So, you want to drive your side-by-side to work? A UTV could be the perfect secret weapon for getting yourself to work when everybody else is snowed in. Or maybe you just want to legally take your UTV short distances around town. There are multiple reasons why you might want to ride on the road, but there may be more complications than you think.
So, are side-by-sides street legal? Whether it is legal to operate a side-by-side on the road depends on your state. In some states, these vehicles are street legal with no modifications required, while others require certain modifications before the vehicle will be considered street legal. In a few states, side-by-sides are not street legal at all.
Here in this guide, we will walk you through the details to consider when it comes to driving your side-by-side on the road.
What are Side-by-Sides?
Before we get into the laws for each state regarding side-by-sides, let’s quickly go over what they are and what they are typically used for.
These vehicles are often called SxS or a utility vehicles, UTV. Unlike ATVs with only one to two seats, UTVs are larger and generally seat two passengers side by side, but some models can seat four to six individuals.
These vehicles are meant to handle rough terrains and allow for enhanced stability. Many models will come with overhead structures or roll cages to protect passengers in off-road excursions.
Side-by-sides can be used for various things, from recreational use to racing to agricultural/landscaping jobs. Many hunters use them as a means of transportation from one hunting location to the next. Even though these vehicles were made for off-road adventures, many jurisdictions allow them to be used on public roads when going through the proper channels.
Federal Laws and Regulations Regarding UTVs
Manufacturers of these off-road vehicles must abide by certain federal regulations regarding their safety and environmental impact. The CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission, outlines the rules on how the vehicle will be designed, passenger protections, and various performance aspects. Their job is to ensure the safety of the vehicles.
The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, is responsible for ensuring manufacturers abide by the emissions regulations set for off-road vehicles.
Lastly, there is the NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even though these vehicles are primarily built for off-road, some states allow them to be driven on public streets. In these instances, the NHTSA sets federal motor safety standards, including lighting and reflective devices.
Individual states set all additional laws and regulations, as we’ll look at in the remainder of this post.
Are Side-by-Sides Street Legal in Your State?
The law varies between each state, and even in some cases, between each city. You may either have a very hard time getting a street legal side-by-side in your state, or it will be fairly simple.
I have compiled here a set of the basic laws for each state. If you are not interested in doing any upgrades, then you will be more limited in what you can do on the roads in most states
If side-by-sides are legal to operate in a state, there will still be different levels of safety equipment (think mirrors, headlights, orange triangles, etc.) and different levels of registration (some require registration and a fee every year, in others it is a one time deal)
Also, some states will require you to have insurance on the vehicle. So here we have as a reference
Although I will list if side-by-sides are street legal or not for your state, you will still need to go to your local DMV to determine what steps will need to be taken in order to have a street legal side-by-side.
Also, keep in mind that this list is provided for reference only, this is not legal advice. In addition, it is important to check with your local governing agency or sheriff to ensure laws and regulations have not changed.
To learn more about ALL the laws surrounding your side-by-side, click here.
Registration is not required for a side-by-side vehicle in Alabama. Insurance is also not required. Usage is restricted to non-highway use.
As previously mentioned, Alaska does not allow side-by-side vehicles on public roadways. There are, however, a few exceptions:
- When you are crossing a road. This must be done perpendicular to the road
- If you are crossing a bridge. If you are using the road to cross a bridge, you must remain to the extreme right side of the bridge.
- When a highway is completely covered in ice or snow or otherwise declared to be closed to regular traffic.
Arizona is one of the most ATV-friendly states in the country. You must register your side-by-side vehicle like any other vehicle in Arizona. This vehicle will be subject to all of the regular requirements of a normal car. These include insurance, registration and a registration fee, title, and possibly emissions
However, if you certify that it will be primarily used for off-road use, the registration fee is lowered to $3.00 per year. Your vehicle must have Arizona plates and show a current sticker.
You are required to do a one-time registration with a fee. After that, no more fees or renewing registration is required. Your side-by-side can be operated on any public road that is outside of city limits (unincorporated area) and that is not an interstate highway.
Riding on-road is very limited in California. There are a few provisions that allow driving on public roads:
- On certain stretches of road specially marked for combined use by regular vehicles and off-road vehicles. These will not exceed three miles and were mainly established for connecting other off-road trails.
- When crossing a two-lane highway, you must cross at about 90 degrees and cross at a safe time
- You must be wearing a helmet
- You must have a valid driver’s license to drive on-road.
