Guide to ATV Laws for New Hampshire

Not too long ago, we published an overview of ATV laws for every state.  However, feeling like we could provide even more helpful information to our readers, we are undertaking to provide even more legal information for every state where we can.  First up is the state of New Hampshire, where we got some help from our friend Ralph Lloyd at HK Powersports in Hooksett, New Hampshire.

Must an ATV be registered?

All ATVs must be registered if operated in New Hampshire off the owner’s property.  This includes when you are riding on someone else’s private land with written permission.  Quads and side by sides are registered in New Hampshire as OHRV.  To be able to register an OHRV you must meet each of the following requirements:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age and apply in person;
  2. You must present a valid driver’s license or non-driver photo ID (to qualify for resident rates, the ID must be from New Hampshire);
  3. You must provide the following vehicle information: year of manufacture, make, model, displacement, primary and secondary colors, and VIN;
  4. If you are a member of an ATV club, you can present the appropriate proof of club membership at the time of each registration to qualify for applicable member rates;
  5. You will receive a printed registration certificate and two decals; and
  6. You are  responsible for verifying the registration information and affixing the decals appropriately.

While it is a bummer that you have to register your ATV in person, there are more than 180 registration agencies located throughout New Hampshire.  Check out this link to view a complete listing of registration sites.   Miscellaneous registrations such as Antiques, Dealers, Rentals and Trails Maintenance are only available at Fish and Game Headquarters.  An antique is defined as an ATV that is at least 25 years old. This permanent registration is only available to New Hampshire residents.

If you wanted to take advantage of the discounted rates for ATV club members, it is important to note the club must be affiliated with the NH Off-Highway Vehicle Association (NHOHVA). To get the discount, you must be able to present your membership voucher with your NHOHVA member # for the corresponding season. To find a club, visit the NH Off Highway Vehicle Association at or call (413) 200-8061.

What if you are just visiting New Hampshire?

Even if you are just visiting New Hampshire, you still must register your ATV.  For non-residents, New Hampshire offers a 10-day OHRV registration that can be obtain for ATV use between May and October.

Does New Hampshire offer reciprocity with any other state?

No.  Because New Hampshire uses registration fees to maintain its trails, it doesn’t make much sense for them to credit riders that have paid fees to another state where it doesn’t benefit the trails people are riding.  You should take note that this is a scam a lot of companies sell people on when advertising services to get a street-legal ATV.  As we warned in our guide to getting a street-legal ATV, it doesn’t work the way they claim.

Do you need a title or bill of sale for your ATV?

The state of New Hampshire does not title ATVs, and it does not maintain any records of title or liens on ATVs or other OHRVs.  As such, it should come as no surprise that a title, bill of sale or previous registration is not required to register an ATV in New Hampshire.  All that you must provide is the vehicle information, identified above.

Although a bill of sale is not required to register in New Hampshire, when buying or selling a machine, we highly recommended that a bill of sale is done that includes a verified VIN and all other descriptions of the ATV.  For more details about what exactly you should get when buying a used ATV, check out our guide to avoid buying a stolen ATV

Do you need a driver’s license to operate an ATV?

All operators 12 years of age or older must have in their possession while riding either an OHRV Safety Education Certificate or a valid driver’s license.  This requirement is not limited to just public land and extends to private rights of way as well. If your driver’s license is under suspension or revocation in any state or Canadian Province, you are not permitted to operate an ATV in New Hampshire.  You cannot get a safety education certificate to try and overcome this issue either.  If your driver’s license is suspended, you can’t operate an ATV period.

Are minors allowed to operate an ATV?

Yes, but as mentioned above, they must have either a valid driver’s license or an OHRV Safety Education Certificate.  Additionally, any operator under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a licensed adult over the age of 18. There are also certain restrictions when it comes to minors.  For example, an operator under the age of 18 cannot carry a passenger on an ATV. They are also required to wear a helmet and eye protection.  It is also important to know that these restrictions don’t just apply to ATVs, but also to UTVs where most people aren’t as used to wearing helmets and such.  Finally, if the operator is under the age of 12, they may not cross any roads.

