ATV Laws and Regulations in New Mexico State

Last Updated on November 22, 2023 by ATVNotes

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Venturing into the scenic landscapes of New Mexico on an ATV is fun, but it’s paramount to understand and comply with the state’s ATV laws. These regulations uphold safety while ensuring the enjoyment of off-roading activities. Whether you’re a seasoned ATV rider or a newbie eager for your first ride, grasping ATV laws in New Mexico will equip you with the vital knowledge needed to ride responsibly.

Riders under 10 generally cruise on private property only. Everyone, young and old, must wear a helmet – safety first. Want to hit the streets? Transforming your ATV into a street-legal speedster means meeting specific requirements and passing inspections.  

Let’s decipher these and some more rules together in simple language. That will guarantee your off-road journeys are both exciting and law-abiding.

What Are Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) are defined as motorized vehicles primarily designed for off-road use and are not licensed for on-road operation. These vehicles are intended for or capable of cross-country travel on or immediately over land, water, sand, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain. This includes but is not limited to:

  • All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • Dirt bikes
  • Four-wheel-drive vehicles
  • Dune buggies
  • Snowmobiles
  • ROV (Recreational off-highway vehicles) and UTV
  • SXS (Side by Side)

However, ATV laws New Mexico also specify certain vehicles that are exempt from its OHV requirements:

  • Vehicles driven solely on private property.
  • Farming and construction vehicles.
  • Golf carts driven on roadways designated for such use by ordinance or resolution.
  • Racing vehicles if operated within an enclosed racing facility.
  • Military tactical vehicles.
  • Private passenger vehicles operated off-highway for ordinary transportation purposes and not for recreation or off-road competitions.
  • Vehicles not capable of cross-country travel without substantial damage risk due to design or accident (e.g., conventional 2-wheel motorbikes).

ATV Laws in New Mexico

ATV Laws in New Mexico State

The New Mexico ATV laws are designed to protect the safety of all ATV users and ensure responsible and sensitive ATV use. Here are some of the main points you should know:

  • You need to title and register your ATV with the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division before operating it on public lands. The registration fee is $53 for two years.
  • If you are a nonresident, you can ride in New Mexico with valid registration in another state or a nonresident permit from the Department of Game and Fish. This is the same with ATV lawsin many other US states.
  • You must wear a DOT-approved helmet and gogglesor safety glasses if you are under 18.
  • You must complete a certified OHV safety course and obtain a safety permit if you are under 18 years old.
  • You must not carry a passenger if you are under 18, even if the ATV is designed for two persons.
  • ATV must not make noise exceeding 96 decibels
  • You must be visually supervised by a responsible adult when operating an ATV unless you are 15 or older and have a valid driver’s license or 13 or older and have a valid motorcycle license.
  • A spark arrestor approved by the United States Forest Serviceis a must while riding an ATV in New Mexico.
  • Children under 10 should ride an ATV fit for their size and under adult supervision.
  • Children under 6 can ride on ATV if it is a private property.
  • You must follow the age-appropriate size-fit standards for ATVs based on engine size and rider age.
  • ATVs and UTVs must have headlights, taillights, and brake lights. They must also have a horn and mirrors.
  • You are prohibited from travelling on paved streets, except for crossing them, unless a local authority or the state transportation commission has passed an ordinance allowing such use on specific roads in specific communities.

Title and Registering ATV/UTV in New Mexico

Yes, you must title and register your ATV or UTV in New Mexico. This applies to all ATVs and UTVs, regardless of size or power. You can title and register your ATV or UTV at any New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) office.

To do so, you will need to provide the following:

  • A completed application for title and registration (MVD Form 40-144)
  • A copy of your current driver’s license or identification card
  • Proof of ownership (bill of sale, title from another state, etc.)
  • Proof of liability insurance

You will be issued a title and registration certificate once you have completed the titling and registration process. You must keep this document when operating your ATV or UTV on public roads.

Requirements for Youth ATV/UTV Riders by New Mexico ATV Regulations

Though already suggested in a previous section, let’s elaborate on it for better understanding. In New Mexico, the requirements for youth ATV UTV riders go beyond just saddling up and hitting the trail. Like any dedicated ATV zone, the state prioritizes its young citizens’ safety; hence, every minor should meet specific criteria before operating their four-wheelers.

Firstly, any rider under 6 cannot ride ATV/UTV on any public land in New Mexico. And riders under 18 are required to complete an approved Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) safety awareness course. This imparts precise handling skills and embeds a sense of responsibility towards self and other off-road adventurers.

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department oversees OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) education and safety training. They offer an online OHV Safety Course for minors under the age of 18 who don’t possess a driver’s license. It covers safe operation practices, ethical use of public lands, and responsibilities towards nature and other users.

Upon completion, the course provides an OHV Education Certificate, assuring the rider has mastered contemporary OHV safety basics. The certificate is mandatory in specific locations and situations.

There are specific requirements in place for youth ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) and UTV (Utility Task Vehicle)/ROV (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle) riders to ensure their safety.


