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Can You Drive a Dune Buggy on the Road? How to Legally

Can You Drive a Dune Buggy on the Road? How to Legally

Whether you are conquering massive sand dunes or racing across open stretches of sandy shoreline, driving a dune buggy is an outdoor experience like no other. But a dune buggy is unlike a typical motor vehicle, and special rules apply, raising several important questions. Most notably, can you legally drive a dune buggy on the road?

A large framed dune buggy can be legally driven on the road in most states, but smaller off road buggy’s have more restrictions. Some states flat-out ban driving dune buggies on the road due to safety concerns while some permit them, but only under limited circumstances.

Depending on where you live, a dune buggy can be more than just a recreational vehicle that you take out to some remote location for some thrills; it can also serve as a mode of transportation on public roads. But whether you can do so legally depends on your state, so keep reading to learn whether your next trip to the grocery store in your dune buggy will get you pulled over and ticketed.

Are Dune Buggies Street Legal in the US?

When it comes to dune buggies and whether they are street legal in the US, there is no uniform rule of law.

Most states prohibit dune buggies from being driven on public roads due to safety concerns. There are, however, a fair number of states where dune buggies will be deemed street legal as long as they meet certain criteria.

Ultimately, you need to check the laws of your state to determine if dune buggies are street legal where you live because each handles this issue differently.

You do not want to run into any legal problems with your local authorities, nor do you want to run afoul of the law if you are planning to visit another state with your dune buggy.

States Where Dune Buggies Are Not Street Legal

Because dune buggies are not built, and do not operate, like normal passenger vehicles, many states either prohibit or severely restrict their presence on public roads. The following states are just a few examples of jurisdictions where dune buggies are not street legal:

  • In Florida, dune buggies (and all ATVs) may only be driven during daylight hours on unpaved roads where the legal speed limit does not exceed 35 mph
  • Massachusetts imposes strict laws on recreational vehicles, including dune buggies, and prohibits them on any town, city, county, or state-maintained road, except in the event of an emergency, such as when the roads are impassable due to heavy snowfall
  • In Wisconsin, with very limited exceptions (e.g., to make a direct crossing or in an agricultural setting), it is illegal to drive dune buggies and their ATV counterparts on any roads

Many other states where dune buggies are not street legal have adopted similar laws and provisions, taking the stance that public safety concerns override any arguments that ATVs and recreational vehicles should be allowed on public roads.

Here’s a cool video showing a street legal dune buggy:

This is where we got our Offroad Go Kart Buggy for the kids off Amazon. We went with the Trailmaster buggy but they also have smaller karts and all electric options with great reviews.

States Where Dune Buggies Are Street Legal

Although most states either prohibit or severely restrict dune buggies on public roads, there are quite a few jurisdictions that have more relaxed rules governing these vehicles and where they can be operated. These are a few noteworthy states where dune buggies are street legal:

  • Arizona has some of the most ATV-friendly laws in the nation, and aside from regulations about driver safety and registration, properly stickered dune buggies are street legal in the state
  • In Texas, dune buggies can be titled and registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles the same as any other vehicle and are fully street legal (provided that they pass an inspection) as of 2019
  • Washington allows individual counties to regulate the operation of ATVs so if you are a resident of the state and your local government has passed an ordinance permitting recreational vehicles to be driven on public roads, then dune buggies are street legal where you live

Not surprisingly, many of the states taking a more relaxed stance toward operating dune buggies on public roads tend to have lower population densities and larger expanses of rural areas and open lands.

How Do You Make a Dune Buggy Street Legal?

Making a dune buggy street legal (wherever they are permitted) boils down to making them safe for the operator to drive and for other vehicles to share the same road. Typically, this entails making them visible to other drivers and properly equipped to handle potentially hazardous driving conditions.

These are the essential characteristics that make a dune buggy street legal:

  • A braking system for stopping the vehicle and keeping it stationary
  • Headlights and brake lights (there may also be requirements as far as the minimum distance from which they are visible)
  • A noise suppression system
  • A spark arrestor system (to prevent ignition of brush and flammable material)

In addition, a dune buggy must have safety equipment comparable to a passenger vehicle, such as a windshield with wipers, a safety restraint system (e.g., seatbelts), and turn signals. Most states also require an illuminated license plate.

Can Dune Buggies Go on the Highway?

As a general rule, it is unsafe for dune buggies to go on the highway because of the high rate of speed of other vehicles. Therefore, most states outlaw dune buggies traveling on highways, particularly if there are two lanes or more traveling in the same direction. But in certain states, there are limited exceptions when dune buggies can venture out on highways without breaking the law.

For instance, California’s vehicle code allows dune buggies to go on the highway under these limited circumstances:

  • A dune buggy that meets certain criteria (such as engine size, gross weight, and safety equipment) may be driven on any portion of a public highway that has been approved for off-highway vehicles and highway-legal vehicles
  • Such combined-use sections of highway must have signs designating them as such and each section cannot exceed three miles in length
  • A dune buggy may also go on a highway to cross it in the most direct manner possible (usually at a 90-degree angle to the flow of traffic)

These provisions are mirrored by other states, acknowledging that dune buggies may need to traverse highways to get from one legally permitted operating area to another. In addition, many states have laws recognizing that special circumstances, such as weather-related emergencies, make travel on highways by normal passenger vehicles impossible.

This is where we got our Offroad Go Kart Buggy for the kids off Amazon. We went with the Trailmaster buggy but they also have smaller karts and all electric options with great reviews.


If going off-road is your idea of fun, then driving a dune buggy may provide the thrill you are looking for, especially if you enjoy riding over bumpy, sandy terrain.

But if you want to drive your dune buggy on public roads or highways, check to see if your dune buggy is street (or highway) legal in your county or state. Otherwise, you may run afoul of the law and be subject to a ticket, a fine, or possibly worse.

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