UTVs are gaining popularity across the United States and throughout several sectors. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of UTVs sold in America more than doubled. Since then, it has continued to surge by more than 5 percent each year, and analysts expect that trend to continue to rev up in the years to come. From military and industrial applications to sports and personal uses, these vehicles are certainly gaining their fair share of attention.
Of course, many private owners and businesses alike would love to take their UTV uses up a notch by being able to take them from the trails to the streets. Owning a street legal utv comes with several benefits, not the least of which are versatility and flexibility. It can also save time, energy, and hassle. Making a utility terrain vehicle street-legal is certainly possible, but it’s important to keep various factors in mind throughout the process.
Know the Law
First of all, understanding how the laws in your area apply to operating a UTV on the road is essential. These rules and restrictions vary greatly from one area to the next. Be sure to research them thoroughly before investing in modifications or driving your UTV anywhere other than off-road. Beyond that, find out if your specific model of UTV can be registered for street use. Some areas don’t allow certain types of UTVs to be driven on the roads regardless of modifications, paperwork, and other factors.
Street Use Modifications for UTVs
To make a UTV legal for street use, certain modifications must be made. While some UTVs come with a few of the essential features, they typically fall short of the legal requirements. After all, they’re not truly designed to be driven on the roads straight from the factory. Working headlights, taillights, turn signals, and rear reflectors are among the most basic essentials.
Rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, a horn, seats, seatbelts, and a license plate holder are also generally required. In states where both front and rear license plates are mandatory, that rule extends to modified UTVs. Those plates must be clearly visible and equipped with lights for nighttime visibility.
Tires should also conform to local road standards. Not all off-road tires are designed for road use and vice-versa. Because of that, it’s important to find tires that cover both sides of the situation. That’ll allow you to operate your UTV on the streets without sacrificing flexibility for off-road purposes. Tire size, composition, and tread depth are a few of the main aspects that come into play here. Again, though, those may vary depending on where you are.
Brakes, Suspension, and Exhaust
Brakes and suspension are also crucial factors to consider. Besides the legality issues, ensuring your brakes and suspension comply with regulations will help keep you and your passengers safe on the roads. Though not all UTV brake and suspension systems will require upgrades, some of them may. In terms of exhaust, certain noise adjustments may need to be made to meet local regulations. In many areas, emissions regulations are in place as well.
Speedometer and Odometer
If your UTV doesn’t already have a working speedometer and odometer, you may need to install them. Speedometers are particularly important here. Though exceeding standard speed limits may not be an issue with most UTVs, you’ll need to know how fast you’re going on streets with lower speed limits. Otherwise, you could end up with a speeding ticket and risk losing your UTV’s street-legal status.
Vehicle Identification Number
You’ll also need to be able to locate your UTV’s VIN. By law, all ATVs and UTVs manufactured in 1981 and beyond are required to have a VIN. Its location varies by model, but some of the more common locations are on the driver’s side of the center console and in the driver’s side wheel well. Some models have the VIN stamped on the front or rear portion of the frame either on the driver’s or passenger’s side. In some places, UTVs must have their VINs displayed in a clearly visible area, so if yours isn’t, you may need to have a VIN plate made and mounted where it can easily be seen.
In states where vehicle inspections are required, you’ll need to have your UTV professionally inspected. In some areas, modified UTVs may need to be inspected regardless of the laws that apply to standard passenger vehicles. If the UTV doesn’t pass inspection, you’ll need to make further modifications accordingly to make it street-legal. Even in areas where there are no specific requirements, having a safety inspection carried out by a certified mechanic or inspection facility before driving your UTV on the road is a good idea.
Proper Documentation and Insurance Coverage
Documentation is a requirement for street-legal UTVs as well. That includes a title, proof of insurance, and registration. Keep in mind, if you’re going to be operating a UTV on the streets, local laws may require that your insurance coverage meets the legal minimum for conventional passenger vehicles. For newer UTVs, a manufacturer’s certificate of origin may be needed for registration.
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to the points mentioned above, certain other factors may need to be considered. For one, even if you meet all the requirements to make your UTV street-legal, your area may have limits on which roads these vehicles can be operated on. As mentioned earlier, be sure you know the laws and how they apply to your situation. If your UTV doesn’t already have a windshield, equipping it with one is recommended. That’ll make driving on the roads much safer and more comfortable, and it’s required in many areas.
Having a heavy-duty roll cage installed in your UTV is also advised for your own protection against other drivers. Some areas have strict helmet laws in place for UTV operators and passengers as well. If that’s the case in your area, you’ll need to have DOT-approved helmets for yourself and your passengers.
Taking to the Streets
Numerous regulations and restrictions are in place for operating UTVs on the roads. Those vary widely from one location to the next. Though some UTVs are almost street-legal when they roll off the assembly line, others are a bit further from where they need to be. Either way, you’re bound to need certain modifications to bring your UTV up to par. On top of modifications, be sure to keep local regulations, insurance coverage, registration and documentation requirements, and safety factors in mind if you plan to drive your UTV on the streets.