Making Your Golf Cart Street Legal

The Ins and Outs of Making Your Golf Cart Street Legal

Street Legal low speed vehicle (golf cart)

Please be aware, that “street legal” and “street allowed” are not the same thing.

What you need to know about Golf Carts in North Carolina

The Facts about Golf Carts on Public Roads in North Carolinacounty map of North Carolina

Some golf carts are legal on most public roads in North Carolina. Others are not legal on all public roads unless allowed under special exemptions, which are passed by the NC Legislature and approved by the governor.

North Carolina — Street Legal v Street Allowed

North Carolina divides golf carts into two categories: street-allowed and street-legal golf carts, and laws vary according to the type of cart driven. In most instances, only street-legal carts are allowed on public roads. Street-legal golf carts carts are subject to the same requirements as other vehicles (passenger cars, trucks, vans, etc.). They must be registered and licensed and must feature:

  • Seatbelts
  • Headlights
  • Brake Lights
  • Four-Wheel Brakes
  • Proper Insurance
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Although street-allowed golf carts are not allowed on public streets, some communities petition ed the state for an exemption fro the state law. Municipalities that have received state law exemptions include the resort communities such as Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Pinehurst.

In exempt communities, municipal governments are free to place restrictions on street-allowed golf carts. The restrictions are only enforceable on those specific communities. For example, one county requires drivers of street-allowed golf cart drivers to possess a valid North Carolina driver’s license, and most communities restricts hours of operation to the daytime, when golf carts are easier to spot on the roads.

Typical carts, which fall into the street-allowed category, reach speeds no greater than 15 mph and do not have brake lights, headlights or seat belts. Unless the state legislature specifically passes a law to allow all golf carts in a certain geographic area, street-allowed golf carts are not legal on public roads.

To be legal on a given street, golf carts must be capable of meeting posted minimum speed limits. Because golf carts cannot be driven at higher speeds, they are often not legal on highways and never legal on U.S. interstates. All-terrain vehicles such as three-wheelers and four-wheelers are not categorized as golf carts.

What you need to know about Golf Carts in South Carolina

Who Can Drive a Golf Cart in South Carolina?south-carolina-county-map

Only licensed drivers over 16 years of age may drive golf carts (except on private property) in South Carolina. That means that it is against the law for children or unlicensed drivers to drive a golf cart on a public road (which includes your neighborhood). If your child has an accident, you may be held criminally liable for endangering your child and civilly liable for “negligent entrustment” for any accident caused by your child. (

Do I Need to Register My Golf Cart in South Carolina?

If your golf cart is only to be used on your private property, you do not need to register it. However, if you are going to drive on a public road whether it is in your neighborhood or elsewhere, you need a golf cart permit from the South Carolina DMV. The permit costs $5, and you’ll have to show proof ownership and proof that you have liability insurance in order to obtain the permit.

The Where and When of Driving a Golf Cart in South Carolina

In South Carolina you can only drive a golf cart during DAYLIGHT hours and only on secondary roads with a speed limit not more than 35 MPH.

You may cross a highway or street at an intersection regardless of the speed limit of the street being crossed. But, you can’t go too far. You must stay:

  • Within four miles of the address on the certificate of registration
  • Within four miles of a point of entry to a gated community
  • On an island not accessible by a bridge designed for use by automobiles.

A local ordinance (such as a county, city or town ordinance) can reduce the distance allowed to be driven, but can’t reduce it less than two miles (which was the previous amount allowed).

What do I Need While Driving My Golf Cart in South Carolina?

  • The Certificate of Registration
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Driver’s license

What Equipment Does a Golf Cart need in South Carolina?

  • Headlights
  • Tail lights
  • Blinkers

Traffic Laws and Golf Carts

Golf cart drivers are subject to the same laws as other drivers, and they can receive citations for failing to regard such traffic control tools including stop and yield signs.

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