Although golf carts may share some characteristics with low-speed vehicles, there are also significant differences between the two. These differences are not just physical but also legal. However, it is possible to convert your golf cart into a low-speed vehicle.
Do you have a golf cart that you want to start driving on public roads? Not so fast. There are certain requirements you have to meet before you can start driving with the big boys.
Continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know when it comes to the differences between golf carts and low-speed vehicles and when you can and can’t drive them on the street.
What is a Low-Speed Vehicle?
The federal government has three criteria that must be met for something to be considered a low-speed vehicle (LSV). First, it must have four wheels. Second, its maximum speed must be between 20 miles per hour and 25 miles per hour. And finally, its GVWR (total weight including cargo, passengers, and the vehicle itself) must not exceed 2,500 pounds.
Typically, low-speed vehicles are used for hunting, meter maids, grounds keeping, yard work, and campus security. Most low-speed vehicles are extremely low weight and can carry up to 6 passengers plus cargo and still be under the weight limit. This affords them excellent mileage.
They are becoming increasingly popular among environmentally conscious drivers who want to have a smaller carbon footprint. Families that had both an LSV and a regular car showed to have a 23% reduction in transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions.
As most LSVs are electric, many can go up to 30 miles on a full charge. This can satisfy the commuting needs of most drivers. Granted that the LSV would need to be driving at a constant speed of 20 miles per hour.
Neighborhood Electric Vehicles
A popular type of LSV is the NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle). These are powered by rechargeable batteries and are mainly used by seniors to get around their communities.
Let’s take a look at one example in particular. The Villages is a master-planned age-restricted community in Florida. Here the NEVs and LSVs actually outnumber the amount of regular-sized cars. In fact, they have 87 miles of road specifically designed for low-speed vehicles.
This shows that LSV not only have industrial but also real-world commuter uses as well.
Are Low-Speed Vehicles Safe to Drive?
Legally speaking, yes, low-speed vehicles are safe enough to drive on the street. Unfortunately, low-speed vehicles are not nearly as safe as that full-size car idling right next to you. They may be safer than most golf carts but that fact won’t buy you a lot of protection should you get into a serious accident.
It is important to note that low-speed vehicles do not have to meet the same strict safety requirements that standard passenger cars do. Remember that LSVs don’t have airbags and have very few safety protections overall. If you are driving one on a public road then you need to be extra vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
What is a Golf Cart?
According to the law, a golf cart is a vehicle that is intended to be driven on a golf course and should not exceed a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. Golf carts straight from the factory are often not street legal. They lack the safety components outfitted on low-speed vehicles which make them legal.
If you wanted to drive a golf cart on a public road, you would need to convert it so that it meets the legal requirements. For example, low-speed vehicles have certain safety features such as seat belts, turn signals, headlights, windshield wipers, and things of that nature.
Also, any low-speed vehicle that is driven on the road needs to be registered. The driver needs a valid driver’s license, registration, and vehicle insurance.
Still, a golf cart is a motorized vehicle. Whether or not it is legal to drive on a public street, you can’t drink alcohol and operate one. Believe it or not, you can be charged with having an open container or even a DUI while driving a golf cart.
Are Golf Carts Safe to Drive?
Standard golf carts are even less safe to drive than low-speed vehicles. They should be kept to the golf course or other areas where traditional cars and trucks do not go. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are over 10,000 visits to the emergency room every year due to a golf cart-related accident.
When it comes to insurance, motorcycle insurance will often cover golf carts. However, street legal golf carts, as well as low-speed vehicles, require your standard car insurance.
It is a good idea to speak to your current car insurance company and see what services they provide when it comes to covering golf carts and low-speed vehicles.
How to Make a Golf Cart Street Legal
Golf carts are extremely popular within retirement communities. In fact, there are many communities in the United States that rely heavily on these electric vehicles to get around. Walking can sometimes be difficult for the elderly while driving a regular car can be burdensome and even unsafe.
Driving a street legal golf cart is an excellent way to pick up groceries, go around the neighbourhood, and even find your way around that golf course. To get your cart from being golf course-bound to being street legal, you need to convert it into a low-speed vehicle.
Because most golf carts are slower at maneuvering turns and quick stops, they are much more dangerous to drive on the road when compared with regular-sized cars.
