Buying a go-kart, especially your first kart, can be a daunting experience. After spending most of my childhood and early teenage years entering amateur go-kart circuits, I’ve done my fair share of research into the important factors to consider. I can therefore lay out some crucial things to think about to help you learn what go-kart to buy!
The specific go-kart that you should buy largely depends on your personal preference. For pure speed, the best karts to purchase are shifter karts. However, to choose the right kart for you, it’s important that you consider your budget, driving style, and experience level.
Some of the biggest things to consider alongside top speed are maintenance, experience in karts, cost, and familiarity with racecraft. Below, I’m going to further break down this question help you make the right decision when it comes to buying your next kart, whether it’s your first or your fifth!
Make sure you stick around to the end where I discuss the pros and cons of buying a new kart versus going for a second-hand option!
What To Look For When Buying Your First Go-Kart
When buying your first go-kart, you need to make sure that you’re getting real value for your money. Oftentimes people get scammed or asked to over-pay for a go-kart because they’re not sure what to look for when buying a kart for the first time. So, let’s consider the main things to look at to avoid wasting any money.
The most important part that you need to look at is the chassis. The chassis is the main element that you will be buying. You will need to replace your chassis every few years, but you don’t want to end up with a chassis that needs to be replaced after just a year of racing. If the kart’s chassis is cracked or bent out of alignment, I recommend you don’t buy that kart!
You also want to take a look at the engine. Ask the seller to start the engine for you and pay close attention to how it sounds. Make sure that the engine can idle without having to push the throttle pedal down. Also, listen out for any backfiring or a mechanical rattling sound (that’s usually the clutch). Racing karts do produce a fair bit of smoke when starting, so that’s normal.
The Overall Condition
Finally, you need to look at the general condition of the kart. Take a closer look at the paint on the chassis or the rubber grips on the steering wheel. These elements are difficult to maintain, so if they look good then you know the kart is either relatively new or very well looked after, both of which would indicate a good buy.
Let’s now go through a few more specific tips for buying your first go-kart.
1. Try Rental Karts First
Before you buy your own kart, you need to make sure that you enjoy the sport! The best way to figure that out is to try rental karts first. The first couple of times that you get into a rental kart you’ll have a lot of fun. The adrenaline and excitement are great for everyone at first, but eventually, they can wear off for some people. You’ll often become tired and exhausted, and sometimes people stop enjoying it as much.
If you want to commit to karting, first make sure that it’s the right sport for you. This can save you a lot of money in the long run! Try karting in different scenarios, in dry conditions, in the rain, or racing against friends. If you’ve done a few sessions with lap times that are improving and you still have a love for the sport, then buying a go-kart is probably a good idea!
2. Do Thorough Research
When you buy your first go-kart you’re going to be overwhelmed by all the choices you need to make. You need to determine which engine and chassis you’re going to use, and the choices can seem impossible to make for a beginner. But that’s mainly because you don’t know the key differences between the products you’re choosing from.
Make sure you do some thorough research on go-karting before you buy your first kart. Start by determining what you want to use your kart for: is it for racing or just a weekend hobby? For the purpose of this guide, I am assuming you are looking to buy a racing kart, rather than one to simply take to the track a few times a year for fun. There is 100% nothing wrong with that, but it will drastically affect what kart you’ll want to buy.
From there you need to decide which class and category you want to race in, such as the Rotax Max senior class for example. This significantly narrows down your engine options, as you’ll usually need to stick with one specific type for these competitions.
As for the chassis, there are lots of different ones to choose from, but make sure to stick with reputable manufacturers. The chassis of the kart is a key component for performance and reliability, so make sure you do plenty of research in this department before you start looking at karts to buy.
3. Stick To Your Budget
In karting, your budget is the most important thing you need to keep in mind. Karting is an expensive sport, and you need to remember that every dollar counts. If you’re going to be racing, the costs will keep on piling up, and if you’ve blown your budget on your kart, then you could be in trouble later on in the season.
Remember, once you’ve got the kart, you need to keep it running with fuel and lubricants. If the kart is running out on track, you need to keep it clean and maintained with tools and spare parts. Not to mention the cost of safety gear that you need to wear when you’re racing your kart. All of these costs add up, and if you spent too much money on your kart in the first place, you’re going to struggle to go racing consistently.
Draw up a realistic budget for the year ahead. From there, you need to determine what you can spend on a kart, and make sure you don’t exceed that limit. Sticking to your budget will ensure you can actually go racing!
4. Talk To Other Drivers
Finally, talk to people with experience. Talking to other drivers is the best way to go about getting your first kart purchase under your belt. Other drivers in your area will know where you can go to get the best deals for karts, safety gear, spare parts, and everything else you need.
Many drivers can even point you towards someone who might be selling a kart. If you can’t find any drivers locally, you can always find a great community online that can help you out instead.
8-Point Checklist For Buying Your First Kart
- Consider your budget (and stick to it!)
