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What to Ask When Buying an LSV

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Purchasing a Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV) is an exciting step towards embracing green and efficient transportation. However, it’s important to get all the facts about the vehicle to make sure it fits your needs. Here are five critical questions to ask before making your purchase:

Is it electric or gas-powered?

This might seem like a no-brainer, but electric vehicles have not always been the default for LSV, especially if you’re looking for a street legal option. Electric motors have come a long way in recent years, but for years they were much lower powered and couldn’t always keep up with traditional cars.

A club car low speed electric vehicle (LSV) driving on a street
A Club Car Villager

Many companies, including Club Car, actually offer both options. While we always prefer low speed electric vehicles over gas, do your research and decide which option is best for you.

What type of battery does it use?

Battery type is crucial for both range and sustainability. The two most common options are lead acid and lithium, which both have their pros and cons.

Lead Acid Batteries: These batteries are the traditional choice for electric vehicles, primarily due to their lower upfront cost. However, they tend to be heavier, have a shorter lifespan, and require more maintenance compared to lithium batteries. You’ll often see two levels, flooded and AGM, which have a 5 and 7 year average lifespan respectively. While each battery costs less than a lithium, you’ll likely replace it 2 to 3 times more frequently.

Lithium Batteries: Lithium batteries are even more nuanced. While they are all lighter, have a longer lifespan, and provide a more consistent power output than their lead acid counterparts, the type of lithium battery. While cheaper options barely outpace lead acid, options like the Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries nearly double the lifespan. Brands like Wink Motors even offer a 7 year warranty to back that up.

A GEM low speed electric vehicle (LSV)
A GEM e2

Most LSV brands, like the industry leading GEM come with a flooded lead acid battery as a base, but offer upgrades to AGM and lithium. While this can definitely add to the cost, we think the upgrade is absolutely worth it. If you’re not looking to add to your price, both Wink and Club Car use lithium as the default, the former even starting with the LFP.

Is it actually street legal?

Not all LSVs are street legal. At its most basic, an LSV must meet specific safety standards, including having headlights, taillights, turn signals, seatbelts, and a vehicle identification number (VIN) to meet DOT standards (in the US). However, different jurisdictions can add criteria, so it’s crucial to verify that it is street legal in your state.

This is where we recommend going with a brand that is upfront and transparent. We’ve heard horror stories of brands advertising their product as street legal only to have customers turned away at the DMV.

You can typically trust your household names like Gem, Club Car, Yamaha, etc. to be trustworthy when it comes to meeting DOT standards. Newer brands like Wink also boast full DOT compliance. Our advice? If their website does not explicitly state they are street legal, don’t trust it.

What type of outlet do you need to charge it?

One reason we love low speed electric vehicles is that they can be charged anywhere. Electric cars like Teslas generally require a special charging station. If you rent your house or apartment, you can’t install one. Even if you own your home, you’re stuck with an extra cost to keep your car charged.

The good news is that most LSVs can be charged using a standard 110-volt household outlet, making them incredibly convenient. However, it's essential to confirm this before you buy. Especially as you get into the more powerful models, they may require a dedicated charging station or a higher voltage outlet, which could mean additional costs for installation.

What's included at the base price?

The base price of an LSV can be deceiving. Some companies may advertise a low start price, but the price goes up as you add things like doors, sound systems, AC– pretty much anything that isn’t required to meet DOT standards. Some may even charge extra for the features that MAKE it street legal. Be sure you know exactly what comes with the price. For example, GEM’s cheapest model starts around $13k, but that’s a barebones (although still street legal) golf cart. And we have absolutely no problem with this, as they are very upfront. Plus, many LSV users don’t need the added features. However, if you plan on using yours as a city car, you probably want locking doors and AC. If that sounds like you, you may find more

A Wink Motors low speed electric vehicle (LSV)
A Wink Mark 3

luck with a Coco Coupe or Wink, which are more like small cars than golf carts.

Armed with these questions, you'll be better prepared to make an informed decision when purchasing your LSV. Remember, every detail matters when it comes to ensuring your new vehicle meets your needs. Happy shopping!

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