How Old Do You Have To Be To Drive A Golf Cart?

When kids can’t drive fun toys like ATVs, boats, jet skis, or even golf carts, it can take the wind out of their sails (or the fun out of a day on the water–or the golf course) Before long, your kids will start asking, “How old do you have to be to drive a golf cart?”

The golf cart driving laws can be a little tricky, although the typical age requirement is between 13 and 16 years old. State laws, local laws, and even golf cart features are going to come into play when making this determination. 

While your children may meet your state’s age requirements, always ensure your child is responsible and ready to drive a golf cart, regardless of their physical age. 

Exploring State-by-State Age Requirements for Golf Cart Drivers

A group of teenagers driving a golf cart on a course

The legal driving age for golf carts varies widely across the United States, depending on state laws. For instance, the minimum age requirement to legally drive a golf cart in most states is 14 years old. 

However, specifics can differ drastically. In California, the legal age limit to operate a golf cart is as young as 13 years old, while in Texas, it’s 16.

Some states have more nuanced regulations. 

Alabama, for example, is a state where individuals need to be at least 18 years old to drive a golf cart on public roads, and a driver’s license is a must. 

Meanwhile, in Georgia, anyone above 12 years can drive a golf cart, provided a licensed adult driver accompanies them. However, any Georgia resident who wants to drive alone in a cart must have a valid driver’s license or permit.

Take note that age restrictions can also hinge on numerous factors, such as driving on roadways, local law enforcement, and jurisdiction-specific regulations. 

Make sure you take a look at the specific laws in your area before permitting a young driver to operate a golf cart.

Understanding Local Laws and Their Impact on Golf Cart Use

Certain municipalities may have unique requirements. For instance, some areas may prohibit nighttime driving, unless the vehicle has proper lighting and safety features.

Considering the potential complexity, it’s recommended to seek advice from local authorities or extensively research golf cart driving rules–including any regulations golf courses may enforce.

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The Intersection of Motor Vehicles Laws and Golf Carts

Did you know that a golf cart can be classified as a motor vehicle under certain conditions? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines ‘Low-Speed Vehicles’ (LSVs) as four-wheeled motor vehicles with top speeds of more than 20 mph but not more than 25 mph, and a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of less than 2,500 pounds.

This means that golf carts capable of speeds greater than 20 mph but less than 25 mph are classified as LSVs and must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 500. For example, in California, golf carts modified to exceed the speed limit of 20 mph become subject to motor vehicle laws. Drivers must be at least 13 years old.

CriteriaMotor Vehicle LawsGolf Cart LawsLSV (Low-Speed Vehicle) Classification
Maximum SpeedTypically above 25 mphUsually up to 20 mphMore than 20 mph but not more than 25 mph
WeightVaries widelyGenerally lightweightGVWR of less than 2,500 pounds
Safety EquipmentSeat belts, airbags, headlights, rearview mirrors, turn signalsOften lacks standard motor vehicle safety equipmentMust have seat belts, headlights, rearview mirrors, turn signals, and VIN
Licensing RequirementsDriver’s license requiredOften no license required for private property; varies for public accessDriver’s license or learner’s permit required
Age RequirementsTypically 16+ with a learner’s permit or driver’s licenseVaries by state/local laws; can be as low as 13-16 for private property, higher for public road useFollows motor vehicle laws, usually 16+
InsuranceMandatory in most jurisdictionsVaries; not always required, especially on private propertyInsurance required as for motor vehicles
Registration & TitlingRequiredNot always required, especially for use on private propertyRequired, similar to motor vehicles

When it comes to golf cart driving, most states require a driving license or a learner’s permit. This rule applies to both adults and young drivers.

In some states, individuals with a learner’s permit may drive a golf cart on public roads if they are accompanied by someone 21 years of age or older.

Factors Influencing Golf Cart Driving Privileges

The legal definition of a golf cart can vary based on several factors, such as seat capacity, overall weight, and maximum speed. These factors can influence the driving privileges associated with golf carts. 

For example, modifying a golf cart can change its legal status and, consequently, the regulations associated with its use.

