Purchasing a New or Used Golf Cart in 2022 - A Buyer’s Guide from Albion Golf Cars
This is an update of a 2022 blog; enough information has changed in this marketplace to warrant a rewrite.
Shopping for a new or used personal golf car may appear daunting. Choices from authorized dealers, independents, private sellers, listings from websites, Google reviews, competing brands, technical jargon, the many options and inconsistent prices add to the vastness of the task of buying a golf car. (Yes, they are correctly known as golf cars, but the slang of “carts” is now commonplace.)
Albion Golf Cars has been selling new and used golf carts since 1973. It is our belief that buyers are best served when well informed, erasing the difficulty inherent in such a large purchase. Unlike the automotive world, there are no regulations or “lemon laws” governing the sale of golf carts. Hence, this article is an attempt to combine some of the industry’s best advice on this topic into a Buyer’s Guide to assure that you purchase wisely.
The “Big Three” of golf cart manufacturing are Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha. All these are assembled at facilities in Georgia; all have excellent engineering and for the purposes of this article be deemed as equal in quality and price points. Other players in this market come from China (AGT Electric as one example) at a lower price point, and Denmark (Garia) at a much higher price.
Current Market Conditions:
There have been a multitude of factors that have increased both pricing and scarcity in the new and used golf cart market.
Why are golf cars so much more expensive in this post-pandemic period? Look to any industry related to power sports: supply chains have failed, inflation has impacted material, labour and transportation costs, and demand has surged beyond all expectations. World demand for golf and utility vehicles cannot be nearly met when production facilities have outputs of less than 1,000 units per day to satisfy world demand. The 10-15 years of declining golf course and participant numbers has been reversed with the pandemic and the retirement of baby-boomers spiking the numbers. Golf is on the rise!
New cart purchases now have lead times of 10-16 months. Used fleets have been snapped up in the growing aftermarket of trailer parks and cottages. As a dealer, Albion is paying huge premiums over historical benchmarks for both new and used vehicles. When will this normalize or will prices drop? The answer is: Unlikely!
Considerations When Buying a Golf Cart:
1. New or Used?
Most people choose used carts over new carts for budgetary reasons. Technology advancements aside, golf cart functionality has not changed enough year to year to rule out the option of buying a used vehicle. New carts are often 50 -100 % more expensive than a 3 to 5-year-old used cart. A well-shopped used cart can last decades past its early life on a golf course. A professionally refurbished or an entirely rebuilt used cart can be almost indistinguishable from a new golf cart.
On the flip side, new golf cars offer several obvious advantages to the buyer. As with the purchase of a new automobile, the purchaser can configure the cart of his or her choice on-line, warranties are better, and the purchaser may find value in the latest technologies, options and styling.
2. Budgets – What am I going to pay?
Golf carts are not cheap! A real “head scratcher” for all dealers is the request for a $1,500 - $2,500 golf cart. That bus left the station decades ago. Sorry! In the current and forthcoming Canadian market, you can expect to pay $7,000 up to $12,000 for a reliable used cart. This wide range is reflective of the large number of options available and the difference between an “as is” cart and a professionally refurbished or rebuilt cart.
New carts are not cheap either; expect to pay between $11,000 up to $22,000 for a new cart. This range is reflective of the difference between a strictly golf (course) cart and the evolving PTV (personal transportation vehicle) category and the LSV (low speed vehicle street legal) category. Add the lithium upgrade to any cart and expect a 20% increase in return for zero maintenance and better performance and range.
3. Gas, Lead-Acid Electric or Lithium Powered?
What application is intended for your golf cart? Electric carts are popular and sometimes mandated by golf courses, within gated communities, and in trailer park or campground settings. They are also quiet and have virtually zero carbon imprint. Gas carts are popular when extended run-times or pulling power are necessary or when there is no electricity available to recharge batteries. Both gas and electric require routine maintenance. A gas cart is often mistakenly viewed as simpler to maintain when in fact it has 4 times the moving parts of an electric cart. A general rule is that an old gas cart will be more costly to maintain with age. Electric powered carts come with a battery set that will need replacing every 4-8 years depending on usage, lead-acid versus lithium and owner’s attention to maintenance. In summary, both will have costs down the road, so …. your call.
4. Battery Assessments and Life Expectancy
The most expensive part of the electric golf cart is the batteries, and a new lead-acid set can cost you up to $1,500. A new lithium pack can cost between $2,800 and $ 4,800 depending on range. Note that lead acid batteries are still 75- 80% of the used market but will be less every year as lithium makes inroads.
