12 Things to Look Out for When Buying a Go-Kart

So, it seems like you’ve started to enjoy go-kart racing and have dabbled with the idea of potentially buying your first go-kart! You’re probably thinking that there are several things that you need to take into consideration when purchasing a go-kart – that’s absolutely right! It’s normal to question what to look out for when buying a new or used go-kart.

In fact, it’s great that you’re asking this question, as the more things you consider and the more thorough your research the higher the chances will be of being happy with your purchase decision. There are several places to buy go-karts. I’ve bought several go-karts before, new and used. I’ve dealt with retailers, but also directly with sellers when I purchased my first used go-karts.

At first, buying a go-kart may seem like a daunting task, as you’re not too familiar with go-karting terminology or simply lack the overall experience. However, don’t worry! That’s exactly what I have created this guide for! I was once in your shoes and I can confidently say that if you stick to a checklist of items and if you’re able to do a thorough inspection, you have nothing to fear about!

In short, here are 12 important items on what to look out for when buying a new or used go-kart:

  1. Age
  2. Type
  3. Homologation
  4. Manufacturer
  5. Frame/Chassis Condition
  6. Engine Condition
  7. Condition of Other Parts
  8. List of Repairs
  9. Maintenance History
  10. Racing History
  11. Driver Profile
  12. Price

1. Age

When it comes to go-kart valuation, you’ll have to account for the fact that they depreciate, similar to cars and other types of vehicles. It’s not uncommon to see a racing go-kart lose about 50% of its value in about 2 – 5 years. This of course depends on which country or state you purchase your kart in and also its condition.

Therefore, when buying a used go-kart ensure that you take note of the year when it was manufactured. You can identify the year of manufacture on the homologation plate of the chassis. This will give you an idea of how old the go-kart in question is.

Unfortunately, there is no real guideline that checks how much a kart is worth solely based on its age. There are many different factors that come into play, such as condition, usage, location, and more. The best way to benchmark its value is through comparing its age and condition with similar classified listings.

For new go-karts, you won’t run into this issue, as their pricing is based on a manufacturer’s MSRP and if you buy it off the manufacturer directly, it will be their selling price.

2. Type

Another thing that you should consider is the type of go-kart. There are various types of go-karts available and each of them is valued and inspected differently. You should take note of the four different types of go-karts:

  • Open Karts: racing karts with no roll rage
  • Caged Karts: off-road go-karts for dirt racing
  • Straight Chassis Karts: standard go-karts used for racing
  • Offset Chassis Karts: off-set seat go-karts used for oval tracks

When you’re buying a go-kart make sure that you know which type of go-kart you’re looking for. Each of these go-kart types is used for a specific purpose or race and buying an incompatible go-kart would not be a good idea. You should also carefully inspect the go-kart depending on its type. Pay special attention to the frame, engine, and other parts – more on that a little later.

3. Homologation

Depending on what type of race you intend to participate in you need to ensure that the go-kart you want to buy meets the respective homologation. Homologation standards in the world of go-karting are set by the FIA (International Automobile Federation) and it’s sub-commission, the CIK (International Karting Commission) – FIA-CIK in short.

If you intend to race casually or locally, you’ll need to check with your organizer. Most national and international karting events are sanctioned by the FIA-CIK and the participating go-karts are required to meet the respective homologation standards.

If you’re buying a used go-kart, make sure that you understand which parts of the go-kart are homogulated. If the go-kart you have in mind is from a reputable manufacturer, you can easily search this online. You may find additional information on the parts or you may inquire directly with the owner.

Items that are required to meet FIA-CIK homologation standards are typically the chassis, brakes, engine, ignition, carburetors, clutches, exhaust and intake silencers, as well as tires. If you don’t intend to race professionally, you won’t need to check these. Nevertheless, it’s valuable information to know.

More Information: FIA-CIK Homologation

4. Manufacturer

There are different types of go-kart manufacturers and each of them have different manufacturing standards. Go-karts of a particular brand may also retain their value more than others, especially if the manufacturer is reputable.

When buying a used go-kart, ensure that you check the price of the same model and year to get a good idea of what they are worth. Even if you can find go-karts that are slightly older or newer, they can give you a good price reference.

Go-karts from reputable brands are commonly more expensive, as they tend to retain their value. Ensure to check the authenticity through the homologation plate on the chassis, which is usually behind the seat.

More Information: Best Go-Kart Manufacturers

5. Frame/Chassis Condition

Since karts do not have suspension systems, the frame is an integral part of the structure and performance characteristics of the kart. The metal frame is designed to handle the cornering forces and impacts that can occur out on the race track. In fact, the metal frame tubing is designed to flex and bend within a precision set of tolerances as the kart moves through a corner.

