When you’re looking at gas-powered go-karts, then a common measurement you’ve probably seen is something like 150cc or 200cc. This refers to the engine displacement of the go-kart, and it’s an important measure of a go-kart’s performance.
In case you’re not sure what the engine displacement means, here is the definition: Engine displacement is the combined swept volume of the pistons inside the cylinders of an engine.
But we’re not going to dwell on the definition, because it’s not useful. You don’t need to understand physics to know about engine displacement in vehicles. We’re going to look at go-karts with different engine displacements, and see how it affects their performance. But first, have a look at the gif below:
The diagram above shows engine displacement in a cylinder, much like the engine of a go-kart. The red/orange area is the total volume displaced. It’s not hard to infer that the engine displacement, or the cc measurement, refers to the total volume or size of the tank. For go-karts, this means that the more cubic centimeters (cc) it has, the larger the go-kart’s engine is. And this usually (but not always) means that the go-kart is larger too.
Let’s take a look at go-karts with different engine displacements. In particular, we’ll look at what makes them different and how it affects their performance.
The smallest type of go-kart is the one that falls under the 50cc classification. The Mototec Sandman go-kart (pictured on the left) is a good example of that.
A 50cc go-kart has a relatively small engine displacement, and thus a relatively small engine. That makes it pretty lightweight too. Case in point, this go-kart weighs only 89 pounds, which is super light for a go-kart. It’s also a children’s go-kart; obviously it doesn’t have enough power to hold an adult. Surprisingly, for it’s size, it actually has a good maximum speed, about 30 mph. But it doesn’t go very far, or last very long, compared to a go-kart engine with more cc.
A 50cc go-kart does not have a lot of horsepower, and it’s intended for children no older than 12 or 13.
Now let’s look at a 100cc go-kart. The one pictured on the right, a Monster Moto MM-K80RT, is the closest go-kart to having a 100cc engine.
As expected, this go-kart is larger than the previous one, and also heavier. It has a weight of 170 pounds. You can notice it has more space for a larger engine. However, this go-kart is actually slower than the previous. It has a maximum speed of 18 mph, compared to the 30 mph. What we can learn from this is that more cc doesn’t necessarily mean more speed. The cc is more about the size and mileage of the go-kart. Another thing to note is that this is also a children’s go-kart. So any go-karts that have a 50cc or a 100cc engine are intended for kids. As you start getting into go-karts with greater engine displacement, the intended age group increases too.
Go-karts with an engine of 150cc or higher fall under a new kind of category; they’re generally bigger, more expensive, and have better performance. They also vary a lot, in their price, intended age group, and performance. The go-kart pictured on the right is a Kandi go-kart, and it’s an advanced go-kart for both teenagers and adults. You’ll also find many 150cc go-karts for children; they cost less and are smaller.
Obviously, you can’t explain the performance of a go-kart just by its engine displacement. But generally, go-karts in this category reach higher speeds and are larger. There is a lot of variance, so you’re advised to look at different 150cc go-karts. The go-kart on the right is probably not the best representative of 150cc go-karts, because they’re usually not as big in size. Something to note is that while it’s generally true that the go-kart with more cc is also bigger in size, this is not always true. You’ll see that the next go-kart is smaller than this one.
200cc go-karts have a significantly large volume of their engine, and that makes them more powerful. The cubic centimeters measurement (cc) of a go-kart is directly proportional to the power output. 200cc go-karts expend significantly more power than, say, 50cc go karts. This go-kart weighs about 330 pounds, which is significantly heavier than the previous go-karts. A bigger engine obviously means more weight. It also has a higher speed, at a maximum of 31 mph. 200cc go-karts also have more advanced driving features, as its engine is more complex. This go-kart has a horsepower of 6.3hp/3600rpm. The fuel capacity is 1 gallon. Fuel capacity, by the way, is directly related to the engine displacement. As you expend more power, you need more fuel for it.
200cc go-karts can be driven by a range of people, but generally the minimum age is 8. You need to have at least some basic level of driving skill and maneuver to be able to drive a bigger go-kart like that. So while it’s not a tiny go-kart, it still falls under the kids and teens’ category. But as the cc and size of a go-kart increase, there’s a lot more variance. So there are many 200cc go-karts that are solely for adults.
A 250cc go-kart is in a very similar class to the 200cc go-kart. It has a slightly larger engine, and so it also expends slightly more power. This go-kart has a relatively complex driving system, and it includes a 15 amp fuse, chain-driven motor, and hydraulic disc brakes. It reaches a maximum speed of 43 mph, which is clearly more than the previous go-karts on this page. The engine is 4-stroke, which lasts much longer than a 2-stroke engine, and has better torque and can be driven for longer periods of time.
Go-karts of this size are ideal for teenagers and adults, provided they’re under the specified weight limit. These are also commonly used for racing and off-road sports, as they have enough power to sustain high-performance activities.
300cc go-karts are also in a similar class of go-karts as the previous two. It’s not until you start getting into 500cc and above that you really start to see a huge difference in the go-karts.
The go-kart on the right, a Trailmaster go-kart, is a large 300cc go-kart. It weighs 700 pounds, which you’ll notice is far heavier than the go-karts that have a lesser engine displacement. It has a maximum horsepower of 17.4, and it uses a water-cooled 4-stroke engine. The extra weight is also likely because of the water-cooled engine, which is heavier than an air-cooled engine. But a water-cooled engine also leads to better performance. This go-kart also has a fuel capacity of 2.25 gallons and a maximum load of 500 pounds. It reaches a maximum speed of 40 mph. It’s obvious a go-kart intended for adults, and it can also be used by younger people in their teens. Because of the fuel capacity, it will need significantly more fuel to run, and it expends more power.
600cc go-karts are significantly powerful and big in size. They’re not as common as the previous go-karts. It’s rare to find a 600cc go-kart on sale. But what you can do is build a go-kart and use a 600cc engine. But a close alternative to that is a dune buggy. 600cc go-karts are very similar to dune buggies, with the large size and engine, and the open chassis and large off-road wheels.
Go-karts with an engine displacement of 1000cc or more are certainly in a different class of go-karts. They’re no longer small vehicles meant for kids or teenagers. These go-karts are comparable, in power, to the average car.
You might be wondering, what makes these go-karts so different, that they need to use so much power? Well, 1000cc go-karts are usually used in competitive go-kart racing. Or they’re used for off-roading as a hobby. Needless to say, these go-karts are loud and fast.
So What’s The Consensus?
From looking at go-karts with different engine displacements, we can conclude a few things.
The first thing is that if a go-kart has more cc, then it has a larger overall size. Not only that, but it’s more durable, heavier, and is more complex.
Go-karts with more cc are usually, but always, faster and more expensive. However, there are plenty of exceptions to this.
If you’re looking for recreational go-karting, then it’s best to get a go-kart with a 300cc engine or less. You should only look into 1000cc go-karts if you want to get into serious and competitive go-kart racing. Or you just want the biggest, loudest, and coolest vehicle.