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I like collecting coins as much as the next person, but what can I use them for in Mario Kart 7? Do I get a free life if I collect enough of them?

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2 Answers 2

Unlike in the first Mario Kart, where they acted as a buffer against other players crashing into you, coins appear to act as currency now for buying new kart components.

Coins are to be found along a race track, and can be underwater, on the road, or in the air. Collecting coins on different tracks will allow the player to unlock vehicle parts used for customization.

Source: Mario Wiki

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In the first Mario Kart, their primary purpose was actually to increase your speed. –  75th Trombone Feb 18 '12 at 7:17
up vote 6 down vote accepted

When you run over a coin, you get a short burst of extra speed. Each coin that you get in a race, up to 10, will increase your Kart's maximum speed.

Your cumulative total of coins collected will unlock options for your Kart - including alternate Kart bodies, wheels, and gliders.

Coins will not grant a free life.

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