How to choose a golf cart for recreational use

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Find the best golf cart for recreational use to guarantee lots of fun

Golf carts have become as popular off the course as on, particularly for short trips and with drivers seeking more economical forms of transportation. From taking a drive around a campground or a shopping trip on Main Street, to hauling kids to the ice cream shop and moving conference attendees from one event to the next, this understated vehicle can serve many driversí daily needs.

More people have them than ever before, but shopping for this type of vehicle is unfamiliar territory for most. Theyíre significantly more affordable than traditional cars and trucks, more fun to operate and far easier and cheaper to maintain. However, there are still a number of factors to consider when looking for a private-use golf cart thatís right for you:

Gas or electric?

Choosing between a gas and battery powered golf cart for recreational use is a huge decision. Both come with pros and cons. The choice will largely come down to personal preference, available golf cart accessories and intended uses. Keep in mind that once itís yours you may wind up driving it more often than you think.

The advantage of electric models is that you donít have to worry about fueling them. They offer a quiet drive and make a logical choice for environmentally-conscious consumers. Gas-powered models need regular unleaded gas and theyíre noisier rides.

The main disadvantage of electric models is when the batteries run out youíre stuck. A cart with good batteries can sustain about two hours of continuous driving before it needs a re-charge. People who want the option of driving for hours are a better fit for gas. This includes people who like to camp far away from power sources.

How will you use it?

In some areas where new gated communities and smaller communities are being built, uses for a golf cart for recreational use are soaring. The good news is a recent bill expanded the allowed distance for private-use carts on public roads from two to four miles. This may not sound like much, but in small neighborhoods it means people can use them to run most errands and cruise around for fun. 

Owners with large properties drive them around their grounds while hunters drive them to areas that are harder to reach by truck. The amount of off-road driving you plan to do should factor in to how much mileage you require per drive.

An electric model with good batteries can drive for about two hours, which takes you somewhere between 22 and 30 miles. Compare this to the 200 miles a 5-6 gallon gas-powered cart can take you before you need to fill up.

What about horsepower?

Horsepower ratings tell you how powerful a model is. Locations with steep inclines, rugged turf and other off-road conditions call for a golf cart with power. For instance, electric carts have on average 3-5 HP, which is fine for hauling light loads and short neighborhood trips. Gas-powered ones range from 10-12 HP, thatís 3 to 4 times more power. 


One reason a golf cart for recreational use is so popular is the light maintenance they require. Like a car, gas-powered carts need a routine oil change and occasional replacement of spark plugs and air filters. The materials are inexpensive and this is something you can learn to do yourself every 250 miles or so.

Take care of an electric golf cart by maintaining water levels and developing good charging habits. Properly maintained batteries can last at least 5 years. New batteries cost about $600, so itís definitely in your interest to keep them in good shape.

At first glance, most people canít tell gas and electric carts apart. From behind the wheel, they handle about the same and will go about 15 mph at the fastest (unless you modify the engine). Pick which one fits your needs and budget, and you'll enjoy it.

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