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Are Electric or Gas Golf Carts Better?

The debate between gas vs. electric vehicles seems to dominate the automobile industry. And it hasn’t been overlooked in golf carts either. Some people prefer electric golf carts—while others swear by gasoline. So which one is actually better?

With so many opinions flying around on the internet, it can be difficult to make an informed decision. Which is the better option? No one likes to make mistakes, let alone a mistake worth thousands of dollars, so we’ve decided to clear up a few things and help you make an informed choice. 

General note: For newer golf carts, many manufacturers are moving away from gas-powered golf carts and producing lithium electric. At Diamond Golf Cars, our golf cart servicing includes newer and older models, including the discontinued 36V and older 48V golf carts.

What Is a Gas-Powered Golf Cart?

Gas golf carts run on an internal combustion engine. The engine burns a mixture of air and fuel to get the cart moving, similar to most cars you see on the road.

However, unlike most cars you see on the road, the golf cart engine is a good bit smaller. It usually has single or twin cylinders. Inside the cylinder, there’s a piston that moves up and down as the fuel-air mixture combusts.

The piston is connected to a mechanical crankshaft, which converts the up and down motion into rotary motion. When this rotary motion is related to the wheels, the golf cart starts to move.

It’s a simple mechanical design that has stood the test of time.

What Is an Electric Golf Cart?

Electric golf carts run on an electric motor. The motor is powered by six batteries and moves the cart by creating an electromagnetic field through an electric current.

There are three main parts: a rotor (which rotates), a stator (which stays stationary), and a commutator. The stator and the rotor create their own magnetic fields when an electric current runs through them. The commutator keeps changing the rotor’s polarity so it’s always repelled by the stator.

Think of it as trying to stick the north poles of two different magnets together: There’s a tangible force that prevents you from doing it. It’s this same force that keeps moving the rotor.

This is an oversimplification; however, it essentially explains how an electric motor works. It’s an elegant design with fewer moving parts.

Pros and Cons of Gas Golf Carts

Let’s get a brief overview of the pros and cons of gas-powered golf carts.

Pros

  • Longevity. With proper maintenance, your trusty golf cart can serve you for many years.
  • Resale value. Because of their longevity, used gas golf carts often fetch a higher price than their electric counterparts.
  • Has more power. Gas golf carts are better in terms of power, so they can handle hills, drive more people, and haul heavy items around.
  • Better range. Depending on the make and model, you can make it to 200 miles with a single tank.
  • You can leave it in the garage for a very long time. With a bit of fuel stabilizer, you can leave your cart in the garage for months without much worry.

Cons

  • Fuel smell. The fuel combustion process creates fumes with a distinct odor. Some people aren’t fond of the fuel smell.
  • Louder. While newer gas models have become quieter over the years, they still produce more noise than their electric counterparts.
  • Carbon footprint. Burning fossil fuels produces carbon emissions.
  • Requires more maintenance. There are more mechanical parts that may require maintenance. You also need to change the fuel regularly.
  • Harder to upgrade. You can make some adjustments to increase the top speed, but it’s a lot harder to upgrade.
  • Vibrations and heat from the engine. Since the engine is located under the seat, you can feel the heat and vibrations from it. It’s especially bad during the summer.

Pros and Cons of Electric Golf Carts

Let’s get a brief overview of the pros and cons of electric golf carts.

Pros

  • Quiet. The electric motor produces almost no noise. This makes electric carts perfect for rides around your neighborhood, even in the evening. These types of golf carts are also good for hunting (if you have powerful enough batteries).
  • Easy to maintain. Fewer moving parts means less maintenance.
  • Faster acceleration. Due to the way electric motors work, the acceleration is almost instantaneous.
  • Higher top speed. Out of the box, most electric cart models have a higher top speed than their gas counterparts.
  • Easier to upgrade. It’s easier to upgrade and make it a hunting or recreational vehicle.

Cons

  • Expensive parts to replace. Aside from the batteries, which should be replaced once every few years (depending on the type and quality of the battery), when other parts break down, they can be expensive to replace.
  • Lower range. You can make it around 20–25 miles on a single charge. We should note this seems to be enough for most users.
  • Needs frequent charging. You need to recharge your cart after every use if you don’t want any nasty surprises.
  • Not as good for uneven terrain. The torque gives electric golf carts good acceleration, but they lack power so climbing a hill can be challenging (you can offset this con with bigger batteries, like 48V or 72V, and by changing the tires).
  • You can’t leave it stationary for prolonged periods of time. If you leave your electric cart in the garage for prolonged periods of time, the performance takes a hit. They need to go out regularly.
  • It doesn’t work well in extreme temperatures. Like most technologies with a battery as an energy source, electric golf carts don’t do well in extreme temperatures.
  • No mechanical break. They only have an electric brake, which sometimes fails. However, this is a rarity.

As you can see, both types of carts have their pros and cons. It should be becoming clear that there’s no “one size fits all” solution here. A gas golf cart could be a better choice for some people and an electric golf cart could be a better choice for others.

You need to figure out which one will serve your particular needs best. Let’s dive deeper into this.

Price Difference

The electric models in our shop vary in price—as with almost anything. The price depends on the engine (or motor), make, model, battery voltage, passenger capacity, and more.

It used to be the general consensus that gas-powered models are more expensive. However, with the advancement of battery technologies, electric carts have seen a bump in price.

