My 2002 GEM may not be street legal here

Trying to get it inspected, the local inspection office wouldn’t do it, referred me to the trooper station. They finally called me back and are looking for a plate or sticker on the car that states it’s street legal. As far as I know they don’t have a plate just the sticker on the roof with the VIN #. Asked me if I check city ordinances. I know I looked at state and it was fine. He said he didn’t think they were legal on the street so I may not get a tag afterall.

So I guess it depends on the city. The local inspection office said it depends on state county and city, all have difference regulations.

which state? The VIN sticker makes it an automobile and so long as you have the verbiage in your states civil code not sure how they can deny it. You may have to go to the state department of licensing to get somewhere.

Yeah, round and round we go. I think I should have left this thing where it was sitting and not bothered with it. Too much hassle. Spent forever finally getting it ready for the road, now I can’t get a tag for it.

Just because the state says it’s ok, doesn’t mean the city will allow it or the county. All have different codes. Thing is, what exactly is it that makes it not street legal? That’s what I’m going to ask them. It has a title, a vin, I got insurance on it, has all the saftey equipment. I checked for low speed vehicle codes but I didn’t see anything locally. All I could find was under city rules for minimum speed that no vehicle may travel too slowly that it impedes traffic. If it goes 25 miles an hour in a 35 mph or less roadway I don’t see how it could be impeding traffic. There has to be something specific that’s causing them to say it’s not street legal.

They asked about a sticker or a plate stating it was street legal. I called GEM, they said there was no plate, already knew that so didn’t really get any help there. They just said I’d have to check with my local DMV.

Is there another location for inspection?

Even if You can’t drive it legally in some places, you should still be able to get plates. If it’s legal anywhere in state.

Do you have a title or CO?

Gem specifications state GEM meets requirements for Low Speed Vehicle. That should be documentation enough.

Better lawyer up…

Had a similar experience when I got my GEM. The local registrar refused me plates because it was a “golf cart” and not street legal in spite of my having all the necessary documentation otherwise. I left that office and went to another registrar and got plates with no problem. Well other than the required “vehicle emissions test” which of course an electric doesn’t need. Took me awhile but I finally got a permanent exception from the Ohio EPA!

While it is true that local municipalities can restrict Low Speed Vehicle in their jurisdiction, I doubt most do - simply because it probably never came up before and they don’t have any idea of what an LSV even is. As a courtesy, I made an appointment with my local Police Chief and showed him the vehicle, documentation and all appropriate and legally required safety features. Even offered to let him take it for a spin. As a result, he had no objections and I’ve never been bothered by the PD.

Don’t give up. Try another location.


I’ve printed off all my PA state DMV documentation on LSVs to show it’s legal. Used that to get registered with a plate. PA doesn’t require inspection, just registration (which is funny because auto inspections are a huge pain here). The VIN should be on the dash behind the windshield just like any other car. That’s probably the “plate” they are referring to. I needed a rubbing or a photo of that to get registered at my local notary public office(title).

Ok, I may have seen that VIN, I’ll have a look. I think they’re just confused and have never seen one before. I called them this A.M., waiting on call back. It was tagged and titled in California and they have stricter requirements than here.

Where exactly is it? I didn’t see it.

My VIN is on a decal above the passengers head

Yeah, that’s the only one I can find. Don’t see any behind the windshield.

Ok, got a voicemail. Said they got a call in to manufacturer confirmed it’s street legal. Don’t have to take it back in, just need to pay for inspection and get paperwork then title it. Geez. Must not get very many of them around here.

I had some problems in California but for some different reasons. If you are looking for a second vin plate mine is located under the seat on the cross beam. It is stamped into it. The Highway patrol had to verify it before I could have the DMV approve it. Most dmvs don’t know how to register them because it is usually done by a dealer directly with the state DMV. Not the local DMV.

Finally got my plate. After picking up inspection paperwork I went in to register, had to start all over. “Is it a golf cart? I don’t see golf cart as a vehicle type.” Took 20 minutes of explaining before they knew how to proceed. She pulled up the low speed vehicle laws and read thru it first.

Yep, most registrars have not heard of LSV simply because there are so few of them; at least in my area. I also pulled off the LSV applicable section of the vehicular codes to take with me in case of questions. The first registrar wouldn’t take the time to listen to my explanation and insisted it was a golf cart and therefore not legal for the street. I finally gave up and walked out and went to another office. The 2nd registrar simply took my word for it, clicked the appropriate box on the registration/licensing screen and gave me the plates; no argument or further explanation required.


Yeah, I basically told her if it was capable of going over 20 miles an hour but not more than 25 it was considered low speed vehicle. Golf carts can’t and don’t have the safety equipment so not registerable. She first asked if it was for off road, so I knew it wasn’t going to go quick.

I just wish the ride was a little better, this thing bounces all over the place. Brick roads around my neiborhood about 10 miles an hour max. Going thru stop lights can be a little sketchey too, not all are smooth, that little bump going from pavement to concrete or brick is like a speed bump in the GEM. Not really any shocks in the back it just rides on the axel.

I got it up to 29 or 30 down a hill, that’s with 14" tires and wheels so maybe 32 actual speed. About 26 or 27 up hill and on the flats maybe 28 or 29 actual speed. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to go any faster in it. The thing just doesn’t weight anything, bounces too much. But man it takes off fast off the line, gets up to 25 quick and then that’s about it, you’re getting passed or cars are lining up behind you. I’ve got roads planned that it can go on and that’s all I’m going to use it for. I guess I’ll see how much it gets used and see if I like it. Might end up selling it in a year or two, we’ll see.

It’s front and to the right of the steering wheel as you’re looking from the outside. It’s down way low behind the windshield glass in the corner. The dash plastic should be cut away to reveal it. Mine’s a 2015. It’s the same place as on a “normal” car.

Just got my license plates yesterday here in Washington State. Had to go to a second DMV office to convince someone my Gem was not a golf cart. Printed out all the state information about adoption of Federal NEV regs. and designation of NEV, LSV M (medium) SV and golf cart. My local community had no restriction on the Fed/State rules but to play safe I went to local Police chief. He was very interested, looked at all my info and is making a presentation to the City Council to acknowledge and authorize use for any that meet Fed/State regs. All major golf cart brands are now mnfg. “street legal” carts but dealers aren’t marketing them as NEV/LSV rigs. I suggest any purchase from dealer be contingent on dealer licensing . My Gem came out of Arizona with a title showing NEV which saved me a lot of hassle. Google your state DMV to see if they have adopted Fed NEV regs. Just checked and Kansas does have rules for the NEV/LSV (unless restricted by local authority). See Kansas statutes 8-15, 104, 8-1701 and 8-2118. I also suggest you remove the Golf Bag attachment, if you use one, for any inspections as it will just confuse the issue.


I live in Washington state too and surprisingly did not have any issues registering my GEM. I did have the clerk pull up a web site showing the specs of the GEM and maybe that helped too.

Here in Washington, we have another NEV classification that some other states do not, called MSV (Medium Speed Vehicle). Check out these links:

Vehicle Classifications and Required Equipment - Washington State Patrol

It is my interpretation that a GEM vehicle in the State of Washington can be considered a MSV due to its roll cage body. The advantage here is that I’ve upgraded to a RFF motor and had the controller modified, giving me a top speed of around 36mph (40mph down a hill). It’s not that I want to go fast in my GEM but there are a few roads where 25mph is not fast enough, and actually feels a bit unsafe. And, I can switch it to Turf mode and have a top speed of 25mph.

Anyone agree or disagree with this MSV interpretation of the law?