Do You Want a Street Legal UTV? Here's What You Need to Know
While we all love our UTVs, not being able to drive them on roads can be a real pain. Having to load it onto a trailer and hauling it every time you want to reach an off-road area can be a pain, and it can be way more hassle than many of us would like to deal with.
The only viable option is to make it street legal. However, do be warned that it is a little more difficult than you might think. Some of these factors also depend on the location where you’ll be using the UTV, so make sure to stay updated regarding your local laws. As a rule of thumb, however, you’ll need to get it registered, get insurance, and add some much-needed accessories: headlights, brake lights, turn signals, horn, speedometer, tires, mirrors, windshield, and a lighted license plate holder.
How to Find Out Your State’s Requirements for Street Legal UTVs
As we said earlier, each state has its own set of rules and regulations regarding ATVs and UTVs, so you might find yourself having a UTV that’s street legal in, let’s say, Kentucky but completely illegal in Arkansas.
Even worse, some states don’t even have a fixed set of regulations for UTVs or ATVs, and it’s completely up to jurisdictions and cities to provide their own set of rules. To make matters even more confusing, some states expressly forbid you from driving any quad on the street, others don’t allow theoretically street-legal quads even if there are no specific laws against them, and others simply allow you to get your quad street legal with a few modifications here and there.
Yes, yes, we know, it’s a pain. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to make it so that your UTV or ATV is street legal absolutely everywhere in the US. You’re going to have to consult this handy guide for each individual state and jurisdiction.
Is a Street Legal UTV Worth It?
Well, it all depends on your specific needs. There’s no definitive answer to this question, so you’re going to have to research the laws in your area in the guide mentioned above and figure out if the potential costs for every needed item will be worth it.
For example, living in a big city like Los Angeles or Las Vegas means that you won’t have any significant trails nearby, whatever the case may be. So you’re still going to need a trailer to haul a UTV to an offroad location no matter what, simply because hauling it by using a trailer is safer and allows you to carry more items that may be necessary for a true off road adventure.
On the other hand, if you live in a small town in Texas or Idaho, where there are plenty of trails surrounding your location, then making your UTV or ATV street legal is a worthy investment. There are many towns within those two states where making your UTV street legal is easy peasy, so adding that advantage to the fact that there are a lot of trails nearby is a no-brainer.
Another aspect to consider aside from what we have already discussed is the Forest Service’s announcement that ATVs and side-by-side vehicles need to be street legal to access dirt roads in forest service land.
Possible Required Modifications for a Street Legal UTV
Whatever the case may be, even if it wouldn’t be required by law, a horn is a very useful thing to have if you plan on driving a vehicle on the road. A horn kit is the first and hopefully the only barrier you will ever need between you and an accident. Being able to signal to inattentive drivers is an absolute blessing.
So, yes, before everything else, we recommend you install one. Not just that, it can also be useful in other situations, say if the car in front of you isn’t paying attention to the stoplight, and they’re still standing in place even if the light has turned green.
Lit License Plate Holder
This is the second most common thing required by law in just about any state and jurisdiction. In fact, there is no state or country in the entire world that we can think of that wouldn’t require a street-legal vehicle to hold a license plate.
And, of course, authorities will want your license plate to be highly visible even at night so they won’t start chasing after you for no good reason. Getting hold of a license plate holder for your vehicle, in any case, should be much easier than actually getting a license plate for it depending on the state you live in. We all know how difficult Californian laws can be…
Turn Signal Lights
Another obligatory item on just about any road in any possible country, state, or jurisdiction is indicator lights. While Europe and the US have slightly different turn signal regulations put in place, the fact of the matter is that you need to have them. There’s no way of negotiating this whatsoever.
One thing’s for sure, the European-style turn signal regulations make far more sense and can also be applied in the US since they have a more consistent set of rules in place. As such, we recommend turn signals that follow these standards.
Even if they weren’t obligatory, we would still recommend installing mirrors for anyone who wants to ride their UTV on the road. They’re essential if you want to see what’s coming up behind you but also whenever you want to change lanes, park, etc.
Lucky for you, mirrors are pretty easy to install, and some even come in universal options. What’s important to note is that you need both side mirrors and a rearview mirror, so get yourself a kit that has both of these. You can’t make your UTV street legal only halfway.
