Low-speed vehicles (LSVs) and golf carts offer convenient, eco-friendly transportation for short trips and errands. But what exactly sets these two types of vehicles apart? Understanding the key differences and unique features of LSVs and golf carts is important so you can eventually choose the right means of transportation for your distinct purposes.
This post comprehensively compares LSVs and golf carts, highlighting their similarities, differences, and ideal use cases. Are you ready for the ride?
We want to clarify that using the term "legal" is not meant to be intimidating. Rather, it indicates that some legal definitions and classifications need to be covered, as they also impact various aspects of using both LSVs and golf carts. So, let's dig into these technicalities.
LSVs, by definition, are classified by federal law as motor vehicles. As such, they must have a vehicle identification number (VIN), title, and license plate. In addition, they must be properly registered and insured, and their operators must hold a valid driver's license.
As far as golf carts, it's worth noting that in South Carolina, golf carts are classified as LSVs, and therefore, they, too, are subject to state laws. Specifically, golf carts must be insured, and they need to have the appropriate permits and registration. The operators of golf carts must be at least 16 years old and possess a valid driver's license.
- Golf carts fun-fact #1: According to South Carolina’s law, golf carts can only operate in daylight.
Road Legality & Speed
After familiarizing yourself with the requirements for operating a golf cart and an LSV, let's delve into their use cases and speed limitations.
LSVs are engineered for short-distance commuting within neighborhoods, retirement communities, and planned developments, so they are suitable for local errands and short trips. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association's official regulations, LSVs can operate at a maximum speed of 25 mph. When utilized on public roads, South Carolina's state law permits LSV operation on highways with speed limits extending up to 35 mph, given that they fulfill specific safety prerequisites.
Golf carts, on the other hand, are ideal for navigating golf courses, resorts, campgrounds, commercial and residential facilities. It's noteworthy that certain massive golf carts can navigate more rugged terrains to execute heavy-duty tasks (read more on utilization of golf cars in workplaces). The typical speed range for golf carts spans from 15-25 mph, although the average standard golf cart tends to travel around 15 mph at its highest speed. Specific models can achieve speeds of 25 mph, depending on factors like brand, modifications, battery, and weight. Similarly to LSVs, South Carolina extends the privilege of operating golf carts on secondary roads where the posted speed doesn’t exceed 35 mph.
- Golf carts fun-fact #2: According to South Carolina’s law, golf carts must remain within four miles of an address listed on the DMV permit.
Due to their intended road use and higher speed limit, incorporating safety equipment in LSVs is mandatory. This equipment includes:
- Windshield constructed of automotive safety glass
- Front and rear turn signals
- Rearview mirrors
- Windshield wipers
- Brake lights
- Parking brake
- Red reflex reflectors
- Seat belts
- A horn
In contrast, golf carts are not legally bound to include built-in safety equipment, given their lower speed capabilities. However, it is still advisable to integrate certain basic safety features such as seat belts, headlights, and taillights. It's noteworthy that, in response to incidents involving golf cart-related fatalities in South Carolina, potential changes in legislation might require the incorporation of seat belts for each designated seating position in golf carts.
- Golf carts fun-fact #3: Every EZGO golf cart comes equipped with one of two kinds of speed controllers. Read more on how to repair an E-Z-GO speed controller.
LSVs and golf carts are available in gas-powered and battery-powered models, thus providing environmentally friendly and energy-efficient options. Consequently, they produce zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to reduced air pollution and noise levels.
It's important to remember that aside from financial factors, the decision between a gas vs. electric golf cart should be influenced by your specific needs.
To recap, here’s a summary of the main differences & similarities between LSVs and golf carts:
Insurance & Proper Registration
16+ years old with a valid driver’s license
Short-distance commuting within neighborhoods, communities, and planned developments
Navigating through golf courses, resorts, campgrounds, commercial and residential facilities
Gas & Electric
Gas & Electric
Understanding the legal classifications, road legality, speed capabilities, and safety requirements associated with LSVs and golf carts empowers you to make a decision that ensures both functionality and adherence to the law.
At Garrett’s Golf Cars, we can walk you through every step of purchasing your new or pre-owned golf cart, start to finish. We’d be happy to meet with you at our physical stores or contact us online to discuss what you’re looking to do with your golf cart and which options fit your needs, lifestyle, and budget.