If you’ve recently purchased an ATV as well as one of those cool ATV helmets and everything else needed for off-road adventures, then you might also be interested in knowing if and how you can ride such a vehicle on public roads. It’s no secret that ATVs and UTVs are super fun, but you also need to comply with the law.
The good part is that laws and regulations tend to differ from one state to another, so it might be possible to legally ride an ATV on the streets of your city or area. Moreover, you can also equip the vehicle with everything necessary to make it legal, but first, you need to take a look and see what local regulations apply in your case.
Since in some states it’s completely illegal to ride such vehicles on public roads, while in others you are good to go after some simple formalities, it’s always a good idea to talk to someone in the local administration in order to get the right directions and information.
Furthermore, many times making an ATV legal is not actually that difficult, although it might cost you a couple of hundred dollars. However, if you think about how expensive a ticket can be if you risk riding it around unregistered or without a license, then you shouldn’t hesitate to spend this money on making it suitable for public roads.
Some reasons for which to make your ATV legal
If you are still wondering whether making your ATV legal is worth the cost, then you should consider some of the main benefits you can enjoy. First of all, it’s convenient, since you won’t have to take your car anytime you feel like going for a little adventure in the woods. If it’s a nice and sunny day out and you don’t feel like loading the ATV into your truck, you won’t have to.
Of course, this also depends on the distance, but for those convenient and nearby favorite riding spots, having an ATV that can be legally ridden on public roads is ideal. Imagine going around a farm, to the beach, or on secluded trails without all the hassle of having to load the ATV into another vehicle.
Another reason for which you should definitely consider making your ATV legal is that it’s fun since you’ll be able to customize it just like you would a car or a motorcycle. But the difference is that an ATV can do tricks that regular vehicles cannot during off-road adventures.
Of course, you should only ride an ATV where it’s legal to do so. If you are not sure about a certain area, it’s better to take a bit of time and check beforehand, just to avoid any fine that could otherwise ruin your fun.
And last, but not least, you should consider making your ATV legal because it’s actually easy to do so in most states. There are not that many steps involved in making such a vehicle street legal, so you can take the time and research what the requirements are in your area.
If you don’t have too much time on your hands, there are specialized services that can take the entire process off your hands.
How can you make an ATV legal?
Each state has different rules, regulations, and laws when it comes to motor vehicles. You should also be careful since some states don’t explicitly say whether you should ride an ATV on public roads, but the law can include certain particularities regarding seat belts, carrying passengers, or fenders, that can make an ATV illegal.
However, if you don’t want to hire the services of a company to help you with all the details, then you should at least have an idea about what the main requirements might entail. In the following lines, we’ll see what some of these are, to give you a hand.
Among the items and pieces that you might need to add to your vehicle in order to safely and legally ride it on public roads, there’s usually a horn, license plate lights and holder, blinkers (with the required controls for comfortable operation), as well as mirrors.
Moreover, since adding some extra safety is always a good policy, you should consider getting some good street tires for the ATV as well. Of course, this depends on how often you intend to ride it on pavement and on the area you live in, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
What street tires can bring you is the extra grip to comfortably and safely tackle corners, as well as for enhanced braking. Also, since we’re talking about safety, it’s a good moment to mention that you should get a tether kill switch. If you are still getting the hang of what operating an ATV entails, this may be a new concept to you.
This little device is very useful, since you can attach it to the wrist or gear, and in the unfortunate event of an accident during which you fall off the unit, the engine will be turned off. We know that this is not something you want to think about, but the truth is that an ATV on the loose can create a lot more damage than needed.
You may also need to purchase and add a bright headlight, adapted for road conditions. While most ATV headlights work very well for riding around forests or a farm, they are not powerful enough for public streets, especially if we’re talking about those in the middle of nowhere, where bright city lights cannot help.
As any seasoned driver knows very well, brighter is always better, especially if you are in an area that has deers and other animals that might get on the road.
What about some examples of states and their regulations?
When it comes to this, we’ve already mentioned that you should check the laws that apply in your particular area, but there are some general rules that most states have in common. For example, in Alabama and Alaska, as well as in most of the other ones, you cannot ride an ATV on highways.
Alaska only allows ATVs for off-road use and the vehicles can be registered only to prevent theft. The same cannot be said about Arizona, as this state allows users to register ATVs and UTVs just as if they were regular vehicles, and they can also be used on highways.
If we’re going toward California, we learn that users need to wear safety helmets at all times and that they cannot carry a passenger unless the ATV is specially designed to allow more than one person riding it. In Connecticut, these vehicles need to be registered if they are operated outside of private property, and a registration plate is required.
