Electric Golf Carts or NEVs?

I am often asked two questions about electric golf carts:

How are electric golf carts different to NEVs ?(Neighborhood Electric Vehicles)

Should I buy a Golf Cart or a NEV?

Golf carts and NEVs are very similar, which is confusing. Sometimes they even look similar. But it is really important to know what the differences are before buying.

Here are the main differences:

  • Laws governing the use of golf carts are different to those applying to NEVs. Each state has its own regulations regarding these vehicles and you should check with your local authority for information that is relevant to where you intend to be driving your golf cart/NEV. There are differences regarding use of windshields, headlights, brakes etc. There are also differences regarding where exactly you are allowed drive them.

  • Golf carts are only for off-road use, or within private, enclosed-community roads. This means that if you want to run a few errands around town, and pick up your Bud like the granny in the ad, you should probably choose a NEV. (Some golf-carts can be upgraded to get NEV status by increasing their speed capacity to 20-25 miles per hour and upgrading the safety features to those of a NEV.)

  • There is less bureaucracy involved in buying a golf cart because they don't have to be registered like NEVs do, and they don’t have to meet the same safety requirements.

  • Golf carts go slower.

  • If you want your vehicle for use mainly on a golf course, then a golf cart is the obvious choice as most golf courses prohibit the use of NEVs. (Some NEVs have a turf mode which enables them to be driven on grass without damaging it. Some golf courses allow these.) Ask at the club before buying!

    Buying Electric Golf Carts / NEVs

    The legal definitions concerning whether your vehicle is an electric golf cart, or a NEV are very specific. The legal definitions concern all the boring technical information about the vehicle such as its weight, capacity, number of wheels, horsepower etc.

    It doesn't matter how the vehicle is labelled when you are buying----if it doesn't fit the legal definition, you won't get the type of license you thought you might get. My advice is always to make sure you check with your local authority and have all the technical specifications to hand before you buy. If you are buying from a reputable dealer, this usually isn't an issue. But if you are buying second-hand, or online, double check everything yourself first, just to be sure.

    There are two types of dealer you can buy electric vehicles from----licensed and unlicensed. If you think you might want to upgrade your golf cart to a NEV, it would probably be better to buy from a licensed dealer, as it makes the registration process simpler for you. A dealer can do the paperwork for you, but only if she or he is licensed. Otherwise, you get to do all that lovely paperwork yourself! More unpaid work for the government!

    If you are buying a golf cart just for off-road use, you don't need to buy from a licensed dealer because you don't need to license it as you would a NEV, or ordinary car.

    But even though you don't need to buy from a licensed dealer, do buy from a reputable dealer!

    Electric Golf Carts

    electric golf cart

    So, who uses these funny looking vehicles?

    It's not only seniors and golfers who can use a golf cart. Any enclosed campus is ideal for golf cart use, and not just golf courses and resorts. They are great as work vehicles at airports, zoos, parks, etc.

    If you own a large farm, or ranch, you might like a golf cart to survey your kingdom! Golf carts are now being used for trail-trekking and dirt-road driving and even sand-dune recreational use. I once came across them in the middle of the desert---it was quite surreal!

    The wonderful thing about golf carts is how reliable they are. And how affordable!

    Who Can Drive Electric Golf Carts?

    Electric golf carts are a great way to introduce safe driving habits to your teenagers. It is legal for 12-year-olds to drive golf carts when there is an adult driver beside them. This is a good way of sneaking in some good driver training before your kid is old enough to refuse to listen to you!

    Teenagers, of 15 years and up, can drive golf carts unaccompanied, if they have a learner permit. If you are lucky enough to live in a golf cart friendly community, a golf cart might make a much better sweet-fifteen present than a gas-guzzler a year later!

    Types of Electric Golf Carts

    It is easy to have custom-built golf carts made to suit your specific needs. They can be open top or with roofs/canopies and windshields. There are a myriad of other accessories you can add. They pretty much come in all shapes and sizes too, for single or multi-passenger capacity. Some actually look more like Neighborhood Electric Vehicles and others are just little buggys.

    classy chassis golf cart You can even get luxury golf carts, like the Hummer 3 Estate, that looks exactly like a gas Hummer (if you like that sort of thing!) but only goes 19 miles per hour. Or, more to my taste, the Classy Chassis, which reminds me of a beautiful antique Morgan I used to drive in once upon a time. Nothing like a bit of electric style!

    Golf Cart Driving Tips

    When driving a golf cart, remember to be careful. You can reach speeds that can cause serious accidents.

    Make sure your foot/leg/arm doesn't overhang and get caught on a branch or something protruding from the ground as you zip past.

    Golf carts are fine for use on grass, but don't drive on soggy ground, or you'll rip it up.

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    They're clean! They're green!
    They're the wonderful electric car machines!