Mutant Vehicle Criteria and Licensing

Looking for info about Accessibility Vehicles? Go here.

Why do Mutant Vehicles need to be licensed?

Burning Man’s permit from the BLM stipulates that all participant and staff vehicles driven at the event must be licensed by Burning Man.  The Department of Mutant Vehicles is the department responsible for licensing Mutant Vehicles and Accessibilty vehicles at the event.

How many Mutant Vehicles do you invite each year?

With 80,000 participants, mainly on foot and bicycle, roaming the streets and open playa in and around Black Rock City while intermingling with Staff, Mutant, Accessibility and Law Enforcement vehicles, there is a threshold where having more than a certain number of vehicles driving would be a safety hazard.  To address these safety concerns in consult with the BLM, the target for the number of Mutant Vehicles licensed to drive at the event is 650 or fewer.  To meet that goal, we limit the number of vehicles the DMV invites each year to 800. This number takes into consideration that we have a very consistent 21% “no-show” rate among invited Mutant Vehicles so the number of vehicles we end up licensing falls under the 650-vehicle threhold.

How do you get a Mutant Vehicle license?

  • Create or plan a Vehicle that meets the DMV’s Mutant Vehicle Criteria (below).
  • Fill out a Mutant Vehicle Application through our online application form. All Mutant Vehicles must apply through this form to be considered for on playa licensing (you can’t just show up at the event with your vehicle and get licensed).
  • If your vehicle is invited, Bring your Mutant Vehicle to the DMV at Black Rock City for final vehicle inspection. Final inspection and licensing are required before you can drive your vehicle at the event.

Mutant Vehicle Criteria

To be eligible for a Mutant Vehicle license, you must satisfy ALL of the following criteria:

There are five main points the DMV considers when reviewing your vehicle.

1. Level of Mutation / Visual Presentation

    • Mutate or create your vehicle to the point that it is not recognizable as a street or stock vehicle. A radically mutated vehicle will not resemble or represent a car, truck, golf cart, or any other readily identifiable street or stock vehicle. In most cases, little or none of the base vehicle should be visible.
    • Beyond just changing, covering, or hiding the base vehicle (if any), the mutation should aim to be visually compelling, providing “wow factor” for the other participants of Black Rock City. When a person sees this vehicle, their reaction should be “Wow! Look at that!”
    • General Considerations:
      • If a vehicle maintains its stock form (i.e. it keeps the shape of a bus, golf cart, or street vehicle), it may not be sufficiently mutated to meet the Mutant Vehicle Criteria.
      • A vehicle that has primarily been covered with fabric, fur, or other material, without also significantly changing the vehicle shape may not be sufficiently mutated to meet the Mutant Vehicle Criteria.
      • A vehicle that is primarily stripped to the engine and/or frame may not be sufficiently mutated to meet the Mutant Vehicle Criteria.
      • For visual examples of vehicles that applied but did not meet Mutant Vehicle Criteria, please see:
        DMV GALLERY.
      • Consideration may be given to vehicles that are presented outside of their normal context.
      • The DMV will be looking to invite a balance of different types of vehicles on the playa: large-scale sound vehicles, flame effects focused vehicles, small artistic vehicles, large transport vehicles, highly participatory vehicles, etc.
      • We are dedicated to licensing vehicles from projects of all budget levels, not just the most expensively built ones.
      • We primarily look for vehicles that meet the criteria above AND demonstrate good execution of their design concept.
      • We also consider the originality of a vehicle. There are already quite a number of bar-cars, furniture cars, and boats, for example, and the DMV may choose only to invite some of the vehicles that are similar or identical in design. The same applies to groups of identical vehicles, ie, fleets, herds or swarms of similarly designed vehicles.

2. Interactivity

    • Provide an interactive experience for participants of Black Rock City. Interactivity is defined as an opportunity for any BRC citizen to participate in some activity offered by your vehicle. The theme and/or size of the vehicle is what’s considered here. Do you entertain a crowd? Does your vehicle have room for riders? Does your vehicle provide a service to the community? Does it include an interactive element?
    • Interactive aspects alone are not a replacement for the Mutation Criteria above, but are considered more like  “extra credit”.

3. Safety

    • The safe operation of a Mutant Vehicle at the event is the Registrant’s responsibility. Depending on the size and style of your vehicle, some or all of the following may apply:
      • The vehicle must be able to maintain a steady speed of five MPH (the speed limit in Black Rock City) or less.
      • The brakes must be in good working order.
      • The vehicle should have sturdy side railings and stair railings. There should be no sharp or protruding objects.
      • Having a fire extinguisher and First Aid kit on board is highly recommended.
      • The vehicle should have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers.
      • For safety requirements of lasers mounted on Mutant Vehicles, please see Mounted Lasers.
      • Vehicles with trailers must have Trailer Barriers protecting the space between the vehicle and the trailer.  For details on trailer safety requirements, please see the section on safety below.
    • Important notes
      • The DMV does not do Safety Inspections.  There are specialized teams that do Fire Effect and Laser Inspections for Mutant Vehicles.
      • The DMV may decline a license to a vehicle if there is a demonstrable safety concern such as sharp objects that protrude from a vehicle or some other dangerous aspect to the vehicle.

