Are Side-by-Sides Street Legal in Colorado?

Side-by-sides are a convenient way to get around, especially in the mountainous regions of Colorado. These vehicles can manage terrain and weather conditions that other automobiles may find challenging. Whether UTVs are street legal in Colorado is a complicated issue.

The short answer is that side-by-sides are not street legal in the state unless they are driven on a road designated explicitly for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use.

Here, we will answer the question are side-by-sides street legal in Colorado. We will examine the legal requirements for registration and find out where and when you can drive your UTV.

Why Do Side-by-Side Regulations Vary in Colorado?

Colorado has not made it legal to drive a UTV on major road systems. These vehicles are fine to operate off-road, but they pose significant risks when driven alongside conventional cars on busy highways.

UTVs can cause obstructions on the roads as they tend to be slower than the regular cars and trucks driving by. They also don’t come equipped with the standard safety features of your typical automobile.

For these reasons, Colorado decided to keep UTVs for off-road use only.

However, there was pushback from some residents, especially from those who live in mountainous counties. They argued that tourists would be less likely to visit those areas if side-by-sides could not be used on county roads. In 2016, the state amended the law and gave counties the power to make OHVs legal on their roads should they choose. As a result, side-by-sides can now be operated on some scenic county roads in the state.

Therefore, because there is no blanket ban on the operation of UTVs in Colorado, you will have to do some research to ascertain which roads can accommodate your vehicle.

Where to Operate Street Legal Side-by-Sides in Colorado

In Colorado, local county jurisdictions dictate where UTVs can be driven legally. Unfortunately, most of the locations that allow these vehicles on the road are regions close to the mountains and agricultural areas. Therefore, you will need to check with local authorities to determine if you can drive a UTV in their locale.

The Forest Service has opened some of its roads for use by side-by-sides. Like the counties, each forest service district has its own rules and regulations. You will have to enquire with the local department to find out if you can operate on their roads.

There are also state maps that have information on which roads are street legal for side-by-sides.

With that being said, there are specific areas where UTVs are allowed. They are:

  • When crossing a street
  • When crossing a culvert or bridge
  • For special events held by local municipalities
  • On roads designed for UTV use
  • For emergency use when authorized by state or local authority
  • For agricultural purposes.

Requirements for Side-by-Sides in Colorado

Your standard side-by-side will need to be equipped with the following if it’s to be allowed to operate on public land.

  • Headlight
  • Taillight
  • Muffler
  • Brakes
  • Spark arrester

All these parts need to be in good working condition.

Registration of Side-by-Sides in Colorado

All off-highway vehicles in Colorado have to be registered and numbered to operate legally in the state. To register your vehicle, you will need to show proof of ownership. This can be in the form of a bill of sale or a certificate of title.

The only side-by-sides that are exempt from registration are the following:

  • Side-by-sides that the government owns
  • UTVs owned by a resident of another state
  • Side-by-sides used exclusively for agricultural use
  • UTVs that are only driven on private property
  • UTVs participating in an organized race or rally
  • Side-by-sides that manufacturers or dealers use for demonstration purposes

For UTVs owned by an out-of-state resident, the vehicle must have registration from the owner’s home state. In addition, it cannot have been in Colorado for more than 30 consecutive days.

Permits for Side-by-Sides in Colorado

Colorado does not issue license plates for off-highway vehicles. Therefore, it is up to local jurisdictions to decide who can drive a side-by-side and what factors qualify for a vehicle to be classified as a UTV.

To operate a side-by-side on public roads and trails, you will require an off-highway vehicle permit. The permit is a sticker that expires every 31st of March regardless of when you received it. It must be displayed prominently on your vehicle at all times.

The only UTVs that do not require permits are:

  • Government vehicles.
  • UTVs participating in an organized race or event.
  • Side-by-sides operated for non-creational use such as farming, logging, mining, or other such activities.

As part of the state law passed on UTVs, county governments were also given the authority to decide whether OHVs would require insurance to operate on public roads.

It was also left up to the local municipalities to decide if UTV operators needed a valid driver’s license.

For matters concerning the legalities of operating a side-by-side in Colorado, you will have to check what each local authority says on the subject.

The Stay, the Trail website is an excellent resource for looking up this information. Government agencies developed the site from the counties that have allowed UTVs on their roads. Stay the Trail lists UTV regulations for every location, including driver’s license, insurance, speed limits, permits, etc.

Traffic Laws for Side-by-Sides in Colorado

In locations where side-by-sides are allowed to operate on public roads, you must adhere to the traffic laws. Here are the categories of UTV regulations that you should follow.

Interacting With Other Trail Users

You are to give way to pedestrians and cyclists as they are propelled by less power than a UTV. It is also advisable to pull over and give way (where possible) to vehicles on the road moving faster than you.

Hand signals are used to communicate with other drivers on the trail. For example, two fingers mean two riders behind you, while one finger indicates one rider is following behind. A closed fist demonstrates that you are the last rider in the group.

When driving through a campsite or a small community, try to be respectful and avoid kicking up dust.

Are Side-by-Sides Street Legal in Colorado

Regulations Regarding Use of Trails

Side-by-sides wider than 50 inches are not allowed on UTV trails as they are considered full four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Whenever possible, avoid going off-road and flattening vegetation.

Safety Precautions When Operating UTVs

It is illegal to operate a side-by-side on public roads when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Drivers aged 18 years and older do not have to wear helmets when operating a UTV. However, drivers and passengers below this age have to wear DOT (Department of Transportation)-approved helmets.

Sound Restrictions for Side-by-Sides in Colorado

Colorado places strict sound restrictions on UTVs operated within the state. For vehicles manufactured before 1998, the maximum limit is 99 decibels. Side-by-sides made in 1998 or later are required to have no more than 96 decibels. The standard testing is carried out using the stationary 20-inch pipe test.

The sound restrictions do not apply to UTVs used for closed course competitions.

Age Restrictions for Side-by-Sides in Colorado

In the state of Colorado, a registered side-by-side can be operated by anyone over the age of 16. In addition, children aged 10 and 15 can also drive these vehicles but only when supervised by an adult with a valid driver’s license.

Regulations for Hunting With Side-by-Sides in Colorado

There are strict limitations placed on how side-by-sides can be used for hunting. You can use a UTV to carry hunters to a fallen animal, but not for much else.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department has emphasized the importance of respecting wildlife and other hunters when out hunting. The institution has made it clear that the future use of UTVs for hunting depends on the current behavior of hunters. Side-by-sides are to be used ethically to conserve the natural environment.

It is prohibited for hunters to chase animals with their off-road vehicles or to harass wildlife in any way. Firearms must be unloaded, even in the chamber. Hunting implements like bows and rifles must be enclosed in a case when being transported in a UTV.

Regulations Regarding Accidents With Side-by-Sides

Off-highway vehicle accidents that result in injury that requires hospitalization, death, or property damage exceeding $1,500, have to be reported to local authorities. You can notify the sheriff’s office, police department where the accident occurred, or a Colorado state patrol officer.

Let’s Get Moving

Operating a side-by-side in Colorado can get a little complicated. While the state has not made a provision for these vehicles to be street legal, some local municipalities allow for UTVs to be driven on their roads.

The rules and regulations that govern the operation of these off-road vehicles vary from one county to another. Therefore, you must check with each municipality to ensure that you are adhering to the letter of the law when it comes to driving UTVs. This guide will help you navigate the ins and outs of operating a side-by-side in Colorado.