There are a lot of things going on in this post and I will try to answer as many as I can…
Take this from a Dad that’s been turning wrenches for his Son for the last 8 years in karting. Started out in 206 sportsman as a back marker and now as a Sr competes near the top of the 206 races in the Midwest. My Son won the Cup Karts North Region this season.
The initial question of "Can you get in for $3k? – Yes, it will be on lower level equipment in the 2s fields. Though I did see a 2 year old Comp Kart with a KA sell for $2800 just recently. Those prices are hard to find though. Most likely you are 4500 plus on the KA and 3k plus on the KT for anything a 2ish years old. That seems to be the bottom dollar I am seeing currently. Again, you may be able to find a fire sale. In the realm of 206, you can get really nice equipment for that 3k. You’ll see 1 year old set ups for $2500ish
Can you compete at the regional level with $3k equipment. – Probably not. When you go to a 66 race be prepared to go against racers that have new(er) equipment. Most up front are on new for the season chassis and/or only 2 years old. Fresh engines for the weekend or even putting new on for Saturday and Sunday. Trailers are stacked full of engines ready to go. We stepped into the KT100 class a little this year and had success with my Son winning a club race at Road America and finishing I believe a best of 4th at Badger. Thinking we could go run a 66 race after our “stellar” success in a handful of races, we proceeded to get waxed! We did get within .3 of the fastest lap but that only gets you within 6-10 seconds by the end of the race… 206 for sure! most are running less money than $3k
Your goal is F4 – Ultimately its about $ and you’re going to need it to climb into a car. Many, many people have ran at the top levels of karting and are “deserving” of a good ride in a car and never get the chance because of money. Cars are pay to play deals.
206 isn’t a step up from rental – You would be surprised how much of a step up it is. Rentals do teach you smooth lines but you are also at the mercy of the good kart bad kart. Everyone at the front in 206 regional has a good kart that can be tuned to be a great kart. It’s not easy to just jump in and be fast. With the 206 you are going to save a ton of money over a few year span. Again, if you are looking for F4, you’ll need all the $ you can get. If you want to prove yourself against the top level 206 racers there is Cup Karts North America. Run many of the same tracks as 66 and the entries are less. Engine program is less. Roughly $1k out the door ready to bolt on and race. No rebuilds mid season. Race it 2-3 years you’re thousands ahead.
Feel free to reach out privately any time. I’ll give you as much info as you’d like. I can tell you my Son does want a KA…