4. Lighting

    • There are two fundamental requirements for Mutant Vehicle night illumination.
      1. SAFETY: First and foremost, people need to be able to see you and you need to be able to see them. The vehicle must include front head lights and the front, rear, AND sides must be lit. All vehicle extremities must be lit. Any trailer hitch or dangerous area of the vehicle must be lit. Anywhere someone would walk, step, or climb on your vehicle should be lit, especially stairs and ladders.
      2. RADICAL ILLUMINATION: The visual presentation of your vehicle should be at least as stimulating at night as it is during the day,  if not even more so. This can be accomplished in two ways:
        •  You are showcasing a well-crafted mutant vehicle that is already worthy of a day license.  Flame effects alone are not sufficient to qualify for night licensing.
        • The lighting itself is the “art” (such as the Death Star)
    • In either case, the vehicle should be easily seen from all sides from some distance away.

5. Sound

    • There is a Sound Policy for Mutant Vehicles. It is important that you know it. Please go here to review the policy. All vehicles driving in Black Rock City must follow the sound policy.

What is NOT Considered a Mutant Vehicle?

  • The following are not considered Mutant Vehicles:
    • Vehicles only stripped to the frame and engine.
    • Street/stock vehicles with minimal changes or temporary decorations.
    • Vehicles that too strongly resemble the original form or where too much of the base vehicle is unmutated and still visible. For example:  A fur-covered golf cart or street vehicle that keeps its original shape.
    • Vehicles that may be unusual but are stock/mass-produced (military, industrial or foreign-made vehicles).  Examples of this that have previously applied include an MK 48, Swamp Buggies and Tuk-Tuks
    • Low riders, classic cars, custom cars, monster trucks, dune buggies, rat rods, and hot rods (there are other venues for these vehicles to be appreciated)
    • Burning Man does not permit vehicles that resemble emergency services vehicles, including any vehicles decorated with red, blue, or amber rotating/flashing lights or vehicles with sirens. During an emergency, participants MUST be able to differentiate between an actual emergency vehicle and a Mutant Vehicle or other vehicles.

In addition to the above criteria, you must also:

  • Describe the motivation for creating your Mutant Vehicle
    Why did you make this vehicle?  What was your motivation/intent?
    NOTE: If the convenience of personal transportation is your primary goal, please rethink your intent. A primary factor driving your urge to drive should be the sharing of your creation with the rest of the community.
  • Comply with all DMV application guidelines and deadlines
    Mutant Vehicle pre-registration is mandatory. You will be asked to include photos or design sketches of your vehicle, describe the safety considerations you are making, give detailed information about the mutations to the vehicle.
  • Agree to Adhere to Black Rock City vehicle/driving protocols
    You will be asked in advance to honor the event’s driving guidelines.  Black Rock City has a few simple driving guidelines. If you violate these community guidelines, you’ll lose the privilege of driving your Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man. In addition, you and your vehicle may also be removed from the event, and you can be fined by law enforcement. Furthermore, owners that cannot follow our simple rules run the risk of not being licensed in subsequent years.

Mutant Vehicle Application Review

Once you have filled out a Mutant Vehicle Registration form, the DMV will review your application and notify you once we have reached a consensus on whether and how well your vehicle meets the Mutant Vehicle Criteria and whether it is invited to Burning Man.

For more details on the DMV Review process, please see the DMV FAQ/MUTANT VEHICLE OWNER’S HANDBOOK

Mutant Vehicle Licenses

Mutant Vehicle licenses are issued by the DMV on-playa. All licensed Mutant Vehicles will be given a Day and/or a Night license. Licenses will also be designated for Street or Playa driving, based on the size of the vehicle (see more below). Day or Night designation is based on many factors, including what purpose the vehicle serves, lighting, and how it is implemented.

Standard/Playa-Only Licenses

  • A Standard Mutant Vehicle License allows a Mutant Vehicle to operate on city streets (with the exception of pedestrian-designated streets) and on the open playa of Black Rock City. To be eligible for a Street License:
    1. The vehicle must be less than 13 feet in width, and less than 45′ in length,
    2. The vehicle must be able to safely navigate a right turn on a typical BRC intersection while remaining within one lane of the street.
    3. Operators must be able to safely monitor all segments of the vehicle while in operation.
  • A Playa-Only/City Restricted License allows a Mutant Vehicle to operate PRIMARILY on the open playa of Black Rock City. Mutant Vehicles with a Playa-Only License may NOT be operated on BRC streets except on their way to the playa from their camp (using the most direct entry).  Playa-Only vehicles may require walkers/spotters.

