My brother keeps his Yamaha YXZ at my parents’ house near McCall, Idaho, which is awesome because there are so many great trails to ride whenever I visit. Unfortunately, there are lots of roads, and even highways, between the house and the trails. Loading a side by side on a trailer and hauling it anytime you want to go for an afternoon ride is a lot of hassle. Getting that machine street legal was an absolute must. Luckily, it was a pretty easy ordeal.
How do you get an ATV street legal? It depends completely on your location what you need to do, or even whether you can. In general, you will need to get it registered, get insurance and add the following: headlights, brake lights, turn signals, horn, speedometer, tires, mirrors,windshield and lighted license plate holder.
Is it worth the Investment?
The first thing you need to do is determine whether you need your ATV to be street legal. It can be a significant investment to add all the needed accessories so you will only want to undertake that investment if you live somewhere where you have a lot of trails you can access from city or county roads.
Where I live in Las Vegas, it just doesn’t make sense to get an ATV street legal. I don’t have anyplace worth riding within 20 miles of my house. If I go to the trails nearby, I am going to haul the ATVs no matter what, and there isn’t going to be any riding on actual roads at the destination. Because of that, it just doesn’t make sense to get an ATV street legal here.
On the other hand, at my parents’ place in Idaho, we can drive the ATVs around town and to the trails that cover the mountains. There, it is well worth the investment to get a whole lot more use out of your ATV and make ownership way more convenient.
Something that changed the decision for a lot of people was when the Forest Service made a big public deal about ATVs needing to be street legal to access dirt roads in forest service land. They threatened that you could get a ticket even by crossing a road while riding on a trail. I don’t know how stringent they are in every federal land, but that can be a good reason to go street legal. It is worth checking out this guide to riding on federal land if you have questions.
Finding out your state’s requirements
Each state has different laws regarding motor vehicles, including ATVs. Even worse, many states don’t have set rules, and it depends on the city or county you live in. Some states expressly forbid ATVs on the street, some states don’t allow street legal quads even if they don’t explicitly say so, and some states allow you to get your quad street legal with some modifications.
Some common statutes you see in states that don’t let ATVs on the streets, without explicitly stating such, include statutes that require seat belts on all four-wheeled vehicles. Many people think you can get away with treating ATVs like motorcycles, but state statutes often designate vehicles as two or four wheeled vehicles, making your ATVs the same as a car, rather than a motorcycle. When you think of what you need in a car, you quickly realize that those restrictions could make getting your quad legal impossible.
We have a pretty awesome guide on ATV laws in every state. It doesn’t cover everything you will need because most of the laws that control being street legal have nothing to do with ATVs in particular, but it is a great place to start. We also cover a lot more, including everything state specific we know, further down in this article.
The modifications you will most likely need
Horn. A horn isn’t too big of a deal to add on, but it is pretty easy to understand why you would want a horn if you are driving on the street in an ATV. Like a motorcycle, and ATV can easily get lost in a crowd of cars. You will want a horn to remind people where you are before they plow into you. Plus, if you are on the road, you will need to have a horn to let the car ahead of you know the light turned green while they were texting. If you are lucky, your turn signal kit will come with a horn, but if not, there are plenty of easy-to-install horns that you can add to your quad.
License plate holder and light. To get an ATV street legal, you need a license plate obviously, but the license plate holder and light are less obvious. I guess the police want the license plate to be very visible so they know your ATV is street legal, rather than pulling you over to figure you out you have a license plate hidden under the mud behind a mud flap. Most states require the license plate be mounted to the rear of the vehicle. Some UTVs have tabs pre-welded on the roll bar, which makes it really easy.
Turn Signals. Here is another obvious one. Traffic needs to know which way you’re turning. Back in the day, you could have gotten away with just using hand signals, but I doubt many drivers would realize what the heck you mean by pointing your arms around while you are driving. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to add turn signals to your ATV as there are many kits out there that you just have to plug in. You will need to make sure that it comes with a switch that mounts to the steering column to make it easy to use. As a bonus, many kits also include hazard lights.
