My first duty as a member of the condominium board was to buy a good golf cart for under $1500 so that our maintenance guy can get around the property safely and quickly.
Since my father's a landscaper and nurseryman, he's bought and maintained his share of electric golf carts over the years. The tips below are a combination of his experience and mine.
Inspect the batteries. The batteries are under the seat, and they should be stamped with a code consisting of a letter and a digit. This tells you what month (A => Jan, B => Feb, ... L => Dec) and year the batteries were made. Batteries are usually good for five years, so assume that the year digit represents a year 0-9 years ago. While you're looking under there, make sure the dealer plans to include an automatic charger (one that shuts off when the batteries are fully charged), rather than one that makes you set a timer.
- Find a reputable dealer of E-Z Go carts; it's the most popular brand and thus the easiest to find parts for.
- Decide how much you want to spend and stick to it. For under $2000, you can probably get a used golf cart in good condition, about 4 years old. If you're willing to spend $5000, you can take your pick of new carts.
- Identify the features you must have; I recommend the following:
- Solid state ignition -- the older carts without it tend to go off on their own, Carrie-style, which is, how does one say, bad.
- A canopy to keep off the sun, rain, bird poop, etc.
- Headlights, unless you know the cart will always be used in full sun and optimal viewing conditions. If your area is prone to rain, deep shade, short days, etc., or if you'll be using the cart at night, spend the $100 or so to get lights installed.
Check the body and tires. Get prone and look for rust. Is there enough tread on the tires? Have they been spritzed with Wheel-Brite? (If so, what other cosmetic touch-up jobs might conceal damage?) Older carts may have three wheels, which is good for tight turns; newer carts have four, which is good for stability. Shake the canopy vigorously. You really can't shake it too hard; after all, when you drive over a curb at 15mph, that canopy had better stay above your head! Is there a trailer hitch on the back for hauling larger loads, if necessary? What kind of dings and dents do you see? There probably will be some, but as long as they're not an aesthetic problem, don't worry. Unless the cart seems to have lost an argument with a Mack truck, it's probably OK.
Take it for a test drive. Check the brakes, check the acceleration, and if at all possible, arrange to drive it for 30-60 minutes down a quiet safe street to make sure the batteries hold a decent charge. Make sure the headlights and backup alarm, if present, work.
That's about all you need to know about buying a used golf cart. At least, I sincerely hope so, since I bought a 1994 E-Z Go with K7 batteries today (and will plan to replace the batteries in a year or two). If you have more advice to add, /msg me!