Dune Buggy: 3 Laws to Make it Street Legal

A dune buggy driving on a dirt track.
  • 1-100 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-5,000

So you're thinking of making your dune buggy legal or thinking of buying or making a dune buggy. The first thing you need to understand is that the department of motor vehicles' main goal is to keep vehicle operators safe, and secondly, to keep the environment safe. With that in mind, creating a street legal dune buggy is completely logical. Keep in mind that every county in every state might vary a bit and registering a street legal dune buggy is a lot different than registering one for recreation. In this article we'll touch on the general rules that apply in most areas.

1. Emissions

Most places require at least an evaporative emissions system for current vehicles. Basically, you have two options: you can remove the VIN tag from the vehicle that you are using the motor from and register it as that type of vehicle or you can register it as a self-assembled vehicle. The precautions here are that, when registering the VIN tag of another vehicle, you will have to meet that vehicle's emissions standards.

This is why most street legal dune buggy enthusiasts choose to use older VWs as their source. Obviously the state emissions laws vary greatly from state to state and it actually does matter whether your county is considered to be a rural or urban area. For a complete list of emissions regulations and standards you would need to contact your local DMV.

2. Safety

As the number one priority, safety is taken very seriously by the department of transportation. For this reason, there are several requirements when operating a street legal motorized vehicle. First, let's assume you have a working dune buggy with a working engine, brakes, seats, frame, etc. From this starting point, you'll need just a few more items to be out on the road.

A windshield, while not required everywhere, is required in most states. It is the viewpoint of the department of transportation that it wouldn't be completely safe to drive down the road with the possibility of random objects or insects hitting you in the face.

Working headlights, taillights, and turn signals are another requirement. Even if you only plan to drive your vehicle in the daytime, it's required by law. Luckily, installing these lights is one of the simplest tasks you'll ever tackle.

Last but not least, seat belts are required for every passenger. The seat belts must be equipped with a shoulder strap or a five-point harness. There are no exceptions to this rule. The DMV is very strict on seat belt laws and with good reason; failing to wear a seat belt could cost you your life.

3. Registration and Licensing

dune buggy

Once you've met all of the standard safety and emissions requirements for your specific dune buggy, it's just a matter of insuring your buggy and filling out the proper paperwork. All paperwork can be obtained at your local DMV, or through their website. If there is an applicable VIN for this vehicle, it will need to be included. If you are registering this vehicle as a self-assembled vehicle, more than likely you will have to provide receipts for all of your major component purchases and a special unique identifier will be assigned to your vehicle. After the actual registration process, licensing the vehicle is as simple as any other vehicle.