California Golf Cart Laws
California is a large state with many winding roads and freeways.
Drivers can take to these roads on a multitude of vehicles, many of which are considered low-speed vehicles.
However, these transportation devices – which include modified golf carts – must follow federal and state laws to be road legal.
Most of these regulations are quite simple to understand and are often very similar to those put in place in other states.
However, some differences do exist, making the following information critical to understand.
Federal Laws Don’t Manage Golf Carts
The federal government strictly regulates the operation of motor vehicles across the nation.
They set the safety standards for the manufacture and use of cars, vans, trucks, and larger vehicles to ensure that drivers are safe on the road.
However, they do not attempt to cover low-speed vehicles.
These transportation devices are often quite small and usually do not travel on state or federal highways.
As a result, they typically let individual states handle the management of these carts.
This loophole applies to all vehicles designed to originally travel below 20 miles per hour.
So anything like a small personal scooter or golf carts are not managed by federal laws.
And since each state sets up different – though often quite similar – rules, the regulations can be more complex than you may think.
This factor is particularly complicated by the fact that the federal government does not step in if one of these low-speed vehicles are adjusted for on-road driving.
For example, many people upgrade their golf carts to be fast enough to ride on local roads and highways.
They will be faster than at least 25 miles per hour and may even be faster in some cases.
However, the federal government still lets the states decide how they want to manage these carts and transportation devices.
As a result, California – like every other state – has written many guidelines that dictate how and when these devices can be used and their needs for registration and licensing.
That said, the federal government does have guidelines for what can and cannot be considered a low-speed vehicle.
Though they may allow some variation between states, they usually demand that these carts have headlamps, stop lights, turn signals, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rearview mirrors, Vehicle Identification Numbers, tail light, windshields, and seat belts for each person in the cart.
State Laws for Golf Carts and Low-Speed Vehicles
California state law allows communities to designate themselves as a Golf Cart Community.
This designation means that golf cart use does not have to follow federal laws and regulations in these areas.
These communities usually occur in cities or towns near golf courses or which find golf cart use important for their residents’ needs.
However, carts used in these designated communities still must be upgraded to make them safe for the road.
These upgrades include headlights, seat belts, turn signals, side mirrors, brake lights, rearview mirrors, and windshields.
Communities may designate the use of covered passenger compartments the number of seat belts in each cart.
Speed is also subject to their needs but cannot be over 25 miles per hour.
Other Regulations to Consider for a Golf Cart
State law requires all golf carts modified into low-speed vehicles to possess four wheels before they are street legal.
As all golf carts are balanced for four wheels and drive poorly missing even one, this rule shouldn’t be hard to meet.
However, they also need to be capable of reaching speeds of more than 20 miles per hour but less than 25 miles per hour on a one-mile paved surface.
This regulation ensures that golf carts don’t drive too fast for their safety needs. Each low-speed vehicle – even golf carts – must possess a 17-digital vehicle identification number or VIN.
You cannot get one of these until you register your cart at the DMV. Once you receive one, you can use it to track your cart.
Others who may want to buy the cart – or law officials tracking your legal use of carts – may also use your VIN.
Golf carts designed for road use must never exceed 3,000 pounds in weight or speeds of 25 miles per hour.
Importantly, they must also only travel on roadways with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or lower.
State and federal highways are not passable for these carts, either, and should be avoided.
And golf carts can only be driven on roads explicitly designed for their use.
For example, roads within one-mile or less of a golf course are safe on which to drive a cart.
And other streets – as designated by local authorities – may also be authorized for golf cart use.
Remember: a modified golf cart is legally considered a motor vehicle by the state and federal authorities.
As a result, you must also follow all laws regarding driving, such as proper alcohol use and speed limits.
Federal Golf Cart Laws
Even though our guides are thorough and researched, it is highly recommended that you perform your own research and check with your local municipality on rules as well.