Golf carts are very popular now and not just for the golf course. When in the market for a used cart, there are a lot of factors to consider. You have to decide between new, used or refurbished. It can be confusing. There’s a lot you need to know to make the right choice.
What should you look for when buying a used golf cart? You should look at price when searching for a golf cart. After price, look at the condition of the cart. You will have decisions to make, such as gas versus electric and used versus refurbished, but it will always come back to price and condition of the golf cart.
So, you’re in the market for a used golf cart but need to know what to look for? Don’t worry. We have you covered. From price to condition, we’ll detail everything you need to know about buying a used golf cart.
4 Factors to Look For
Before you buy, you need to determine your needs in a golf cart. You will need to consider the terrain on which you’re driving, as well how mechanically inclined you are. Determining these will help you see which one is best for you:
- Gas vs. Electric
- Used vs. Refurbished
1. Gas vs. Electric
Choosing a gas versus an electric golf cart will hinge on several things, such as:
- Mechanical Issues
- Charging Issues
Gas Golf Carts
Golf carts aren’t the slow, creaky machines you saw poking around your granddad’s golf club. Golf carts today can be fast and built for all types of terrains. Gas golf carts are good for hilly areas or long drives.
Other features you should know about gas golf carts are:
- 10-15 horsepower engine
- Can handle adults or pull a load
- Higher resale value than electric carts
- More expensive to maintain than electric carts
- One gas tank will go 110-175 miles
- More moving pieces than an electric cart = more maintenance
- No battery charger required
If you are handy around an engine, maintenance on a gas powered golf cart may be no problem for you. If you’re lacking in mechanical skills, this may not be the cart for you.
Gas golf carts would be good for the following uses:
- Commercial grounds-keeping
- Outdoor transportation
- Maintenance purposes
- Rough or steep terrain driving
Electric Golf Carts
Electric golf carts, while quieter, are built more for smooth, level trips involving short distances.
They will have a harder time on steep slopes.
Other features you should know about electric golf carts are:
- 15-25 miles of driving per charge
- Good for short distances or a small community
- Must recharge battery on a daily basis
- Needs 6-8 hours of recharging time
Electric golf carts would be good for the following uses:
- Neighborhood/Community driving
- Country Clubs
- Luxury Resorts
- Level or smooth terrain driving
Except for batteries, an electric cart will come with less cost for maintenance.
- Deep cycle batteries require overnight charge
- Have 36 volt or 48 volt operating system
- 48 volt operating system will run twice as long as 36 volt
- Quieter than gas carts
- Less smelly than gas carts
- More environmentally friendly
You should determine if your community has a community battery charger in case you need to recharge while riding around. You will also need a battery charger if you purchase an electric golf cart. You should make sure it’s an automatic battery charger that shuts off automatically when the batteries are fully charged.
Also, keep in mind that some resorts or communities only allow electric golf carts. Others may allow both gas and electric but charge an additional fee for electric carts.
Here’s a handy table to summarize the pros and cons of gas versus electric golf carts.
|Gas Powered Golf Cart||Electric Powered Golf Cart|
|Good for over 100 miles of driving||Good for up to 25 miles of driving|
|Good for hilly terrain||Good for level terrain|
|More powerful than electric||Less powerful than gas|
|Can be loud and smelly||Quiet, no emissions|
|Better resale value||Smaller resale value|
|More money to maintain||Less money to maintain|
|More likely to break down||Less likely to have mechanical problems|
|Good for work||Good for leisure|
|Can refill at any gas station||Charging can take several hours|
2. Used vs. Refurbished
You will have to determine whether you want a used golf cart or a refurbished golf cart. We’ll explain the difference.
A refurbished golf cart is one that was used exclusively on a golf course for several years. Golf courses normally lease fleets of golf carts and return them when they replace the fleet every few years. The leasing agent then sells the carts to a wholesaler. The dealer then replaces all the worn parts, touches up any bodywork issues and sells the cart as refurbished.
