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Best Go Karts

Updated November 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 24 Models Considered
  • 7 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 195 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best go karts

    Last Updated November 2018

    When you think of go karts, you probably picture those low-to-the-ground race cars that zip about a track at the boardwalk, a theme park, or a family fun center … something you purchase tickets for and enjoy for a few brief moments before moving on to the next attraction. But that doesn't have to be the case. You can own your very own go kart and experience that adrenaline-surging rush whenever your thirst for thrills needs to be satiated.

    Driving a go kart is fun for people of all ages, whether you’re maneuvering a pedal-powered kid car or navigating a pro-style racer car. It would seem that there are as many go karts available as there are individuals seeking to ride. Indeed, a baffling number of options are available to the consumer.

    But don't sweat it. All it takes to find the perfect go kart is knowing where you want to ride and understanding which features make that possible. And that's exactly what this comprehensive guide is designed to do: help you choose your ideal four-wheeled machine.

    A great deal of how your go kart handles depends on weight balance. Sitting comfortably back in your seat with good posture will provide the best position for optimum handling of your vehicle.

    The go kart in a nutshell

    In the summer of 1956, Art Ingels, a builder at an American race car company called Kurtis Kraft, crafted a small chassis out of steel tubing. His design was lightweight but sturdy enough to support an adult driver.

    Like a race car, the vehicle was constructed low to the ground with a wide track to provide better stability. Ingels' friend, Lou Borelli, mounted a two-cycle lawn mower engine behind the seat, and together they created what is recognized as the first motorized go kart.

    Many modifications have been made over the years, allowing for a multitude of different designs. But at the core, all shared some common traits. A go kart is a small, open-wheel vehicle – meaning the wheels are located outside the car's main body – that is more frame than car. There are no restrictions on how it is powered; anything from gravity (downhill) to gasoline is acceptable.

    A wild ride

    This solidly built go kart was designed to deliver a thrilling off-road experience. The four-point safety harness and heavy-duty padded roll cage provide the driver with the extra layer of protection needed to enjoy some wild and rowdy riding adventures. Easy pull start, low pressure tires for a stable ride, and rear hydraulic foot-operated brakes make this go kart an excellent value.

    Why do you want a go kart?

    Owning your own go kart can definitely bring pleasure to your life. Mastering your go kart driving skills can also be a stepping stone to greatness in a single-seater auto racing career. Formula One champions Nico Rosberg, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton, and Michael Schumacher all began their careers in karting.

    Therefore, the first step in determining which go kart is best for you is figuring out what you want to do. What is your end goal? If the activity captures your interest only occasionally, like when you're on vacation, you probably want a different go kart than the individual whose ultimate goal is to become a racing champion. Between these two extremes is where most enthusiasts' interests lie.

    After you decide why you want to ride, you must decide where you want to ride – asphalt, dirt, or both. Once you can answer these questions, you have a foundation on which to make an informed purchasing decision.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The go karts at family fun centers and theme parks can be fitted with remote speed limiters so the track attendant can slow or stop all vehicles on the track in any emergency. This system works on both electric and gas-powered engines.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The smoother and steadier you drive, the faster you can go. Swerving, braking, and constantly adjusting your acceleration are all moves that will negatively impact your momentum and slow the overall speed at which your go kart can go.

    Power

    Outside of gravity – starting your kart at the top of a hill and riding it to the bottom – there are only three ways to power your go kart: pedals, electricity, and gas.

    Pedal-powered go karts

    These go karts work in the same manner that bicycles do. A chain runs from the pedaling mechanism to the axle of the rear wheels. As the rider rotates the pedals, it powers the go kart. Unless custom built, these vehicles are meant for children. Although there are exceptions, the majority of pedal go karts are priced less than $200.

    Battery-powered go karts

    For consumer use, many battery-powered go karts can last up to two hours under optimum conditions on one charge. The cost of these vehicles can range from just under $100 for a toy that safely creeps along to nearly $1,000 for a kart that tops out at around 20 mph.

    Gasoline-powered go karts

    In the recreational market, you can expect to pay roughly $800 to $2,000 for this type of go kart. Because of the engine weight, these vehicles are a bit heavier than the other two options. There are two types of engines that propel a gasoline-powered go kart.

    • Four-stroke engines offer a smooth ride but run at half the revolutions of a two-stroke engine. In the consumer world, that tends to mean four-stroke engines run slower.

    • Two-stroke engines are lighter and much more aggressive. The concession is they make for a rougher, louder ride.
       

    When considering these two engine types, the question to ask yourself is whether you want a fast ride or a smooth ride.