In Colorado, the general rule is that the use of off-road vehicles on all state roads is not allowed. However, the state has recently changed its rules to allow all local counties to make their own decisions regarding the operation of off-road vehicles on public county roads.
Whether you will be able to operate an off-road vehicle on the road in your area will completely depend on your jurisdiction. You should check with your county, but in general, all counties in the San Juan mountains have been quick to approve their use in certain areas.
Remember that in Colorado all off-road vehicles, including side-by-sides, are required to pay a $25.50 yearly fee to obtain a registration sticker. This sticker must be displayed on the vehicle. The sticker expires March 31 of every year, no matter when it was purchased.
To ride in Colorado you must have the sticker and you must have a valid driver’s license. If you are between 10 and 16 years old, you can drive under the direct supervision of a licensed adult when off-road, but in the limited circumstances when on-road driving is legal, it must be done by a licensed driver.
To learn more about Colorado’s laws regarding side by sides, click the link.
Vehicle must be registered to be driven anywhere besides private property. Also, you must have a driver’s license to drive on road. Riding on any highway is not allowed, except for crossing. You must make a complete stop before crossing the highway at a safe time.
Delaware does not allow the use of any off-road vehicles on any public road.
Florida is one of the most golf-cart and off-road vehicle friendly states in the country. However, to make a side-by-side street legal, you must put in some of the upgrades discussed. To read more on Florida’s laws on side by sides, click the link.
The Legislature of Georgia has given the authority to local governments to decide on the question of low-speed vehicles. Permission to ride on the road will vary by city.
It is not legal to ride side-by-sides on the road in Hawaii unless it is for agricultural purposes in counties with less than 500,000 residents. It also must be during daylight hours, and the operator must have a valid driver’s license.
The vehicle must be properly registered and plated to be driven on public roads. You must also have current insurance. You must also have a current driver’s license. Also, you must wear a helmet if you are under the
Illinois does not allow
Indiana does not allow the operation of side-by-sides on public highways, roads, or parking lots, except on “the public right-of-way adjacent to the traveled part of the public highway,” or to cross, or when officials declare prudent in a snowstorm or in an emergency.
Iowa does not allow the operation of side-by-sides on any public roads or highways. The exceptions are: 1)If it is for agricultural purposes during daylight hours, or 2) if you are the owner of the land that is part of the highway right of way, you or a family member may ride at least five feet away from the highway on your own property.
Your vehicle must be registered with the state, and cannot be ridden on public roads in any city of greater than 15,000 people. Apart from this general rule, each city can set its own rules for the use of side-by-sides. You should check with your city or town.
Kentucky does not allow the use of side by sides on highways or roadways, or on the right of way of a highway or roadway.
Public use of side-by-sides is limited to agricultural use by a farmer within five miles of his farm on all roads and highways except interstate highways. The vehicle must be on the shoulder of the road only. Usage is authorized from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.
You are required to register your vehicle every year. It must be equipped with standard safety equipment, such as head lights, tail lights,turn signals, etc. You must have a valid driver’s license. Operation is only allowed on roads with posted speed limits of 45 mph or less.
Side-by-sides are not permitted to be operated on public roads except for agricultural purposes and are not required to be registered if it is on your own property.
It is not permitted to ride a side-by-side on the road in Massachusetts.
Michigan does not allow side-by-sides on public roads. Click here to read more. Side by Sides can be made into a street-legal vehicle in Michigan, but is rarely done due to the expense of it. The state requires them to have a full glass windshield, wipers, and a windshield washer.
UTVs may be operated on the shoulder of public roads if permitted by local authority.
Mississippi does not allow UTVs on public roads.
Use of public roads is banned except for agricultural use, or as approved by a local authority. Click the link to read more about Missouri’s laws regarding side by sides.
Use of side-by-sides is banned on any interstate or federal highway and allowed on any forest service road that the Forest Service has approved for ATV use. From there, all decisions are left up to local jurisdictions. A county needs to give approval for use on a county road.
A city needs to give approval for use on a city road. When driving, you need a valid driver’s license, or if you are at least 12 years old, you need to be in the physical presence of someone with a valid license.
Side-by-sides may be driven for agricultural use only on the shoulders of roads that are outside of an incorporated area and are not controlled-access highways.
When driving on a road, you need a valid driver’s license, are limited to 30 mph, and need headlight, taillight, and a safety flag.
Unless in an emergency, operation is not allowed on any paved road, except at duly authorized trail crossings.
Unless in an emergency and with authorization from competent authority, operation is not allowed on public roads.
New Jersey does not allow operation of side-by-sides on public roads, except for crossing.