Used golf carts are those normally sold by private individuals. You can find these on Craig’s List or online marketplaces. While you can find some very good deals here, you can also be stuck with a lemon so you need to do your homework.
Of course, it could be that the refurbished golf cart was not as carefully repaired as it should have been, which is why you must inspect the golf cart before buying it. Conversely, the used golf cart could have been very well maintained and could be a great deal. Privately sold used golf carts are often much less expensive than refurbished carts sold by an authorized dealer.
Here are some things to remember about buying used or refurbished golf carts:
- If buying refurbished, try to buy from an authorized dealer.
- Check out the golf cart thoroughly before purchasing.
- Ask to see the maintenance records of the golf cart.
- Check to see how old the golf cart is.
- Always take it for a test drive.
- Look for rust spots or signs the tires are worn.
- Ask who would repair it if needed.
- Ask about a warranty.
- Grip the canopy and give it a good shake to make sure it is not loose or making an odd sound.
- Examine the tread on the tires.
Used golf carts are better priced but refurbished golf carts are often better maintained. As always, ask questions and decide which is best for you.
Once you determine your budget and start shopping around for a golf cart, you want the best deal for your money.
If you are buying a used golf cart from an individual, the best tip we can give you is to negotiate. Always negotiate for a better price.
Reputable dealers should have a written return policy. They should also have maintenance records and more information on the vehicle, such as the country of origin for the cart.
Plan on spending at least $1,500 for a golf cart from an individual. If it’s in good shape, with good batteries and a good body, anticipate spending more. It will also depend on the accessories sold with the cart. Custom loaded golf carts with loads of accessories can go for as much as $10,000. The vast majority of used golf carts fall between $2,000 and $5,000. You can find these in your local paper, online ads, or at ebay.com.
Buying a refurbished cart from an authorized dealer will cost more money. However, it should come with some guarantees and you can normally rest easier knowing you probably won’t have any mechanical issues with the cart for quite a while.
Although many companies make golf carts, only three are made in the United States. The three are:
- EZ GO
- Club Car
These three companies have been making golf carts for decades and have high-quality, dependable carts. They each have factory authorized dealers for their carts. Almost every dealer is willing to work on these carts and you can find parts easily for their golf carts.
EZ GO carts are built with a steel frame and other high-quality materials, which make them a good choice for more rugged or off-road terrain. The steel frame will resist rust.
Club Car has carts that offer smooth suspension and are known for high-quality steering and reliability. The aluminum frame handles rough roads very well but is not as good in a high-humidity or coastal climate, due to rust.
Yamaha offers the quietest gas-powered golf cart. They’ve recently started producing carts with independent rear suspension, making for a very smooth ride. They also have a steel frame.
The other golf cart makers mostly originate in China. Parts are harder to source, and some dealers will not work on them. Maintenance manuals are harder to find, and technical support is not as robust as with the big three brands.
You can find some excellent pricing on golf carts that are not made by the top three brands, but you may pay more in the long run in sourcing parts. Because of this, our recommendation would be to buy from one of the top three brands.
10 Items to Check Before You Buy
You should definitely check out your golf cart before you purchase, regardless of which type you buy or where it’s purchased. There are several different items you should check, and we’ll run down what you should be looking for:
- Body and Canopy
- Maintenance History
- Age of Cart
Electric golf carts come with a power of either 36 or 48 volts. The batteries themselves come in either 6, 8, or 12 volts. Golf carts will have six 6 volt batteries for a 36 volt operating system. For a 48 volt operating system, they will have six 8 volt batteries or four 12 volt batteries. There are 2 volts per water fill hole so count the fill holes on the batteries and multiply by 2 to determine the total voltage power of the cart.
Batteries are expensive. They can run up to $1,000, depending on the quality or brand, and you need to replace batteries every three to five years. Make sure the batteries are from a quality brand. The most common battery manufacturers for golf carts are:
- S. Battery
Check the reliability of other battery manufacturers. You could get a cheaper set of batteries, but they may last only two years. In choosing batteries for a golf cart, spending more money upfront usually means spending less money over time.
