace often. Some of these parts can easily break in wheel-to-wheel contact, or from a light accident. I have listed some common breakables you might find on a kart below.
Rear axle – $150
Rear Wheels (rims) – $60
Bearings – $30
Steering Columns – $60
So, let’s recap and add it all together to get a clear picture of more or less how much you are going to need in order to kick off your career in motorsport’s cheapest form. I will be calculating this as an adult entering karting, so if you are younger you can estimate it at a slightly lower cost.
Drivable kart (engine + chassis) = $8000
Safety Gear = $1050
Tools = $800
Consumables = $500
Championship Costs = $200
Spare Parts = $400
Total = $10950
Keep in mind that this is a rough estimate of costs. Any of these items can be found for a cheaper or more expensive price depending on where you shop for them.
How To Make Karting More Affordable
To make karting more affordable, I would highly recommend finding a second-hand chassis and engine. If you can find a chassis and engine that is less than 4 years old, they can still provide you with good performance, but you can save a lot of money on this!
There are a few things to look out for when buying a second-hand kart, especially on the chassis. Always make sure that you can test drive the kart before you buy it. If you are inexperienced and don’t really know what to look for with test driving, you can try to find another experienced driver to help you take a look at the kart.
You can save some costs on safety gear, but I tend to try and get good quality safety equipment because safety is so important in motorsport. I would try to budget as much as possible in this category to get good quality gear. You can save money by holding back on a personalized helmet design.
You can save money on tools by trying to find some second-hand tools from other drivers. You can also shop around at different hardware store and scout out the prices before you buy. Also holding off on some non-essential tools can help you out a bit.
In terms of consumables, you can save on fuel costs by measuring out exactly the amount you need and buying the exact amount. Chemicals are essential, but you may find some different prices, and tires are dependent on the championship you are running in.
There is no way to really save on championship costs, as these will go towards the running of the race meetings. However, you can find different championships and find the one which appeals to you the most.
You can save on spare parts by only buying them when you need them. The only spares I would say are essential are steering columns as these can easily bend even in light wheel to wheel contact. The other is an axle, although these don’t always break often. They can take strain in accidents and from hitting kerbs too hard.
All in all, karting is expensive to start in, and expensive to keep participating in. There is huge start-up cost, and some running and maintenance costs to add on to that. If you have the budget to start karting, it is absolutely worth it. It is the best sport in the world. This is just the first step into the world of motorsport though, so be prepared for more money to be spent!
I hope that this guide has been useful to give you an idea of the kind of costs you will be facing if you want to start karting, and that you have a better idea of how you can make your career a little bit more affordable.