This simply means that you will not be able to ride your side by side on the road. However, the side by side may come on the road when you are crossing between land.
New Mexico does not allow the operation of side-by-sides on public roads, except for crossing.
Operation of side-by-sides in only allowed on highways that have been posted for their use.
Operation of side-by-sides on public roads is prohibited except for making a crossing. Must wear eye and head protection. Exceptions are for people engaged in agricultural activities or in hunting or trapping.
Side-by-sides can be operated only on the ditch bottom next to the highway, riding on the shoulder is only allowed to move around an obstruction in the ditch bottom.
Authorized whenever local authority allows, but never on highways (except to cross).
So, for Ohio it will depend very much on which city or county you are in. The law is not the same between cities in Ohio. To learn more, click the link.
Allowed only by local authority.
Allowed on any road that is not maintained for passenger car traffic.
Only allowed on roads posted for off-highway vehicle use.
Operation not allowed except for crossing and in emergency situations.
The decision is left to local authority.
South Carolina is another state in which the law will vary between cities. You will have to search the law within your city.
Side-by-sides with an engine larger than 200 cc can be registered and legally driven on public roads. These vehicles cannot be driven on interstate highways
Only allowed on road for crossing a two-lane highway.
Operation prohibited except for agricultural purposes. To learn more about Texas’ laws regarding side by sides, click the link.
Operation on roads is allowed whenever local authority has determined to allow off-road vehicle use. Click here to read more.
Only where local authority has authorized.
Operation not allowed except for farming purposes.
To be able to use a side by side for farming purposes, you will need to get permission. This means that you will need evidence that you are indeed a farmer.
Operation allowed on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, except where blocked by local law. License required.
Only allowed on the shoulder when traveling from one trail to another. Limit is 20 mph.
Prohibited except for agricultural use.
To use a side-by-side for agricultural use in Wisconsin, you will first need permission. You will need to prove that you are a farmer, and therefore in need of side by side road use.
Use on roads is prohibited.
How to Make Your UTV Street Legal
If your state allows your UTV to be street legal after going through the proper channels, then congratulations! So, where do you start?
Check out the list of items to do below and then click on the link to read further.
- Know your local laws.
- Register your UTV if necessary.
- Check your insurance coverage.
- Install the necessary parts.
- Do a safety inspection.
- Be aware of which roads you can ride on.
Click the link for a step by step guide on how to make your side-by-side street legal.
Where to Look For Specific Rules:
The best place to start is at the state level. If your state has banned UTVs on the roads, then you know right away that it will not be legal for you to drive it on public roads. To get started, let’s look at a list of states where side-by-sides are not legal to drive on public roads under any circumstance.
The following are the states that do not allow side-by-sides on public roads:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
In these states, the operation of side-by-sides is limited to private property, private roads, or certain parts of public land and state parks.
Now it is important to keep in mind that there can be some exceptions to these rules. In Alaska, for example, it is legal to drive off-highway vehicles on regular roads when the roads are completely snow-packed or otherwise closed to regular traffic.
In Texas, it is legal to drive a side-by-side on the road if you are a farmer and are driving 25 miles or less. Check for loopholes like these if you have a specific situation in mind that you would like to use your side-by-side for. But in general, you will be sticking to riding in the regular off-highway places in these states.
Now that we have those states covered, let’s look at the rest. It gets a little more complicated from here. Each state has its own laws, loopholes, and details to consider. Some require mirrors and headlights, some require an orange triangle to be placed on the back of the vehicle.
Some require the operator to be at least 16 years old and fully licensed. And some only allow really short trips (less than three miles) on public roads.
That all can change with some modifcations, though. Depending on your state, you can add some basic safety features yourself to make your side by side street legal. In general, if your state doesn’t explicitly ban the use of UTVs on public roads, they can be made street legal with some modifications. These usually include mirrors, blinkers, a speedometer, etc.
If you are not interested in making any of these modifications, then you will be subject to all of the rules of your state and local governments regarding off-road vehicles.
How to Find Information:
When it comes to laws touching on the operation of small or slow vehicles, most states have as part of the law specific language that grants cities, counties, and local governments the right to more fully control the rules concerning their operation.
This, however, also makes your search a little harder, and makes the process more complicated for finding simple answers. Here are some tips to help you find out what is required to make your side-by-side street legal.
For statewide laws, your DMV is probably the best place to check on what you need to do to get your side by side legal and registered. In some states, you don’t even have to register them as vehicles.
