Go Kart Or ATV? Which Should You Choose?

If you are fortunate to have some land big enough to ride on or at least access to some, chances are you’ll have this dilemma at some point. I personally ended up with a go kart, no surprise there I’m sure, but I decided to go with a go kart for a few different reasons. Primarily because I have kids I intended on riding with me, but this isn’t a cut and dry choice. Granted some of these opinions are mine alone, but I always find it useful to hear other points of view and use them all to make my decisions. Here is how I did my comparisons and will again once my kids get older.


Possibly the most important factor, but how safe are go karts and ATV’s? Most people would think that seatbelts and a roll cage make the go kart a clear winner, and for the most part, they would be right. When you factor in the statistics for injuries or even fatalities while riding an ATV it’s pretty hard to argue. However, there are certain things about an ATV that make it a little safer. 

One super handy maneuver is the ability to jump off an ATV while in a bad situation. Sometimes it might look fun to attempt to drive through some water and halfway through you realize it’s a lot deeper than you thought and you just need to bail. Good luck doing the same thing in a go kart where you are seatbelted in. Not to mention you sit a lot higher on the ATV. 

Another thing to think about is the ability to lean your body weight on an ATV and allow you to stay more center while going over rough or steep terrain. If you try to take a back heavy go kart up a steep hill and it’s too much for the go kart to handle, you risk flipping. On an ATV you can pretty easily lean forward on the handlebars and make your way up to some pretty steep hills. 

The ground clearance is better as well which will make going over rough terrain just a bit safer as you aren’t risking getting stuck quite as much. 

All that said though, with a little strategic planning on your routes and some smart decisions on where to drive or where not to drive, go karts are by far the safer choice. The point here goes to the go kart.


This category is a bit tough to quantify because there are a lot more ATVs sold each year than go karts. Roughly 40,000 ATVs are sold per year and my assumption is far less go karts. So few I’m guessing that’s why I wasn’t able to find a real estimate stated anywhere. The abundance of ATVs drastically helps with available parts, used and new, and the more ATVs the more how-to videos and blogs are available. 

ATVs are definitely more complicated and compact than a go kart, but not overly complicated that you have to hire someone every time something breaks. Go kart maintenance is pretty basic, most everything just works, the engine is probably the most fickle if I had to pick something, and at that, you can replace the entire engine for ~$100 if you have to. 

Go karts also typically use the same parts or interchangeable parts in a lot of instances. This greatly decreases the price of parts and makes them pretty available. Go kart parts aren’t scarce but there aren’t that many choices if you’re looking for something different or better. Sometimes you’re just literally stuck with replacing what you already have. 

Overall I would say the ease of maintenance is definitely a benefit of go karts, while the large amount of options and available knowledge around ATVs is not to be forgotten. While ATVs aren’t overly difficult to understand, maintain, and repair, they are more complicated and compact than go karts. Go karts are usually very simple to maintain and for that reason, I believe go karts are easier to maintain and repair. 

Available Upgrades

Now down to the fun stuff, upgrades. While you might first just enjoy getting out and riding in a go kart or on an ATV, chances are you’ll find something that could be just a little bit better. When it comes to available upgrades, there are so many options available for both platforms. Go karts tend to be mild when it comes to upgrades. You can upgrade the engine here and there and get some good gains, you can make the braking or the tires a little better, but everything you do is minimally upgraded. There are certainly extremes you can go to with engines, but that’s honestly about it unless you plan to weld and swap on some custom parts that aren’t direct replacements. 

ATV’s on the other hand has a ton of different upgrades available to turn them into specialized beasts for mud bogging, sand dunes, hill climbing, overall track riding, etc. The upgradeability when it comes to ATVs is going to be far superior to go karts in almost every way. Not to mention the engines can do some amazing things and are just so much more capable. 

If you’re still keeping score, so far we’re, go karts 2, ATVs 0. Well, this one is pretty obvious, huge point to the ATV with upgrades. There are just so many more options available that are direct swap in parts and that is huge if you’re into modifying toys. 

Who Will Use It?

This one might actually make your decision for you with all the other points being moot. If kids are the primary users and you’ve got one that is riskier than most, personally, I’d stick them in a go kart. Worse they’re going to do is flip it, and with a cage and the proper safety equipment, you’re probably looking at no injuries to minor injuries. 

Put that same kid on an ATV and the potential for more serious injuries goes up. Sure you can limit their speed, sure you can teach them safe riding habits, and that works for most kids just fine. But if you want to take the risk out of it, start out with a go kart.

On the other hand, if an adult or older more mature, and responsible kid is riding, your decision isn’t so easy. 

ATVs score this point because they are a lot more versatile when it comes to riders. Go karts tend to be on the small side and people just outgrow them quicker. 

Up to this point, every topic we’ve covered is meant to make the decision easy in some way. If you’ve made it through and decided you don’t qualify for any of the easy ways out, the decision is going to be very easy next.


The most common deciding factor is always money. Go karts cost less than ATVs new and used they’re also cheaper. The only slight comparison you might have is a new go kart to a used ATV. If you are finding used ATVs for go kart money, I would make sure you give them a very thorough inspection before buying and avoid anything that isn’t currently running. 

Price alone gives the point to go karts, but that is only true generally. There are always deals out there. This goes into a much broader topic for me, but make sure you look for a reasonable amount of time, get a feel for the common price in your area for the quality you want, and shop a little before purchasing. I’ve seen some crazy cheap go karts that are in excellent quality and I’ve also seen some steal of a deal ATVs. Broaden your sample size and it’ll be more obvious when you see a good deal. 


Final score – Go Karts 3, ATVs 2. 

It was easier than this for me because I had kids I wanted to ride with me, but when we start looking for each individual kid, this will be how I decide. 

Go karts are simple, pretty bulletproof, fun having machines, plain and simple.

ATVs are versatile, capable, fast, living on the edge fun devices that are a blast in their own right. 

Either way, be safe out there and just get one and have fun!



I love to drive my kids around in our go kart and I'm always looking for an opportunity to share what I've learned with others!

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