What makes a golf cart “street legal”?
So you want to make your golf cart street legal? Street-legal golf carts are a generally new phenomenon, and as such, there is a lot of confusion about what exactly the rules are. This post will demystify the entire process, and ensure that you are properly educated on what is and is not allowed.
For starters, street-legal golf carts are legally referred to as Low Speed Vehicles, or “LSVs”. Under Florida law, an LSV is defined as “any four-wheeled vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour, but not greater than 25 miles per hour.” LSVs must be registered, titled, and insured with personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
LSVs must satisfy two basic categories of requirements:
equipment requirements, and legal requirements. Let’s start with the former.
- Lights: A street-legal golf cart must have headlights, taillights, turn signals, brake lights, horn, and tag light.
- Mirrors: Golf carts must have at least one mirror on the driver’s side and one on the passenger side.
- Safety Belts: Seat belts must be installed in each seat. Each occupant needs a seatbelt, whether you own a 2-passenger, 4-passenger, or 6-passenger cart.
- Tires: All tires must be DOT-approved. They need to have a stamp that indicates that the tire complies with DOT safety standards. The factors that determine whether a tire is “DOT approved” include max load rating and tread depth, among other factors.
It’s important to note that DOT-approved tires don’t necessarily have to be just “Street tires”. You can get aggressive, all-terrain tires that are still DOT-approved. Additionally, you can get bias ply or radial tires that are both DOT-approved, as well. Just remember to look for a stamp on the sidewall of your tire that reads, “DOT-Approved”.
For more information on picking the right golf cart tire, click here
- Windshield: Street-legal golf carts must have an approved windshield. Most standard golf cart windshields are 0.125” thick and made with acrylic. For a golf cart windshield to be “Street Legal,” it must be at least 0.177” thick, constructed from a shatter-resistant polycarbonate blend with a hard protective coating, and cannot be tinted. These windshields will typically carry a designation of either AS4 or AS5 and have a “DOT” stamp etched into the glass. (Fun fact: Polycarbonate is around 250X stronger than glass and more flexible, making it virtually Shatterproof. It is one of the materials used to manufacture bulletproof glass.)
DOT windshields are available in both solid one-piece and flip-down versions, but the flip-down windshield is the most popular.
Note that you will also need a windshield wiper. It’s okay to use a hand-operated wiper. This is what comes on most new LSVs that you would buy from a dealer, as well. A number of premium LSVs, such as the Epic models that we carry, may come with a solid AS1 or AS2, automotive-style glass windshield, and an electric automatic windshield wiper.
- Reflectors: Reflectors must be placed on the front, rear, and sides of the golf cart to improve visibility at night.
Now that you have all of the aforementioned equipment on your golf cart, you should be ready to hit the streets, right? Well, not so fast. Even though you have added all of the required equipment, you still just have a golf cart. Golf carts are not required to be titled, registered, or insured – although the latter is never a bad idea. A valid driver’s license is not required. Conversely, an LSV requires all of the above. It should also go without saying that all of the same rules of the road will apply to you while operating your LSV, including DUI and open container laws.
Let’s now breakdown each of these in detail:
In most states, including Florida, golf carts don’t come with a title. They are considered personal property and your proof of ownership is your bill of sale. In order to be street legal, you need to convert your golf cart from “personal property” into a “Motor Vehicle”.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to purchase an LSV from a golf cart dealer who is a licensed Motor Vehicle Dealer. You can buy a new or used LSV and the dealer will do your title work for you. You will simply need to provide a signed limited Power of Attorney, a copy of your license, and proof of insurance, just as you would if you were buying a car.
If you already have a golf cart that you love, that’s fine too. Your current golf cart can be converted into an LSV by installing all of the required equipment, completing all of the required paperwork, and conducting an inspection at your nearest Division of Motorist Services Regional Office.
For more information on this process, click here
Once your golf cart is converted into an LSV, it’s time to get insurance. It’s easy to get the wrong type of insurance policy by mistake. Insurance companies offer golf cart liability insurance policies for as little as a couple of hundred dollars per year. These policies are great options if you live in a gated community or an area that your municipality has designated a “golf cart zone,” but this policy will be rejected at the DMV.
Make sure that you tell your insurance agent that you want “LSV Insurance” that meets the Florida state minimums of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL). Expect to pay an insurance premium in line with what you would pay to add an additional car to your current auto policy. Usually, it’s best to check with your auto carrier first, because you may be eligible for a bundled discount.
Now that you have a title, and your proof of insurance, now it’s time to go down to the DMV and register your LSV. You will receive a full-sized tag; the same as a car. If you have a tag to transfer, this will usually save you money. Note that you cannot transfer a trailer tag or a motorcycle tag. Expect to pay what you would pay if you registered a car.
Once you have completed all of these steps, now you can get out there and enjoy your LSV. Here are a few final considerations:
- Fuel Type Doesn’t Matter:
You can get a gas or electric LSV, depending on your preference.
- Use a car seat: Under Florida law, If you have a child under 5 years of age, you are required to use a federally crash-tested car seat, this also applies to golf carts.
- Sidewalks are off-limits: You wouldn’t drive your car on the sidewalk, would you?
- Be smart: You can lawfully operate your LSV on any public roadway with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or below, and you can cross an intersecting 45 mph street. Keep in mind that your LSV travels at a maximum speed of 25 mph. Be courteous to your fellow motorists, try to stay in the right lane, and yield to faster-moving vehicles whenever possible. This will generally improve your experience and reduce instances of road rage.
Hopefully, you have a clear understanding of what makes a golf cart street legal. Remember, if you have questions about your golf cart, you can always reach out to a customer service rep at ACE of Carts.