Best Go Karts for Kids in 2018 for the Racing Buffs
Nothing beats the thrill of moving at high speed. Many kid’s ride-on toys try to emulate that sensation, with a focus on safety of course, but few manage it quite as well as a go kart.
Good go karts help children develop several important skills. Their cognitive awareness and reaction times improve, plus they develop a greater understanding of safety while playing. Of course, there’s the thrill of moving at speed, which is compounded if they have friends to race against.
Go karts are the next step in riding toys. As such, they may present more risk than tricycles, push bikes, and similar ride-on cars. You have to make the right choice to keep your child safe.
I Want to Go Fast – Picking the Right Go Kart
I’ve put a lot of research into go karts for this article, with a focus on safety, speed, and reliability. A few parents have helped me along the way, offering recommendations for go karts that they’ve bought for their own little ones. That’s helped me to come up with a selection of seven go karts that will satisfy any child’s need for speed.
Table of Contents
- I Want to Go Fast – Picking the Right Go Kart
- Making the Right Choice When Buying a Kid’s Go Kart
1. Razor Dune Buggy
This compact buggy has a large padded seat, which melds directly into a floor panel on which children can rest their legs as they ride. The seat has a safety harness with a strong clasp, and can carry a maximum weight of 120 pounds. It’s suitable for children aged eight and up, and may last smaller children well into their teens.
The go kart has a 350-watt chain-driven motor, which means it’s capable of reaching a maximum speed of 10mph. I was particularly impressed with the 8-inch tires, which are thick and have little knobbles that help them to run smoothly over rough terrain.
A red steel frame wraps around the whole go kart, barring the top, protecting both kart and rider from collisions. This frame does require some assembly, but it shouldn’t cause you too much trouble.
My favorite thing about the kart is that you don’t need any gas to run it. A pair of 12-volt batteries, which come with the kart, power the motor. It also comes with a charger, with instructions to guide you in its use.
As for control, there’s an easily-reachable handlebar that controls steering, acceleration, and braking. You’ll find a thumb trigger on the right handlebar, which handles accelerating. The lever on the left handlebar activates a disc brake in the rear.
The diamond-plated floorboard offers extra strength, and you can store the kart vertically to save space.
Unfortunately, the motor struggles to keep it moving in gravel, even though the tires can handle the surface. It may also struggle when riding up steep hills, and it appears to have no front suspension. It also doesn’t have a reverse feature, so children have to get out and physically move the 83-pound frame if they get stuck.
- Has a strong steel frame with a diamond-coated base
- Reaches a maximum speed of 10mph
- Has thick tires with knobbles that handle most surfaces
- Simple control system
- Comfortable chair with adequate safety features
- Holds a maximum weight of 120 pounds
- Has no reverse function
- Struggles with steep inclines
- May not run as well on grass or gravel
2. Power Wheels Spongebob Squarepants Get Set Go! Kart
A go kart for younger riders, this may be a great choice if your toddler has already gotten bored with other ride-on toys. Based on the Spongebob Squarepants TV show, the design features eye-catching primary colors, including a big blue plastic seat with a small flag on top. I also like the eyes emblazoned on the go kart’s front, which lend it a little personality and allow children to get creative by forming a bond with the car.
Despite its toddler-friendly nature, the car does have a motor. Powered by a six-volt rechargeable battery, the car can reach a maximum speed of 2mph, though it may go faster if children ride it downhill. The kart also comes with a charger.
The chunky plastic wheels handle most surfaces well, including carpet and hard floors. It should also perform on grass, though I’d keep your kids away from gravel.
Unfortunately, the kart doesn’t have a reverse feature, and it weighs over 20 pounds. As a result, you should supervise play and be on hand to get it out of any jams.
Power Wheels keeps the design simple, with a push button to turn the kart on and off. A second button starts it moving, with another press bringing it to a stop. The chunky red steering wheel offers good grip, but it’s a touch harder to turn than I’d like.
It also comes with a safety harness. However, the instructions don’t go into great detail about how to attach it. You’ll have to fiddle around with it for a while, but the rest of the assembly should go smoothly.
- Bright and bold primary colors catch the attention of youngsters
- Features a simple stop and start mechanism
- Capable of running on most surfaces
- Has a rechargeable battery
- Offers toddlers the chance to get creative on their adventures
- Comes with a safety harness
- Slightly stiff steering wheel
- No reverse function
- Instructions don’t go into enough detail about the safety harness
3. Berg Buddy Pedal Go Kart
The Berg Buddy features a tough, tubular steel frame. Powder coated in orange paint, the frame allows the kart to carry a maximum weight of 150 pounds. It also has a large, molded seat, which offers plenty of back support as your children ride.
Despite the high weight limit, this go kart is best for children aged between three and eight. Older children outgrow the kart. This is particularly important as it is pedal-operated, which longer legs will struggle with.
The pedals mean the kart develops your children’s leg muscles, and you may even be able to use it to introduce younger children to the basics of cycling. Furthermore, the use of pedals means the go kart can reverse if it gets jammed. As a result, children won’t have to struggle with lifting the 40-pound frame.
