Motorsport has always been and likely always will be expensive, and that applies to karting all the way up to Formula 1. But karting is the gateway into motorsport for many, and so you may be wondering just how expensive it can be.
Karting is very expensive, and 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 racing.
In other sports like tennis for example, you can simply buy your racket and tennis balls and get started. But karting requires some additional running costs that make it more expensive than other sports. Below, I’ll go through all of these costs in detail so that you can understand how expensive karting can be.
Racing Go-Kart Engine Costs
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 below. 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 worldwide.
Kart Engine Costs By Class
|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 you may sometimes be able to upgrade your engine rather than buying a new one outright. This will save you a lot of money as opposed to buying a brand-new engine when you move up a class.
You need to take good care of your engine, especially if you are competing and need your engine to last for many races to come. You can rebuild your engine when required, but 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.
Go-Kart Chassis Costs
Kart chassis are all very different. There are a ton of different brands out there, and new ones are popping up all the time. 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 but for a higher price as it has simply been rebranded.
Always do your research behind the chassis, finding out where they come from and the brand’s racing pedigree. All kart chassis have different features, so it’s important to take note of this and use it to your advantage. For example, some chassis are better in the braking zones, some are better in slow corners, and some perform best in high speed corners.
Racing Kart Chassis Examples
Kartmasters is a one-make engine tournament in the UK that some of the best karting drivers in the world take part in, and I checked out what chassis the top drivers in this competition used. Of course, there is the factor of driver skill, but there are some chassis that just dominate a class.
Starting off with the Mini class, a very common chassis was the Synergy chassis. They cost 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 – the OTK group. An OTK junior chassis will cost you around $3850, and the Compkart will cost around $3880. So there’s 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 just how close the competition is when it comes to the actual chassis.
The chassis that featured most commonly in the KZ class included CRG, Birel, Compkart, and Kart Republic. So, some more familiar names like CRG and Birel show up at this level, but interestingly Compkart featured once again just like in the junior class.
CRG is the most expensive, likely because of their experience and racing pedigree, at about $6250. Next up is Birel at $5700, as they also are quite well known and have some strong history to their name. Closely following was the Compkart chassis at $5600. Kart Republic produces the most affordable chassis in this category at $4250.
Karting Safety Equipment Costs
Many people underestimate the cost of 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 it’s not cheap.
Below, I have made a list of the main pieces of equipment that you will need in order to start karting, and the estimated cost of each item. You can find gear for lower or higher prices, but these are about the averages you can expect to pay.
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, it’s 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 lot of variety to choose from when it comes to race suits, and you can find a lot of different brands that offer a lot of different prices. A good quality race suit is important, so I set the budget for this to around $150.
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 $150 is a good average price to expect.
Gloves & Boots
Karting gloves can go for around $35, and these can still be from a good brand like Alpinestars. If you are looking at boots, $70 is a good price range for these. These two don’t need to be the top quality, most expensive products. Mid-range or even some of the cheapest ones are typically fine. Your gloves will wear down even if you buy the most expensive ones, but I have found that karting boots are quite resilient.
Your helmet will probably be the biggest expense in the safety equipment category. These can range from less than $100 to $500+, and how much you’ll need to spend will depend on factors like helmet design, brand, and safety rating.
Now, the issue here is that some karting leagues only allow a specifically homologated helmet in their races. I would say you should play it safe and get an Arai or Bell helmet. A typical Arai helmet is around $500. And if you have such a helmet, you should 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 a helmet with a pre-made design). So, if you want to personalize 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. The items below 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 fight off some fatigue as well.
This is especially useful for circuits with fast corners where the kart can throw you around in the seat a lot. A good quality rib protector can set you back around $150, but the quality of these are not as important as in some other parts of safety gear. As long as it has sufficient padding, you’ll be good to go.
I don’t necessarily recommend a neck brace myself, but some people may choose to race with one. The neck brace is a highly controversial item in karting for various reasons. On one hand, some people have said that a neck brace has saved them from severe injuries.
