Showing posts with label golf car rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label golf car rules. Show all posts

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Golf Carts vs Golf Cars for Retirees

According to Federal Highway Administration estimates, in 2009 Americans drove over 65 million miles while using almost 70,000 golf cars and golf carts on public roads and streets. This is the only year in which the federal government tracked these types of vehicles.  However, the information they gathered is quite interesting and shows how popular these vehicles are becoming across the United States.  Although they appeal to people in all age groups, retirees are finding the vehicles to be especially useful.  In fact, it is estimated that nearly one-half of the golf car and golf cart drivers in the U.S. are age 65 or older.

Why Golf Carts and Cars are Gaining in Popularity

There are a number of reasons why people are finding these vehicles appealing:

1.  Most of the golf cars and carts that you see today are battery powered electric vehicles. This makes them very economical to drive.

2.  With prices ranging from $2,500 for a used golf cart, up to $25,000 for a fancy, custom one,  and as much as $32,500 for a Think car, many people find that they are more affordable than keeping a traditional car.  Federal tax credits of up to $2,500 have also made the vehicles even more affordable.

3.  In many places, these cars and carts can be driven on the street, and they are easier to park than the average automobile.  In fact, the American Custom Golfcars company estimates that 85% of the vehicles their company manufacturers will never be seen on a golf course!

4.  Some locations are particularly golf cart friendly, such as the islands in Newport Bay, here in Southern California, or a number of small towns and master planned communities across the United States, especially golf course and over-55 communities.

5.  In some neighborhoods, retirees who have lost their driver's license can continue to legally get around their community while using a golf car or cart.

6.  The Think Car promotes itself as the car that requires about as much attention as a mobile phone.  Plug it in and it is ready to go in the morning.

7.  Both golf cars and carts are quiet and clean ... perfect for people who are concerned about the environment.

However, before you purchase one of these vehicles and decide to hit the roads in it, you will want to know about the different laws that govern each of these types of vehicles ... especially the laws in your area.  The laws can be very confusing, so be sure to check the rules in all the local jurisdictions where you will be driving.  Listed below are some of the rules that apply here in Southern California.  You will see that regulations can vary from town to town, even in communities that are only a few miles away from each other.

Golf Cart Rules

The California Department of Motor Vehicles does not require that golf carts be registered if they are only used within a mile of your home.   Brake lights and turn signals are not required, although it is highly recommended that you have a street ready vehicle if you are planning to primarily drive it on public roads.

However, it is important to note that, according to California state law, golf carts may only be driven on roads with a speed limit of 25 m.p.h. or less.  This eliminates many thoroughfares within the state.

City rules may override the state laws.  For example, in the town of Newport Beach, both golf cart and golf car drivers must have a driver's license if the vehicles are driven on public roads. 

On the other hand, in the nearby town of Laguna Woods, where the vehicles are primarily driven on private roads and trails, drivers are not required to have a driver's license.  In fact, Laguna Woods has plans to expand the number of golf cart trails that are currently available to make the area even more accessible to these vehicles.

Golf Car Rules

The California Department of Motor Vehicles does require that golf cars be registered.  These low speed vehicles are also expected to have some of the street ready safety features common in regular cars, such as brake lights and turn signals.

According to California state law, golf cars (which are also referred to as neighborhood electric vehicles or low-speed vehicles), are limited to roads with a posted speed limit of 35 m.p.h. 

The Think car is able to go up to 70 mph, so it may be allowed on roads with a higher speed limit.  You should check with local authorities to see what rules apply to you.

Golf Car vs Golf Cart

What is the difference between a golf car and cart?  Golf carts are typically open on the sides (although special covers can be purchased) and they are what most of us are accustomed to seeing on the golf course.  By comparison, the most common type of golf car is the Ford Think.  I have seen some of these on Balboa Island, in Newport Bay, where I frequently like to take walks.  Although they look like miniature cars and are fully enclosed with side doors, they can be smaller than some golf carts.

Golf carts tend to be less expensive than golf cars.  However, they are not as protective in cold or rainy weather.  In addition, in California and some other states, they can only be legally driven on roads with a speed limit of 25 m.p.h. or less.  Golf cars are slightly more protective and can be legally driven a bit faster.  The type of vehicle that is best for you may depend on the climate where you live, the speed limit in your neighborhood, whether you plan to primarily use it on the golf course or on public streets, and local regulations regulating the use of these vehicles.

Whichever type of vehicle you have, it is reassuring to know that in many places these vehicles will allow you to continue to stay mobile within your own neighborhood, even after it is no longer possible for you to hold a driver's license or drive long distances.  For many seniors, this is the best reason of all to own one!


"Golf Car Drivers Take to the Streets," Laguna Woods Globe - OC Register.  Tuesday, August 1, 2013.

If you are getting ready to retire, you may also want to check out the index articles listed below.  Each one contains links to additional articles on the mentioned topic.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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Photo of golf carts courtesy of