Mirrors. Another modification that seems pretty straight forward. You don’t have to check your blind spot too often on the trail, but will need to on the road. In most states, you will need both side mirrors and a rearview mirror. Luckily, mirrors should be pretty easy to install and there are universal options that should work just fine. Obviously, the roll bars on a UTV are going to make it a bit easier than if you are dealing with an ATV. You will want to pay close attention to the tube size you need for your ATV since it is not universal.
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.
Tires. One of the biggest reasons driving ATVs is not safe on roads is the tires are not designed for use on streets. Getting street tires will mainly give your tires better grip. The extra grip will go a long ways to helping you brake better and take corners at a better speed. An added side benefit is street tires will last a lot longer on the street than off road tires, whose tread would be gone in no time.
The easiest way to determine if your ATV tires are street legal is to see if they are approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). You can find out if your tires are DOT-approved by looking at the code that is molded on the side wall of the tire. Getting a good DOT-approved tire can be tough to find for an ATV because you tend to lose a lot of off-road capabilities. The trick is finding a good street-legal tire that will perform well on the street, but also go off road without issues. We like this set of tires.
Tail light and brake lights. With most UTVs and some ATVs, you are going to already have these so hopefully it isn’t a big deal. Like with cars, the tail lights and brake lights usually come in the same light box, where the brake light lights up brighter than the tail light.
Speedometer. There is not much to a speedometer. It just tells you how fast you are going. Since streets have speed limits, you will need to make sure you are staying under the speed limit. Luckily, most ATVs come with a speedometer so you shouldn’t have to worry about this one.
Rear reflector. Most ATVs and UTVs come equipped with some kind of reflectors. Hopefully that will be enough, but you will want to check for your state where reflectors are required and whether they are required to be a certain color. If you need to add something additional, you can easily add reflectors wherever it is needed.
Mudflaps. Most ATVs and UTVs come with mudflaps so this shouldn’t be a concern. If you don’t have any, you will need to get some since you can’t be flinging mud and rocks at other cars on the street.
Windshield. Anyone that has been pegged in the face with debris at 50 mph can understand the importance of having a windshield when you are driving on the street. While windshields are a great choice, your state may not require one. Some states let your ATV be street legal as long as you operate it with goggles or other eye protection.
Windshields come in a lot of varieties to accommodate whatever style you like. When you are picking a windshield, you will have to decide on the design and the material you want. Your state may require a certain style, but if not, your options are usually full, half or flip-out windshields. When it comes to material, there are less restrictions, but some states do have them. Glass windshields are typically the strongest and are easiest to fit with a windshield wipers. Glass windshields typically only come as full windshields and are much heavier. Polycarbonate windshields are much lighter and cheaper, and come in more styles, but they also scratch a lot easier.
Muffler. Some states require specifically quieter mufflers, some just require a muffler with a spark arrestor. Check out what your state requires and make sure yours matches.
Headlights. Most ATVs come with headlights so it should not be a big deal. You will want to check your state requirements though as some states have certain requirement as to how bright your headlights are. Because ATV lights can be pretty weak, you may have to upgrade, which might be a good idea regardless, as we discuss below.
The other things you may need
Registration. Your ride isn’t street-legal if it isn’t registered. All the requirements we talk about here are what allow you to register your ATV.
Insurance. Unsurprisingly, if you are going to drive your ATV on the street with cars, you have to be insured like one. Most auto policies will let you add an ATV to your policy, or you can search out a specialty ATV policy if you prefer.
Inspection. Many states require you pass some kind of inspection before you can register the ATV. What is actually required by your state could be 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. Since you are going to have to show you met each requirement with exactness, be sure you read over all your state regulations and know exactly where each mirror and turn signal has to be placed and how big they must be.
