More Retirement Community Residents are Leaving Their Cars at Home
Most people near retirement age, especially in Florida, have heard of The Villages, a town located in the central part of the state known for allowing golf carts to be used to get around the entire community.
In a development of around 150,000 people, there are 50,000 or more golf carts used not only for playing 18 holes, but for a night out to dinner and a movie or a quick trip to the local Publix supermarket. The community features nearly 100-miles of trails and roads accessible only to golf carts. The Villages has been named the number one golf cart community in the country by many national publications and websites.
But throughout the country, people living in much smaller gated or retirement communities are using their golf carts more often than they take their car out of the garage.
And these are no ordinary golf carts. You’ll see many carts with a logo of the owner’s favorite football team, but some take their custom carts to a whole new level.
Much like people who customize their cars, many choose to express their personality through their cart, creating a truly custom vehicle that they’re proud to drive, built-out with their choice of custom colors and graphics, high-end accessories, equipment and other unique touches.
Larry and Joann Moon retired from New Jersey to Del Tura Golf & Country Club, one of the larger golf course 55+ communities in North Fort Myers, Florida. An accomplished mechanic, Larry recently decided to add some modifications to his Club Car cart that he’s had for about 4 years. He did the work himself, as opposed to having a local custom cart modification shop do it or buying a brand-new custom cart.
“I did it in a black-and-gold color scheme to match my Corvette,” says Larry. The couple installed a 6-inch lift kit with low-profile rims and tires, heavy duty rear springs, all new seats, burled wood dashboard and upgraded programming of the computerized speed module.
Larry notes, “We use it for golf, and also to head up to the clubhouse for a bite to eat or go to friends for happy hour. I don’t take it outside the gates of the development, I just don’t feel safe doing that.”
The Moons are long-time friends with 2 other couples also from New Jersey who chose Del Tura as their home, and upgrading their golf carts seems to be a common thread of friendship among them.
Bill and Donna Hyatt decided to go with a new custom Icon cart in early 2021, purchased from Hole In One Golf Carts. Icon carts feature things more common carts don’t have like a drive train, AC motor and a controller made by Toyota. The store has a Cape Coral and Naples location, selling new and used carts and accessories of all types, and offers service in their shops or at your home.
The Hyatt’s picked a model with a 6” lift kit, 23” mud tires, seat belts and the perfect bright yellow paint scheme Donna was looking for. A 2-cart family, Bill also refurbished and updated their other cart with new seats, wheels and tires, turn signals, horn and more, which he did himself. “We use them all the time, it’s the easiest way to get around the community,” Bill said.
He also points out that even though his cart’s tires may look like they would damage a golf course, he said that is not the case. “I’ve tested it extensively, and even when completely drenched, the tires have absolutely no adverse effect on the course turf.”
Steve and Darlene Fincham also knew the Moons up north, bought in Del Tura and quickly caught the golf cart bug. Steve says, “I’m no mechanic, but I seem to have a high level of mechanical aptitude, so I decided to do some modifications to my 2010 Club Car Precedent cart myself.”
Steve found a great source of parts and accessories at Cart City, Inc., with shops located in Punta Gorda and Arcadia, Florida. They offer new and used carts and specialty vehicles for sale, full cart servicing and maintenance in their shop or at your location, plus a large array of hard-to-find parts for refurbishing your own cart.
Steve was looking for a dark metallic blue paint scheme and was able to trade his cart’s old white body for the perfect blue color body there, plus buy a lot of other accessories for the project. He added a 3.5” lift kit, 20.5” tires and custom wheels, heavy duty rear leaf springs and used a kit to convert the batteries to AC power, allowing him to regulate the torque, acceleration and top speed of the cart. The power provided by the motor can be set with special buttons on the cart that regulate the performance, and also by using an app on his phone.
“I don’t play golf, but my wife uses it for golf all the time,” Steve noted. “I use it to get around the neighborhood, and I can adjust the top speed and acceleration very easily.”
Golf Carts and The Law: Just What are the Rules of the Road?
While many choose to limit their cart use to inside their development, some do take them out on the open road.
In Pinellas County near Tampa Bay, Florida, the towns of Ozona and Crystal Beach allow golf carts to be used on the public roads, but there are certain restrictions. Carts used on the streets require headlamps, stop lamps, turn signals, tail lamps, reflectors, parking brakes, a rearview mirror, a windshield and a standard hip restraint. Operators must have a valid drivers license, and the carts are not allowed to be capable of going more than 20-miles per hour.
Other cities and municipalities around the country have different requirements for operating a cart on public roadways.
Insurance and liability concerns are other factors that determine where a cart owner may take their cart. Florida designates a golf cart as a “motorized vehicle”, so most of the laws governing the use of a car on the road apply to golf carts as well. Even the Homeowners Association of each retirement community needs to make sure their liability coverage and specified rules for golf cart operation within their development is structured to reduce any possible risk of exposure in the event of an accident involving a golf cart.
Seat belts are another hot topic among the carting community. A man who moved into The Villages noticed many of his neighbor’s carts were not equipped with seat belts and decided to do something about it. He started a business adding seat belts to carts and has been busy ever since. The process takes about 20 minutes and costs less than $200.00. Statistics show that the number of those opting for golf cart seat belts is increasing dramatically.
While there are those who fear that more golf carts, even if only operating within a gated community, will result in a higher accident rate, many note that the numbers are much lower that those for bicyclist and pedestrian crashes. Some transportation officials point out that the use of golf carts as opposed to cars, providing smart road planning and other infrastructure is in place, could result in less carbon emissions and reduced fuel consumption.
Butch Webb is the Head Golf Professional at Del Tura, and is seeing a lot of members upgrading their current carts or pulling up to the pro shop in a brand new, custom cart. “We’re a very golf-cart friendly community, and I’m noticing quite a few more customized and personalized carts here. People use them to get around the entire development, not just for playing golf.”
The overall popularity of getting around in a golf cart that reflects your personality, lifestyle and fits your community is on the rise, and the future looks bright for those into community carting.