  • Safety Helmet: Regardless of the vehicle type, all riders under 18 must wear a state-approved safety helmet.
  • Eye Protection: Riders must wear eye protection unless the vehicle has a windscreen.

Age-specific Requirements:

  • Under 6 years of age: Not permitted to operate an ATV.
  • Age 6 to 10: Allowed to drive only a youth-model ATV while under direct supervision of a parent/guardian or authorized adult.
  • Age 11 to 15: Can operate an adult-sized ATV under direct supervision.
  • Age 16 and older: Can operate an adult-sized ATV without supervision; However, they must have a valid driver’s license and complete an approved safety training course.

Age-Appropriate OHV Size-Fit by New Mexico Laws on ATV

According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the age-appropriate size-fit standards for ATVs and UTVs/ROVs are based on the engine size and the rider’s age. Here is a summary of the standards:

  • Riders 6 to 10 years old can operate an ATV with an engine size of 110cc or less or a UTV/ROV with an engine size of 200cc or less.
  • Riders 11 to 15 years old can operate an ATV with an engine size of 250cc or less.
  • Riders 14-15 years and older can operate any size of ATV or UTV/ROV if they have a valid driver’s or motorcycle license.

Riding an ATV or UTV/ROV that is too large or powerful for the rider can result in loss of control, injury, or death. Therefore, it is essential to follow the law and choosing the right size of ATV or UTV/ROV for your age and experience level.

Restriction essential for ATV or UTV operation in New Mexico

There are some restrictions regarding ATV/UTV riding dictated by New Mexico ATV laws and regulations. Be aware of this before you hit the trails. Here are some of the main ones:

  • No person under 18 years of age shall operate an off-highway vehicle without safety eye protection and a helmet.
  • Minors under 18 must complete an approved OHV safety course and carry a safety permit while using an OHV.
  • Direct adult supervision is required for ATV operators under 18. The supervising adult must be able to respond immediately in case of an incident.
  • Off-Highway Motor Vehicles (OHVs) cannot be driven on paved streets or highways except to cross at right angles.
  • All vehicles must have a headlight, taillight, or reflectors if ridden between sunset and sunrise.
  • Mufflers are required on all OHVs.
  • No person shall operate an off-highway vehicle:
    • In a negligent manner, endangering anyone or damaging property
    • While under the influence of alcohol or drugs
    • On private land without landowner permission

Potential penalties may entail fines, imprisonment, equipment impoundment, or a requirement to complete an OHV educational course if any requirement is not met.

Required Equipment on an ATV or UTV

It is already reported what New Mexico ATV helmet laws say and what you, a rider, need for eye protection. However, the following equipment is required for ATVs and UTVs while riding in New Mexico.

  • Muffler: ATV/UTV must be equipped with a muffler in good operative condition that meets federal standards.
  • Brakes: The vehicle should have at least one brake in good working order.
  • Lights and Reflective Devices: If the vehicle is operated between sunset and sunrise, it must have at least one headlight visible for at least 500 feet in front and a tail light for at least 300 feet to the rear.

Additionally, although not required by law, it’s highly recommended to use other protective gear like peaks or visor with helmet, boots, gloves, long pants and a jacket for added protection while riding.

Are ATVs or UTVs Allowed on Paved Streets in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, ATVs and UTVs are generally prohibited from operating on paved streets or highways. However, there may be exceptions, such as crossing a two-lane highway. Or when the local authority or agency having jurisdiction has deemed it safe and necessary for travel between residences or communities.

Moreover, people may drive ATVs/UTVs directly across a highway if they have a valid driver’s license. But for that, the crossing must be made at an angle of approximately 90 degrees. This might vary by town, so checking local laws is essential.

Popular ATV Zones in New Mexico

New Mexico is a paradise for ATV enthusiasts, offering both challenging and beginner-friendly trails. Here are some popular ATV spots. Each spot provides unique experiences, but always ensure to follow local rules and regulations while enjoying these adventures. Some favorites are;

Montessa OHV Park: This off-road park in Albuquerque offers 577 acres of open riding, including hill climbs, ATV trails and sandy washes. Open daily year-round, it has a vault toilet for public use. The park is suitable for all skill levels and vehicle types but is mainly geared for ATVs and dirt bike riding.

ATV Laws in New Mexico

Big Burro Mountains: This mountain range is located in central Grant County, about 15 miles southwest of Silver City. This 35-mile long off-road site has a variety of off-road terrain, such as forested slopes, rocky hillsides, and sandy arroyos. The highest peak is Burro Peak, at 8,035 feet. The area is open to all vehicle types, but some trails require high clearance and 4×4. The site is ideal for scenic views, wildlife watching, and camping.

Gallup ATV Park: This park is located in Gallup and features a 1.2-mile track and 10 miles of ATV trails. This ATV heaven is open to all vehicle types but mainly designed for ATV and motorcycle riding. The park has a large parking lot, picnic tables, shelters, and grills. The small ATV park is open daily year-round and charge $40 for yearly membership. The park hosts nationally sanctioned trial events each year.

