Golf Carts 101: Your Top Golf Cart Questions Answered
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Golf carts are fun! Sometimes golf carts can get pigeonholed as only for golfers or maintenance crews. Although golf carts were designed with these jobs in mind, they are useful for so much more. Golf carts are a great option for traveling short distances or in small communities, such as a retirement community or an island community. Golf carts are also super functional for large events like concerts, festivals, medical events, conferences, etc.
Investing in a golf cart might seem intimidating, but we are here to arm you with all the information you need to understand the ins and outs of buying and owning a golf cart. In this article, we answer your top golf cart questions, such as how much a golf cart costs, can you drive a golf cart on the road, and questions about golf cart batteries like how long they take to charge.
Table of Contents
How Much is a Golf Cart?
On average, most golf carts will cost between $8,000 and $9,000. You can find golf carts for sale in the $2,500/$3,000 range on the low end. On the high end, some luxury golf carts sell for over $20,000.
The cost of a golf cart depends on a few key factors:
- New vs. Pre-Owned
- Passenger Capacity
- Gas vs. Electric
- Features and Add-Ons
- Functionality (Golf, Personal, Commercial)
Although you can find golf carts for a fairly reasonable price, the cost can quickly rise when you add things like extra passenger seats, a sound system, a cargo bed, etc. As you might expect, a new golf cart will cost more than a pre-owned golf cart. Likewise, electric golf carts will have a higher base price than gas-operated golf carts. The more seats and cargo you add on, the higher the price tag as well. Typically, golf carts are used for, well…golf are the least expensive because they do not need any bells and whistles or need to be street legal. If you are considering a golf cart for personal use, you are probably more inclined to add some fun upgrades like a radio or music system or upgraded wheels. Commercial golf carts usually need higher horsepower and large cargo beds to haul, increasing the price.
If you are interested in shopping the pre-owned market, the average used golf cart price is hovering at about $5.7K. There is a vast inventory of used golf carts on the market, thanks to the golf industry. Most golf courses upgrade their fleets every so often, flooding the market with lightly used 2-seater options for buyers. Pre-owned golf carts are a great option because you can buy at a lower cost and then upgrade and personalize the golf cart as you can afford it.
For specific pricing examples on brands like Yamaha, E-Z-GO, and Club Car, as well as the difference in pricing between 2, 4, and 6 seaters and gas vs. electric carts, dive into our How Much is a Golf Cart article to get all the details.
How Long Do Golf Cart Batteries Last?
There are two types of golf carts: gas and electric. Each has its pros and cons, but let’s talk about electric golf carts. Electric golf carts require a rechargeable battery to operate. Golf cart batteries typically last 4-10 years before they need to be replaced, much like a car battery.
There are two types of golf cart batteries available today: lithium-ion and lead-acid. Each has its pros and cons, but when considering life-span, a lithium-ion battery should last between 2,000 and 5,000 charging cycles, and a lead-acid battery should last somewhere between 500 and 1,000 charging cycles.
The wide range in anticipated lifespan is because different factors will affect your golf cart battery life. One of the most influential is the amount of daily or weekly use. Some other factors that can influence how long a battery lasts in a golf cart include:
- How fast you drive
- Duration/length of each ride
- How quickly you drain each full charge
- Lack of routine maintenance (lead-acid)
You can expect one full charge to last, usually between 4-6 hours of use or between 3 and 6 miles of driving. Keep in mind that these ranges are estimates, and your experience might be very different depending on several factors including, but not limited to:
- Load weight
- Engine size
- Battery size
- Terrain traveled (hills, gravel, flat, grass, etc.)
- Battery health
- Speed traveled
- Golf cart size/weight
There is a ton of really great information on golf cart batteries in our complete Guide to Golf Cart Batteries. We cover the cost of batteries with examples, what brands are good to use, how to find the correct battery for your golf cart, how much batteries weigh, and much more.
How Fast Do Golf Carts Go?
Typically electric golf carts are faster than gas golf carts, but nowadays, manufacturers have closed the gap in speed, and most golf carts on the market have a maximum forward speed of 19mph. That is to say, when putting the pedal to the metal and cruising on a smooth flat ground, a golf cart can reach a top speed of 19mph. We would say you are more likely to cruise at the 10-15mph range.
If a golf cart is built or modified to be street legal, some of these vehicles could reach speeds up to 35 mph. Speed for street legal golf carts is a crucial consideration for ensuring the vehicle is, in fact, street legal.
Do You Need a License to Drive a Golf Cart?
The long and short of it is that golf cart license requirements differ by state. Each state has its own unique set of laws and regulations about driving a golf cart. Some states require the driver to be 16 and older and have a valid driver’s license, while others only require the driver to be over the age of 14.
The best course of action is to check your state and local area laws to see what is permitted. In addition to differing by state, each local municipality can also set more specific laws and regulations about driving golf carts on and off the road.
While most states do not require a driver’s license to operate a golf cart (off the road), most do have age restrictions for driving a golf cart. Most states adhere to 13 years or older to operate a golf cart. Some states, such as Florida, require drivers to be at least 15 years old to drive a golf cart.
Pro Tip: The restrictions for age do not apply if you drive a golf cart on private property. If the private property has its own rules and regulations, be sure to abide by those requests when using a golf cart.
You can find additional information on licensing requirements in our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Golf Cart.
Can You Drive a Golf Cart on the Road?
Yes, you can drive a golf cart on the road, but it needs to meet some general requirements. Golf carts need some modifications to be considered street legal. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations that dictate what qualifies a golf cart as street legal.
