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Golf carts are a preferred transportation mode on the links, but they’re becoming increasingly popular on public roads. Golf carts have a lot in common with low-speed vehicles (LSVs), whose name hints at why people might confuse these two types of vehicles. Here are several differences between golf carts and LSVs.

1. Golf carts have a serial number; LSVs have a VIN

Maria Sakkari takes a golf cart to her match against Aryna Sabalenka during the BNP Paribas Open on Mar. 17, 2023
Golf carts at the 2023 BNP Paribas Open in California | Julian Finney/Getty Images

There are many differences between an LSV and a golf cart, and most are legal differences. For example, an LSV is required to have a 17-digit VIN, similar to passenger cars.

Many types of vehicles must have a VIN to operate on public roads. They include motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters. But golf carts aren’t required to have a VIN, setting them apart from LSVs. Instead, golf carts usually have a serial number, Dean Team Golf Carts explains.

2. LSVs must have an approved windshield

Because an LSV is required to have a VIN, it’s not surprising that it also needs a windshield. It must be approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). In comparison, golf carts aren’t required to have a windshield, much less a DOT-approved one.

3. The LSV’s windshield might also need wipers

In addition, some states require that LSVs have windshield wipers. That isn’t a requirement for golf carts. But because only some states require windshield wipers, LSV owners must research what their state’s DOT says about LSVs.

4. An LSV must have seat belts

Another legal requirement that LSVs share with passenger cars is they’re required to have seat belts. They must be DOT-approved, and every rider must have a seat belt.

5. Mirrors might be required for an LSV

Side-view and rearview mirrors are other potential requirements for LSVs. Once again, this is on a state-by-state basis. In comparison, golf carts have no such provisions.

6. LSVs come with a manufacturer’s certificate of origin

One of the more niche differences between the two is that the former usually comes with a manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO). Sometimes it’s called a manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO). Either way, golf carts usually don’t have one. Because an LSV does, owners can title their vehicle to the state in which they live, whereas most golf cart owners can’t title their vehicle.

7. There are different tax implications between golf carts and LSVs

Last, because the government treats LSVs differently from golf carts, the two vehicle types are taxed differently. As with buying a car, when a person purchases an LSV, they are charged a personal property tax based on the LSV’s value. On the other hand, golf carts are subject only to a sales tax.

Golf cart and LSV owners should do their research before operating them on public roads

Overall, because governments treat LSVs differently from golf carts, owners and shoppers should research their state’s laws. Some states allow golf carts on public roads, while others don’t. And in the states that don’t, LSVs are usually street-legal as long as they meet all the requirements. 


What States Allow Golf Carts on the Road?