- Decide what kind of karting you want to get into
- Think about your experience level
- Research the popular classes in your area (and decide which one you want to race in)
- Consider your age, height and weight
- Think about which brands you like (in terms of the chassis and the engine)
- Decide if you want to buy new or second-hand (more on that later)
- Learn from other drivers
Next, let’s consider the costs of go-karting, and what you should expect to pay for your first kart.
How Much Does A Good Go-Kart Cost?
A good go-kart can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars if you get a great deal on a second-hand kart to $10,000 or more for a top-spec competitive racing kart. Ideally, you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of $1,000 to $3,000 for a go-kart, especially your first one.
Go-Kart Cost Breakdown By Class
|Bambino (6-8 years old)
|Mini (8-13 years old)
|Junior (12-15 years old)
|Senior (15+ years old)
|DD2 (15+ years old)
As a very basic breakdown of raw costs, you can expect to spend $2,000-$5,000 on TaG or LO206 sprint karts, $6,000-$10,000 on Rotax class karts, and $7,000-$12,000 on shifter karts. I’ll talk more about classes and engines soon, as they’re key pieces of the puzzle to consider when buying a go-kart.
It’s Not Just About The Kart
As I mentioned earlier, you need to budget for your kart along with everything else required to go racing. Racing costs vary depending on the area, track length, and engine class, but you can expect race fees to be between $50 and $500. Even practice will cost you, and whole weekends for a series can reach and even exceed the $2,000 mark.
Then comes the costs of transport to races, so you need to get yourself a trailer big enough for a kart or look at storage options at your local tracks.
Then there are maintenance costs. Can you make repairs yourself? Are you willing to learn? YouTube is a fantastic tool for self-teaching, and I have turned to this platform on many occasions to save on repair and upkeep costs!
You’ll also need to ask questions like:
- How much do spare parts cost for your chosen rig?
- How many sets of tires do you need to bring to a race weekend?
- How much gas can I expect to burn per race?
- Can I buy gas at the track?
Basic sprint karts for TaG can rely on three sets of tires for a weekend, whereas shifters with their blistering speed can burn through five or six, give or take.
For your average shifter series kart, one of the most fuel-hungry around, you can look at $500 in gas fees alone for a month of races. Never rely on the track to have things available for you. Part of owning a kart is learning to be self-sufficient, so while race tracks and facilities will have some stuff to hand, you shouldn’t expect everywhere you go to have everything you need.
Karting Safety Gear
If you’re an adult, you’ll hopefully only buy most of your karting safety gear once, save for wearing out your suits and boots, and replacing your helmet every 5 or so years.
The Costs Of Karting For A Year
|Kart engine + chassis
KEY POINTS• The costs of buying a kart can vary a lot
• The kart itself can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000+
• You also need to consider extra costs like safety gear and maintenance expenses
Next, I’ll go through the specifics of choosing the right kart, covering things like the different types of kart racing and how to choose the right engine for your go-kart.
Why You Need To Consider The Type Of Karting You Plan To Do
Buying your first go-kart involves first and foremost understanding what type of karting you actually want to do. For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming you want to go racing.
Sprint and oval tracks are the most common for races, and in almost every division you face, these will be the circuits on which most will spend their time. In terms of sprint racing, the karts will look and feel far more familiar when compared to the unique enduro type of kart (imagine laying horizontally in a kart going 90 mph for at least thirty minutes around a road track!).
Most karts in entry-level races or circuits will have a single-speed 2-stroke engine, with the capability of hitting between 40 mph and 50 mph depending on the track (65-80 kph).
Kart Engine Size, Power & Class
When choosing the right size of engine for your kart, you need to consider not only your experience driving go-karts, but also the kinds of race divisions you want to be entering, your age, height, and even your weight.
Similar to all motorsports, karting is split into different ‘series’ and engine outputs to level the playing field somewhat. Imagine turning up at a race with your trusty single-speed only to find that everybody else has 6-speed shifter karts, and then think about trying to race against them. Yeah, I wouldn’t like my odds either!
Every track will have slightly varying engine classes and popularity, so I recommend looking into this well before going kart shopping. What’s the point buying a brand new, fully-kitted out LO206 spec kart when your area actually has a far better, more competitive TaG series? Or worse still, what if your local tracks don’t run the LO206 series altogether?
Kart Engine Class Examples
Although it varies between regions, a safe bet for those who want a tried and tested method of enjoying the sport of karting is the TaG (Touch and Go) class. However, there are lots of other competitive kart classes to choose from.
If you want to dip your toes into the world of karting as a beginner, the previously mentioned LO206 class is a great place to start. Engines used in this class are a lot tamer, and unlike other series like the World Formula, they are sealed to avoid tampering and allow for a more even playing field.
Your standard engine on karts in this class is a Briggs & Stratton engine with horsepower varying by series, but most will top the charts at 18 HP for adults, which allows for between 30 and 40 mph (50-65 kph). Not only is this newer class a great way to enter the sport, but the prices of the engines are far more reasonable at around $1,000 for something fully spec’d.