This is better than in Delaware, where registration is required as well, but ATVs and UTVs cannot be used on public property at all. The same goes for the District of Columbia. In Idaho, on the other hand, users can operate the vehicles on public roads as long as they have insurance and they carry a license.
If someone younger plans on riding an ATV and lives in Kansas, then he or she is in luck since there is no age limit established for riders there. The same cannot be said about other states that require riders to be at least 16 or 18 years old.
No matter where you live, some general information is always available online, so you can quickly check and see at least the level of regulation that applies in your state.
However, do keep in mind that laws can also change throughout time, so don’t rely on the information you find online alone, because you might get a fine if something has recently changed and hasn’t made it into online articles yet.
A bit about safety
Of course, safety should always come first, especially since you are planning to ride your ATV on public roads where there are many other traffic participants, so things could go wrong. Besides the obvious safety rules that you should follow, namely the law-required ones, you should also think about what tires you are going to use.
It’s true that changing your tires will most probably mean that you’ll have to pay quite a significant amount of money on a new set, nevertheless, there are several reasons for which you should consider doing this. First of all, street tires are specially made to ensure the user’s comfort at all times.
Furthermore, as we’ve already mentioned, street tires do a great job in ensuring the necessary grip, and this will surely be very useful in a lot of situations that include pulls and cornering. On the other hand, it’s true that you might not be sure which type of tires you should go for, given that this category as well comes with plenty of options, so it can be difficult to know which one you actually need.
How to choose the tire size
It’s true that ATVs are specially made for off-road use, so getting them on the road might be a bit more difficult than one might expect. On the other hand, this is not something impossible to do, and if you know the legal requirements applicable in your area, you can start thinking about the tires that you are going to use.
You should know that off-road tires are, first of all, pretty uncomfortable to use on pavement, so it’s not recommended to do that for extensive periods. Not to mention that you can also damage the tires themselves, which means wasting the money spent on them. With this in mind, let’s take a look at what you should know when you are getting ready to choose a new set of tires.
Although many people assume that ATVs that have the same engine size usually use similar tires, the truth is that these two things are not necessarily related, so you shouldn’t count on this rule of thumb when you are trying to determine the right tire size.
The first thing you should do to determine this aspect for your vehicle is to see what the stock recommendation is for your quad. You shouldn’t be limited to a single size, but there is a range mentioned there that you should follow.
Otherwise, going for tire sizes that don’t fall into these recommendations might have a negative impact on various elements, such as horsepower, torque, balance, or handling. You can figure out the recommended range if you have the owner’s manual or by simply going online. However, those of you who are still rather new to this might not be sure what to look for.
When it comes to tire sizes, there are three numbers used to identify them, and they are always used in the same particular order. The format begins with the inches, then the thread width follows, and then the tire’s diameter.
Therefore, if you see a 21 X 7-10 reference, this means that the actual tire is 21-inch-tall, with a 7-inch tread that goes from side to side, and that the wheel features a 10-inch diameter. This will surely help you figure out both the recommended range, as well as to understand what going outside of it might mean from a technical point of view.
As we’ve already seen, most of the tires made for these vehicles are not meant to be used on paved streets. In fact, since this is a very important safety issue as well, you should take a close look at what the law states in your particular area so that you comply with it. In many areas, you need to get street tires in order to be allowed to drive your vehicle on the pavement.
Furthermore, street tires should always be used when you are extensively driving your vehicle on the pavement because off-road ones that come with large treads will have these gone in a very short amount of time, meaning that you’ve wasted your money.
There are several ways in which you can make sure that the tires you choose are street legal, and the easiest way is to check for the DOT approval. This is a safety standard issued by the Department of Transportation which applies to a wide range of accessories and gear used for any type of vehicle that is used on public roads.
From tires to motorcycle helmets, if you see the DOT certification sign, this means that you can safely use that particular product. In the case of tires, this certification is signaled by a code that is molded on the tire’s sidewall. If it’s there, then you should be all set for using the tires on public streets.
In case you’ve read the last section thinking that having a bit of both street performance and off-road capabilities in the same set of tires would be great, we have great news for you. All-terrain tires are probably the most popular alternative you can go for, and you should know that these are somewhat tougher and stiffer, so that they can resist punctures.
There are many types of items you can drive over, especially if we’re talking about both pavement and off-road conditions, so having a reliable and tough set of tires is very important. Even though some people say that all-terrain tires might not be the best choice, given that they are not specialized for one thing or the other, the truth is that they work very well.
This goes especially if you are still getting the hang of using your ATV, which means that you are probably not familiar yet with very specialized off-road driving that might require a highly specialized set of tires. If you find a model that fits within recommendations, your budget, and that still ensures decent performance on trails, then you should be all set.