But if you live in one that requires registration, keep in mind that if you fail to register, you can be fined or jailed. Since the DMV is operated directly by the government, they will probably be able to answer your questions about what is allowed and what registration or insurance is required.
Go ahead and take advantage of the opportunity to ask ahead of time. Call them, visit their website, or stop by in person. If registration will be required, ask them what the requirements are for getting registered. Ask them what kind of insurance is required.
If you are interested in making your UTV street legal, this is also a good place to ask about what is required. Be thorough in your research.
Your City or Country:
Cities and Counties make the majority of the rules regarding side by side use on public roads. In some states, such as Colorado, the decision concerning side by side use is left completely up to each county. Almost every municipality will have some kind of ordinance that will affect your use of a side by side in public.
Generally, cities are worried about noise, safety, congestion, and wildlife. Even if there are no laws on these subjects where you live, it is a good idea for you to worry about these things too. Keeping UHVs in a positive light will help all other riders stay free and unregulated.
If too many people do too many stupid things with their side by sides in public, or there are too many accidents or too much congestion or too much noise, then the wrath of the public could fall on our community of riders. So to avoid that, be just generally smart, respectful, and courteous while riding in public.
Because the popularity of UHVs, in general, has increased so much, many cities have their local laws and ordinances posted on their websites (mine does).
Additionally, you can call your local police department, visit in person, or ask a police friend to ask about what is required of you while operating a side by side in public.
This is also a good way to double check the statewide laws about licensing, headlights, tail lights, etc. Since the police will be the people actually pulling you over and writing tickets, who better to ask than them?
A Local UHV Club or Facebook Group:
Almost everywhere will have a local side by side or UHV owners club or Facebook group. These groups are great places to check in for advice about a variety of things. The people in these groups are likely to help you understand the laws about public riding in your area.
They can also probably help you find any of the loopholes that exist, or laws that you should be aware of. Remember, if you break the laws, not only do you get fines for yourself, but you also put the whole community at risk. So they should be more than happy to help you learn what you want to know.
These groups will almost definitely have people that have converted their UTVs to be street legal. And who knows, there might even be someone selling the kits that would be willing to help you get your side by side properly converted to be street legal.
Reach out and learn from the people who have already been doing it for a while.
If you think reading law is boring and tedious, then you are right. Reading law is boring and tedious! But it is also a sure way to find out what the laws are. If you want to be 100% sure you are in compliance, you should go read the laws yourself.
Like I mentioned, you can usually find the local city ordinances on your city website. And state law is posted on the state website. If you have a lawyer or local lawyer friend, they will probably be more familiar with the laws than you, and they might just know off the top of their head what the laws are for UTVs in public. It’s worth a shot!
The Forest Service:
While the idea of riding in public usually refers to riding around town, there is also the need to consider what the law is for riding in the mountains on National Forest land. Sometimes, there can be different rules for different National Forests.
If, for example, you want to ride from one trail to another trail within a national forest, or ride from your campsite to a trail, you might be riding on the main road. If it requires riding on a road that is shared with cars and trailers, you should double check with the Forest Service to know what’s legal and what’s not.
It’s worth knowing if it is legal because it is sure a pain to load up your side by side and drive it to the place where you want to drive it. But it is not as much of a pain as getting fined for not knowing the law.
So go ahead and call the ranger station closest to where you want to ride and I’m sure they will be glad to tell you their rules.
Age Requirements to Drive a UTV
The minimum age requirement to drive a UTV will vary from state to state, so locating your home state’s laws is important. That said, the typical age to legally drive one of these off-road vehicles is between 16 and 18. Certain states will have varying requirements based on the side-by-side’s engine size or whether or not there is adult supervision.
Even if your child meets the minimum age requirement to drive one, it’s always best to examine their strength, coordination, and mental maturity. While some 16-year-olds are responsible enough to drive your UTV, others may need a few years to grow and mature.
Safety should always be your number one priority.
Should You Have Insurance on Your Side-by-Side?
You need insurance for just about everything in your life: car, homeowners, renters, health, dental. But do you need it for your UTV?
It is always recommended to have insurance on your UTV, even if the state you reside in does not require it, because accidents happen. No one ever intends on it, but unfortunately, it is just a part of life. Proper insurance on your side-by-side will ensure you don’t incur debt over an unforeseen incident.
You can tailor your policy to meet your needs and budget to include medical cost, collision, liability, comprehensive, and uninsured motorist.
We suggest shopping around before choosing a carrier to get the best rates. Be sure to ask about discounts available. Many companies offer discounts if you complete a safety course or have a multiple-vehicle policy.