How To Spot Used Go Karts Worth The Money!

So you want a go kart, excellent! One of my life goals is helping people get the absolute best deals they can on purchases. Go karts are sometimes difficult to buy if you’re uneducated and don’t know what you’re looking at. Make sure you know where you plan to ride it and what it needs to be capable of and then you’ll be able to narrow down its required features. 

Determine How You’ll Use A Go Kart

Do you have an awesome backyard with woods and elevation that you want to rip through in your off road go kart? Do you have paved trails close to your house that you intend to drive on? Do you live in a private community where you can drive on the road? Whatever your situation is, you’ll need to make sure of how you intend to use a go kart and look for the correct one. Also, don’t rule out transporting your go kart to an ATV park or somewhere else you don’t have immediate access to. 

If you are unsure if you need a go kart with or without suspension, might I suggest to get one with suspension? You aren’t looking at too much more money, but you’re looking at the next level of a go kart, and suspension also means other small upgrades throughout the go kart. 

My best suggestion here is to get a single seater, suspension go kart if you don’t have kids, or a two seater, suspension so kart if you do have kids. Let’s face it, your kids will want to go with you, and eventually drive when they get old enough, or brave enough. 

If you’re looking to get into competitive racing, we don’t really specialize in that here, but I can still give a few recommendations. If you haven’t already driven a racing go kart, or maybe you’ve done some electric go kart racing a time or two, do yourself a favor and find the nearest “arrive and drive” places. They have go karts you can just show up and race in, most times they’ll have all the safety equipment as well. Do this first and get a feel for what you want in a go kart, then start looking from there. Racing go karts are their own animal and tend to be a lot more expensive. Do a lot more research here because there’s a ton more risk of buying a lemon.

For now, I’m going to assume we’re looking for a single seater, suspension go kart.

Know Costs To Repair Or Replace Common Issues

If you’re buying used, which I absolutely recommend, to save money, you probably won’t find a perfect go kart. If you happen to live in an area where there are lots for sale, you’ll probably notice the perfect ones demand a premium. While I wouldn’t personally recommend spending the money upfront like that, obviously some people do. I recommend buying for value and finding the go karts that have some issues that seem really bad but can be fixed really easily and cheaply.

Some of the common issues are:

  1. Engine not working, or not working right. Most small engines are pretty resilient, but worst case here, you can go get a new predator 212 from Harbor Freight for $100 with their 20% off coupon and be off to the races. Most people will think their go kart is basically worthless if the engine doesn’t work, and will sell at huge discounts. 
  2. Clutch or Torque Converter issues. These can be a bit weird, and prices to fix can vary somewhat. Most issues can be fixed by removing the parts, cleaning them, and reinstalling them. Torque converter belts also tend to be the wrong size, or not the right angles on the belt, not the right direction, etc. Generally, unless you really knowledge up on these items and know exactly what you’re looking at, I would avoid buying a go kart with either of these issues. 
  3. Tires flat. First and foremost, check the tread. If the tread looks pretty good and the tires are just flat, well hey, they tend to do that if you let the go kart sit for a while. If they’ve popped off the bead of the wheel, they can be popped back on and aired up. I would mainly caution here to look at the wheel itself and make sure it’s not bent or dented anywhere. Those will need replacing. Wheels and tires together will run you anywhere from $50-$200 for all four depending on how large they are.
  4. The chain has fallen off or not working. I’ve seen this more than you would think. Someone is selling a go kart and they said it works great, but the chain won’t stay on. Either the chain is not properly tensioned, worn out, or they could be hiding other drivability issues you’ll be unable to verify if you can’t do a test drive. I would recommend if you go with the intent of purchasing a go kart with a chain issue, take your tools and plan to fix the chain enough that you can take a test drive. Make your decision from there. Chains are cheap so if it really is just the chain, and the test drive goes good, it’s worth it.
  5. Steering is off, or not working. This one is a bit rarer, but almost every time indicates a crash has happened. Look for scratches and bends or dents in the frame. Inspect the spindles and the orientation of the wheels when they’re both pointed forward. Honestly, I would walk away from a go kart that’s been crashed hard enough to cause steering issues unless they were basically giving it away. 
  6. Brakes don’t work, or barely work. This is pretty common. Most of the time brakes are an after thought and once they wear down they tend to stay that way. New brake pads or brake belts will run you $10-$30. Not very expensive, and pretty easy to change out. Definitely not a deal breaker, but a good way to get the price down a little.

Most Common Places To Buy

Facebook all day long. You are going to find the most inventory here and probably where you’ll end up buying. If you don’t have a Facebook account, consider creating one just for the marketplace, there are some amazing finds on there, go karts being one of them.

In the spirit of thoroughness, here are the rest of the locations if you want to make sure you’re getting a good deal, or if you are lacking inventory on Facebook. 

Craigslist and eBay have been known to have some go karts from time to time. The problem here is that with both sites, people tend to list their stuff outside their location. Sometimes you’ll find a steal of a deal, but it’s 2 hours away, or more. Just make sure to figure out the location before you get too invested in a deal. Also, I wouldn’t recommend shipping a go kart to yourself. With the overall cost of them being pretty low, shipping just isn’t worth it. 

ATV or Motorcycle dealers. Some of them will have some inventory of larger go karts and sometimes will even take smaller go karts on trade for an ATV. If you have some of these places around you, call them up and ask what they have available. I would also give them your name and number if they come across anything. I’ve had call-backs from places like this before.

