Carbohydrates have been investigated and developed as delivery vehicles for shuttling nucleic acids into cells. In this review, we present the state of the art in carbohydrate-based polymeric vehicles for nucleic acid delivery, with the focus on the recent successes in preclinical models, both in vitro and in vivo. Polymeric scaffolds based on the natural polysaccharides chitosan, hyaluronan, pullulan, dextran, and schizophyllan each have unique properties and potential for modification, and these results are discussed with the focus on facile synthetic routes and favorable performance in biological systems. Many of these carbohydrates have been used to develop alternative types of biomaterials for nucleic acid delivery to typical polyplexes, and these novel materials are discussed. Also presented are polymeric vehicles that incorporate copolymerized carbohydrates into polymer backbones based on polyethylenimine and polylysine and their effect on transfection and biocompatibility. Unique scaffolds, such as clusters and polymers based on cyclodextrin (CD), are also discussed, with the focus on recent successes in vivo and in the clinic. These results are presented with the emphasis on the role of carbohydrate and charge on transfection. Use of carbohydrates as molecular recognition ligands for cell-type specific delivery is also briefly reviewed. We contend that carbohydrates have contributed significantly to progress in the field of non-viral DNA delivery, and these new discoveries are impactful for developing new vehicles and materials for treatment of human disease.