GOLF CARTS 101 –BASIC BUYING KNOWLEDGE
Posted by Joe Mutton on
GOLF CARTS 101 –BASIC BUYING KNOWLEDGE
What you should know about buying a Golf Car? This article has been prepared with the first time Golf Car buyer in mind.
Before you go any further you have to decide on the following: Do I/we want a gas or electric golf car? How much will charging an electric cart cost me? What type of maintenance will I need to do, Gas? Electric? How important is a warranty? Buy from a dealer or private party? Does the dealer make service calls?
Electric or Gas Golf Cars
In some cases this decision is made for you. Some campgrounds/resorts/communities only allow Electric golf cars. Some allow both but do charge an additional fee for electric carts. Which are better, Gas or Electric golf cars? There is no right answer to that question. This is why Golf Car manufactures make both. It boils down to circumstance and personnel preference. The longevity of both is equally as long as you perform regular maintenance. With Club Cars, they have more value due to their aluminum frames, no rusting. With all other brands-EZ Go, Yamaha, etc...They make them with steel frames and they will rust and eventually break. Longevity ranges between 30-40 years or longer for the various manufacturers. To dispel rumors by non dealers: gas carts are not going to be done away with. To the contrary, manufacturer's often have a shortage on used gas carts and are bringing in used electric carts from lease and converting them to gas at the factory to keep up with the demand.
Lastly, think about the maintenance when it breaks down-AND THEY DO BREAK DOWN. If you buy an electric you must possess a good understanding of electric circuits and theory or be prepared to take the car to the dealer for service. With gas carts, if you or someone you know has knowledge of basic gas motors you can usually muddle through the repair(s) and save yourself some cash.
ELECTRIC CARTS AND THEIR BATTERIES
Golf car batteries come in three different voltages, 6, 8 and 12. Six 6 volt batteries will give you a 36 Volt operating system. Six 8 volt batteries will get you a 48 volt operating system and four 12Volt batteries will give you a 48 Volt operating system. If you do not know the voltage look at your batteries. There are 2 volts per water fill hole. These are special deep cycle batteries designed for golf cars. Use the batteries recommended for your golf car. I know what is going through your mind; I’ll get 3 -12 volt batteries from ABC Auto supply for my 36 Volt car and save some money. Don’t, it will not work: Golf Cars take a deep cycle lead-acid battery, your car takes a lead-acid starter battery--a battery designed to give a lot of power over short periods of time; deep cycle batteries are made to deliver continuous power until discharged; starter batteries are damaged by repeated deep discharge cycles.
See battery care and maintenance in this site; It’s important you do this one right.
Some electric golf cars have made tremendous advances in the last decade. Some fleet golf carts are managed by computer, many current electric carts use lithium Iron polymer cells--abbreviated as LiFePO4 or LiPO; which has much higher energy density than lead acid batterys. Electric Golf Cars have about 50 moving parts, very little down time and a pleasure to drive. Of the lead-acid offerings, there are two common voltages: 36 or 48 volt. A 48 volt cart will run twice as long as a 36 volt on a charge. That equates to longer run time and less time being charged. As mentioned above, Golf carts with lead-acid deep cycle batteries require an overnight charge. Keep this in mind after a long day of driving, it will have to sit and get charged. With LiPo cells, you can have up to 80% charge within an hour, and they can be charged opportunistically--just like your cellphone. Cellphones use LiPo cells, so your carts performance will be similar to your phone; steady, even power until discharge, and regular opportunistic charges keep your cart--and phone going all day. Many carts have a USB port to charge your phone
On a new set of lead-acid batteries you should average about 20-25 miles to a charge. Figure in the charging cost of approx. $10-20 a month. If you take your Golf Car on Holiday, note that many campgrounds charge extra for electric carts.
About how long do batteries last, along with cost to purchase and replace? The basis of a Deep Cycle battery is the amount of lead in the battery; more lead equals more charging capacity and runtime.