One more thing: the most common mirrors are made of plastic or aluminum. Plastic is the cheaper option, but it gets damaged a lot easier. If you ride rough trails or just ride a lot, aluminum is probably worth the extra investment. Sure, you might not have a high enough budget as of now, we get it. Lucky for you, we offer the option to pay in installments, so feel free to browse through our entire selection without worries.
You thought your default tires were enough to get your UTV to street legal levels? Well, in some cases they are. But most of the time, the tires that a UTV comes with simply aren’t meant for road usage, only for offroad situations.
A street legal UTV should come equipped with tires that can be used on road surfaces without flinging dirt, mud, and stones onto other vehicles. That’s why we have prepared this handy guide to help you out with that.
However, in case you don’t want to read all of that, the easiest way to determine whether your tires are street legal or not is to check if they’re approved by the DOT (Department of Transportation). As stated on their contact page, you can find them Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time excluding Federal Holidays at 202-366-4000 or by writing to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave, SE, Washington, DC 20590.
While a windshield might not be obligatory in every state and jurisdiction out there (for example, many motorcycles don’t have a windshield in any way, shape, or form), we still recommend it because it offers extra protection from the elements.
Anyone that has ever been pegged in the face with a small rock or debris knows why a windshield is super important in many scenarios. However, if a windshield does indeed seem like too much of an additional cost, some states let you operate a UTV on the road by wearing goggles or a helmet with a face shield.
If you do want to go with a windshield, know that the windshield type can also be regulated by the state you live in, so make sure to check on your local laws. Glass windshields are typically the strongest and are easiest to fit with a windshield wipers. On the other hand, you might prefer polycarbonate windshields because they are much lighter, cheaper, and come in a variety of styles. However, they do tend to scratch more easily.
If you plan on driving at night, you should really consider staying 100% safe. A rear reflector might not necessarily be required in all jurisdictions but it’s a fairly cost-effective insurance against potential nighttime accidents. Oh, and take note that the default factory rear reflector might not be enough. Most UTVs only come with ones equipped for offroad usage, so it never hurts to double-check that.
If your UTV already has mudflaps, then you don’t need to worry. If it doesn’t, you should really consider installing ones, not necessarily for legal concerns, but to prevent your vehicle from throwing mud and rocks at other drivers on the road.
Upgrades You Might Want to Consider
Your UTV might already have some, but it never hurts to get more powerful ones if you want to use it on the road at night. Safety is always of utmost importance.
Your UTV might already have a muffler, but some states may require one with a spark arrestor or a much quieter muffler than what comes equipped with a standard offroad UTV.
By default, any UTV should come with a speedometer installed. If yours doesn’t have one, then it’s necessary to install it. And even if you have a speedometer, it never hurts to get a better one. Some speedometers also show the torque and other useful info that might come in handy when driving on paved surfaces along with other vehicles.
A tethered killswitch usually costs only around $5, can be found at just about any local vehicle supply shop, and can make a road-legal quad all that much safer, even if it isn’t required by law. What this little device does is kill the engine if you get thrown off your UTV.
In regular offroad situations, your UTV would stop on its own by hitting a tree or dirt bank. But on the road, it can hit other vehicles or people, so getting a tethered killswitch is highly recommended. It could literally save a life.
Other Items That Are Required by Law
Now that we’ve covered all the possible modifications and accessories that might be required by your state’s law, let’s look at what documents you might need to make your UTV completely street legal.
While the use of a driver’s license in offroad scenarios is often legal in many parts of the country, you’ll never get away if you’re caught without one in a city or on a highway.
You’re wasting your time modding and adding accessories to your UTV to make it street legal if you don’t register it. And it’s no joke, as you can get some serious jail time if you don’t do it.
If you’re going to use your UTV on the road, you’re going to have to get it insured just like other motor vehicles.
You’ll either need to go through a full inspection by a state official, a sign-off by an approved shop or you may just be required to bring in receipts and documentation showing you did the required modifications. Either way, you’ll need to pass through this as well to make your UTV 100% street legal.
Hopefully, these will be the only things you’ll need to go through to make your UTV completely street legal. Bear in mind that we’re not a state authority and we can’t predict any future changes to the law. The best approach is to always be updated regarding your state or jurisdiction’s laws so that you don’t end up getting a fine or, worse, jail time.