To better understand the differences between traditional lead-acid batteries and the recently available lithium solutions read our blog here.
Buying an electric cart with original or used batteries has some red flags. How long will batteries last? This is a common question without a definitive answer. The battery life of lead-acid depends on the combination of battery brand, battery year, past usage, charging methods, regular maintenance, type of water used and long-term storage protocols. Your dealer, manufacturer’s manuals, and various websites can provide maintenance guidelines. At Albion, we have seen unmaintained or overworked lead-acid batteries fail in one year. On the other hand, we have seen the batteries (properly cared for) last 8 to 10 years. Dealers rarely warranty used batteries unless they can control the maintenance. Manufacturers normally offer a one-year warranty on new lead acid batteries.
A reputable dealer should be able to clarify for you the year of battery manufacture. (Stamped on each battery) and the results from a discharge test in minutes indicating life left.
As a buyer, you should express the application intended for the golf cart. Occasionally an old set of original batteries will suffice if the cart is used for short range errands only. Most reputable dealers do not sell carts with batteries over 3 years old but can offer these if the customer requests.
The lithium manufactures offer longer warranties of 5-6 years and early indications are that these packs last at least twice the lifetime of lead-acid. Recent lithium conversion kits give the buyer an option to upgrade their used (lead acid) cart to the longer lasting and longer-range technology. This upgrade can make economic sense if you add that it is maintenance free and uses less electricity.
5. Picking Cart Options
Nearly 95% of golf carts are built and delivered for a golf course application. After 3-5 years they are sold wholesale to dealerships (like Albion Golf Cars) that modify and refurbish the carts for other applications. This is where costs are added, and buyers need to make some decisions.
Are you wondering what options are available? Here’s a summary of the most common things to consider and a budget price to have these installed:
· Rear facing flip down seat or gardening box ($ 600)
· LED head and tail-light kit ($390)
· Lift-kit with oversized tires ($1,700)
· Electric Horn ($150)
· 12Volt adapter (USB capability) ($125)
· Trailer hitch ($130)
· New lead acid batteries ($1500)
· New drop-in lithium pack ($2,800 - $4,500)
· Premium or custom seats ($600 and up)
· Bluetooth entertainment systems ($700 and up)
The possibilities and combinations are endless.
6. Terminology: Used, Refurbished or Rebuilt?
A wise buyer needs to get his or her head around these terms and how they reflect value and a fair price. The terms reflect a spectrum that will determine how long your cart will last before requiring more spending.
On the lower end of the spectrum, the dealer simply takes a used cart from a golf course, cosmetically details it, perhaps adds a seat kit and lights, then offers it for resale. This “lipstick on a pig” method yields a lower initial price and usually is accompanied by the “as is, where is” qualification on the bill of sale. Expect a service cost within a year or two, especially with original batteries.
A refurbished cart is further up the spectrum and should lead to the longer-term enjoyment of the cart with the costs upfront. Most reputable dealers follow this method. They individually do an on-hoist inspection replacing every worn item and fix most cosmetic flaws. Brakes are examined, alignment checked, grease points serviced etc. Batteries are usually new in these carts if electric and gas carts will have new: starter battery, belts, filters, plug and fresh oil.
A totally rebuilt (or remanufactured) golf cart is a different animal altogether and generally worthy of the increased price. The used cart is first stripped to the frame and meticulously rebuilt with new parts added where worn. Batteries are replaced, new body panels and tires added. Even the floor mat and windshields will be new. Once the customer adds the typical new accessories the cart will be virtually indistinguishable from a new model.
Read advertising carefully to determine what you are getting. Your individual requirements and budget will determine which category you chose.
7. Advantages of a Factory Authorized Dealer.
It might be wise to first look at your vendor choices amongst authorized dealers. Similar to the automotive marketplace, authorized dealers for the major brands are typically vetted by the manufacturer before they are granted the branding rights. They are typically required to carry liability insurances, prove themselves financially stable, and represent the brand to high standards. Their technicians are also required to have factory training. Dealers have constant access to recall and other factory notifications. Dealers have access to both on-line diagnostic information and have access to hand-held diagnostic devices. An authorized dealer has cheaper OEM parts access as well as inventory. Only authorized dealer can use this type of logo legally.
Beyond the authorized dealers, Canada has many independent dealers that are reputable. However, all else being equal, an authorized dealer definitely favours the buyer.