Cheaper batteries like the Sam's club battery (cheapest on the market at this writing) have less lead than the market leader-Trojan batteries. A Sam's Club Battery can weigh almost 15 pounds lighter than a Trojan. This equates to less run time and less power to all the electrical components. More important is the life of the batteries--they will only last between 1-3 years and the medium is usually 2 years. Trojan Batteries typically will last between 7-9 years. Next do the math--a cheap battery set will run you approximately $320, a set of Trojan Batteries -$750 a set. I'll show you an example of a Trojan Battery; let's use the 30 year average life. You will need to buy 3.3 sets of Trojan Batteries @ 750/set=$2475.00. The Sam's Club Battery you would need to buy 15 sets @320/set=$4800. To equal a set of Trojan batteries at $750, you would have to buy 4 sets of Sam's Club batteries at $1280. The other brands of batteries--Deka, Interstate and US Battery will last approx. 5-6 years, the up and coming Crown Batteries have the identical specs as a Trojan and are poised to take over the Leadership as the longest lasting. Any other batteries are branded under one of these major manufacturers name. All the major manufacturers offer a 1 year guarantee that is pro-rated. The older the battery the less they pay on a warranty claim. The warranty does not cover improper maintenance so make sure you check them and put in distilled water every 2-3 weeks. Running a battery dry and having the plates show can shorten the life by half!
COST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LITHIUM BATTERIES AND LEAD ACID
We have a guide that discusses the differences in cost, power, charging and maintenance Click Here.
PROPER MAINTENANCE OF AN ELECTRIC GOLF CAR
Too many people are under the assumption that there is no maintenance with an electric car. Lead Acid battery models requre the usual hardware maintenance, as well as maintenance to the batterys as well,
You will still have to grease the front end, check the rear end bi-annually or yearly and every 2-3 weeks check the batteries and water if needed. Also tighten and clean the electric posts and cables, keep them free from corrosion or your cables will get weak and break and the cart won't run! The chargers will also have to be repaired occasionally as they have wear out parts also.
Most of today’s chargers are fully automatic, which means they will discontinue charging when the batteries are at full capacity. Golf cars use special chargers that have a matched output to the golf cars electrical system. Never use a charger that is not made for a golf car. Club Car is the only golf car manufacture that uses a charger that is controlled by an On Board Computer (OBC). The OBC controls all the charging function of the Golf Car. Thus enabling it to be left plugged in 365/24/7.
Today’s gas carts are not the gas cars of yesterday. Gone are days of a blue trail of smoke going down the fairway backfiring and sputtering. They are quiet and reliable. Most of the major manufactures use a 4-stroke engine that has oil in the crankcase and regular unleaded gas in the gas tank, no need to mix the two anymore. The carts have about 5 to 6 gallon petrol tank and get around 35-40 miles per gallon; a tankful should give about 175 to 240 miles. A full charged electric cart can usually go about 35 miles, provided there are niether steep hills or alot of people and/or cargo in the cart. Most people that use their carts just on a weekend at a campground or cottage, driving casually will go through 1-2 tanks of gas a summer. Even at $5.00/gallon you are only going to spend between $35-70. If you are an occasional driver, you won't go through one tank a summer. Heavy drivers will probably go through 3-4 tankfuls and this is heavy non-stop driving, always on it cruising.
Other than that, a tune up and oil change every 300 hours or once a year (approx. value $30), check the belts for wear, grease the front end, and check transmission level.
Tune-ups/Maintenance for both Gas & Electric
An annual inspection on your golf car is much the same as going to your Dentist. Not only will the Dentist clean your teeth, they find out if something is wrong when it is small and easy to fix. Getting your golf car inspected once a year can be a very inexpensive way to maintain your golf car and fix any problems when they are small. And it’s painless: Gas & Electric cars annually require the following:
- Pressure wash car, undercarriage, batteries, Brakes inspected, cleaned and adjusted Increase tire pressure
- Grease points greased Check differential oil levels
- Check steering for tightness and wear
- Tighten all front suspensionand check for wear on springs, spindles, bushings, etc.
- Specific to electric golf cars:Clean all battery tops with water and baking soda
- Remove and clean all battery cables, change as required
- Top up water levels in batteries
- Spray battery cables with Battery Protective Spray
- Charge batteries, inspect battery charger for proper operation
- Check battery trays for rotting/corrosion due to overfilling
- Every 8-12 years chargers do have parts that wear out and will need to be rebuilt when they quit working
Specific to Gas Golf Cars:
- Oil change and filter change
- Air filter change & Fuel filters and spark plug changed as required
- Check and change all belts as required
- Check battery charging/Inspect Starter Generator brushes
- Inspect fuel pump for leaks
- Inspect clutch for wear or rattling
- Inspect carburetors for proper operation and clean if necessary
- Refer to your owner’s manual or local dealer for specifics about your car.
