Thinking of Buying a Racing Kart?
Maybe you’ve been to Pittsburgh International Race Complex to rent go karts or you’ve participated in our Rental Kart Racing League. Maybe you’ve been a spectator at an event and seen the kart paddock or had a friend who has talked about the camaraderie around kart racing. Either way, you’ve decided you want to dip your toe in and start competitive kart racing for yourself or one of your children. It’s a great, family-intensive sport, so why not?
Now come the important decisions, though. How do I find the best kart to make me or my kid competitive?
In this two-part series, we will be discussing the avenues for and the decisions that need to be made prior to purchasing a kart. The first installment helps the novice decide whether karting is for them and a few steps to take prior to buying a new kart. Most people don’t just wake up in the morning and decide “I’m buying a racing kart,” but if that’s the case this will help get you where you want to be.
Before You Buy: What type of racing?
First and foremost, you should decide what kind of racing you’ll be doing. There are a few different forms of kart racing, and each of the kart designs differs greatly.
Sprint Racing: paved surface racing on .75—1.5 mile courses with left and right turns plus elevation changes (Wilson Circuit at Pitt Race, Thompson Speedway, Go Pro, AMP, and more).
Oval Racing: usually dirt surface and single direction turning on .5 mile courses.
Sprinters and Superkarts: higher speeds on full road courses (Pitt Race North and South, VIR, Road Atlanta, and more).
Deciding what type of racing you want to do will point you in the right direction when choosing the right kart for you. Checking out local tracks to see the action first person is the best way to confirm your interest in a particular format.
Before You Buy: Get on Track
Most people interested in buying a kart of their own already have an interest in karting because they’ve had seat time in a rental kart. For anyone who hasn’t done any type of rentals or Arrive & Drives, though, it would definitely help in the decision-making process. These low-budget ways to get on track can be a great first step to the karting experience.
From there, you could even participate in a rental league before committing to buying a race kart. Rental leagues let you get involved in competitive racing in a track owned rental kart at a relatively low cost. Something like this may help you decide if this kart racing thing is for you or not, and it also gives you a look at how racing is formatted and expected track etiquette.
Even if you don’t get seat time, making a few visits to your local track prior to purchasing a kart can help guide you through the ins and outs of karting. This will help acclimate you to the environment and can also put you in contact with individuals that are already involved in the karting community. These may be track workers, kart racers, or even karting team owners. Most of these people can answer any questions you have before diving into kart ownership. They can also point you toward the businesses that sell and maintain race karts. Even if you can’t come to the track directly, you can call most of them and speak with their karting directors or managers for advice and contact information of kart suppliers.
Before You Buy: Planning
After you are firmly set on buying a kart, you’ll need to know what your plans are with the kart. Here’s some questions you should answer:
Do you plan on doing this only as a weekend hobby to compete against yourself and the stopwatch?
Are you interested in doing competitive club level racing at your local track?
Do you want to move up the tiers in highly competitive national level racing?
Will this be the stepping stone to get you into other forms of competitive racing?
Knowing your plans for the kart once you select a format will guide you in the next decision, which is a big factor in racing and that is budget.
Before You Buy: What’s your Budget?
Just like anything else, kart racing is a big investment. There are multiple costs throughout the adventure. This breakdown will help you understand all associated cost.
Initial cost: This would be the total of your kart, kart accessories (stands, tools, fuel cans, etc.), spare kart parts, and all your gear (helmet, suit, gloves, shoes, rib protector, neck brace, etc.).
Race or practice day cost: This includes all track day costs, like gate fee, member fees (if any), race entry fee (if racing), or practice fee; pit passes (for anyone in your party who needs pit access); fuel for the kart; tires (some karts need them more often than others).
Travel cost: If you decide to travel for racing, you will have to add that cost to your budget. The cost of a trailer or truck, fuel, hotel stay for the weekend, and then food and drinks while at the track should be considered.
Mechanic cost: If you are new to karting and have limited mechanical abilities, you may have to pay someone when it comes to tuning, changing parts out, changing tires, and general kart setup.
Storage cost: Once your race season ends, you’ll have to consider your storage options. Some people have the ability to store their kart at home in a garage, but not everyone has that option. Most tracks offer some sort of winter storage, whether it is a personal garage or shared space. Some tracks even offer a winterization of the kart. A lot of tracks also offer year-round garage rentals so your kart is always at the track when you want it.
Potential cost: Additional costs may come up when racing and accidents happen, so just be aware that you may need to replace parts on the kart, have the frame straightened, replace damaged gear, or possibly reimburse the track for damages.
This is just a small overview of the costs you will run into while kart racing. Keep in mind that some karts cost more than others initially and some cost less to maintain. Getting to know which kart is best for your budget and knowing your forward path will greatly help. Talking to people involved in kart racing and finding the right industry contacts will greatly help in the pre-purchase decisions.
Time to Buy
Now that you have everything figured out, it’s time to contact the dealer and purchase the kart. They will be the ones to assist with any last-minute details you need to iron out. These are also the people you relay all the previously discussed info to. They can put you in the package that best suits your format, plans, and budget.
Dealers understand the industry more than most and have the right answers. Some will even offer an Arrive & Drive at your local track to try out a chassis before you settle on it. Most even offer assistance with kart break-in for the first time at the track and can offer help with normal maintenance down the line. They strive to see a happy customer and a long-term future karter. Continuous contact with your supplier will keep the wheels turning and your karting experience headache free.
I hope this helps guide you in the right direction when considering kart ownership. Keep in mind that buying new is not the only option to get you into the seat of your own kart. There are plenty of good previously owned karts out there waiting to be bought. In the next segment, we will discuss what to look for and who is a trustworthy source. It can be a slippery slope when it comes to buying a used racing kart. Stay tuned!