So, your first step in looking at a used or refurbished golf cart will be to check out the batteries. You want to make sure you don’t have to replace them soon after purchase.
Here’s what you need to check for:
- Age of Battery
- Level of fluid in each battery
You can determine the age of the batteries by looking at the code date stamped on the batteries. This will either be stamped on the lead post or is on a decal stuck to the battery. The letter is the month in which the battery was made, and the number is the year.
Example: Code Date is B8
- A = January, B = February, C = March, etc.
- 7 = 2017, 8 = 2018, 9 = 2019, etc.
- The B8 battery was made in February, 2018.
If the golf cart you’re thinking of purchasing has batteries that are more than two years old, you may want to pass on that cart or enter further negotiations for a better price.
Check the level of fluid within each battery. A number of dry cells in the battery means the battery is on the decline. Dark battery acid is also indicative that battery may not have many miles left in it.
You will need a charger for your batteries. Most of today’s chargers are fully automatic, meaning they will discontinue charging when the batteries are full. Never use a charger not made for a golf cart.
The Club Car brand of golf carts has a charger that uses the on-board computer of the cart. You can leave this brand plugged in all the time.
Tires aren’t hard to replace but make sure the tires on the golf cart you want to purchase will last at least a year. Make sure the tires have deep treads and no visible damage.
The tires should be inflated properly and should not lose air once pumped up. Also, check to see if the brands of tires are the same.
Make sure the tires don’t have dry rot, which would indicate the cart has been sitting for an extended period of time.
Look for the following when check out tires:
- Alignment problems
- Worn-out components
- Bent frames
Checking the tires is a good time to also check out the frame. Steel and aluminum frames can rust and corrode, especially under the battery compartment where battery acid can leak out of the batteries onto the frame. Do not purchase a golf cart with a bent or corroded frame.
3. Body and Canopy
A good used golf cart will not show a lot of wear and tear. There should be little to no visible scratches or dents. Check for cracks in the body and especially in the wheel fender area. A crack in this area could mean a previous collision.
If the canopy is faded, that’s a sign the golf cart has been kept outside in the elements. Give the canopy a good shake. It should be stable and not make any unusual sounds.
With the seat upholstery, you can frequently see how the golf cart was previously treated. If there are cracks in the seat, or the seats are discolored or faded, the golf cart may have been kept outside.
Look for the following on the seats:
If you see any of the above, it’s not an automatic hard pass but you may want to ask follow-up questions from the owner/dealer.
Check inside the engine well under the seat. If it is electric, make sure there is not an electrical burn smell. If it is gas, make sure the engine is not dirty and oil covered.
Large amounts of oil and grease surrounding the engine could mean a cracked gearbox or crankcase. If the engine is clean, it may indicate the cart is frequently serviced.
Check to see which parts of the engine have been replaced or repaired. Do this by looking for parts that appear newer than the whole.
Check the padding on the brake pad. If it’s worn down, this is an older golf cart or one that has been used excessively. Take the cart for a test drive and look out for these other brake items:
- Corrosion on braking plates
- Rust behind brake backing plate
Squealing and grinding of the brakes means the golf cart needs new brake shoes. Corrosion on the braking plates or rust behind the brake backing plate (behind the rear wheels) could mean the cart has little to no repair or maintenance.
Wiring should be neat and done in a way that prevents chafing. Terminals need to look professionally done.
Avoid the following:
- Taped wire connections
- Unprotected wiring
- Incorrect routing
Test the wiring yourself before buying. Make sure the batteries charge and the lights work. Check the radio and other electrical components.
Test drive your potential cart on all types of surfaces, including:
Make sure the steering is not “sloppy”, in that the wheel doesn’t turn more than it needs to or is difficult to turn. Make sure you can make a tight turn. See how the steering responds when you run through puddles or on rough terrain. If the steering doesn’t feel right, there may be a problem with the rack and pinion steering boxes. That can be an expensive fix.