Day/Night Licenses

  • DAY licenses allow Mutant Vehicles to move around Black Rock City during the daytime.
  • NIGHT licenses allow Mutant Vehicles to move around Black Rock City at night. To receive a night license, Mutant Vehicles must be FULLY and RADICALLY illuminated (see above).
  • Some vehicles may receive both a DAY and a NIGHT license.

Trailer Licenses

Trailer licenses are required for any trailers that are attached to Mutant Vehicles. These are licensed separately from the Vehicle.

Flame Effects

Flame Effects

Mutant Vehicles that incorporate flame effects must include flame effects information in their Mutant Vehicle application and also must be inspected on-playa and be granted a Flame Effects license from the Fire Arts Safety Team before the flame effects can be operated.

Important details for MV’s with Flame Effects

In order to protect your passengers from danger, the height of the first point of fire must be at least 10-feet above the last place a person could possibly stand on your vehicle. This allows plenty of height above heads and a little extra in case the wind presses it down a bit. This rule has been in place all along and this year we are going to be strict with this rule. Please take action to correct this pre-event if your MV flame effect is lower than 10-feet.

Use of Flame Effects within the City

The use of Flame Effects within the City streets can present a greater risk than they do on the open playa. As your mutant Vehicle passes into the City and you are driving in the narrow streets you are in a new set of risks. The flames that were well overhead height in on the open playa are now at face height or even below folks standing on scaffolds, fabric, and banners can blow into the path of your flames and you are only inches away from other vehicles as you pass. Any of that sound dangerous? Well, it is! Please if your mutant vehicle has puffers please think twice about using them as you pass through the city. If your MV has a steady flame be aware of the wind blowing flammables into the flames and your proximity to things you are alongside. Any unsafe behavior of any kind will not be permitted and may affect your ability to register your MV in the future.

Questions about Mutant Vehicle flame effects should be sent to

Additional driving guidelines, walker requirements and trailer safety

In addition to adhering to the driving rules indicated above, Mutant Vehicles must:

  • Create a clear field of vision for the operator
  • Have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers
  • Clearly display the Mutant Vehicle license in a location specified by the DMV
  • Have ground guides (walkers) if the vehicle is large, has a limited field of vision or can be dangerous to pedestrians.

Trailer Safety and Barriers

Mutant Vehicles with trailers may have blind spots between the vehicle and the trailer, so must include a barrier against boarding in this zone:

This barrier must have a minimum height of no more than 12 inches from the playa surface and a maximum height that is either equal to the maximum height of the Mutant Vehicle (this is intended to accommodate very low vehicles) OR no less than 36 inches above the playa surface. The barrier must be in place before the vehicle moves and must remain in place at all times when the vehicle is in motion.

Examples of valid trailer barriers:


NOTE:  The above link shows just some examples.  Regardless of how they are constructed, trailer barriers must be strong and secure enough to block passage of people trying to walk through the hitch area.  Trailers with barriers that are deemed insufficient to block passage will not be licensed by the DMV.

Walker Requirements

For vehicles that are large or in instances where the driver does not have a clear view of the front and back of the vehicle, walkers/spotters must be used at all times when the vehicle is in motion. The number of walkers required will vary based on the size and type of vehicle, but must be a sufficient number of people to ensure safe navigation.The walkers must have some type of markings or attire that will identify them as walkers for that particular vehicle.

Examples of markings/attire include:

  • Reflective safety vests
  • Brightly colored or reflective hats
  • Brightly colored or reflective bandannas
  • Brightly colored or reflective shirts

NOTE: A video surveillance system cannot be substituted for walkers.  At night Walkers must have flashlights for visibility and to be able to direct vehicles.

A Note on Mutant Vehicles and the Community

Over the years there has been a lot of discussions regarding the perception of Mutant Vehicles as ‘exclusive”.  We’ve heard a number of stories about someone walking in deep playa, seeing a Mutant Vehicle, and asking for a ride, only to be told “sorry, this is a private party,” or something to that effect. While we know that the vast majority of Mutant Vehicles are inclusive and do provide rides whenever possible (the DMV gets very few direct complaints about this type of incident), we want to be clear on the following:

In the spirit of Radical Inclusion, Participation, and Gifting the DMV strongly encourages and asks Mutant Vehicle owners to share their Vehicles with others and give rides to those that need or ask whenever possible. This is also a great way to meet people and a wonderful show of our community. Proper etiquette should be followed;  if your Mutant Vehicle is designed to carry passengers we ask that you consider offering rides on your vehicle whenever possible and as long it would not be dangerous to do so (prospective passenger being inebriated or belligerent, for example).

A great way to participate and share your Mutant Vehicle is to participate in the MUTANT VEHICLE TRANSPORT (MVT) Program.

To Register Your Vehicle

Mutant Vehicle Registration for Burning Man is open from mid-February until mid-April each year.

After you have read and understood all of the above sections, go to the Questionnaire site for this year’s exact registration dates and to fill out a Mutant Vehicle application.

If you have additional questions you can contact the DMV by emailing