Junior Age Engines
Junior age and above use 125cc two-stroke engines that top out at 30 HP, which vary in speed between 50 and 60 mph (80-100 kph), so it isn’t a class for the faint of heart or those who are totally new to the world of karting!
The most competitive engines in this class are the X30 or the Vortex Rok, which can cost between $2,000 and $3,000 for the complete setup. If the expense isn’t a huge issue and you’re seeking mid-range karting with a big fun factor, this class is perfect for you.
Rotax & Shifter Classes
The two classes that demand the most karting experience, deepest pockets, and highest speeds are the Rotax and shifter classes. Although Rotax isn’t very different compared to TaG in terms of raw power and the types of engines used, it has the benefit of being very well organized with the widest breadth of progression into bigger circuits.
The shifter class, as I’ve touched on already, is one of the hardest areas to break into within karting. This is because of the high skill ceiling and powerful six-speed engines with eye-watering top horsepower around the 45 HP mark, not to mention the expenses that come with all of the maintenance required. More parts mean higher costs!
So not only do you need to think about your karting experience and budget when selecting engine sizes, but also remember to keep in mind the various classes of racing that come with these options.
KEY POINTS• There are lots of different types of karts you can buy
• It’s key you know the type of karting you plan to do before you buy one
• Other factors to consider are the engine size, the power of the kart, and its class
The 4 Best Karts For Beginners To Buy
1. CRG Heron (100cc)
This kart is a great choice for beginners, as it balances great handling with decent power output. It’s a lightweight kart and one that’s fairly easy to modify. This makes it a good choice for beginners looking to gain some hands-on experience with simple kart maintenance.
2. Birel RY30 (100cc)
Birel are a very popular kart manufacturer, and this lightweight kart makes for a great option for adults and teenagers alike. It’s a brilliant entry-level kart, as like the CRG it packs enough of a punch without making it tough to drive as a beginner. It’s a bit of a pricier option, but features like its larger fuel tank and great compatibility with engine types makes this an excellent first kart to buy.
3. Top Kart SR30.1 (100/125cc)
The SR30.1 is an ideal choice for those looking to buy a go-kart that they can fit with a variety of different engines. It runs comfortably with a 100cc or a 125cc engine, and another feature I love of the Top Kart is its unique, lightweight floating brake system. I recommend going for the 125cc option to get the most out of this kart.
4. Kart Republic KR2 (125cc)
Finally, the KR2 from Kart Republic is a brilliant choice for beginners looking for a bit more power. It’ll take you to high speeds while still handling just as well as it does when you’re driving at a slower pace. This is the perfect choice for those looking to race in TaG karting series, but you can eventually make the leap to Rotax racing with this chassis as well.
Should You Buy New Or Second-Hand?
The big question on most people’s minds when buying their first kart is whether it should be brand new or second-hand. The truth is that it all depends on your budget. If you have the money available and you can afford it, buying brand new will always be best. With a perfect chassis and engine, you’ll have an excellent-performing kart underneath you when you head to the track.
However, for the majority of people, buying a kart second-hand makes much more sense. Karts can drop in value incredibly quickly, so it’s not uncommon to find cheaper karts with very little mileage. The only problem is finding a kart that is still in good condition and has been taken care of properly.
It’s very easy to buy a kart that’s in bad condition, especially if it’s the cheapest one you can find. However, you need to avoid doing this because it’s only going to cost you more money in the long run, and that comes with a lot more headaches that you need to deal with too. To avoid this, let’s finish up by going through my used kart buying checklist.
18 Things To Check When Buying A Second-Hand Kart
- Ask when the bearings, brake pads, and fuel lines were replaced
- Look for any wear or rust on the brake discs
- Pull the brake pedal and see if the rear axle moves (if it does, the brakes need bled)
- Pull the rear wheels to see if the axle is moving (a sign of bearing wear)
- Check the fuel lines for creases, kinks, or tears
- Check the color of the fuel tank (yellow tanks are older and have been used a lot)
- Check if the paint is excessively scraped or scratched (a little wear is okay, but a lot suggests the kart has been used extensively)
- Look for cracks in the chassis – a cracked or bent chassis is a definite no-go!
- Check the axle for any rust or bends (although these are fairly easy to replace)
- Check the sidepods, rear bumper, and nosecone for any damage
- Check the rear of the seat for any cracks
- Closely inspect the exhaust pipe for any rust
- Check the steering wheel for any wear or damage
- Check the joints on the front steering arms as they can take a lot of damage over time
- Move the pedals around to ensure they don’t wiggle excessively
- Check the tires for excessive wear (you’ll likely need to buy new ones anyway)
- Spin the front wheels to ensure they spin freely and smoothly without making any grinding, rattling, or squeaking noises
- Make sure the engine mount is included as they are expensive to replace
The go-kart that you should buy depends on a large variety of factors, and there isn’t just one sweeping recommendation to give. Factors such as the engine size, the power, the class of the go-kart, and the price of it all weigh into your purchase. Shifter karts are the best choice for pure speed.
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.