9. Maintenance History
Whether you buy from a dealer or a private individual, ask to see the maintenance records on the golf cart. If from a dealer, they should have the records readily available. Even a private owner should have records on what has been done to the cart and when.
Reputable dealers and sellers are proud of the work they’ve put into their golf cart and they’re happy to discuss it with you. If the seller seems reticent to talk to you about the maintenance history or seems unsure, this is a red flag for the buyer.
You will want to know all repairs or replacements made to the golf cart.
10. Age of Cart
One of the first questions asked should be how old the golf cart is. When you get the answer, check to make sure it is correct by finding the serial number on the golf cart. The serial number can be in a few places, including:
- Under the passenger side glove compartment
- Inside the passenger side glove compartment
- On the driver’s side frame behind the gas pedal
- Under the seat where the floorboard meets the motor compartment
- Under the rear bumper on the frame
- Under driver side glove box
The placement of the serial number will be determined by the make and model of the golf cart. Different manufacturers put it in different places. The serial number will tell you how old the cart is. Often the first two digits will be the year the cart was manufactured. Sometimes it is the last two digits. For Yamaha, you will need to access an online chart found here. Check the manufacturer’s website to see how to determine the age of your cart.
There are running golf carts that are over 30 years old so just because your potential golf cart is older doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. However, the older the cart is, the more difficult it becomes to source parts for it.
Always make sure you have thorough maintenance history, especially with an older golf cart. Older golf carts are more likely to need maintenance than newer golf carts.
Maintenance on Golf Carts
Any golf cart, electric or gas, used or refurbished, will need maintenance. If you perform a regular maintenance routine, you can have many years of service out of your golf cart. Before you purchase, make sure you know what maintenance will be required from you.
The annual maintenance for both electric and gas-powered carts is:
- Tighten all front suspension and check for wear on springs and bushings
- Pressure wash car and undercarriage
- Check tire pressure. Increase if needed
- Grease all items requiring grease
- Check oil levels
- Check steering for tightness and wear
- Inspect and adjust brakes
The annual maintenance for electric carts also includes:
- Clean all battery tops with water and baking soda
- Check battery trays for rotting/corrosion
- Inspect battery charger for proper operation
- Charge batteries
- Top up water level on batteries
- Remove and clean all battery cables
The annual maintenance for gas carts also includes:
- Oil change and filter
- Inspect carburetors for proper rotation
- Clean carburetors
- Inspect fuel pump for leak
- Air filter change
- Check battery charging
- Inspect clutch for wear
- Inspect starter generator brushes for wear
- Check and change all belts, as needed
- Fuel filters and spark plug changed
If you cannot perform maintenance yourself, you will want to have a dependable mechanic who can perform these maintenance items for you. If you have bought your cart from a dealer, find out if the dealer makes service calls.
Keep in mind that a gas vehicle with good maintenance will provide 1,000 to 2,500 hours of use before a major overhaul. An electric cart with good maintenance will provide 40,000 to 50,000 amp hours of use before a major overhaul.
Features and accessories on a golf cart can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the price of the golf cart. Decide the main purpose your golf cart will have and buy accordingly. If you are purchasing the cart for hunting purposes, you will need different accessories than someone buying a cart for resort living.
Here are some of the accessories that will cost you more money when purchasing a cart:
- Overhead audio console with Bluetooth amps and speakers
- Golf cart cabin cooling fan
- Custom floor mat covers
- Luxury bench back
- Cart body camouflage wrap kit
- Gun racks and carriers
Before purchasing, jot down a list of the uses you will have for your golf cart and then choose your accessories accordingly. Note that there are also many after-market vendors that will help modify your cart to fit your personal needs.
If you take away only one idea from this post, let it be this: negotiate. Always try to get the best price for your golf cart, be it from an individual or a dealer.