Go Kart Engines 101: A Comprehensive Guide

Go Kart Engines 101

Selecting the right engine is crucial when you start building your first go-kart. Go-kart engines are the most vital component of a go-kart, and choosing the right one for your needs is essential. With experience in various leagues, I’ve come to understand the diversity of motors used in karting.

To make your decision easier, I’ve compiled everything you need to know about go-kart engines in this article. Furthermore, depending on your dedication to karting, I will mention some of the best go-kart engines available.

Factors to Consider in Go-Kart Engines

Before purchasing a go-kart engine, you must consider several aspects.


Go-kart engines are divided into two main categories: 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines. Both types have distinct differences from technical and racing perspectives.

  • 2-Stroke Engines are typically used in racing go-karts. They are lighter and faster than 4-stroke engines but are not eco-friendly and can get damaged easily due to pressure.
  • 4-Stroke Engines are more common in rental karts and are best for beginners. These engines are generally slower than 2-stroke but are more durable, efficient, and eco-friendly.


Go-kart engines come in various sizes and types, each serving a different purpose. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common engine sizes used in go-karts:

  • 50cc Engines: Typically designed for young racers new to karting, these 2-stroke engines are the smallest available. However, some adults use them, too, since they can still reach high speeds.
  • 60cc Engines: These engines are also 2-stroke and are faster than the 50cc engines. They are a good challenge for young racers and have a great power-to-size ratio. The IAME Parilla Gazelle is a popular 60cc engine used in racing.
  • 100cc Engines: These engines come in 2-stroke and 4-stroke versions, but the 2-stroke engines are more common. The IAME KA100 is a popular 100cc engine used by adult racers and teenagers in Australian leagues.
  • 125cc Engines: 125cc 2-stroke engines are the most powerful in output compared to size. Two types are available: direct-drive/TaG engines and shifter engines that are larger since they need a gearbox.
  • 206cc Engines: This category of engines is common in the US and uses 4-stroke engines nearly double the size of 125cc 2-stroke engines. These engines can still reach speeds as fast as the smaller 2-stroke engines.
  • 212cc Engines: These 4-stroke engines are small and affordable, making them popular among beginners. They are durable and come in various models, including the Tillotson and Predator engines.
  • 250cc Engines: 250cc 2-stroke engines are found in super karts, the fastest go-karts. These engines are the largest 2-stroke engines used in go-karts and can produce incredible speeds for their size.
  • 270cc Engines: 270cc 4-stroke engines are commonly used in rental karts, with the Honda GX270 being a popular model. These engines are speedy despite their larger size.
  • 390cc Engines: Similar to 270cc engines, these 4-stroke engines are slightly faster and are usually found in the fastest 4-stroke go-karts available for rent, reaching speeds of up to 60-70mph (97-113 km/h) in the right conditions.


Some go-karts don’t have a gearbox (direct drive), while others have an automatic gearbox (TaG), and some have a manual one (shifter karts).

  • Direct-Drive Go-Karts have a simple design, but you’ll need to roll your go-kart for the engine to start.
  • TaG Go-Karts are common and easy to use. They have a centrifugal clutch or a torque converter.
  • Shifter Go-Karts are the fastest and most similar to an actual car.


The weight of an engine plays a significant role in karting leagues with strict weight restrictions. A higher power-to-weight ratio engine within your league’s restrictions is ideal.


Durability is crucial for a go-kart engine. Ensure it is from a reliable brand with excellent cooling to prevent overheating.


Reliable brands like Honda, Briggs and Stratton, DuroMax, Predator, and Tillotson are excellent for 4-stroke engines, while Rotax, IAME, and Vortex are great 2-stroke engines.


Go-kart engine prices vary, with 4-stroke engines typically costing $200-$500 and 2-stroke engines ranging from $1000-$5000.

Engine Maintenance

Proper maintenance is crucial for prolonging the life of your go-kart engine. Ensure that everything is lubricated and oiled up, clean the air filter regularly, and clean every part of the engine after every session.

Best Go-Kart Engines

Go-kart engines come in different types and sizes, and each category of racing may require a specific engine. Here are three of my favorite engines, ranked based on who they are best for.

Best Engine for Beginners: Honda GX200

The Honda GX series has excellent 4-stroke engines, and the GX200 is the most affordable at less than $400. It weighs only 35 lbs (16.1 kg) and has a power output of 6.5 horsepower, making it a reliable and powerful engine for beginners.

Best Engine for Enthusiasts: Rotax 125cc Engine

Rotax engines are known for their reliability, and the 125cc models are the most popular. They can reach top speeds of 40-90mph (64-145 km/h) depending on the category. Although they are expensive, costing between $2000-$3000, they are worth it for those who are serious about karting. The IAME KA100 is also a great option.

Best Engine for Professionals: Rotax 125cc Shifter Engine

For professional karting, a shifter engine is necessary. The Rotax 125cc Shifter Engine is incredibly powerful, as is the Vortex Rok Shifter Engine. These engines are expensive, costing around $4000, but they are necessary for professional-level karting.


This comprehensive guide should provide you with a solid understanding of go-kart engines. Remember to conduct your research based on your budget and racing aspirations before various engines are used across various leagues, highlighting the importance of finding the perfect fit for your needs. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be equipped with essential information about go-kart engines to help you make an informed choice.

Remember that personal research based on your budget and racing aspirations is necessary to find the best go-kart engine for your specific requirements. Considering the factors outlined in this guide, you can make a well-informed decision and set yourself up for an enjoyable and successful go-karting experience.

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