5 Things to Look For When Buying a Used Kart
When looking to get into competitive kart racing, you are confronted with two options: buy new or used. Just like when buying a used car, there are a few things you should always look over before sealing the deal. Many of these factors may be different than from buying a used car, and some you may not even think to check if you do not have a karting background.
It is always easiest to be able to buy locally, but normally pictures and a recommendation from a professional kart shop can suffice. At the end of the day, it is somewhat of a gamble as you never know exactly what you are going to get.
That said, with the right mentality and preparedness going in you can truly lower the stress of buying a pre-owned racing kart.
1. Inspect the Frame for Cracks
Unlike cars, karts do not have suspension systems. This means that the metal frame has to sustain all of the pressures of cornering and impact. The metal tubing literally has to flex and temporarily bend in order to rotate through the corners. While the frames are built for this kind of stress, hard contact with other karts or barriers can cause the tubing to crack or bend. When a frame gets cracked, often times even with a good weld to repair the metal the kart will never corner the same again.
Cracks on frames reduce the value of the kart significantly. In some cases, the frame can be repaired to still perform at a decent standard, even if it is not at the same capacity of what it once was. If you are not able to check out the kart in person, this step may not be possible. However, the presence of a crack not mentioned by the seller can be very costly.
2. Check the Underside of the Frame for Scrapes
As mentioned above, the kart’s ability to handle safely and properly relies heavily on the condition of the metal frame. Kart frames sit very close to the ground, and often the bottom of the frame can be shaved off by the kart scraping along the pavement. Almost all kart shops offer frame guards, which are flat pieces of rubber that attach to the lowest parts of the frame. These guards will be the first thing to hit the ground rather than the metal itself, so they protect the frame from damage in order to keep it in good shape.
However, if the kart you are buying has not run frame guards, parts of the tube frame could be completely flattened on the bottom. Just as with cracks, large scrapes can drastically decrease the value of the kart and can also affect performance on track.
3. Ask for a Racing History of the Kart
This does not have to be a session-by-session break down of every time the kart hit the track, but if the seller is willing to tell you how much they’ve raced the kart and where, you can see how the kart fared. When looking up results, you are not so much concerned with how fast the seller was; you simply want to see how many times they DNF (Did Not Finish), and if they are willing to tell you, why.
This is a very basic way of fact-checking the frame to see if the kart was ever crashed so bad that the frame was bent and had to be straightened back out. If the frame was ever bent more than 10mm from straight on any part, just like with a flattened underside or a crack, the kart may not handle at its original ability.
4. Ask How Tall the Driver of the Kart Was
In racing karts, everything is built, adjusted, and tuned around the driver. The driver’s height and weight dictate his/her seat position. The seats are not also easily adjustable. There are four parts of the kart’s frame that reach out to bolt to a bucket racing seat, and the pedal distance, albeit somewhat adjustable, is also very rigid.
If the driver of the kart you are looking to purchase is significantly shorter, wider, thinner, or taller than you are, you will more than likely need to purchase a different seat and have it installed in a different location. Installing a seat is no easy task, as it needs to be set at an extremely precise position for the kart to work properly. Having the seat mounted one inch too far forward or back can throw off the handling of the kart. The cost of having a professional shop sell you a new seat and install it can be as much as $300+, and so you need to consider this added cost in your budget for purchasing.
5. Find the Nearest Shop that Supplies that Kart Brand
Nothing is worse than being stuck at a racetrack with a broken kart and no spare parts. If the track you intend on driving at has an on-site Pro Shop, such as here at AMP, or shops nearby that often attend races at the track, it is very wise to purchase a kart from the same brands that these shops carry. This way, if you break a part at the track you do not have to have your own personal supply of spare parts to repair your kart and keep driving.
Not all karts react the same to changes in chassis setup, either. Having a shop nearby that you can go to for advice on how to make your kart handle correctly through turns and on the straightaways is immensely helpful. You will find yourself with more questions than you can hope to answer and having a professional that you can go to is very beneficial.
Lastly, always set aside 10% of your total buy-in budget as a contingency fund. The naked eye may not be able to catch small bends in the chassis, and a good kart shop will charge you to properly straighten the frame. Also, new or used, there will always be some hidden gremlin that you will have to pay for in order to go racing. Karting is the safest and most family-friendly sport out there, but it can be very daunting if you get into it alone without any research or expert help.
Driver, Driving Instructor, Race Director, Announcer, and pretty much anything else that might get me to a racetrack.