In Florida, modifying a golf cart to exceed speeds of 20 miles per hour reclassifies it as a Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV). As a result, the golf cart then requires adherence to state regulations regarding titling and registration

Golf Cart Regulations on Golf Courses and Private Property

While state and local laws provide a guiding framework, private property owners and golf courses can set their own age restrictions for driving golf carts. They can also set their own speed limits and operational hours, as well. On some golf courses, the age restrictions for driving golf carts can be tailored according to their membership demographics.

Private property owners may have their own rules, which can sometimes be more lenient or stricter than state regulations. However, enabling minors to drive golf carts on private property could entail legal considerations such as child endangerment laws. 

How Private Communities Set Their Own Standards

In gated communities or private properties, the community or property owner often sets age restrictions for driving golf carts instead of state law. 

An example of such autonomy is seen in Florida, where the law allows golf cart drivers as young as 14 to be registered with the Florida Department of Transportation in private communities. 

Driving Golf Carts Beyond the Fairway: Public Streets and Roadways

While golf carts are traditionally seen zipping around golf courses, they are becoming more popular on public streets and roadways. 

For instance, in Florida, a law effective July 1, 2023, mandates that golf cart drivers must be at least 15 years old with a learner’s permit or 16 with a driver’s license to operate a golf cart on public streets. 

In contrast, California allows 13-year-olds to drive golf carts on public roads, provided the golf cart weighs no more than 1,300 pounds and carries no more than two people.

All golf cart drivers, regardless of age, need to adhere to local laws regarding public streets and roadways. 

Insurance and Liability Considerations for Underage Drivers

Allowing underage drivers to operate golf carts, or any vehicle for that matter, can have significant insurance and liability implications. For instance, homeowner associations might be held legally responsible when underage children are allowed to drive golf carts, which can lead to lawsuits following accidents.

To mitigate these legal liability risks, communities with prevalent golf cart usage must:

  • Establish rules concerning the minimum age for drivers
  • Enforce these rules
  • Regularly monitor compliance with these rules
  • Implement license requirements for drivers

By implementing and enforcing these measures, communities can reduce the risk of accidents and potential legal issues. Insurance policies often dictate a 16-year-old minimum age requirement for operating golf carts. 

Educating the Next Generation of Golf Cart Drivers

It’s crucial to impart responsible driving habits to young golf cart drivers. 

Parents and guardians need to make sure that their children understand the danger of operating golf carts. Although these carts seem like all fun and games, serious injury can occur when not driven with caution. 

Young golf cart drivers must be educated to avoid distractions like texting while driving. 

Moreover, parents should inform their children about the limitations of golf carts, such as their lack of safety features designed for regular street use. This is to ensure that children are fully aware of the potential risks associated with golf cart driving and are prepared to mitigate these risks.

Summary

Even if you live in a small gated community where everyone gets around using their golf cart, you’ll still have to adhere to the golf cart age restrictions for driving. Check local laws and your HOA to make sure you are compliant with your golf cart usage and the storage of your golf cart.

If you can’t store your golf cart in your garage, Neighbor-a self-storage-marketplace offers nearby storage options for your golf cart at prices 50% lower than traditional storage options. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a 12-Year-Old Drive a Golf Cart Around the Neighborhood?

No, a 12-year-old would not be allowed to drive a golf cart around the neighborhood in most states. A vehicle classified as a golf cart can sometimes be used on private property, but the conditions vary depending on local and state requirements. 

Can a 14-Year-Old Drive a Golf Cart in Florida?

A new law effective July 1, 2023, mandates that golf cart drivers under 18 must be at least 15 years old with a learner’s permit or 16 with a driver’s license to operate a golf cart on public streets in Florida. 

Can a 13-Year-Old Drive a Golf Cart in California?

Yes, a 13-year-old can legally drive a golf cart in California as long as the cart meets certain weight and passenger restrictions. Always ensure compliance with these regulations.

Can a 12-Year-Old Drive a Golf Cart in Texas?

No, a 12-year-old cannot legally drive a golf cart on public roads in Texas. You must be 16 years old and possess a valid driver’s license to take the cart on the road in Texas. 

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