You can make a Side By Side Street Legal – Here’s How
Side-by-side (UTV) vehicles are just plain fun. Whether you're cutting upon fire roads in a Polaris RZR or cruising the farm in a Kawasaki Mule, UTVs make off-road riding child’s play. They require half the mastery of a dirt bike and they do twice the work of a four-wheeler. They do have one limitation, though: their size.
While not an issue for farmers and ranchers, it can be difficult for city dwellers to find a safe and fun place to drive their side-by-sides. Once they find a suitable location, they still have to load the UTV on a trailer and transport it there. The whole process takes a serious chunk out of riding time and requires a significant investment. But, what if we told you that you can register UTV's for on-road use? While you can’t just walk into the DMV and get a plate, it can be done.
It’s true. It is possible to modify your UTV to make it street legal, but it isn’t going to be easy. Legalizing a side-by-side is as complicated as registering a dirt bike, or even more so. To be street legal, a UTV must meet most of the same safety standards as a car, and there are several modifications that you will have to make to your stock side-by-side. Just don’t worry about the paperwork. Dirt Legal is ready and willing to take care of everything.
Florida Off-Road Vehicle Classifications
The state of Florida segregates off-road vehicles into a few distinct categories. In Florida, the side-by-side vehicles we are concerned about here are officially called recreational off-highway vehicles (ROV). We use the terms side-by-side, UTV and ROV interchangeably. Four wheelers are called ATVs, while dirt bikes are off-highway motorcycles (OHM). Other classifications include low-speed vehicles and golf carts.
The same issues arise when registering ROVs as any of the other groups — title issues being among the most common. That’s the part that Dirt Legal handles. We know the secrets to registering a UTV in Florida. Others may tell you that it can’t be done, and they’re right — to a point. At Dirt Legal, we make it our business to find the loopholes that allow you to legally ride off-road vehicles on the street. And there’s always a loophole.
Any community in Florida may have its own standards regarding the use of ROVs on public roads. It behooves people considering a street-legal conversion to know the local laws where they intend to operate their side-by-side. This will be no small investment, and you shouldn’t make it lightly.
Something to consider, once a Side by Side is registered in Florida as "Off-Road Only" or "Off-Highway Vehicle", it is permanently in the FL database as Off Road, and will not be eligible for a Florida tag or registration. The only way to make it legal at this point is to have an out of state tag and registration. To be sure your UTV qualifies for a FL tag and registration, you will need either a UTV that has never been registered, or an out of state Title which has never been previously titled in Florida. It will also help if your UTV is free of any liens, if you are financing, it will be more difficult to receive a tag, due to your finance company holding the title. If you are not sure if your UTV qualifies for a Florida tag, contact us at email@example.com and we will happily assist you.
Before we look at the individual components your vehicle will need, and before you set out driving your UTV on the open road, we should make a quick note of its chief limitation compared to car or truck. Those road-going vehicles have charging systems that put out enough amperage to power a slew of components and still charge their comparatively large batteries. Not so for the typical UTV.
A side-by-side normally has a charging system more akin to a motorcycle’s. These stator-based charging systems usually produce at most 30 amps, which is then divvied up among the accessories. The leftover amperage is all that is available to charge the battery, and that is assuming the RPM are kept high enough for the stator to produce full power— typically about 3000 RPM.
Solutions to amperage starvation include upgrading to an alternator, adding a battery or installing a high-output stator. Each option brings its own set of issues, and each requires a varying level of mechanical aptitude. But each can also more than double the stock amperage, so you can run more accessories and do it safely.
Installing an alternator normally means removing a secondary fan and putting the alternator’s drive pulley in its place. A double-battery solution will require you to purchase a second, deep-cell battery and a device called an isolator to keep both batteries from dying and leaving you stranded. Installing a high-output stator requires opening the engine, and its cover may not be easy to access. Upgrading the stator is the most difficult mod of the three unless you are a skilled mechanic.
Use common sense when adding to your side-by-side’s electrical components. Many UTVs are operating on a thin margin when it comes to accessories, and every time you engage the turn signals you will be taxing the system. A loud stereo and bright lights will tax it even more. It is smart to do things right and ensure at least 60 amps of available power. Hammering the throttle in slow-speed zones to keep from dropping below the charging range of your system is sure to get the wrong kind of attention from John Q. Law.
Odds are any side-by-side will already have factory headlights installed, but those lights may not be bright enough for nighttime highway use. Florida law requires your headlights to shine 150 feet down the road on low beam and 450 feet with the high beams engaged. Installing brighter headlight options like HID lights will ensure your UTV meets the state’s requirement. These lights help you see farther down a darkened road, so that you can identify hazards more quickly. Bright lights save lives in more ways than one, though.
As any motorcyclist will tell you, headlights get you noticed and prevent accidents. The two most common motorcycle accidents, head on and left turns, fell precipitously in every state where the always-on headlight law went into effect. It works so well that the daytime headlight is ubiquitous on motorcycles.
Much like a motorcycle, a UTV will be an oddity on the highway. Drivers are always scanning for common obstacles like cars, trucks and pedestrians. Oddities like motorcycles and UTVs — with their smaller profiles and generally dimmer lights — often go unnoticed. If the headlights on your side-by-side are not bright enough to command attention, consider an upgrade, even if they meet the legal standards.
Installing turn signals on a UTV is not as complicated as it might seem. There is no need to run wires and crimp connections as was the case in the time of dune buggies. Today, there are turn signal kits available that contain everything you will need. Most come with a finished wiring harness, as well as all the lights, indicators, fuses and relays to give the finished product a professional look.
