When we visited Key West a couple of years ago, we kept seeing all these golf carts on the road. It seemed odd, so we asked how they were able to drive on the road.
Did you know you can make your golf cart “street legal”? We didn’t either until we rented one ourselves and found out all about it.
A golf cart is defined as a motor vehicle designed for operation on a golf course or for sporting and recreation, and is not capable of exceeding 20 mph. While the operator of a golf cart does not have to be a licensed driver, they must be over 14 years old. How old you have to be to drive a golf cart ranges from state to state.
Golf carts were never intended to be driven on the roads alongside regular cars. However, you can convert your golf cart into a street legal vehicle by modifying certain parts. Keep in mind though, you will have to register it at a local DMV, obtain a VIN number, and display a license plate to get it street legal. So weigh the pros and cons for doing this.
With the need for new transportation on the rise, a large number of people are now seeking to convert something as simple as a golf cart into a street legal vehicle.
A Street legal or road going vehicle refers to any vehicle that is equipped and licensed for use on public roads, or to be “roadworthy.” This usually requires specific configurations of safety equipment, lighting, driving, and signaling.
Why Use A Street Legal Golf Cart?
Currently, 47 states allow these types of vehicles to be driven on public roads, although every state has different requirements for the golf carts.
There are plenty of reasons why it would be great to be able to drive either of these machines on public roads in the states that allow it. If your plan is to make your golf cart roadworthy by yourself, you will have to ensure you’re following the necessary standards.
You first need to make sure that your golf cart’s top speed is between 20 and 35 miles per hour. This is the primary, most important rule for low-speed vehicles.
You may need to present the manufacturer’s certificate of origin as a slow speed vehicle. If you cannot go that high with your golf cart, you may need to soup up the motor and the parts of the golf cart that correspond to speed.Your street legal golf cart must also include some necessities that will ensure your cart is street legal:
Make Sure It’s Lit!
Working lights, head, brake, and tail lights with turn signals are all essentials. You need to make your golf cart be noticeable in traffic and on roads.
Your vehicle must be equipped with headlights, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, and tail lamps. Just like any other vehicle, it’s important that you are able to signal or turn your lights on, especially in the dark.
Install all of the lights accordingly, and test them to make sure that you know how they operate while driving. You can get a whole light kit that you can install and be street legal.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
The most obvious difference between a normal car and a golf cart is collision protection; or the lack thereof.
Before you set out, you need to ensure road visibility from inside the golf cart.A golf cart must have reflex reflectors and rear view mirrors. This ensures that the driver has a clear and unobstructed view to the rear. Adjust all of the mirrors prior to driving, just as you would in a normal vehicle.
Windshields and windshield wipers are also a must. You can get clear or tinted windshields to protect you from any dust or objects that might fly up from the other vehicles.
Other accessories that are necessary on a street legal golf cart:
- wipers that will operate in a rain storm.
- speedometer to keep within the allowed speed limit
- a horn to alert pedestrians or other vehicles of your presence.
A horn is especially necessary, because if you drive an electric golf cart, chances of other people hearing it coming will be nonexistent. Electric golf carts are known to be very silent.
Strap in, Hang on, and Pray!
For making your golf cart roadworthy, you need to make sure it is safe for the driver and the passenger to travel in it. Your golf cart must be equipped with seat belts on all seats if you have more than one. You must be wearing the seatbelts while on the road to comply with state laws. You will also need DOT approved tires along with other safety equipment such as grab handles and crash impact bars, the latter is not necessary by law, but will save your cart from damage in a low impact fender bender. For tires, you must know the correct wheel size and bolt pattern to buy appropriate street use tires. Some states also ask you to put a “Slow Moving Vehicle” sign while out on the road.
Name Your Cart
You will need a vehicle identification number to drive your golf cart on the street. This is how the authorities will distinguish and recognize your vehicle, and no you cannot name it Roberto! The VIN number is usually a 17 digit code number for quick identification of your vehicle.
On cars, the VIN number is stamped under the hood by the manufacturer. But since your golf cart was not intended to be a road car, you will have to get your serial number converted into a VIN number by the DMV or seek out the necessary paperwork to ensure you acquire one and can drive the cart on the road.
You will also require a lighted license plate bracket for authorities to clearly identify your vehicle registration when it is dark. You will also need insurance, just in case things get too sticky with that BMW owner that you just bumped into.
In all states, street legal golf cart must be operated by a licensed driver. When operating the golf cart in a street legal fashion, you can be given a ticket just like when driving a regular car. And just like with a regular car, these citations can deduct points on your license and can have fines with them.
The laws are different in each state and in each city or municipality, so check with your local laws to see if you’re in compliance.
The Rules of the Road (for once you’re on the road)
A cart cannot maneuver like a full-fledged automobile – turning, stopping, and starting all take more time than they do in a regular car, so planning ahead is critical. Because of this, the law suggests to stay clear of major thoroughfares and to not drive at night. It’s both the law and good etiquette to hug the shoulder and give right-of-way to more capable vehicles.
You have to make sure you don’t take the golf carts in areas where the speed limit is higher than 35mph, but anything lower than that is ok. That’s why you see more golf carts in beach towns like Key West because the speed limit for the roads there are less than 35mph.
Just as any other road legal vehicle has its regulations on occupant usage of the vehicle, occupants riding a golf cart are restricted to ride standing in the vehicle or on the back platform of the vehicle. As they drive slower than regular traffic, once on the road, make sure you yield to other traffic.