The steering wheel offers plenty of grip, while also controlling the swing axles at the front of the kart’s frame. You should find that the kart steers well on most surfaces, with the pneumatic wheels helping things along. The wheels also contain sealed bearings, which means you don’t have to waste any time maintaining them.
It doesn’t have a standalone brake, meaning children have to pedal backward to slow it down. There’s also no harness for the seat, so you may want to buy safety gear for any riders. Still, it can reach the same speeds as a bicycle, with the four-wheel design offering more stability.
Finally, it does have several accessories, such as an LED light and horn. However, you must purchase these separately.
- Eye-catching orange frame that can hold a maximum weight of 150 pounds
- Pedal operation allows for easy reversing
- Pedals develop children’s leg muscles as they play
- Good steering wheel and smooth operation
- Has pneumatic tires that require no maintenance
- Offers greater stability than a bicycle
- It has accessories, but you must buy them separately
- Doesn’t come with a safety harness for the seat
- Children have to backpedal to brake
4. Razor Ground Force Drifter Fury
The Force Drifter has a touch more power than Razor’s Dune Buggy, and can reach a maximum speed of 12mph. The design mirrors that of a Formula One car, meaning it’s sleek, refined, and aerodynamic.
The design mixes black, red, and white to great effect, and features the Fury branding at the front of the kart. The seat is large too, plus it has a safety harness that offers protection with both a lap and over-the-shoulder strap.
I’m also a fan of the Spark Bar, which attaches to the rear of the kart. This emits a shower of sparks whenever your child accelerates, creating the illusion that they’re moving at higher speeds than they actually are. It also creates a spectacle for onlookers, and may be a good talking point for children looking to make friends.
It can carry a maximum weight of 140 pounds, and shouldn’t be ridden by anybody under the age of eight. A button on the handlebar controls acceleration, while a handbrake on the left-hand side brings the rear wheels to a halt.
The go kart comes with two 12-volt rechargeable batteries, which offer about 40 minutes of racing time when fully charged. You also receive a charger, plus it comes with a flag that attaches to the rear. I also like the front wheels, which feature flexible and durable molded aluminum with rubber tires wrapped around them.
Unfortunately, Razor sometimes let themselves down with their customer service. If you need replacement parts, they may refer you to a service center that charges for labor. The batteries also start losing their charge quickly, meaning you may need to buy replacements after a few months.
- Reaches a maximum speed of 12mph
- Has a sleek design with excellent color combinations
- Carries a maximum weight of 140 pounds
- Simple acceleration and braking system
- Has rechargeable batteries
- The Spark Bar makes riding more interesting
- Razor’s customer service is sometimes a little hit and miss
- The batteries lose charge quickly
5. EzyRoller Classic Ride On
Simplicity is the name of the game with the EzyRoller, as it forgoes many popular go kart features to bring you a budget option. You’ll notice this approach with the seat, in particular. It looks like a camping chair, though it does provide adequate back support for your children as they ride.
The foot bar acceleration system interests me most, as it’s unique. Instead of having a motor or making kids pedal, the foot bar controls movement. Children just rest their feet on it and alternate movement slightly between the left and right foot to get it going.
I also like the steel bars that come with the foot bar. These allow you to extend it as your child grows, making the kart suitable for kids between the ages of four and 14. With that being said, it may take a while to get used to this strange acceleration system, especially as you also have to use your feet to turn.
The frame offers very little protection, but there is a pair of handlebars for your kids to hold onto as they ride. There’s also a handbrake a little further back, though I don’t like how you have to release the right handlebar to use it.
The budget design also impacts the surfaces you can ride on. This may not be the go kart for you if you want to ride on slopes or uneven surfaces. It also can’t handle grass or sand.
The kart does need assembly, though it’s simple enough. You also receive all of the tools needed to put it together as part of the package.
- Interesting foot bar acceleration offers a unique challenge
- Seat provides a surprising amount of support
- You can extend the foot bar with two steel tubes
- Requires no fuel or batteries
- Comes with the tools needed for assembly
- Using the brake means letting go of the handlebars
- Struggles with anything but smooth and flat surfaces
- The foot bar may cause frustration at first
6. Hauck Nerf Battle Racer
Combining the thrill of go karts with the fun of Nerf, this kart offers something different to the rest. The sturdy steel frame contains four gun holsters, with several additional compartments for Nerf dart storage. Children can easily remove their gun of choice and fire as they ride.
It’s pedal-operated, and has big chunky wheels that can tackle most surfaces. I also like the deep seat, which has arm rests and offers plenty of back support. You can also adjust the seat without the need for tools, so the kart grows with the rider.
The pedals allow the rider to reverse if they get in a jam, plus there’s a rear handbrake for when peddling in reverse doesn’t slow things down quickly enough. This may make it a great kart for beginners, though I’m a little wary of the lack of a seat restraint.
The sturdy steel frame can hold a maximum weight of 110 pounds. I also like the sporty design, which has the Nerf branding emblazoned all over it.