Some of our most premium models are lithium-powered. Lithium batteries have a longer battery lifespan and offer a better range. You don’t need to change the batteries as frequently; however, their price reflects that perk (along with the overall quality of the vehicle and its parts).

Both gas and electric carts go for comparable prices when looking at same-class options. But there’s more to owning a golf cart than just the initial purchase.

Intuitively, gas-powered carts require gasoline to run. This means you’ll need to fill it up every once in a while (around every 200 miles or so). While the small engine doesn’t go through fuel like a sports car V8 would, the cost still does add up over time. Pouring five to six gallons of gasoline every 200 miles can be substantial if you drive frequently.

With electric carts, you simply plug them in and they start charging. Granted, your electricity bill will probably increase, but it’s not near as dramatic.

Finally, there’s also maintenance costs to consider.

Golf Cart Maintenance Cost

As far as regular maintenance goes, gas carts typically require more of it. They need an oil change at least once a year (twice if the cart is in constant use). There are more moving parts, which means more things could go wrong.

You need to change the battery power source once every seven to eight years or so. However, it’s a single battery and, unlike electric carts, it’s a lot cheaper to change. The fuel pump also requires attention from time to time if you want to keep it running smoothly.

With electric motors, there are fewer things that can go wrong. There aren’t that many mechanical components so you won’t have to change the oil or worry about constant mechanical maintenance. You will have to check the water levels in your batteries once a month—and that’s it.

That being said, when things do go wrong, they’re usually a lot more expensive to repair. With electronics, “repairs” means replacing parts with new ones, and replacement parts can get steep.

Of course, the most expensive maintenance component is the rechargeable batteries. You need to change the cart’s batteries once every few years, depending on how well you take care of them, how regularly you use your cart, and what type of batteries you use. Lithium is currently the best option but also the most expensive upfront. However, lithium-powered vehicles do away with virtually 100 percent of the maintenance cost other golf carts have.

All in all, when things run well, electric carts are cheaper to maintain and there are fewer things to worry about (except for changing the batteries). However, if they break, they’re generally more expensive to repair.

Longevity and Durability

With proper maintenance, gas-powered carts are more durable. That’s why they have a higher resale value. If you take good care of the engine, it can run for decades with the occasional repair. For a mechanically savvy person with time on their hands, this is the perfect scenario.

Another benefit of gas-powered carts is you can leave them in the garage for months on end without a problem. This is perfect if you want to leave your cart at the lake house or your vacation home when you won’t be driving it for a while. Just remember to add a fuel stabilizer or the fuel will go bad.

Electric carts, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to the passage of time. The parts are much more likely to blow in the long run. You can still enjoy your cart for a very long time, but be prepared to replace parts if left unattended for too long. A good rule of thumb is to drive your electric golf cart frequently. This keeps performance in tip-top shape.

Speed and Performance

If you’re looking for acceleration and top speed, then electric carts are the clear winner. The acceleration of the electric motor is near instantaneous. The top speed is also better out of the box and can be further improved with a bit of software tinkering. It’s also easier to make them street legal (LSV), but that can also vary widely, depending on local city and municipality regulations.

However, if you’re looking for horsepower, then gas is the way to go. If you want to drive in an area with lots of hills or you want to take your cart to the beach, gas is often the preferred choice. Gas is also better for hauling heavier items around.

Driving Range

The typical driving range on a single charge for electric carts is 20–40 miles (you need lithium batteries to reach the higher end). This is usually more than enough range for the typical golf cart owner. However, bear in mind that this range does diminish with the age of the battery cells.

If you’re looking for a more serious range, then gas is the way to go. Not only can you make it to around 200 miles on a single gas tank: You can also take additional fuel with you should the need arise. Obviously, these are highly specific circumstances, but the option is there should you need it.

Noise Difference

Electric motors win this one. While gas-powered carts have become much quieter in recent years and produce very little noise, electric carts make almost zero noise. If noise level is a concern, then electric is probably the preferred choice.

Pollution Levels

Electric carts take this one, too. With their zero carbon monoxide emissions, they leave no direct carbon footprint.

That being said, gas-powered carts aren’t too bad in terms of pollution, either. They run on traditional fuel; however, the amount of fuel they burn in their small engines isn’t great enough to be of serious concern. They produce carbon monoxide emissions, which still equates to more pollution—just not on the scale of other transportation methods.

This said, there’s still the gas smell from the fumes, which irritates some people. If this is a concern, go electric.

Which Is the Better Option?

So which is better: gas or electric? It depends entirely on your situation and what you’re going to use it for.

If you want to drive off road when vacationing, go to the beach, climb hills, haul heavy items around, and stow your cart in the garage for extended periods, then gas might be what you’re looking to buy.

If you want to drive it every day and you don’t mind charging it after each use, then electric is the ideal choice. For all that—plus extra power—you can always get bigger batteries.

Both choices have their pros and cons, but we hope we’ve given you enough perspective to choose whichever suits you best.

Diamond Golf Cars offers high-quality golf carts from major manufacturers, including Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha. With these brands, you can rest assured your vehicle will last and parts (if service is needed) will always be available. These major brands have been around for 50 to 60 years and are first-class in a number of areas: handling, brakes, components, parts, and more. E-Z-GO and Club Car hold themselves to strict standards which go far beyond the mandated federal regulations for vehicle parts. Stop by our shop or contact us for more info before purchasing.