Why are Golf Carts So Expensive?

A golf cart can be a luxury or a necessity, depending upon one’s own fitness level or physical condition. Whilst a round of golf itself provides sufficient exercise for many, a walk around the golf course can provide an added bonus for those seeking to keep the moving parts moving and work off some surplus timber.

But it isn’t for everyone, and so golf carts can be the luxury vehicles needed to transport those with mobility issues or even those simply with less time to spare from one hole to the next, and around the venue.

It is worth remembering too that the golf cart is used in settings other than golf courses. This compact but highly functional, low-speed vehicle can easily be adapted for use at other large venues which require people to be transported swiftly from one location to another.

How are Golf Carts Powered?

Golf Cart - Lady

Just as the choice exists within the automobile industry or indeed almost any other mode of road transport, it’s possible to purchase either a gas cart or an electric cart. Whilst the industry is certainly moving in the direction of electric carts, there is still some consumer demand for gas. It depends upon the personal preference of the buyer, but there are certainly dividends to be had for discerning customers.

Likewise, it is also possible to purchase a new golf cart or a used golf cart, and for those whose wish is to save money used models will obviously be available at considerably lower prices.

But golf cart prices are notoriously prohibitive, and the total cost even of used golf carts is often substantial. There are a whole bunch of reasons why this might be, and it is helpful to take a look at some of them.

So Why Do Golf Carts Cost So Much?

Here are some of the reasons why people buying golf carts should expect higher prices:

  1. A niche market. Notwithstanding the fact that golf carts can be, and sometimes are, used for purposes other than driving around golf courses, there remains a fairly limited market for them. This means the golf cart industry cannot expect to achieve the economies of scale that exist with the production of other items. It also means that the market is to a great extent a captive one.
  2. Shipping costs. Most items incur shipping costs, but when we are dealing with a very limited number of producers it is more likely that the cost of transporting your vehicle from the cart manufacturer to your own location will be significant. Invariably shipping costs will be added to the price of the item, together with the inevitable mark-up, thereby driving up the final price.
  3. “Big ticket” item. Like a house or an automobile, a golf cart is a thing no customer will need to replace very often. Most golf carts tend to be well designed, with golf cart parts readily available (again at a hefty mark-up) and high-quality upgrades are always an option. As such golf cart manufacturers know that their clients will not resent the challenging price affixed to new carts.
  4. Customers can afford them. For some, they are a necessity, but for many more buyers, golf carts are a luxury they can well afford as they indulge themselves in playing their chosen sport. Just like the designers of the Ferrari or the Rolls Royce, golf cart manufacturers are well aware that they can command the best price from their affluent clients. Golf courses purchase them in large quantities and can easily pass the cost onto their customer base, indeed they are understandably the most prolific purchaser of golf carts.
  5. Limited competition. Essentially there are only three major golf cart manufacturers – Yamaha, Club Car, and EZ Go. All three provide high-quality, luxury golf carts that are sought after by golf courses and players alike, giving them a near-monopoly of the high-end market. There are others, of course, but overwhelmingly these three provide the best bet for clients who can afford to pay their prices. Smaller producers of golf carts include Polaris, Tomberlin, and Evolution.
  6. High-quality design and parts. Offering high-quality parts and specialized upgrades enables manufacturers like E Z Go to keep their golf cart costs high. Club Car carts are similarly sought after, and Yamaha golf cart prices are competitive only amongst their high-end competitors. Other makers generally do not compete for quality, and therefore cannot sell their products at the same high price.
  7. Adaptable design options. Almost all golf carts come with extra adaptability built in, so they can be tailored to meet the needs and expectations of the specific purchaser. Extra seats can be typically installed, off-road wheels or indeed any number of additional, optional features.
  8. Safety features. Extras installed for safety reasons are nevertheless charged to the buyer in most instances. So for example adding turn signals, brake lights or seat belts can serve to hike the price of your golf cart before the deal has even been struck.
  9. Specialized upgrades. As with safety features, it may be that you wish to add luxury upgrades too such as a stereo or navigational aids. There is usually a whole range of available high-quality upgrades that can be added to your golf cart directly, but as ever they come at a cost. These other elements will invariably find their way onto your final bill.
  10. Retro Appeal. A used golf cart will sometimes be purchased in preference to any new carts for its historical importance rather than to avoid high costs. Just as enthusiasts often opt for old classic cars over an up-to-date model, so there is a novelty or nostalgic value to having an old design in golf carts as opposed to the latest electric golf car or the most ostentatious custom cart dripping with gimmicky design extras.
  11. Supply and demand. To put it in the most simple terms, high demand for a particular design of a golf cart will lead to its price being fixed accordingly. Quality golf carts tend not to be mass-produced, so expect higher prices where there is a waiting list or limited availability.
  12. Lack of alternatives. Although the golf cart, as one might expect, is designed primarily for use on golf courses, it has other uses in other settings in which there is a need for a functional, practical, low-speed vehicle. Non-golf athletic centers, settings that require the transportation of heavy loads or climbing steep hills, especially on grassy terrain – all these make golf carts an attractive purchase. In the absence of any alternatives, the industry retains something of a captive market.

So How Much Do Golf Carts Cost?

Even if they are generally expensive, there is still a lot of flexibility involved in the pricing of golf carts. At the top of the range, most luxury vehicles can command a price of over $20,000, whilst a more basic, used golf cart can sometimes be picked up for a few thousand dollars.

And the purchase price is of course only one part of the equation. Electric carts are undoubtedly cheaper to run than a gas cart, as well as being quieter and requiring less maintenance, but sometimes if regular recharging is not viable this is not an option.

Whether you are an individual who is interested in taking ownership of a solitary vehicle or a major golf course investing in a new fleet, the cost of maintaining your acquisition – new or used, gas or electric, adorned or unadorned – will need to be factored in.

How Long Do Golf Cart Batteries Last?

Whilst running an electric golf car is undoubtedly cheaper than operating a gas-powered model, the downside is that batteries do eventually need to be replaced, and the cost of doing so is considerable.

It is in the owner’s interests to look after the battery, charging it for the correct duration and at the right time, and if care is taken it will typically last for up to ten years without needing to be changed.

As golf carts, and particularly electric golf carts, are a niche market there can be a wait for taking delivery of a new battery, so this needs to be factored into the decision as to when to go ahead and replace.

Are Golf Carts Street Legal?

Yes they are, but the proviso in all states is that a street legal golf cart needs to be in good condition and driven by somebody who is licensed.

This means lights, brakes, brake lights, turn signals, and seat belts, among other things, need to be in good working order. If they are not it is a violation and the operator may face a penalty.

Is a Golf Cart Worth Buying?

As with anything else, it really depends upon the use to which it is going to be put. For the owners of golf courses, they are a necessity, bearing in mind that not to offer the use of one will restrict clientele to those who are able and willing to negotiate the course wholly on foot. It is worth remembering that for many there is simply no choice other than to use such a vehicle, whereas for others it is a luxury but one they are not prepared to be without.

In addition to this, they are a status symbol, an opportunity to be seen to exude wealth and affluence which in our society is generally seen as a mark of success. Furthermore, many of the extras which can be added to their basic functionality are fun to use, and useful on the course. At the high end, they will come with many of these already provided – EZ Go golf carts in particular are famously well-equipped.

If you want to know why are golf carts so expensive, just consider what those who routinely use them would do without them.

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Phil Andrews

Phil Andrews is an English-language article writer and author of the 1970s nostalgia fiction novel The Best Year Of Our Lives. His special interests are current affairs, economics and sport - in particular soccer, boxing and golf.

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