Driver’s License. While you can get away, depending on your state, with driving an ATV without a driver’s license, that is never going to be the case if you are driving on city, county or state roads and highways. In addition, a driver’s license is required for many Forest Service road and BLM-maintained roadways.
Some other things you might want
A tethered kill switch can be a great investment on a street legal quad, especially since they cost all of about $5. The kill switch attaches to your wrist or gear and will kill the engine if you get thrown from your quad. If you get thrown from your quad on a trail, it will probably just continue on until it hits a dirt bank or tree to stop. On the streets, your ATV will most likely plow into another car if you fall off, causing an accident and potentially injuring or killing someone.
A headlight is required, but you will want to consider getting a bright headlight. Many ATV headlights are fine in the forest or on the farm, but they won’t do much good on the road. On the streets, you are likely to driving a bit faster, and will more easily outdrive the distance of your lights. Plus, an average road is a lot wider than your typical ATV trail so there is just more to light.
What’s the deal with street legal kit
You can find universal street legal kits or kits designed for most models of ATV/UTV. These kits can be great, but they are not typically designed to be state specific. Because of that, the kits will typically include most of the basic things we discussed above, like turn signals, lighted license plate frames and rear view mirrors. Usually, the kits are a great starting point, but you will likely have to supplement them based on your state’s specific requirements, so don’t think you can just buy a kit and be okay. You have to look into your state’s specific requirements.
While these kits are usually pretty easy to install, but there is usually some special wiring knowledge needed. This is easy to overcome if you obtain a wiring diagram for your ATV or UTV. This will guide you pretty well. You should also do a little research to ensure your battery can handle the extra accessories.
Some state specific guidelines
One thing to keep in mind is whether you can get an ATV licensed in one state and have it be street legal your state. This is a common tactic advertised by many companies that specialize in getting ATVs street legal. Unfortunately, the full faith and credit clause, which allows you to drive your car in any state, doesn’t always work the same way with ATVs. Some states will honor out-of-state registrations without any other requirements, but many states have additional regulations that have nothing to do with registrations. For example, one state may register your ATV without a seat belt while your state may require a seat belt on any four-wheeled vehicle. In that situation, you are getting a ticket regardless of your registration. Additionally, the full faith and credit clause doesn’t require a state make something legal just because another state did. So if a state makes it illegal to drive an ATV on a highway, it is illegal regardless of registration. Think about it this way, you can buy marijuana legally in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean you can bring it into Idaho and smoke it legally. The same is true with ATVs on the street unless your state says otherwise, so make sure you read up on your state before making a big investment.
With that, these are the requirements for the most popular states. We didn’t include them all, but check our menu for state laws and you can find a lot more information.
Arizona is known as being one of the easiest states to get your ATV or UTV street legal. Indeed, most ATVs you see cruising around California are licensed in Arizona, which is a whole different discussion. If you live in Phoenix or Tucson, you will need to get your ATV emissions tested. You will also need to have the following on your ATV or UTV throughout the state: a brake, brake light, 1-2 headlights that shine at least 500 feet ahead, at least one tail light visible from 500 feet to the rear, at least one red reflector, securely fastened and lighted license plate, a horn audible from at least 200 feet, a muffler in constant operation, a rear view mirror, seat and footrests for the operator and a fuel tank cap. I would hope you already have most of those requirements so, while it seems like a lot, it really is one of the easiest states there is to be compliant.
California is one of the toughest states to figure out. There are people that say you can get an ATV, or at least a UTV, street legal, while others, reading the same laws, have concluded it is impossible. California has the Air Resources Board (CARB) office, which has established strict emission standards and guidelines for on- and off-highway vehicles. Manufacturers must meet certain standards to attain a sticker indicating their vehicles are for on-highway use. are ATVs are considered off-highway vehicles, which do not meet on-highway emission regulations, and cannot be registered as on-highway vehicles unless, according to some, many modifications are made.
