The question you’re asking is, “Are UTVs street legal in North Carolina?” And for the first time ever, we can answer, “Yes!”
On June 10th, 2021, Senate Bill 241 was ratified. On June 14th, it was signed into law.
The new law, going into effect on October 1st, makes it legal to drive most properly outfitted UTVs on the road in North Carolina.
But what exactly does the law cover, and what do you need to make your UTV street legal? Let’s dig in.
This law covers four-wheeled “modified utility vehicles.” Basically, those are UTVs and weird vehicles like the Mahindra Roxor.
The new law defines “modified utility vehicles” vaguely as a motor vehicle that’s manufactured for off-road use. But it goes on to specifically define them as having an overall length of 110 inches or greater, width of 58 inches or greater, and height of 60 inches or greater. They also don’t use straddle seats. This does not include ATVs, golf carts, utility vehicles, or riding lawn mowers.
The bottom line is most UTVs are covered by the new law. Check your dimensions and see if you match:
If your UTV meets those, you can make it street legal in North Carolina. But you still have to check a few more things off your list.
The law doesn’t allow you to ride anywhere you want. In fact, the intention is to make it easier to cruise into town for supplies or to get from one trailhead to another. It’s not written for you to replace your everyday driver with a side-by-side.
Here are the specific rules for the roads you’re allowed to drive on:
You’ll have an easy time getting wherever you need to go for the most part. Avoid rural highways and any four-lane highways and you should be good.
Your fresh-off-the-lot side-by-side is probably not ready to get registered and hit the road. You’ll need to make sure your UTV has a few safety features first in order for it to be street legal in North Carolina on October 1st. Here’s what you need as written in the new law:
The one thing that might trip you up is the parking brake requirement. While we can’t vouch for any product in particular, there are a number of affordable aftermarket parking brakes that you can use to get this covered.
The rest are standard on most UTVs and you can pick up reflex reflectors at your local auto parts store.
You’ll also need to register and tag your side-by-side with the North Carolina DMV before you can hit the road.
To register your side-by-side, you need to head to the DMV with the following in hand:
That’s all pretty straightforward but will take some legwork to get together on your part.
The most likely stumbling block you’ll encounter is getting your vehicle’s title or MCO. You will only have a title if your vehicle was previously registered in another state. If you don’t have that, you’ll need the MCO. You should have one if you bought your UTV new, but you may have gotten one even if you bought it used.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to bring the original or duplicate MCO, not a copy. If you don’t have one, contact the dealer you bought your UTV from. If they don’t have it, you can reach out to the manufacturers themselves like Polaris or Can-Am. Polaris offers a handy guide for how to contact them to get one. Your results may vary with other manufacturers.
That’s all pretty straightforward. Following that, you will have a handful of fees. One fee you won’t have is the 3% highway use fee, so all the fees together should come in at $200 or less.
One last thing to note is that, as of this writing, people are getting full-sized license plates for their UTVs, not motorcycle plates. Make sure you’ve got the appropriate license plate holder. SuperATV’s lighted license plate holder works with full-size plates.
For any other questions, give the NCDMV a call at (919) 715-7000
Sometimes, big change comes from exposing a big problem.
In the case of North Carolina’s newly minted law, it started with a loophole. Kyle Wrightenberry, a business owner in NC, started renting out “street legal” UTVs that took advantage of the same side-by-side registration loophole utilized by many North Carolinians.
Specifically, reciprocity laws meant that NC law enforcement would recognize out-of-state registered plates on side-by-sides. Locals would get their side-by-sides registered in another state and drive them on the North Carolina roads semi-legally.
When Kyle Wrightenberry opened Unseen Pass, which rented vehicles utilizing out-of-state registrations, it brought the workaround into the spotlight, caused a big headache for UTV owners, and ultimately led to a better future for all involved.
For the full series of events, check out Kyle’s comprehensive blog post cataloging his journey to kick off the major lobbying effort that led to Senate Bill 241 getting ratified in June.
North Carolina is officially the 23rd state to make side-by-sides street legal. With nearly half the union making some concessions to road access for UTVs, we’re getting closer to the dream of riding everywhere.
Imagine visiting any park or trail in the country with the confidence of knowing that you can spend the whole weekend in your side-by-side. Whether you’re driving to the gas station, the car wash, or just finding the next trail, street legal UTVs make every trip smoother. The future is looking bright.