What Exactly Are Kit Cars? Custom-Built Cars Defined

Date posted: 07/31/2012

by Melissa Crumish on
in Registration & Titling

6671 What Exactly Are Kit Cars? Custom Built Cars DefinedA custom-built car, or what is also known as a kit car, is, well, as the name implies: a custom-built vehicle.

In state vehicle code terms, it’s generally described as a vehicle that was manufactured prior to 1949, with component upgrades to the original body. These upgrades, for example, might include a new engine, a new chassis, new brakes, or new fenders.

If you’re considering taking on the task of custom-building a vehicle, with the ultimate intent of making it road worthy, be sure to educate yourself on your state’s registration requirements. Anyone with kit car experience will tell you building the vehicle is the easy part; passing a state safety inspection in order to register a custom-built car is when the nervousness begins.

You can’t register a custom-built car if it doesn’t pass inspection, after all.

The Skinny on Custom-Built Vehicle Registration Inspections

Before you deem your vehicle finished and ready to be inspected, be sure it meets your state’s requirements in terms of parts and features.

The exact list may slightly vary from state to state, but in general most states require custom-built cars possess the following parts that must be in working condition:

  • At least two headlights with a visibility distance of 500 feet.
  • At least two red taillights mounted on the left rear and right rear of the vehicle, with a visibility range of 500 feet.
  • Four parking lights (two on the front and two on the rear).
  • Stop lights on the rear of the vehicle with a visibility distance of 500 feet.
  • Working turn signals.
  • Functioning brakes.
  • Rearview and side mirrors with a reflection range of 200 feet.
  • A windshield that meets state standards.
  • Tires must be in safe condition.
  • A functioning horn, capable of being heard 200 feet away.
  • A functioning muffler.
  • Front seat must be outfitted with two sets of seat belts.
  • The vehicle’s suspension must meet state demands (most require the distance between frame and ground to be no higher than 22 inches).
  • Front and rear bumpers.
  • License plate brackets, with the rear bracket properly illuminated from a distance of at least 50 feet.

Documenting Parts for Car Registration

Be sure to keep receipts of all parts used in building the vehicle. Inspection officials will require a review of all receipts as verification that no parts were taken – knowingly or unknowingly – from stolen vehicles. Depending on your state, a DMV official or law enforcement officer might inspect your kit car.

Do you have a custom-built vehicle? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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