Starting Out

Karting is a motorsport, and motorsport tends to be expensive.

Things you will need:

  • A kart - and it must be of a class with an age range which matches your age. See the Classes page of the KartSport site. Your local kart shops may have some for sale or you may find one on our Classifieds or on the Kartsport NZ Classifieds. Check out the great article below for more advice.
  • A trailer, or a van to transport the kart and your gear.
  • A helmet of a make and type approved by the rules (hint - check the manufacture date BEFORE you buy!).
  • Tools - sockets, spanners, pliers, screwdrivers and a few specialist tools to make life easy.
  • A race suit of an approved type, along with gloves and sturdy shoes.
  • Insurance - most standard policies will not cover a kart and the setup. See Kartside Insurance for some great deals.
  • To join a club, and then get a racing licence from Kartsport (see Joining).

The club can and is more than willing to provide advice - just ask - we can help or can point you to the kart shops within the area.

Buying a Kart

So, you want to go karting. You’ll need a kart. A fast one. But before you go handing over a fist full of dollars in exchange for some motorized billy cart that is going to take you to countless race wins, there are a number of factors you need to consider….

New Versus Second-Hand

Whether you purchase a new kart or a second hand kart will depend mainly on two factors: (a) available budget, (b) the reason why you’re getting involved. If you have the budget, the choice is fairly clear – new. It’s possible you will save yourself a lot of trouble and frustration. The big advantage of new equipment is just that – it will work and parts will not already be worn out and need to be replaced or fixed. The obvious disadvantage is the initial cost. New karts represent a significant investment, of which you might re-coup around 60% of the purchase price if you were to sell in 12 months. This is particularly relevant if purchasing a kart for your child. What if they don’t like the sport and never race? Generally, there is less to lose by purchasing second-hand.

While cheaper initially, purchasing second-hand can often become almost as expensive as buying new in the first place. There are risks associated with buying a used kart. Are you buying someone else’s problem? Is the engine legal? Is it in need of a re-build? You might think $3000 represents good value for a race-ready second-hand kart, but what if you then have to buy new tyres and brake pads, then find the engine is in need of a freshen up. Then there’s the things you can’t tell, like the chassis might be about to start cracking. These problems represent significant costs in not only dollars and time to fix them, but also loss of track time and the resulting frustration of not finishing races and other dramas during the race meeting.

There is a vast amount of experience within the membership of your local club and professional kart shop dealers who will be able to help you out regardless of whether you’re looking for new or second-hand. However, there are generally no guarantees with new racing equipment and no-one can be expected to know the full history of all the second-hand karts available.

There are some excellent deals available for second-hand karts, particularly from those who might be exiting the sport and have a kart, trailer, trolley, spares and apparel all for sale as a complete package. This can be a cost effective way of entering the sport with significant savings and the comfort of knowing that everything you need is already in the trailer. Apart from kart shops, other places to source second-hand karts are through your local club, and its website classified page, KartSport New Zealand’s website classified page or by searching through ‘Trade Me’.

If you are not sure about what you are buying, ask a fellow karter to check it out for you. This cannot be emphasized enough! It is also important to choose a kart that is suitable for the class you want to compete in.

Second-Hand Kart Checklist

If you decide that second-hand is the way to go, run through the following checklist to gauge the value of the machine you are looking at purchasing. Again, it is a great idea to take an experienced karter from your local club along to check a few things too.


The engine, carburetor, exhaust, tyres and possibly the chassis must be of certain brands and specification depending on which class you propose competing in.

Suitability of the Chassis

Cadets use a small restricted kart. Generally, the more powerful the other classes or heavier the class weight, the bigger tube and stiffer the chassis will be. Axle diameters of 40mm and 50mm may also affect the suitability of the chassis.

Chassis Brand

Is the chassis a popular brand or a one off special? Can you still get parts and set-up advice from fellow karters, the manufacturer or the importer?

Chassis Fatigue

This is probably more relevant in the case of the older chassis but be aware that some relatively new karts can gain a lengthy race history. Is there evidence of cracking or of a repair? Take particular notice around welds, especially seat mountings, but also check under the kart. Paint missing from the bottom of the rails is normal, but have the rails been worn down? If so, the chassis has probably sagged. Walk away.


With the chain now removed is the axle straight and does it spin freely and without noise? What condition are the bearings in and are the bearings still a good fit inside the bearing carriers? There should be no up/down or sideway free-play.


What thickness of pad is left? Is the disc still straight? What is the condition of the brake lines/cables? If the pad to disc clearance is adjusted with flat spacers, make sure you get them all if you decide to buy.


Are the steering column, stub axles and tie rods still straight? Is there any play in the rod ends or bearings? Are there spare steering components included with the sale?


Karts are often designed around a specific seat brand. Is the seat the correct model? Is the seat the correct size and shape for you? What condition are the mounting holes – are they worn or fatigued? Has the bottom worn out from scraping the track?


Is it correct for your class and engine? Check for cracks or repairs which may render it ineligible.


Are they correct for your class and how long have they been on the kart? The tread depth holes in the tyre are not really a good guide to the condition of the tyres. If the tyre tread has gone bluish, the tyres will not really be competitive and will need replacing.

Plastics/ Bodywork

What’s the condition of the nose cone and side pods, plus their mounting points? Have the bars attaching them to the chassis been cracked or bent?


Not buckled or damaged. Spin all rims to check their roundness and the condition of the bearings.


Are the sprocket teeth still chunky or have they worn sharp? Are there any spare chains or sprockets that come with the kart and what size(s) are they relative to the class you are competing in?

Paint Condition

Although it has nothing to do with how fast the kart is, knocked around paint can indicate a lack of care and maintenance. If the chassis looks too new for the age of the kart, it’s probably been repainted, hiding what’s underneath…

Fuel Tank

Any signs of leaking from the tank, fuel lines or fittings? Is the fuel filter clear of debris?


What size piston is the engine on? Are there many more sizes to go? Are the cooling fins cracked and ready to fall off? If water cooled, are the radiator and hoses ok? When was the engine last serviced: top end and bottom end? Ask to see receipts for the most recent work.

Floor Tray

Is it bent or cracked? Inspect around the mounting holes.

Nuts and Bolts

What condition are the nyloc nuts, bolts in the seat, floor pan, side bars and bumpers? Check everything out.

General Condition

Has the kart been well kept? IE - no corrosion on the metal parts, no hammer bruising to alloy components, components clean and in good order.



Having completed your scrutiny of the kart you are proposing to buy you will now be in a position to decide if this is the deal for you. Some minor problems can be overcome by an adjustment in the asking price, but too many failings might render this kart only has a future in the paddocks of the South Island.

Don’t be frightened in the current market to enquire about a sweetener. Perhaps there are further items (electronic information display system, wet tyres mounted on wheels, different grade axles, etc) which can be included at a discounted price. You are unlikely to not need these items later in your career!

And finally, have a good look around. Once you’ve seen more than one kart you will appreciate the benefit of an extensive examination prior to purchasing.


See you at the track!

Phil Davy

Inspired by a ‘Kart Oz’, September 2001 article.