Flea markets, garage sales, and online forums. These two are basically scraping the bottom of the barrel. Very unlikely to find what you want, priced correctly, but they do exist. 

Checklist To Take With You

While setting up a time to look at the go kart, make sure they do not start it up ahead of time for you. You want to go through a cold start with them. This is important because it will tell you more about the engine health than one that was already warmed up.

  1. Engine – How easily does it startup? First, pull? Does it have good compression when you pull the cord? Does it smoke white smoke or blue smoke? Does it bog or die until it warms up? 
    • When was the oil changed last?
    • Is the gas fresh?
  2. Tires – How warn are they? Do they hold air? 
    • How old are they?
  3. Clutch/Torque Converter – Do they spin freely at idle? Do they engage quickly under throttle? Does the belt look old and frayed?
    • How old is the belt?
  4. Brakes – Do they work? When you push the pedal does the linkage move accordingly? Do they stop the go kart reasonably well? 
    • Have they ever changed the pads or belt?
  5. Frame – Are there any large dents or bends, any excessive rust? 
    • Has it ever been wrecked?
  6. Axle/Sprockets/Chain – Lift or prop up the rear of the go kart and spin the real axle with the engine off. Look for wobble or movement side to side. Watch the brake drum or disc to make sure it’s straight as well as the sprockets. There shouldn’t be any broken or bent teeth and no excessive wear on the teeth or sides of the sprockets. Also inspect the chain for discoloration, lack or excess of tension, and any halfway chain fixes. 
  7. Steering – Inspect the steering linkages, the tie rods, and the hiem joints connecting to the spindles. Look for anything bent or misaligned that might suggest it’s been in a crash. Do note that a little toe-in on both sides is normal. 

The Art Of Negotiating

You should always always always plan to do a test drive. If you are buying a go kart that does not currently function, look to be spending less than $100 dollars to lessen your risk. If someone says it doesn’t work because of an easy thing to fix, like flat tires or needing a new belt, try to prepare to fix it and make it work for you to test drive. I have bought a used battery to test drive a car, just to find out it was a bigger piece of junk than I already thought. I ended up selling that battery to the owner and walking away from a terrible deal that I might have bought without a test drive.

Assuming you are able to go for a test drive, before you go, make sure you test the brakes first, and know where the emergency shut off is. If the throttle sticks you don’t want to have to find a place to dump it or worse. 

While driving test the throttle to make sure the engine reacts linearly and smoothly. Test the brakes fully and make sure you’re able to stop quickly. Go kart brakes are not at all like car brakes, so don’t expect perfection here. Test the steering, go from one full side to the other and make sure nothing binds up. Don’t yank the steering wheel though, again, not like a car. Lastly get a feel for how it rides and if you hear any noises. It will be bumpy, but it shouldn’t be shaking you to death. If you hear noises narrow down where and when you hear those noises. If you only hear a noise when you are taking off, think clutch or torque converter. If you only hear a noise while braking, check out the brakes. If you hear a constant noise that gets louder the faster you go, it could be an over inflated tire, it could be a bad wheel bearing, or maybe the chain is crooked and wearing on the spindle. 

Do your best to check out all the components and mentally tally up all the issues you see with it. Use those problems to help you negotiate the price. If you see too many red flags, walk away. Let them know that you see too many problems and that you would have to offer too little and you don’t want to offend them. If they are really interested in getting rid of it, they might ask you how low? Offer them something you would have a tough time accepting. I would almost always offer $20-$50 on any go kart in almost any condition.

If you have assessed the issues and are ok with fixing them, come up with a rough estimate that’s fair on what it would cost to repair, and subtract that from the asking price. Be honest and upfront about it. State that from your research, typically it costs $X to repair these things, and because of that you’d like to offer $Y amount. Depending on how much the asking price is, subtract a little more and start there. Usually $Y-($20-$50). Examples below.

Example 1: Go kart is listed for $400, the brakes hardly work, the torque converter is kind of sticky, might need a new belt, the engine runs but is low on power. New pads, new belt, and torque converter cleaning, and new filter and carb cleaning might run you around $40. I would offer $300 because of the work it needs and your time to get it going.  

Example 2: Go kart is listed for $250, needs a chain so it’s undrivable. You get there, find out the chain is unrepairable, so you can’t test drive it. You start the engine up and it barely fires and blows out a ton of blue smoke (burns oil). I would honestly replace this engine as it might have a bad head gasket. If you have a compression tester that would confirm that. Because of this, I would shoot them an offer of $100 because it needs a new engine. 

More times than not your first offer isn’t going to be accepted, even though it may be a fair offer. If they outrightly reject the offer, ask them what they’d be willing to do based on the repairs it needs. It may take a while for them to respond here, but hold yourself back, make them respond. From here just keep in mind what you have to spend to fix and what having a running go kart would mean to you. If it’s worth it, go for it. Remember, a good deal is one where both parties are a little unhappy.

Make Sure You Have Lined Up Transportation

Before you even go see the go kart, assume you will buy it, and make arrangements for transporting it. There’s nothing worse than showing up, negotiating, and then asking them to hold it for you while you find a truck. You don’t want to give them time to find someone else willing to pay more than you are. Worse, you don’t want them to take your money and then deny you access to the go kart essentially stealing your money. 

Bottom line though, it’s your responsibility here to be a reasonable purchaser. How would you feel if someone talked you out of money AND asked you to hold it for them?

Start Planning Your Fixes Or Upgrades

Once you’ve got a go kart bought, congratulations! Get going on ordering parts, the next part is the most fun and rewarding when you get the go kart going for the first time.


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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