There is a pretty helpful debate in Colorado. Most say you can’t get a street legal ATV in Colorado because there are specific regulations prohibiting their use on most public streets and roads outside of designated public land trails and roads. However, it appears to depend what county you live in as some areas in Colorado treat ATV’s as motorcycles when it comes to licensing so you actually can register them for use on the streets. If you live in Colorado, let us know your experience.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Idaho, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Indiana, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Kansas, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Kentucky, but you will need to read the regulations.
I am not sure about getting an ATV registered in Maine, but I have heard that many rural counties have made ATVs legal on town roads without anything special needed.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Minnesota, but you will need to read the regulations.
Unsurprisingly, Montana is one of the easiest states to get your ATV street legal. Basically, all you need to do is add brake lights, mirrors, a horn, turn signals, a lighted license plate holder, reflectors, mud flaps and a quiet muffler. Street legal ATVs are pretty common in many parts of Montana.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Michigan, but you will need to read the regulations. Michigan’s regulations are considered some of the most restrictive and expensive. For example, Michigan requires a full, glass windshield with a windshield wiper and washer.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Nebraska, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Nevada, but you will need to read the regulations. One regulation is that Nevada only permits ATVs on roads with speed limits 45 mph and under.
ATV’s can be made street legal in New Hampshire, but you will need to read the regulations.
Unfortunately, New Mexico has specific provisions prohibiting the use of ATVs on most public streets and roads outside of designated public land trails and roads. As such, you aren’t going to get an ATV street legal in New Mexico.
ATV’s can be made street legal in North Dakota, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Ohio, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATVs cannot be made street legal in Oregon, and out-of-state plates will not change that.
ATV’s can be made street legal in South Dakota, but you will need to read the regulations, which are known as being some of the least restrictive of all the states.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Tennessee, but you will need to read the regulations. One regulation is that Tennessee only permits ATVs on roads with speed limits 35 mph and under.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Texas, but you will need to read the regulations.
In Utah, you have to title and register an ATV to ride it on the street, which includes an initial and annual fee. The ATV ust pass a safety inspection before the first registration, even if your ATV is an exempt model year. The following equipment or modifications are required in Utah: headlamp, tail lamp, illuminated license plate (by a white light), rear red reflector, stop lamp, amber or red electric turn signal on front and rear (rear must be red), braking system, a horn, muffler system, rearview mirrors, a windshield or eye protection and an illuminated speedometer. If the ATV is designed for multiple passengers, each passenger must have their own footrest and handhold. If you have a side by side, each occupant must have a seat belt and the driver’s seat must be between 25 and 40 inches in height. The ATV must be between 30 and 70 inches wide at all locations, including the tires. The tire tread must be at least 2/32 inches and the tires may not exceed 29 inches in height or be larger than made available for the ATV model by the manufacturer. Finally, the ATV may only not exceed 50 miles per hour (or the posted speed limit). On roads with a higher speed limit, the ATV must be driven on the extreme right side of the roadway. Utah will only register ATVs to Utah residents.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Vermont, but you will need to read the regulations.
Washington is another state that is on the easier side when it comes to getting a UTV street legal, but not so much an ATV. It is mostly just adding the right modifications, including the following (many of which you likely already have): a head lamp, 2 tail lamps, a stop lamp, reflectors, turn signals, brakes, 2 mirrors, a horn, a spark arrestor, a windshield (unless you wear glasses, goggles or face protection) and a seatbelt or safety harness. The only real difficulty for Washington is the seat belt requirement, which all but rules out ATVs, but is easy with a UTV. Washington only permits ATVs on roads with speed limits 45 mph and under.
West VIrginia has pretty gracious regulations for getting ATVs street legal. In fact, free travel is permitted on the city streets of the Hatfield-McCoy trail system.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Wisconsin, but you will need to read the regulations.
ATV’s can be made street legal in Wyoming, but you will need to read the regulations. Wyoming is known to be one of the least restrictive states when it comes to getting your ATV street legal so congrats to those living in Wyoming.