In general, there are a few standard federal requirements that apply to every state, including:
- 17-digit VIN
- License plate
- A working horn
- A speedometer
- DOT-approved tires, seat belts, and windshield wipers
- Working headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signal lights
- Interior and exterior-mounted mirrors
- Must reach speeds of at least 20 mph
To be safe, we recommend checking your state and local guidelines for golf cart rules and regulations. Some states have additional requirements such as weight, passenger capacity, existing speed limit restrictions, and driver’s credentials.
Most states have a range of 20-25 or 30-35mph as a speed requirement for street-legal golf carts to touch on the last bullet point above. The reasoning for the speed requirement is so that a golf cart on the road doesn’t go so slow it interferes with regular automobile traffic and does not go so fast that it needs extra safety precautions.
Pro Tip: State laws might not mention Golf Carts by that name. Some regulations refer to them as LSVs or Low-Speed Vehicles.
Another important distinction is that street-legal golf carts drive on regular public roads. You may have encountered golf carts driving on public roads that do not meet the above requirements, and think to yourself, what’s the deal here? Some local communities have exemptions to the above requirements so that community members can drive golf carts on roads in specific areas, typically seen in small communities, retirement communities, beach towns, etc.
How Long Does it Take to Charge a Golf Cart?
Three factors affect how quickly your electric golf cart battery will charge:
- Quality of the battery
- Discharge level
- Quality of the charger
Together, these three components can drastically change the time it takes to charge your electric golf cart’s battery. A newer battery will charge faster than an older battery. After about three years, you will notice a dip in how fast your battery charges.
The second factor, discharge level, refers to how much of the battery’s stored energy has been used. In other terms, it refers to the battery’s expected lifespan. The higher your golf cart’s discharge level, the slower your battery will re-charge. Together with the quality/newness of the battery can impact the charge speed. For example, a 5-year old battery with a 60% discharge might take over 10 hours to fully charge, while a 2-year-old batter with the same discharge might take 5 hours to charge fully.
The last component is the quality of the charger. Two factors affect the quality of the charger: age and voltage. An older charger will eventually lose its ability to charge your golf cart quickly, so we recommend replacing your charger every 2-3 years if possible. Secondly, the voltage capabilities of the charge affect how quickly it will re-charge the battery. We recommend chargers that have at least 2.5-3.5 volts of charge power.
Pro Tip: Be sure to charge your golf cart after you use it for a long ride. Regular charging will help maintain the battery’s life and health. However, if you take your golf cart out for a short cruise and only deplete the battery a little, do not charge it. This can cause overcharging, which can damage the battery over time and decrease its lifespan and charging speed.
For a much deeper look at golf cart batteries, use our Golf Cart Batteries Guide.
How to Drive a Golf Cart
Driving a golf cart is reasonably straightforward, especially if you’ve driven a car. There are fewer bells and whistles on a golf cart, and basic driving instincts and training will suffice for operating a golf cart. There are a few simple steps to know for the first time you drive a golf cart:
- Familiarize yourself with the golf cart
- Is it gas or electric?
- Is it street legal or not?
- How many people can it carry?
- Sit in the driver’s seat and turn on the ignition
- Most golf carts still use a traditional key to turn the golf cart on
- Put on your seatbelt if one is available
- Ensure your passengers also buckle up if they have seatbelts available
- Identify the brake and acceleration pedals
- Tap the thin acceleration pedal on the right with your foot to move forward
- Notice the amount of pressure needed to make the cart go
- Do not press the acceleration pedal to the floor; add pressure gradually to get the cart up to speed
- Use the brake pedal
- Take your foot off the acceleration pedal when you have reached your desired speed
- When you want to slow down, put your foot on the brake pedal, the wider pedal on the left, to slow the art to a stop
- Ease the pressure on the brake, so you do not stop abruptly
- To drive backward, most golf carts have a Reverse switch. Flip the switch from forward (or Drive) to Reverse, look behind you, and use the acceleration pedal to move backward.
- Be very cautious of your surroundings when in reverse
Although the above steps introduce you to driving a golf cart, there are some more nuanced things to know when operating a golf cart.
Driving at Night
If you use your golf cart after dark, make sure you have the proper lighting and other requirements to do so safely. Many communities prohibit golf cart driving after sunset, but you will need functioning taillights, headlights, brake lights, and turn signals if you are allowed. Take extra precautions when driving at night by going slower and staying away from high traffic areas.
Rules of the road
Be conscientious of the rules of the road. Follow speed limit signs, stop signs, stop lights, and other road signs. If your golf cart is street legal, it is required to follow the rules of the road as any other automobile would. Even off the public streets, following guidelines and signage is an essential consideration for ensuring the safety of yourself and those around you.
Adhere to the posted speed limit signs. Golf carts are not equipped with all the same safety features as cars. Speed limits are posted to ensure your safety as well as the safety of those around you. Please adhere to these guidelines when operating a golf cart.
Lastly, golf carts can be a bit top-heavy. Practice extreme caution when turning in a golf cart, especially if the weight is not evenly distributed, it is a sharp turn, or you have a full load of passengers. Even going as slow as ten mph can cause a passenger to slide out of a golf cart and get injured. Remember that golf carts don’t have doors or windows, and many do not even have seatbelts. Take turns slowly and cautiously.
Golf carts have come a long way since the 1950s. They are emerging as a widely popular way to travel short distances and connect communities conveniently. Investing in a golf cart might be a great idea for you and your family. They are affordable, easy to maintain, and are guaranteed to create lasting memories.
Golf carts are somewhat less commonplace when comparing them to cars or motorcycles, which might make the buying process a little intimidating. Our advice is to keep asking questions and searching for answers. Walk into a dealership or shop online armed with all the information you need to make the best decision for you.
- See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
- Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired Golf Cart
- Receive special offers on both the RV as well as additional accessories
- Take advantage of Bonus Savings plus the option to Buy From Home from select Certified Dealers
- Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience