Learing about how to buy a used go kart can be the Pandora’s Box of unanticipated repairs. If you educate yourself on what to look for before handing over the cash, you will soon be sitting pretty on your new-to-you kart.
What Kart is Best for Me?
These karts should only be used on race tracks. If you are serious about racing, you should check with your local karting club to see what class of go kart to use before you even start looking for a used one.
One-Seat or Two-Seat
One seat go karts are fun, but two seat or bench seat karts are better. Two seat karts are the most sought after type of go kart because you can take a friend or family member with you.
Driver and Passenger Size
Some karts are just for kids, while others are large, but have adjustable seats. You may have to sit in one to find out if it will work.
Simple yard karts may go anywhere from 10 to 40 miles per hour. the good news is that you can usually limit the throttle travel on the engine with just a screwdriver.
Where to buy a Used Go Kart
Dealers can sell used go karts, but there are many deals to be found from the teenager who has lost interest because he can drive, or the parent whose kids are all grown up.
A Dealer Near You
Hop on your device and search ‘buy a go kart’ or ‘go kart dealers near me’ and you will find the nearest go kart dealer to you. Many ATV and dirt bike dealers also carry a small line of karts. These dealers sometimes take a trade in of an old kart for the newest ATV, and will sell you the used kart for less than a new one. If you buy a used go kart from a dealer, they typically will make sure it will be in running, safe condition. Dealers typically are not the cheapest.
Your local flea market, swap meet, or garage/estate sale has a good chance of having an old beat up kart for sale. If possible, contact the auctioneer or seller prior to arriving to express interest and get a feel for your competition. If you like what you see, others have seen and will want the same kart. Show up early, because there are no worms nor go karts for those that show up late
Many websites (such as Craigslist or Ebay) allow users to post ads for used go karts. Search for keywords like ‘go kart’ or keyword variations like ‘go-kart’, ‘gokart’, and ‘go cart’. It is best to contact the seller early in the game. If you want to find the most recent kart you can keep tabs on your search by signing up for free notifications of new posts relating to your keyword on Ebay or Craigslist. Call the owner directly, tell him you are interested, have the cash, and would like to stop by to take a look.
Once you see that kart, your emotions will go wild. Keep them in check, tell the seller you have got the cash, and ask him or her to give the kart a good once over. Use this list for specific areas to watch out for, or you could pay dearly in replacement parts. If you do find a few issues with the kart, they aren’t necessarily deal breakers, only more ammunition to negotiate the price lower.
- Frame Look at the roll cage; is it symmetrical? If the kart is on a flat surface, do all wheels touch the ground? Are there any cracks or bends in the metal where they shouldn’t be? Significant damage to the frame may be a deal breaker.
- Spindle Brackets Most damage to karts happens from hitting something in the front. Check both sides of the spindle brackets to make sure they are symmetrical from all angles. Do the kingpin bolts feel loose? There should be very little play in the bolts.
- Spindles Check for bends in the spindle arms.
- Tie Rods They should be straight, and the heim joints should also be straight.
- Paint and Rust All used karts should have a little rust, and if left outside, the paint will fade. If the kart has lots of rust, and the paint is faded significantly, your kart has been neglected. Make sure the rust hasn’t ruined the rims or pitted in the frame.
- Rims These also show signs of abuse, check the edges of the rims for dents from hitting rocks. Good rims will spin true and not have large dings. Cast rims may chip.
- Tires Check for tread, and cracks. Dry rot in the sidewalls or tread means you need to buy new tires.
- Engine Does it start and run? Does it smoke? Even if an engine runs, you may need to use a compression tester to make sure the engine has a lot of life in it. A non-running engine isn’t a deal breaker. Most of the time (if the air filter and housing is intact) you just need to clean the carburetor, change the oil, and put in new gas. If the engine doesn’t run, do a compression test and make sure it turns over. pull the cord to make sure it turns over. If it won’t turn over, or has bad compression and grey oil, you will most likely need to buy a new engine.
- Clutch or Torque Converter If there is a lot of rust on them, it is possible to salvage them by giving your torque converter or clutch a good cleaning, or performing a rebuild.
- Sprockets The clutch, or torque converter jackshaft sprocket and axle sprocket should not have pointy or wave like teeth. The sides of the sprocket should not be worn from a misaligned chain.
- Axle Put the kart on a stand, or 5 gallon bucket. spin the back tires to make sure the sprocket, brake disc, and tires all spin with little to no run out.
- Brakes Do they work? Do they lock up? Are the pads worn?
- Seat & Belts A worn out seat tells a lot about the kart. Seat belts and seats are easily replaced. Are there any tears in the vinyl? Do the seat belts retract? Are the straps damaged?
- Test Drive If the kart is drivable, see how it accelerates, brakes, turns, and stops. There should be no funny sounds, wobbles, or weird rattling noises.
With your checklist in hand, tactfully tell the seller you were hoping that kart wouldn’t have so many things wrong with it. Tell him that you are still interested (if your checklist passes your own test) and would like to figure something out. Ask the seller what he thinks about all the items on the checklist that were bad. The seller will probably start feeling a little guilty about having you come all the way out there with the cash that you were ready to give him before you checked it out. Some of the failed items he may not have even known about.
Now is your chance to give the seller an opportunity to get rid of his baggage.
Immediately after listening to the seller, you can let out a deep sigh. Tell him again that you have got the cash, are already here, and weren’t expecting the kart to have so many issues. Then look him straight in the eye, and tell him you will still like to buy it for whatever price you want to throw out there. If you are confident you can get it for a certain price, throw it out there. If you want to wait and see what the seller counters, invite him to give you a better price.
Keep your mouth shut, and let the seller respond. Whoever talks next, loses.
Be reasonable, but also keep in mind that your time to fix these issues, and the costs of the spare parts may cost more than it would have cost to just buy a different kart in better shape. Pull out the cash and hand him whatever amount you have agreed on, or give him another offer with the cash. If he seems hesitant, hand him the cash and tell him this is his cash, if he will help you load it.
By this time, you should have come to an agreement. Both of you should feel relieved and happy! Now take that kart home, and get to work. If you are lucky, your kart will have no problems and you can enjoy it.
A Word on Safety
Before you start or drive a go kart, make sure you know where the brakes, gas, and kill switch are. You should never drive a go kart without a working kill switch near or on the steering wheel. Next you should make sure the brakes work. Only after this should you start the engine. If the kart has a roll cage AND a seatbelt. Make sure you put the belt on. Always wear a helmet. Keep your hair, loose clothing (scarves) tucked into your collar or it may end up tangled in the clutch or axle. While go karts are fun, they can be very dangerous if you are not educated.
Maybe you decided that this year’s Christmas was going to be epic, or that your child’s reward for good grades would be something worth bribing them for. Perhaps you never got that kart as a kid, and you finally have the means to your achieve your dream. Whatever the reason, go karts are for everyone. This used go kart buyer’s guide provides you with enough information to hedge your risks when buying that old kart, which will provide lasting memories for years to come. You can begin your search with confidence by knowing what to look for in a used go kart.
Once you have a used go kart, you will most likely need to get some common parts like bearings, tires, brakes, and a new seat. I get all my go kart parts from a reputable go kart part store as they typically have better deals than ebay or other online retailers after you figure in shipping.