Your Complete Guide to Purchasing a Golf Cart

guide to buying a golf cart

Golf Cart Resource can help you make a purchasing decision by giving you a broad picture of what carts cost, with a little golf cart history thrown in for good measure. We’ll start by explaining that the term “golf cart” has evolved to mean the carts we drive around a golf course or on the street. Originally, a golf cart meant the pull carts designed to hold one bag and be moved with human effort or the aid of electric power. The original two-passenger cart we know today was called a golf car, because it was driven and powered like an automobile. Contemporary use has evolved to the point where every conveyance used to play golf is called a golf cart.

A few things to consider when purchasing a Golf Cart

Now let’s get into some of the details. The first thing you’ll find is that the choices are nearly as unlimited as you’ll see when shopping for an automobile. There are new carts, used carts, custom carts, vintage carts, fleet carts, electric carts and gas carts. Real environmentalists will likely choose an electric cart because there are no emissions that will contribute to bad air. The acceleration is almost immediate. The batteries can typically last through 36 holes without charging and the cart produces little noise, even when the top speed is 20+ miles per hour. The distance the cart will go on a full charge is something to look at before making a purchase. For a better understanding of how far a cart can go on a charge, read our article on how long batteries will last on a single charge.

If you are buying a used cart or a former fleet cart you should also find out the age of the batteries, because old batteries will take you shorter distances than new. Plus, buying a complete new set of batteries can be costly. You also should check out the charger, as the newer “smart” chargers will only send juice to the batteries when they need it, which is critical if the cart is not going to be used for long periods of time. Another important consideration is the controller, which can be set to achieve different levels of speed. For instance, higher speeds will result in using more charge from the batteries resulting in less range per full charge.

Purchasing an Electric Golf Cart

The first electric cart is said to have been invented by Merle Williams of Long Beach, who invented the homemade vehicle in 1932 to get around gas rationing. Alas, he did not create the vehicle for playing golf, but to make transportation available to people who could not walk very far. His original cart had three wheels and tiller steering, a configuration that lasted into the 1970’s. The cart design did not utilize four wheels and was not steered by a steering wheel until the late 1970’s.

Moving on to present day, prices for an electric cart can vary from around $2,000 to over $20,000. Some of the best buys are former fleet carts that were used by golf course owners. Obviously, their initial price was lower than the cost of an individual cart because they are leasing or buying anywhere from 100 to 400 carts at one time. You may be thinking an old fleet cart will not be a good buy because of the number of rounds it has already completed and because the drivers might not have taken good care of the cart. This is definitely something to consider when purchasing, however, that thought can be somewhat mitigated by the fact that the course owner must keep every cart operational to make a profit. That means the carts are regularly charged, the batteries are kept in good condition and any repairs or parts replacement is pretty much mandatory for efficient course operation. For more information on what to look for when purchasing a refurbished or used cart, take a look here.

Purchasing a Gas Golf Cart

The first gas golf cart was introduced by Max Walker who called the cart (you guessed it) the Walker Executive when it hit the road in 1957. It had three wheels, tiller steering and carried two people. It was very similar to its electric cousin. Some users prefer a gas cart because they can go farther and just refill when low – compared to an electric cart that must be charged for long hours before being able to use again. Gas fans also do not have to worry about expensive battery replacement. However, gas carts do require regular ongoing maintenance that adds up quickly such as oil changes, filter replacements, belt changes, etc. For more information on what to look for when purchasing a used gas cart, take a look here.

Major Manufacturers

After the initial versions of the electric and gas cart were offered, several companies emerged that were dedicated to the production and sale of branded carts. E-Z-GO was started in 1954, Cushman in 1955, Club Car in 1958, Taylor Dunn in 1960, Harley Davidson in 1963 (which was later sold to Columbia in 1982) and Yamaha in 1977. Unlike automobiles, the United States has maintained its position as the largest manufacturer of golf carts for both recreational and commercial use.

Street Legal

Both gas and electric carts can be made street legal, a plus for the many golfers who live in a gated community or who like to take their cart to a nearby shopping center or clubhouse. Street legal carts require a windshield, headlights and taillights, turn signals, seat belts and a valid license plate. Many people tend to ignore those requirements and take their carts on public streets, but that behavior could be opening the door to a traffic citation if you are stopped by law enforcement. The Villages, an adult community in Florida, is said to have over 43,000 golf carts used by residents for both golf and routine transportation needs. For more info on State Laws, check out our dedicated map to find your state.

Additional Builds, Options & Accessories

With both types of carts, the price can depend on a number of considerations, such as public or private use, new versus used, cart capacity and available options. The options can really add to the cost, and include features like roof mounted air conditioning, an enclosure, a radio/sound system, a custom steering wheel or seats, paint treatments, lift kits and custom tires and items mounted to the cart like a cooler, a ball washer, holders for grass seed containers, a rear view mirror and special grills to make the cart look like various popular automobiles.

It is not uncommon to visit a course today and see carts tricked out to look like a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, a Mercedes, an Aston Martin, a Ford Mustang, Porsche, or Ferrari. (Another cart you can read about is a ParCar golf cart that Hoonigan re-fitted to accommodate a snowmobile engine and hit some serious speed.)

Where to look when you’re ready to purchase

If you are looking for a used cart, you can check neighborhood classifieds or golf course bulletin boards. You usually find someone who is upgrading their ride and wants to sell their current cart. A good move on your part would be to have a reputable source check the cart before writing the check. You can also look at local golf cart dealers, many of which keep an inventory of previously enjoyed carts that have undergone a complete check-up. You’ll find you will pay a little more at a golf cart dealer, but you will gain some piece of mind and a place you can take care of any problems that might emerge or add options you’d like to have. Check out our Dealer Locator here to find a golf cart dealer near you.

So Down to it: How Much Should I Expect to Spend on a Golf Cart?

Generally speaking, you can purchase a very functional used cart (including one that was part of a course’s fleet) for between $2,000 to $4,000. For $4,000 to $7,000 you can buy a well-equipped used cart with lots of options or a new cart with none to few add-ons. From $7,000 to $10,000 you can invest in a new cart that will come with many popular bells and whistles and all the latest performance features. When you venture into the $10,000+ range you are looking at a highly customized new or used cart that others will surely notice when you roll up to the first tee. As it always is, you pay for what you get.

Other Specialty Golf Carts

There are also specialized carts that are relatively new to the marketplace. The SoloRider is a cart that is specially designed to allow those with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy golf. There is also a new concept called the GolfBoard that is powered and driven something like a skateboard. It is designed for a single player and can speed up play because each player can go directly to their ball plus offer 75% less turf damage on the course.

Check out a video of the GolfBoard

Interested in hearing what others are saying about various Golf Cart Makes and Models? Check out our Consumer Reviews here.

Whatever cart mode of transportation you choose, hit ‘em straight and stay off the greens (with your cart).

Ken Becker
Ken is a veteran of the golf industry, with experience in golf course operations, country club marketing, tournament staging (including the nationally televised ProStakes) and too many mis-hit shots to count. He has been writing since he could hold a pen and has been published in numerous national and industry publications. Ken has worked on projects with PGA pros like Jack Nicklaus, Peter Jacobsen, Fuzzy Zoeller, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Craig Stadler.

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