Laws to Abide
Many states have laws on the books that state that street legal golf carts need to avoid major thoroughfares and let regular-sized cars pass them if they are going too slow. In fact, most states require that low-speed vehicles can’t drive on roads that have speed limits higher than 35 miles per hour.
Also, anyone operating a street legal golf cart needs to obey all of the laws of the road. This means using their turn signals, stopping at stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians.
The bare minimum of items you need to have installed on your golf cart to make it legal includes tail lights, blinkers, mirrors, a windshield and windshield wipers, headlights, seat belts, a horn, and reflectors.
As stated earlier, you also need a registration, a driver’s license, and insurance. You will most likely need a license plate as well. It is also important to remember that laws pertaining to driving golf carts vary by state and municipality.
These laws are always changing. Be sure to do specific research for the area in which you live and contact your local DMV if you want to learn more.
Golf Cart Classifications
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), there are three categories of golf carts. First is the fleet golf cart. This type of cart is a motorized vehicle that can go no faster than 20 miles per hour.
It is used solely for the purposes of being driven on a golf course and carrying people and golfing equipment. They are not meant to be driven on public roads.
Second is the personal golf cart. This cart is a self-propelled vehicle. Self-propelled means that the vehicle is able to convert its own energy supply into motive power that is then used for propulsion. These vehicles also can’t have a top speed that exceeds 20 miles per hour.
They are also meant for personal use. They can either be powered by internal combustion engines or electric motors. You can drive them on golf courses but you can also drive them on public roads assuming that they meet all of the legal requirements.
Finally, there is the speed-modified golf cart. This golf cart has been adapted with aftermarket parts. The reason for this is to increase its maximum speed in order to make it a legal low-speed vehicle.
There are benefits to using both gas and electric golf carts. Electric carts are typically cheaper and better for the environment. They also are fairly quiet which is beneficial if you are using them for activities like hunting.
Gas carts, on the other hand, give you more power and can climb better. They also usually have tanks that can go much further than an electric cart’s charge.
Golf Cart Speeds
Golf carts are inherently slow. This makes sense, considering the faster they get, the more dangerous they can be to those inside and outside the vehicle. However, if you are driving on a public road, or just need to go a longer distance, it can be helpful to add some more kick to your top speed.
One of the best ways to get your cart going faster is to install bigger wheels. Larger tires and wheels mean you cover more surface area more quickly. In fact, just by increasing your wheel size, you can up your top speed by 300%!
Switching from an electric to a gas engine is another way to increase your mph. Gas golf carts are going to give you more power and let you drive for longer.
Perhaps the simplest way to get a faster cart is to buy the fastest one you can find. Research the type of golf carts that best fit your needs and then comb through their specifications to see which one is going to get you the best top speed.
Safety Tips for Driving a Golf Cart on the Street
One of the most important things to remember when operating a golf cart on the road is to wear your seatbelt. Many golf carts don’t have doors. It is scarily easy to fall out of the vehicle.
Also, you should take your turns slowly. Just turning at 11 miles per hour is fast enough for passengers to fall out of the vehicle. This is also important because you don’t know what vehicle is going to be speeding down the other side of the street.
When you approach an intersection, you should always honk your horn. Though this may not be good etiquette on the golf course, it can save your life on the road. Remember that you are much more prone to injury than people in regular cars, it’s not worth the risk to drive quietly.
And as stated earlier, never drink and drive. In all states, it is illegal to drink and operate a motorized vehicle. A golf cart has a motor. You can get arrested if caught under the influence. And the penalties you will face will most likely be the same as if you were behind the wheel of a full-sized vehicle.
Also, be sure to avoid sidewalks. Yes, it is not as crazy to imagine a golf cart on a sidewalk as it is to imagine a Toyota Corolla but it is still illegal and dangerous. You can hurt pedestrians, pets, and damage property.
Understanding the Differences Between Golf Carts and Low-Speed Vehicles
After reviewing the information above, you can clearly see the differences between golf carts and low-speed vehicles.
It is obvious that these types of vehicles offer a lot of benefits in terms of easy and convenient transportation. However, there are also certain safety risks that are inherent in riding them as well.
Operating a low-speed vehicle on a public road can be a lot of fun and a great way to get around town. Remember to stay extra vigilant and always obey your traffic laws. If you don’t think you will be able to manage that, perhaps it is best to just stick to the golf course for now.
Interested in purchasing your dream golf cart? Here at Golf Carts for Sale, we have a variety of carts that are bound to fit every type of lifestyle and budget.