    EXPERT TIP

    The best way to negotiate a curve is to straighten it out as much as possible. In other words, enter wide, stay tight, and exit wide. The less you have to turn your wheel, the faster you will go through a curve and come out maintaining speed.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    As cool as it might look, drifting serves no useful purpose in go kart racing. As soon as your vehicle starts sliding sideways around a turn, the tires grip the track and rapidly begin to slow you down, offering your opponent a chance to pass.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Design features

    Go karts are designed to be small, light, skeletal vehicles. They are beautifully efficient machines that do one thing well: drive. As such, there are only a few design features to consider. Again, if you know what you'll be using your go kart for, picking the one with the best features for your needs will be easy.

    Weight limit

    Know the upper weight limitations of your vehicle. If your rider is 120 pounds but the go kart you want only holds up to 70 pounds, that go kart is simply not an option for you.

    Seats

    Besides the comfort and safety factors of your go kart seat – high back, low back, bucket seats, foam padding, harness – it has to be practical. Is this go kart for a growing child who will be a different size in six months? Is it for multiple riders, each of whom is a different size? Picking the right seat comes down to two questions. First, do you need a fixed or an adjustable seat? And second, do you need a vehicle that can seat two people?

    Tires

    Yet again, the question is, how do you plan to use your go kart? That information is vital when choosing your vehicle's tires because go kart tires only perform under specific driving conditions. If you have the wrong tires, your go kart won't go. To keep it as simple as possible, we've divided your options into two broad categories: flat tires and knobby tires.

    • Flat tires: Exactly as it sounds, these tires are flat; there are no grooves or knobs on them. These tires are for track racing. They provide the most tire-to-pavement contact and offer the best control.

    • Knobby tires: If you'll be going off road, there is no other option; these are the tires you'll need. The knobs help the tire gain traction in rough or loose terrain. In general, the bigger the knobs, the better the traction.

    • Tires with grooves: These tires are not good for off-road driving and are only advantageous in a small window of driving conditions, such as a wet race track.

    Aesthetics

    Although the look of your go kart does affect the way it performs, if you've checked off all the other options and are certain the go kart you picked is able to handle your needs, then this becomes a taste issue. Relax with it, and go with what feels right. Does your child like Transformers more than Batman? Be bold and make your statement.

    The hit of the neighborhood

    The Razor is optimized for the young driver. Using the thumb-controlled accelerator, you can execute some incredible driving stunts such as dynamic drifting, fantastic fish tails, and throwing a tight 180. It is a lightweight, durable unit that is able to handle up to 140 pounds and operates off of just 24 volts. Additionally, the Ground Force Drifter has a bucket seat with shoulder straps for safety.

    Other considerations

    Here are a few additional things to consider before making a go kart purchase:

    • Roll cage

    If you are taking your go kart off road, it is imperative that you consider additional safety features such as a roll cage and a safety harness. These two items will not only help minimize injury should you inadvertently roll your vehicle, they can also save your life.

    • Your mechanical ability

    Purchasing a go kart comes with the added responsibility of repairs and general maintenance. If you are not mechanically inclined, ignoring basics such as tire pressure and lubrication can be hazardous to both the driver and the machine. If you are not handy or do not intend to learn how to properly take care of your go kart, you need to find a mechanic who can.

    • Build-it-yourself kits

    If you are mechanically inclined and love the hands-on experience, you may wish to explore a build-it-yourself option. Choose your kit the same way you'd choose a fully built go kart: decide where you will be driving first, and then pick the kit that meets those specific needs.

    While in your go kart, mirror your grip on the steering wheel. Holding it at ten and two isn't just a tip for beginning drivers; this hand position actually gives you the most control when maneuvering your kart.

    FAQ

    Q. Do I need a driver's license to operate a go kart?

    A. The short answer is no. Many go karts are specifically designed to be operated by children under the driving age. That said, there are a number of situations and locations where you cannot operate a go kart legally. Always check with your department of transportation to be sure.

    Q. Is a go kart street legal?

    A. No. Besides the paperwork (license and registration) needed to operate a vehicle on a public road, go karts lack most of the necessary features needed to be "street legal." These items include a horn, head lights, tail lights, turn indicators, a windshield, wipers, mirrors, a speedometer, and more.

    Q. How fast can a go kart go?

    A. That depends on the type of go kart you have. In most recreational situations, you should be able to reach at least 30 mph (much less in vehicles designed for children). Some professional karts have been clocked at upwards of 160 mph.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Allen
      Allen
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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