Gone are the days when a golf cart was purely for delivering nattily clad duffers, or getting Aunt Blanche to shuffleboard in Boca Raton. Today, a golf car in an urban setting is commonplace – who hasn’t envied the senior citizen acting their age in the back of a beeping airport shuttle. Golf car dealers are delighted with this recent trend – the growth market for their products further and further away from the 19th hole. Sure, you’ll still find golf cars at country clubs, retirement communities, cottages, and farms – however, the increase in urban golf cars (and their big brother, utility vehicles, UTVs) is testament to their versatility.
Many facility managers put golf cars to work daily. Who needs a FitBit when you can save time, money and energy, getting from A to B without cracking a sweat. As examples, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre has a fleet of golf cars for parking patrol and customer service. Many condominium corporations and commercial or institutional campus locations have cars available for security, landscape maintenance and shuttle service. Many UTVs routinely haul garbage and plow snow. Mega facilities such as Toronto’s Pearson International Airport employ a large fleet of specialized 6 or 8 passenger shuttles in the gate area; these vehicles are customized for their environment with security and safety features particular to the setting. In the miles of tunnels within the airport, literally hundreds of electric vehicles are in constant use. Beep beep! The Rogers Centre was heavily trafficked by golf cars and UTVs even before the Blue Jays were the hottest ticket in town. Many city departments, police services and EMS organizations use golf cars. Most convention centres, sport venues, theme parks, hospitals, universities, condos, warehouses, self-storage sites, auto plants, hydro facilities, commercial towers and the larger parking facilities make use of a golf car. Aunt Blanche was ahead of her time.
THE FUTURE LOOKS FLY. Marty McFly.
Generally speaking, the auto-centric urban development model is morphing. Golf cars and UTVs have a role – a trend lead by architects, urban planners and facility managers. The Lake Simcoe Friday Harbour project was designed with golf cars an integral lifestyle essential akin to tonic and gin. In the US, golf cars and their street-legal cousins, known as low-speed electric vehicles (LEVs) or neighbourhood electric vehicles (NEVs), are gaining substantial traction; special lanes and paths are preplanned. The cities of Nashville, Atlanta and Charleston, to name a few, allow commercial and public use of NEVs in selected areas. Seasonal considerations aside, many future Canadian developments seem onboard with this idea. Why not, eh?
OPTIONS ARE APPLICATION DRIVEN
Outfitted correctly, a golf cart or utility vehicle can be a valuable asset in almost any facility application. Let’s leave beer holders on the golf course for a moment: Does electric or gas power best suit your application? Secondly, what options are needed? Typical outfitting beyond Aunt Blanche’s golf car would be the addition of a rear seat, or a utility box or a flat deck. Safety managers tend to request speed suppression, lights, a safety beacon and a horn. Some industrial users require foam filled “flat-free” tires or full weather enclosures. Others add roof racks for ladders, heaters or trailer hitches. In the US, LEVs and NEVs are legislated to be equipped like autos, with seatbelts, roll cages, turn signals, wipers, mirrors and required to reach a 25 MPH speed if used on roads used by automobiles. (You can take the boy out of the go-cart but you can’t take the go-kart out of the boy.)
NEW OR USED: IT’S ALL ABOUT BUDGET
Cost for a refurbished used electric golf car, outfitted appropriately, will start at around $5,500, with new units starting around $7,500. These have light-duty specifications. For heavier payloads (beyond 800lbs) your dealer will suggest a utility vehicle (UTV). Used units in this category will start at $6,500 and go up to $18,000 for a new unit. Gas powered vehicles tend to be slightly higher in price. The good news is, most dealers will offer monthly rentals or service programs to meet budgets.
BRANDS AND MAINTENANCE COSTS
The principal golf car manufacturers are: E-Z-GO & Cushman (Textron), Club Car & Carryall (Ingersoll Rand), Yamaha and newcomer AGT Electric. All have solid engineering, similar features and a variety of add-on bells and whistles. And, unlike a sporty trophy wife, golf cars are fairly low maintenance. Annual maintenance costs will vary by usage, but owner battery care is critical with full replacement set at as much as $1,200. Normal tire and mechanical wear will lead to servicing the car every 2-3 years. Local dealers will pick up your unit requiring service and often supply a loaner. Vehicle operators will require a valid driver’s license and training, but driving a golf car is child’s play. Like most things in life, insurance costs will vary by location. And like most things in life – the wind in your hair either means you’re falling down – or you’re driving a golf cart, grinning like you own it.
Peter Butler is President of Albion Golf Cars in Toronto. Albion offers new and used sales, custom outfitting, event rental, parts and service solutions. Albion carries all the leading manufacturers of golf and utility vehicles.