Unfortunately, the assembly instructions let the package down. They only feature images, with no words to describe what you should be doing.
The Nerf gun mounts also don’t quite fit most Nerf guns, which can lead to guns falling to the ground as you ride. The steering wheel is also not as sturdy as the rest of the kart, and may break if tugged too hard.
- An excellent choice for fans of Nerf guns
- Contains compartments for Nerf darts and guns
- Pedal system allows for reversing
- Rear handbrake helps the rider handle high speeds
- Adjustable seat offers good back support
- Unique design
- Nerf gun holders could be larger
- Poor assembly instructions
- Weak steering wheel design
7. Razor Ground Force Electric Go-Kart
Another Razor kart, this one features a more simplistic design than the other Razor karts on my list. Its flat base features two curved steel bars along the sides, with a molded seat at the rear. The seat comes with a lap strap, but no shoulder harness.
You don’t need any fuel to operate the cart, as it comes with two 12-volt rechargeable batteries. These allow it to reach a maximum speed of 12mph, with the chain-driven motor ensuring smooth and quiet operation. You get about three-quarters of an hour of riding time with each charge.
The handlebar houses the accelerating and braking mechanisms, so the rider controls their speed with their hands. It also comes with a flag, which mounts to the rear of the vehicle.
Razor use molded aluminum for the 4 and a half-inch wheels. However, I would have preferred larger wheels, as it almost feels like you’re riding on castors with this kart. They don’t affect stability, but they keep the kart very low to the ground.
However, the wheels do prevent it from running on several surfaces. It struggles with grass, and may run into problems with shag carpeting.
You may also find that the batteries start losing their charge faster over time. The 45-minute maximum time may only last for a month or two before this starts happening, especially if the go kart undergoes regular use.
- Large molded seat with a lap harness
- Doesn’t require fuel
- Comes with rechargeable batteries
- Reaches a maximum speed of 12mph
- You get 45 minutes of riding with each charge
- Batteries start depleting quicker over time
- Small wheels means it struggles with several surfaces
- Simpler design when compared to other Razor karts
Related: Our Favorite Big Wheels for Kids
Making the Right Choice When Buying a Kid’s Go Kart
High speeds, coupled with efficient design, are the hallmarks of a good children’s go kart. Any kart you buy should be a step above other ride-on toys, especially given the comparative costs.
However, you can’t forgo safety when searching for speed. Engine-operated karts, in particular, must come with safety harnesses on the seat and a strong braking system.
We all know about the dangers of not wearing a seat belt and those same dangers apply to faster kid’s go karts, even if they’re not as pronounced. Furthermore, most go karts have metal frames, which increase the chance of injury if children crash at high speeds without a belt.
There are some more specific consideration to keep in mind too.
The Wheel Size
As a general rule, the smaller the wheels, the more difficulty the kart will have with rough surfaces. Most kid’s go karts work best on flat, smooth surfaces. However, some kids may prefer to explore tougher terrain as they become accustomed to the kart.
Engine-powered karts often struggle with inclines, both due to tire size and a lack of power. However, pedal-powered karts may have more success in this area, especially if they have larger wheels.
Check the wheel size before buying, as it will affect where children can ride the kart.
Pedals vs Engines
Karts with engines more closely emulate driving a real vehicle, and tend to be able to reach high speeds on smooth surfaces. They also require little physical effort on the part of the rider. Most of these karts have a button that handles acceleration, with a separate handbrake to slow them down.
Pedals require more effort, but they will build your child’s leg muscles. As a result, they may be a better choice for developing kids, and those who haven’t started riding a bike yet. Furthermore, pedal-powered karts can usually reverse, whereas engine-powered karts often can’t.
Building on the last point, the lack of a reverse feature means engine-based karts need lifting if they get in a jam. However, the presence of the engine, plus the weight of the frame, may make this difficult for younger children.
If you’re buying for a toddler or pre-school aged child, be prepared to supervise play. You’ll be needed whenever they get into a jam and can’t move the kart.
The Must-Have Features
So those are some of the things I think you should consider before buying. However, these are the must-haves for a kid’s go kart.
- An emphasis on safety, especially for karts that reach high speeds
- Easy assembly with detailed instructions
- A sturdy frame that can handle the occasional collision
- A comfortable seat
- Rechargeable batteries, in the case of engine-powered karts
- Smooth steering
The Final Word
A kid’s go kart offers much more than thrills and spills. With some, you can help children develop leg muscles and learn the basics of peddling, while others teach them how to handle higher speeds. All require good coordination to avoid crashes, so you’ll notice improvements in this area.
Children should have fun while playing, but you must teach them about safety. This is especially important for kids who play unsupervised. Go karts come with many of the same hazards as bicycles, so you may want to invest in a helmet and pads.
Hopefully, my list has given you a good idea of the options available to you when shopping for a children’s go kart. Each of my selections offers something different, and you should be able to find something for toddlers, right the way up to pre-teens. Consider your child’s current abilities, and where they’ll be riding, before making a choice.