On the other hand, some have said that a neck brace has severely hindered their vision (limiting their 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 neck brace. I definitely don’t recommend the foam donut neck braces, and most karting drivers will tell you that those give you absolutely no support. A good neck brace can cost around $200 or more.
Costs Of Additional Tools Needed For Karting
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 below, but in some cases there might be one or two different tools that you don’t use very often.
I won’t be including any specific 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 and online marketplaces before you decide where to buy from. You might find tools for lower prices online, but quality isn’t always the best.
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’re feeling up to it!
Next, you will need a few jerrycans, and these are just to keep your kart’s fuel in. Buy a good quality one that will last long and won’t spill during transport.
You will also 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 setup if you want to. You will also need different sprockets for different circuits. Hex/Allen keys will become pretty essential when you are working on your kart and having a full set of these is very important.
The next item is a foot pump for your tires. Many circuits do have pressurized pumps, so check with your local circuit to see 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.
Cable ties can always be useful to have on hand when you’re working on your kart. You will also need both Phillips 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 your kart to and from the circuit, and again these can go for various prices.
Karting Consumables Costs To Consider
Part of what makes karting so expensive is that it’s not only the high start-up cost, but there are also high running costs to consider. 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 expense 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 depending on the brand of tires you are using but you should expect to buy a new set for each race. Most leagues require you to use a brand-new set of tires at each race meeting. MOJO have good quality kart tires and they 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 expense includes the various 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, but the ones above are the most common, and tires and fuel will be your biggest extra expense by far.
How Much It Costs To Race In Kart Championships
As I 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 associated with kart racing that many people do not think about or realize.
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 pay to enter on a per race meeting basis if you don’t think you’ll compete in the full 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 overall, 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 risk assessment and general check up on your health.
These costs will all be different depending on where you are racing, and it’s best to contact your local circuit and ask around. Speak to a few drivers and the race organizer to get an idea of these costs before you decide if racing is for you (and your budget).
Travel & 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. This incurs yet more fuel costs!
Spare Kart Parts Costs
Finally, there are some parts that are extremely fragile on karts that you will most likely need to replace quite 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
Total Costs Of Racing Go-Karts
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. This assumes you are an adult entering karting, so if you are younger you can estimate a slightly lower cost.
|Kart engine + chassis||$8,000|
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, and whether you buy them second hand.
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 but that can still provide you with good performance, you can save a lot of money on this one piece of the puzzle.
Take It For A Test Drive
There are a few things to look out for when buying a second-hand kart, especially with regard to 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 when test driving, you can try to find another experienced driver to help you take a look at the kart.
Saving On Safety Gear
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, and potentially passing on neck braces and rib protectors.
Cutting Tool Costs
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 stores and scout out the prices online before you buy. Also holding off on some non-essential tools can help you out a bit, and you may be able to share with others in the paddock.
Saving On Consumables
In terms of consumables, you can save on fuel costs by measuring out exactly the amount you need and buying the exact amount (although it’s always handy to have a little spare!). Various oils and other fluids are essential, but you may find some different prices by shopping around. Tire costs will depend on the championship you are running in.
Reducing Championship Costs
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, as some of the more expensive ones may be a little out of reach anyway if you’re just starting out.
Saving On Spares
Finally, you can save on spare parts by only buying them when you need them. The only spares that I think are essential are steering columns, as these can easily bend even in light wheel to wheel contact. Another important spare to have is an axle, although these don’t break too often. They can take strain in accidents and from hitting kerbs too hard though.
Karting is expensive to start, and it’s expensive to keep participating in. There is huge start-up cost, and some running and maintenance costs to add on to that. But if you have the budget to start karting, it is absolutely worth it. In my view, it’s the best sport in the world! But it’s just the first step on the motorsport ladder, and the costs of motorsport like F1 take it to a new level!
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