FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Don't call them golf carts anymore.
Just look around South Florida and you'll see that these boxy, open-air vehicles are morphing into mini cars that are becoming as common as the palm trees and neighborhoods they zip around.
Some people are putting a new spin on the rides, customizing them like hot rods or wanna-be Rolls-Royces to cruise on and off the golf course.
"They're everywhere," said Jeffrey Wayne, director of operations for retail at Golf Car Depot in Pompano Beach. "There are a lot more people using them as a segue way in and a segue way out of driving a car," he said, referring to kids who can't drive but want to get around their gated neighborhood and to "elderly parents who shouldn't be driving but need a sense of mobility."
Here are some fun factoids about golf cart love in South Florida.
You may be surprised to learn that people are willing to pay more than $10,000 for a new golf cart (or about the price of a used Smart car). A popular model at Sunshine Golf Car in Delray Beach is the E-Z-GO RXV Freedom, a two-seater that can be accessorized with a sand bucket, club and ball washer and USB port. The model runs $7,000 to $12,000 depending on, um, a la carte accessories, said Jason Zangre, administrative manager at Sunshine Golf Car.
Not your average ride
Just like cars, the carts can be lifted and customized. Some people transform them to look like classics such as Ford Thunderbirds and 1957 Chevys. Those can cost about $7,000, said Wayne of Golf Car Depot where customers have also requested that their carts be lifted six inches off the ground with with 12- to 22-inch rims, making them look like golf carts on steroids. Workers here have produced carts with a New York Yankees-theme with the team's blue and white stripes and logo.
Some members at the Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach have their last names bedecking the front of their carts and the first names added to the front seats.
Hitting the streets
To be driven on public streets, the carts, also known as neighborhood electric vehicles, must have safety features including seat belts, headlights, tail lights, parking brake, windshield and wiper, horn, and rear and side mirrors. And like a car, they must be registered and have a license plate. They can only be driven in areas where the speed limit is under 35 mph.
Boynton Beach resident Zac Mazur bought a new black golf cart in December to drive to and from work in Delray Beach, where he's a real estate sales associate. His cart is lifted with 10-inch chrome rims.
"It gives it a little extra speed while going down the road. It looks just a little nicer," said Mazur, who has been using the cart to meet clients. "It's a breath of fresh air feeling the wind and being able to park almost anywhere you want."
Color me, not
Some private communities have rules about what colors golf carts can be, such as only off-white or black. At Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Boca Raton, the carts that are allowed must be electric with four wheels and be painted white or beige, according to a marketing representative. And some communities require that a golf cart be from a certain manufacturer.
Golf carts have become so embraced in the SoFlo lifestyle that low-speed electric vehicles now have their own parking spaces. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea officials created special parking spaces for street-legal golf carts. The space is half the size of a typical parking space and is also for scooters, motorcycles and mini cars. Delray Beach is also planning to designate parking spaces in the downtown area for golf carts soon, according to John Morgan, director of environmental services.
Some owners use their carts to promote their businesses. John Michael Quinn, a Wilton Manors realtor, bought a 1998 Rolls Royce golf cart last year to promote his business, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Quinn bought the cart on Craiglist for $5,000 and wrapped it in lime green. His photo and phone number are on the sides and the rear.
"It definitely catches people's attention," said Quinn. "A lot of people stop and look. A lot of people wave."
This article was written by Johnny Diaz from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.