Farmington Dunes OHV Area: Located south of Farmington, the area offers more than 800 acres of fun for off-road enthusiasts. It provides a wide variety of topography, including large dunes, steep hills, and sandy arroyos. The area is open to all vehicle types, but some sections are rough and challenging. Farmington area is available all year round and has no fees. With a vault toilet and a picnic shelter, this is popular for 4×4 events and competitions.

Haystack Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Area: This area is located northeast of Roswell and overlooks the Pecos River. Haystack Mountain area offers 1,920 acres of trails to ride, ranging from moderate to very difficult. The area is designed for OHVs but not wide and is ideal for motorcycles. It offers several picnic sites, shelters, tables, and grills. Open year-round, Haystack Mountain charges a $3 fee per individual or $15 for vehicle. The area hosts nationally sanctioned trial events each year.

Mescalero Sands North Dune OHV Area: Located southeast of Roswell, the OHV area offers more than 610 acres of towering dunes to enjoy. Mescalero Sands North Dune area is open to all vehicle types but is best suited for sand rails and dune buggies. The site has a wide range of terrain, from bare rock to sandy washes. Like other New Mexico ATV areas, this is open year-round and has a $3 fee per individual or $5 per vehicle. It is known for its scenic views and cottonwood trees.

Red River OHV Trails: These trails, 11.1 miles along Red River, are in the Carson National Forest. They offer a variety of terrain, from forested slopes to rocky canyons. These OHV trails are open to all vehicle types, but some may require high clearance and 4×4. The trails are ideal for mountain biking as well. Red River OHV Trails offer scenic views, wildlife watching, and fishing opportunities. The courses are open year-round, have no fees, and have several campgrounds and picnic areas.

How to make your ATV/UTV street legal in New Mexico?

ATV Laws in New Mexico

To make your ATV or UTV street legal in New Mexico, you must follow specific guidelines and meet certain requirements set by the state’s laws and regulations. Here are the general steps to make your ATV or UTV street legal in New Mexico:

  1. Consult State Laws and Regulations:

Check the specific regulations outlined by the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) or Department of Transportation regarding the street-legal requirements for ATVs and UTVs.

  1. Obtain a Title and Registration:

Ensure that your ATV/UTV has a title and is registered with the New Mexico MVD. You should apply for one if it doesn’t have a title.

Pay the required registration fees and taxes.

  1. Install Required Equipment:

Ensure your ATV/UTV meets safety and street-legal requirements, such as muffler, headlights, taillights, turn signals, mirrors, horns, and a license plate.

Verify that your vehicle complies with specific requirements outlined by New Mexico ATV rules and regulations.

  1. Obtain Insurance:

Acquire liability insurance for your ATV/UTV. The Insurance must meet New Mexico’s minimum coverage requirements for operating a vehicle on public roads.

  1. Pass Safety Inspection:

Get your ATV/UTV inspected by an authorized inspection station. This ensures it meets the state’s safety standards for street-legal vehicles.

  1. Get a Street-Legal License Plate:

Once your ATV/UTV meets all the requirements and passes inspection, you’ll receive a street-legal license plate from the MVD.

Whereas the above steps are basic, you must check with your local county or city government. Some states may have additional or specific requirements for street-legal ATVs/UTVs. You must remember that even with a street-legal ATV/UTV, you cannot ride in places where off-road vehicles are not permitted. Some trails and areas might still be off-limits for these vehicles.

Can I drive my ATV/UTV, registered in another state; on New Mexico roads?

Yes, you can. New Mexico accepts ATV or UTV registrations from other states. However, when riding in New Mexico, you must adhere to all of the state’s off-highway vehicle (OHV) laws and regulations.

  • If you want to drive your ATV or UTV on public lands, you can do so if you have valid registration in another statedemonstrated by a registration certificate. You do not need to obtain a New Mexico permit or decal.
  • If you want to drive your ATV or UTV on paved roads, you need to have a unique OHV paved road use decal or plate in addition to your registration certificate. You can purchase the decal or plate online from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

However, if your ATV or UTV complies with New Mexico’s paved road use requirements and displays a valid paved road use decal or plate from your home state, you do not need to purchase a New Mexico decal or plate. You also need to follow the local ordinances and resolutions that allow certain ATV or UTV use on specific roads in specific communities.

New Mexico’s ATV Adventure: Laws Are Worth Giving a Damn

Venturing through New Mexico’s ATV wonderland offers riders diverse landscapes and thrilling trails. From the desert tracks of Montessa OHV Park to the dune-filled landscapes of Farmington, adventurers discover beauty and challenges. Adhering to state-specific guidelines, including safety gear, titling, and compliance, is crucial. Whether revving through the Big Burro Mountains or cruising the Gallup ATV Park, understanding local regulations, age-appropriate riding, and street-legal requisites ensures a safe, thrilling off-road escapade. Strap in, ride responsibly, and revel in New Mexico’s ATV glory.

Before that, check for the most current state laws and regulations regarding OHVs in New Mexico to ensure compliance, as OHV regulations can change faster than you think.

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