While this type of frame stress is normal, karts can also suffer impact damage from other karts or from barriers that cause the metal frame to crack or bend beyond tolerance points. This can lead to serious safety and performance issues and you’ll need to carefully inspect the frame for this type of damage.

Most karts ride only a few inches off the ground and as a result, they can suffer from scraping on the underside of the frame while racing. Take special care to look for this type of damage, especially if the owner of the kart is not running rubber frame guards.

Although metal can be repaired, it’s challenging to return the tubing to its original integrity.

6. Engine Condition

First things first; don’t be afraid of a little dirt. Most kart engines are notoriously dirty and we would be more cautious if the motor was sparkling clean vs. dirty. A well-maintained engine is less about appearances and more about the substance.

When checking out a second-hand go-kart, these are some of the things you’ll want to keep a solid eye out for:

  1. After starting, do you see any smoke? If so, what’s the color? Let it run for a bit and keep an eye out for any smoke after it’s warmed up.
  2. Is the chain free of rust and well lubricated?
  3. What kind of condition are the spark plugs in? Are they rotted or heavily corroded?
  4. Do you see any oil leaks? How about fuel leaks?

7. Condition of Other Parts

Apart from the engine, you should also check the condition of the most important go-kart parts. This is a crucial step, as the value of the go-kart can decrease, if certain parts are not functioning properly. Here are some of the other key components to keep a lookout for when inspecting a second-hard kart:

  • Tires: Check the tires for cracking and the sidewalls for signs of rubbing or crashing into other karts. Although tires can be easily changed, you don’t want to incur more costs than you need to and well-kept tires can be a good indicator of how the kart was kept.
  • Wheels: Have the owner lift the front of the kart or utilize a dolly and spin the wheels. Do they spin freely? Do they squeak?
  • Steering Column: Lock your feet onto the front brakes of the kart and give the steering wheel a few tugs. If you feel some give in the joint, this is a good sign.
  • Throttle: When the engine is running, blip the throttle to ensure that the throttle cable is properly tensioned and that the engine returns to idle normally
  • Starter: Ensure there are no issues with starting the engine. Don’t just start it once but multiple times.
  • Seat and Pedals: Ensure the seat is in good condition and make sure the brake pedal and gas pedals operate without squeaks or other tension.

8. List of Repairs

You’ll want to ask the current owner of the kart for a list of repairs that have been done. Although a bevy of repairs prior to selling may seem like a good thing, this could indicate the kart was in poor condition prior to selling and needed a thorough workup.

Depending on the quality of the repairs and the price they’re asking, this could make the deal on the kart a make it or break it scenario. You could also be looking at someone who purchased the kart and is intending to flip it after fixing it up. Personally, I would rather deal with a fellow enthusiast than someone who is looking to flip a kart for cash.

9. Maintenance History

Much like a regular vehicle, a second-hand kart should come with a comprehensive maintenance history. Here’s a solid list of regular maintenance items that the owner should be able to show a record of or at least speak to:

  • Using a trickle charger to keep the battery in good condition when not being used
  • Changing engine oil every 10 hours of use or so
  • Replacing the air filter every year or when particulate matter is visibly restricting the filter
  • Servicing the torque converter on a regular basis to ensure proper operation. This could include adjustments or new belts.
  • Maintaining or replacing the chain as needed

10. Racing History

If the kart you’re looking to purchase has been regularly raced, you need to be on the lookout for the frame damage noted above, as well as wear and tear on the motor and other components. Racing is tough on the kart and regularly raced karts are often bruised and battered machines with plenty of battle wounds to show for it.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if the driver was religious about maintenance and kept his kart in good condition. If the kart was a winner, there’s a good chance that it was kept in exemplary condition because poorly maintained karts don’t win races!

11. Driver Profile

Each driver in a series will have a completely different style of driving. Some are more aggressive and willing to shunt other drivers for a position in a corner, while others are more passive and will back off to avoid a collision. While speaking to the current owner, try to guide your line of questioning towards learning more about their personality and what their driving profile is.

You may have to play a sleuth here but trust me, asking questions and letting people speak is often a revealing exercise.

12. Price

When it comes to price, the real mantra you’ll need to stick to is “do your research“. Since there isn’t a single source for pricing, you’ll have to research what others are selling their karts for on the open market. 

It’s also important to remember that karts are often heavily modified and these modifications often command a price increase over something that is stock. However, depending on the quality of the modifications, the opposite can also be true and they can drop a karts price.

Generally speaking, the older the chassis is, the cheaper it will be to pick up. Typical marketplaces for Go-Karts include eBay, Craigslist, and Go-Karting message boards. Overall, you’ll have to do some work here to ensure you are not taken advantage of but the resources are absolutely there to get it done.

One last piece of advice I would like to leave you with is the following: always inspect the go-kart as thoroughly as you can and don’t be afraid to negotiate if you think that the owner has listed it above the market price. Good luck! 

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