Florida and golf carts. They go together just like Mickey and Minnie — green-and-cream E-Z-GO electric runabouts zipping pink-trousered Arnold Palmer wannabes from green to green.
But these days, you’re just as likely to see a cart heading to the beach with a noodle-toting family aboard, or parked outside a local cafe. Residents of gated enclaves, retirement communities and cart-friendly neighborhoods are loving them as daily drivers.
And these days, Floridian golf cart-lovers are adding their personalities to their rides. They’re spending big bucks on customized color schemes, even tricked-up carts with big wheels, jacked-up suspension and fancy upholstery.
Take Maggie Caruso. Maggie owns and manages the much-loved Coconut Inn in the heart of Pass-a-Grille, that funky community at the southern tip of St. Pete Beach. She bought her electric-powered, zero- emission six-seater primarily to ferry her guests around the laid-back beach town.
“I just love to drive it so much it’s become my everyday driver. Right now I’m looking to bolt a surfboard on the top. That should look pretty cool.”
Her new ride, built by Clearwater’s Discovery Golf Cars, is like 1950s Florida on wheels. Coral and peppermint paint, diamond-quilted turquoise-and-white vinyl seats, and racy chrome wheels with cool, wide whitewall tires.
A basic, no-frills electric cart — maybe an E-Z-GO, Yamaha, or Club Car — generally stickers from around $7,000. A fully-customized ride, loaded with accessories, can go for over $20,000.
The hot new ride on Tampa’s golf-cart-friendly Davis Islands these days is a street-legal ICON cart in retina-searing turquoise, or classy metallic red with matching striped upholstery.
Such is the demand to scoot around the island in zero-emission style that a new ICON dealer — D.I. Electric Vehicles — is setting up shop in the old ’50s gas station at 340 East Davis Blvd.
“As a resident of Davis Islands, all I see are golf carts,” says D.I. Electric owner Chas Bruck. “Whether it’s cruising down to the local coffee shop, or to the park with family, these vehicles are a great means of transportation and outdoor adventure.”
A “starter” two-seat ICON i20 will set you back around $7,500, while a stretched, six-seater i60 L will run you close to $11,000. Big wheels, raised-up suspension, stereos, light bars — you name it, Chas will help.
Want to really hit a golf cart hole-in-one? Then look no further than the Danish-made, street-legal Garia SuperSport, the fancy Mercedes SL two-seater of golf cars.
Priced from an Amex-card-melting $73,000, it was designed with the help of Mercedes-Benz Style and comes with such cool features as carbon fiber body panels, lithium-ion battery power, and a 10- inch outdoor touchscreen with wi-fi connectivity.
Add to these the Garia’s huge, curvy heated windshield, that golf ball “dimple” grille, and the waterproof leather seat. There’s even a built-in fridge to keep your beach beverages chilled. And with its 8kW motor and the biggest battery pack offered on a golf car, it has neck-snapping acceleration and a 50-mile range.
As for arguably the coolest beach cruiser out there, the four-seat, super-cute eMoke from Sarasota-based Moke America is hard to resist. Inspired by the swinging ’60s Mini Moke, this all-electric runabout is classed as a Low-Speed Vehicle, so tops out at 25mph. With its 10 batteries fully charged, it can run for 40 miles.
With a range of wild colors, from sunshine yellow to Barbie pink to too-cute baby-blue, this super-stylish, zero emission runabout stickers from around $20,000.