UTV turn signal kits are usually simple to install. The wiring harness will likely follow the route of the existing harness throughout the vehicle. Most UTVs have at least one key-on power source, such as a 12-volt accessory receptacle. Utilizing the power that goes to one of these sources makes for an easy installation while ensuring you can’t leave a signal on and drain the battery when you turn off the ignition.
The prices for UTV turn signal kits vary — from less than $50 to more than $150. The more expensive kits normally come with extras like a horn and horn button, turn signal relay and switch, and a light for the license plate. The license plate light is a Florida requirement, but remember, Dirt Legal will take care of the tag!
Tail Light and Reverse Light
These lights normally come standard on any quality UTV. However, should you need to install one, there are brake light kits you can purchase. Florida law requires only one brake light on a vehicle. It must be visible from 300 feet away, and it must contain a red reflector so others can see it if the bulb burns out. The state of Florida does not require reverse lights, but if they are present they can only emit white light.
The state of Florida requires that motor vehicles operated on highways be equipped with a horn that can be heard at a distance of 200 feet. Obviously, this rule is impossible to enforce as written, but it does mean the horn on a street-legal UTV must be loud. Aftermarket motorcycle parts stores are a great place to find horn kits that plug directly into your vehicle’s battery or charging system, but horns often come with UTV turn signal kits. Meeting Florida’s horn requirement should be one of the simplest mods on your to-do list.
Florida law requires that motor vehicles operated on public highways be equipped with a laminated-glass windshield that is DOT approved. The UTV aftermarket is thin when it comes to DOT-approved glass windshields, but they are out there. There is also an exemption to the windshield law in Florida that allows “implements of husbandry” to operate without a glass windshield, but arguing that a UTV meets this definition is iffy at best. Even still, a glass windshield will provide better protection from the elements and from debris, so it is a wise investment. They're may be alternatives to a glass windshield, just be sure that it is approved by the department of transportation.
License Plate Bracket
Once you get your new Florida tag through Dirt Legal, you’ll need to display it properly. Florida law stipulates that a license plate can be no lower than 12 inches and no higher than 60 inches above the ground. It also must be situated no more than 24 inches to either side of the vehicle’s centerline, and it may not swivel.
There are many UTV license plate mounts and brackets on the internet. Just be sure the one you get puts your plate front and center and that nothing on the vehicle blocks any letter or number. If the turn signal kit you chose did not include a license plate light, you will have to install one. These draws produce only a light draw, so wiring one directly to the battery is an option, just be sure to install a fuse in the line.
Florida residents legalizing a UTV for street use have it easy when it comes to mirrors. Under Florida law, motor vehicles need have only one mirror, which must reflect the road 200 feet behind the vehicle to the driver. There are aftermarket mirrors available that clamp onto the frame of a UTV, giving the driver a side-view mirror. These mirrors create a blind spot directly behind the vehicle though, so it is still smart to install a rear-view mirror.
Often overlooked when converting a vehicle to street legal are the tires. Most off-road vehicles don't come stock with street legal DOT tires, therefore you will need to install DOT (Department of Transportation) approved tires. Fortunately, they are easy to find online in many different sizes for your UTV and there are even some semi off-road tires that are still street legal.
One way to tell if your tires are street legal is to look for a marking on the tires with the letters "DOT" which means it is certified by the DOT to be used on the streets. It will be much safer using DOT tires on pavement, and it will prevent you from getting a ticket as well.
Other Street-Use Issues
A differential is a system of gears that allows the outside drive wheel to turn faster than the inside drive wheel when a vehicle is turning. Because the outside wheel has farther to travel than the inside wheel on an arc, it must turn faster to maintain stability. Without a differential, the drive wheels would always turn at the same speed, possibly resulting in a loss of traction.
Locking differentials allow the operator to “lock” the wheels together so that they may rotate at the same speed. The system works well in the dirt, as when one wheel loses traction, the other can hook up and compensate. Once on pavement again, the traction issue arises. The operator must unlock the differential to maintain control of the vehicle when turning on the road.
Though the majority of UTVs have locking differentials, a few models are in a permanently locked configuration. While this is not an issue when it comes to registering a UTV, it is a safety concern that anyone looking to operate one on the streets should consider. There are conversion kits on the aftermarket that can turn a locked differential into a limited-slip differential for a modest investment of both time and money.
Most UTVs come standard with a minimum of a lap belt for both driver and passenger. These seatbelts meet the minimum requirement of Florida law, but the openness of a UTV passenger compartment makes using a safety harness is a better option. Many of these racing-style harnesses will require a seat upgrade as well, but they are well worth the investment. UTVs are extremely light compared to most vehicles on the road, and they are already prone to roll-over collisions. A five-point harness gives you the best chance to remain inside the roll cage in the event of an accident.
Some states readily allow side-by-sides on their highways, and the aftermarket has grown to fill the niches this little market has created. The state of Florida does not make it easy to register a UTV, but converting one to street-legal condition is a relatively simple task. Most of the modifications you’ll have to make are available in kit form, and the work can be done without tearing your UTV down to the frame.
There are some pretty challenging legal obstacles that make it hard to make a UTV street legal in Florida. But, we’ve found the loopholes that enable us to state with confidence that we can register your UTV. Simply follow the links on this site to get the process started, and we’ll take care of everything else. Dirt Legal provides you with a title, license plate, and registration on your ride, issued by the state of Florida. The open road awaits, and there’s some serious fun right around the corner.
To begin your Florida Street Legal UTV process, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a custom quote or you can call/text us toll free at (800)-994-7513.