Golf carts can be electric or gas powered and are used to transport golfers and their gear safely and enjoyably around country clubs and golf courses. Their center of gravity is low to the ground so it is well suited for driving over uneven terrain and in place of where a horn would be in the center of a car’s steering wheel, there is a hanging clipboard for keeping score throughout a game.

Additionally, golf carts have evolved to also include recreational driving around neighborhoods and this trend is growing rapidly.

LSVs are low-speed vehicles designed for transporting people and goods around small areas, and while they are quite similar to golf carts in many ways, there are some differences worth noting.

The Difference Between a Golf Cart and an LSV

Golf Carts

A golf cart is designed to carry a maximum of two-four people, including the driver, and to carry golf equipment or in some cases, more people if a rear seat is installed. They have a maximum speed of 15 mph, unless manipulated, and a weight of 1,300 pounds when empty.

When operating a golf cart within a golf course or on private property, a legal registration is not required.  Furthermore, registration is not required when a golf cart is used on a highway as designated by each jurisdiction, or if it operates within one mile of a posted golf course.  Also, a golf cart cannot be used on the road with a speed limit of over 25 mph.


LSVs have four wheels and can reach a speed of over 20 mph. On a paved level surface, they can reach a maximum speed of 25 mph, unless deliberately altered to go faster.

Every LSV has a 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) and has a maximum weight of 3,000 pounds.

Where LSVs most strongly differ from golf buggies is in their use and speed. As LSVs are designed for use in neighborhoods, on roads, highways, and public streets, operators need to have a valid California license, insurance, and registration.

California Golf Cart and LSV Laws

To drive a golf cart in the state of California, you have to adhere to current NHTSA regulations. If the golf cart is incapable of exceeding a maximum speed of 20 mph, only state and local regulations are in effect.

If a golf cart is modified and designed for use at speeds more than 20 mph, they classify as a vehicle under federal law. In these cases, golf buggies are not permitted to be driven at night, and drivers must have a valid driver’s license, registration, and insurance.

No amount of alcohol is allowed, and if an underage driver gets into an accident in a golf cart, both they and their legal guardians can be held liable for damages.

When operating an LSV on public roadways, highways, and streets in the state of California, drivers must be fully certified to meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

They are not permitted to be operated on a roadway with a speed limit of more than 35 mph and are only allowed to cross state highways at fully controlled intersections.

LSVs are required to have headlights, brake lights, turn signals and rearview mirrors.

LSVs can be operated as a golf cart if it is driven with one mile or less of a golf course or on roadways that are designated by ordinance or resolution for such use.

Although to the untrained eye, an LSV looks like a golf cart, they are considered motor vehicles and drivers require a valid California driver’s license issued by the DMV, valid registration, and insurance, as is necessary with the operation of any motor vehicle.

When it comes to the main difference between a golf cart and an LSV, it’s mainly in its use and speed capabilities.  A golf cart’s primary purpose is for cruising around golf courses transporting golf equipment, whereas an LSV’s is best within neighborhoods, hotel grounds, or communities for transporting people and goods.


California Department of Transportation

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)