Where are you permitted to ride your ATV?

You are permitted to ride an ATV on private land and designated trails on public land in New Hampshire.  Operation of ATVs on public roads is prohibited unless specifically permitted and posted for OHRV use.  Permitted uses of public roads included road crossings and trail connectors, but the speed limit is limited to 10 MPH in such areas, and must be operated on the extreme right of the public road. 

There are roughly 1,200 miles of trails in New Hampshire that are open for summertime riding. You are only permitted to ride on trails designated by sign for your type of vehicle. The New Hampshire Bureau of Trails prints statewide OHRV Trail maps. Local trail maps are printed and distributed by local clubs.  Riding in wetlands is strictly prohibited, and violators can be fined up to $10,000 in addition to the cost of restoring any damages that resulted from their riding.

To ride on private land, other than your own, written permission from the landowner is required.  A tricky place people get confused sometimes is on dirt roads and paths used by the utility companies.  Most of those paths are actually on private property, and the companies have obtain easements for their use only. As such, written landowner permission from each individual landowner still must be obtained if the trail is not specifically designated for OHRV use.

What are the ATV speed limits?

Most ATV trails won’t have speed limits posted, but there are applicable speed limits for everywhere you ride in New Hampshire that is not private property.  There is also a general condition that your must ride your ATV at speeds which are reasonable and prudent for existing conditions.  That means you may have to ride below an actual speed limit if the weather is bad or if the trail is overly crowded.

The speed limit for ATV use is 10 MPH in the following areas:

  • Within 150 feet of a bobhouse or fishing hole.
  • On sidewalks that are open to OHRVs.
  • On bridges that are posted open to OHRVs.
  • At trail junctions, in parking lots and when passing trail grooming equipment.

The speed limit for ATV use is 20 MPH in the following areas:

  • On approved roads open to OHRV use.
  • On plowed roads on Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources property.

The speed limit for ATV use is 25 MPH  in the following areas:

  • When posted on trails owned or leased by Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.

The speed limit for ATV use is 35 MPH  in the following areas:

  • On all trail connectors.
  • At night on Back Lake in Pittsburg.
  • On all trails where no speed limit is posted.

The speed limit for ATV use is 55 MPH  in the following areas:

  • Turtletown Pond, Concord.

Drinking and Driving

Unsurprisingly, it is illegal to operate an ATV in New Hampshire while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The majority of fatal ATV accidents in the United States are caused by drunk driving, and it is one of the most important tips on our guide of 41 tips to avoiding an ATV accident.  In New Hampshire, the same laws and penalties for operating motor vehicles while under the influence apply to ATVs, such as implied consent, hefty fines, jail time and loss of driving privileges. The legal blood alcohol concentration limit for operating or attempting to operate an ATV in New Hampshire is the same as a motor vehicle, .08%.

You Can’t Modify the Exhaust

You may not operate an ATV in New Hampshire if the manufacturer’s specified exhaust has been modified in any manner that will increase the noise emitted above that of the original muffler.

Related Questions

How do you avoid buying a stolen ATV? There are a number of things you should do.  First, check the VIN for free through the NCIB and other websites.  Check with your local police department.  Research the VIN so you can avoid VIN Fraud. Pay attention to the situation, including where the seller wants to meet, the condition of the ATV and what knowledge the seller has.  Finally, get the right documentation.  Get more information in this helpful guide.

How do you know what Federal Land you can ride ATVs on? There are only general rules for riding ATVs on federal land, as each individual location has its own rules.  In general, you are not permitted to operate an ATV in any National Park. There are four National Recreation Areas, one National Preserve, and seven National Seashores that permit some level of ATV use.  Many of the National Forests permit ATV use on specified ATV trails and roads only.  BLM land permits ATV use with only very limited restrictions.  See our helpful guide for all Federal Lands.

How do you get an ATV street legal?  Whether you can make an ATV street legal depends on the state in which you live.  In general, you will need to register the ATV, get insurance and add the following: headlights, brake lights, turn signals, horn, speedometer, tires, mirrors,windshield and lighted license plate holder.  See our more complete guide on legalizing your ATV for the street.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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