Determining Value of a Golf Car
The value of a golf car is determined by the age and condition of the golf car. Gas always brings more resale value than electric. The battery age on an electric also dictates price. The older the car, the less value it has. However that is not to say a 10-year-old car, well maintained, could not have as much value as a poorly maintained (condition) 5-year-old car. The overall condition of the golf car has to be taken into consideration in determining its value. Body, canopy, tires, batteries/charger, oil leaks, curb side appeal is all assessed to determine value. The number of rounds on the car is a big factor. A good example of this is cars from Canada and the Northern United States command more money on resale, than cars from the southern states. The reason is simple, usage. Cars from the southern states will have 2 times and possibly 3 times the amount of rounds then a car from Canada or the Northern states. Which golf car would have more value to you, the one doing 150 rounds per year or the one closing in on 450 rounds per year? The reason for the range in value is due to how Golf Cars are sold. Here are some examples:
- “As is”, means exactly that, what you see is what you get, no more. It is the least expensive was to get into a golf car but the most work required on your part.
- “Reconditioned Golf Cars”, this one is very hard to nail down because my definition of reconditioned and yours may not be the same. A reconditioned golf car should include the following: washed from top and bottom, body with very little scratches and all scratches touchedup or new/painted front and rear bodies, excellent tires and brakes, batteries and cables in excellent condition, tune up and oil change, new drive and starter belts, clutches checked and rebuilt/replaced -no rattling, starters checked and replaced-no grinding noises, all front suspension greased, tight, not leaning (sign of worn out springs), no missing/damaged parts, check frame for damage or broken welds (many times frames are bent due to collisions on the golf course). Dealer should repair frame if this is the case so other components do not wear out due to this, no torn or loose seats, any worn, weathered or damage part replaced/repaired. This type of cart should look showroom condition.
A warranty should be in place.The more a dealer has to put into a car, the more you will have to pay, but the more golf car you will have.
BUY FROM A DEALER OR PRIVATE PARTY?
First and foremost-would you buy a cart from a golf car dealer, other type of retail business or private party? If you have knowledge of mechanics and can thoroughly evaluate a cart by all means buy from a private party-there are many good deals out there.
If you cannot assess a cart and are not mechanical you are best to go to a reputable full time golf cart dealer and, preferably an authorized dealer of the brand of cart you are looking for.
As much as there are good deals out there by private parties there are MORE not so good deals out there. Buyer beware! Not everyone tells the truth.
Now just because someone sells golf carts doesn't make them a golf cart dealer. Dealers in this context will have knowledgeand trained sales staff, full running year round retail facility, maintenance shop, large inventory of carts and also large inventory of parts and accessories. They will accept all forms of payment including all major credit cards and offer financing and will have been in business for many years.
In addition, an Authorized dealer is backed by the full sales, service, and tech support of the factory. The factory also provides many yearly classes in sales and technical service for their dealers. Authorized dealers have earned the "authorized" status by proving and adhering to strict manufacturer policies for their retail facility standards, shop facility standards, inventory of carts, parts and accessories, and mechanical staff. Mechanics go through ongoing training every year.
CUSTOM AND VERY FAST GOLF CARS
Customizing a golf car is the neatest thing you can do to a golf car. It takes and changes the whole golf car from something everybody has, to something only you have.
You add the big tires and aluminum wheels, 6” lift kit, fancy paint, stainless or diamond plate accessories, and the list goes on and on.
FAST GOLF CARTS
There is a segment of market that focuses upon making a golf cart quite fast. Search fast golf cart onYouTube and you can find many iterations of a fast golf cart--such as a motorcycle engine replacing the Fuji 14 HP engine, for example.
For fast electric carts, the usual route is lithium cells, more powerful motor and speed controller.
An easy power and performance upgrade that is also efficient is drop-in lithium replcement batteries. Here, one 70 pound 36 or 48 volt cell replaces the several hundred pounds worth of multiple lead-acid batterys. You use the same speed control and motor. Now your car is about 500lbs lighter, has a battery that only needs an hour to charge to 80% and can be charged at any time, along with NO MAINTENANCE TO THE BATTERY.
If you get into fast golf cars you are going to have to come to the table with a few more $$$$$. After you have done the Pimping to your car, you have to add the performance end; new motor, heavy-duty batteries and cables, larger controller and the list continues.
When you finish, you will have a work of art. Have fun with it and enjoy. Buying a golf car is no different than buying anything else, common sense should prevail. Now get out there, enjoy the fresh air and have fun on your golf car!