Golf Carts Save You Time

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Horse folks generally consider golf courses to be wasted on golfers, what with all that lovely rolling green open space calling to us for a happy gallop and no concerns about woodchuck holes. (We promise that we won?t leave divots on the greens.)

Golf courses, however, provide us with a useful mode of transport on our farms at a bargain price ? used golf carts. When the paint starts to fade on those fleets of carts found on thousands of golf courses around the country, they?re recycled as people-movers in other environments and are particularly suitable on horse farms.

Of course, you can also buy a cart new, with a bare-bones electric cart starting around $4,500. But refurbished used carts purchased from a dealer will start for $2,000 less than that, and you may be able to find one even lower, much lower, in a private sale. After a cart has toted golfers and clubs for several years, it should be expected to hold up to daily use on a farm for 10 to 20 years with proper care.

If you like to walk around your property for exercise, that's fine. But if you?ve got some distance to cover from house to barn to mailbox to riding ring to pasture, a golf cart is a considerable time-saver. it's easy for anyone to drive and simple to maintain.

Just remember that golf carts are not usually street-legal without a lot of expensive modifications. If the cart leaves your own property for some reason or is used on public lands or you take it to a horse-show grounds, the driver must have a driver?s license.

If you have a lot of fields to check, a golf cart can be handy.

If you have a lot of fields to check, a golf cart can be handy.

Gas vs. Electric.

Your first consideration is whether you want a car powered by gas or battery. Gas carts go faster, up to 20 mph, if that's a consideration. Put the pedal to the metal on an electric cart and You'll get all the way up to 12 mph. That's for used carts. New electric carts, made in the last couple years, now can match gas ones for pep.

Gas carts will also go into high weeds and woods better than electric. If you're going hunting (not fox hunting, obviously) You'll want gas. Electric power will do fine in normal grass/gravel/dirt conditions found on a farm. Electric carts generally cost less than the gas models, depending on the bells and whistles they may have.

Electric carts require less service, checking the water in the batteries monthly and replacing the batteries every few years. A gas cart will require the same attention as any gas-powered vehicle, but that can be managed by a mechanic making a yearly farm visit.

Electric carts need to be plugged into a standard outlet at night, and if you forget then You'll have a delay to power up again. Gas carts just need a gas can handy.

Where to Find them.

You can start with a web search. There are more than 700 dealers of used carts around the country. Local yellow pages also have a separate section for golf carts. Most dealers will recondition the cart before resale, although that's an uncomplicated task that involves checking the engine, replacing batteries and maybe tires and hosing dirt off.

Golf carts that are used on public property will require that the operator be licensed.

Golf carts that are used on public property will require that the operator be licensed.

Carts are usually covered by plastic rather than metal. The plastic stands up well to weather, but the paint will be faded on used carts and the bench coverings possibly cracked a bit but still serviceable.

Dever Inc., the same folks who rent out the carts at large horse shows around the country, also sells carts and will usually have several for sale at the show sites (http://www.deverinc.com/, 800-714-2201). You can also order one through their Lexington, Ky., base and it can be shipped at no charge to the show site nearest to you, said Dever?s Jonathan Locknane.

Wherever you look for a cart, be sure to factor in the cost of getting it to your farm. There are companies that do nothing other than ship golf carts, and they?re particularly busy in the fall taking carts from northern farms to southern bases and back again a few months later.

Cart dealers should have a way of getting it to you, and be sure to negotiate delivery as part of the final price. Carts start at a size of around 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. If you own your own horse trailer can take care of the job.

Check for a refund policy. If you're going through a dealer, a 30-day refund policy is standard. When you try out the cart, look over the tires, check the brakes and listen to the engine. If the battery is over 4 years old, then negotiate for a new one or a reduction in the price.

Modifications.

  • A basic golf cart has a two-person bench seat in front and two racks in back to hold golf clubs, plus a basket for small items. Most come with a roof and windscreen. You may not feel you need any changes to the cart, but you can order certain modifications such as:
  • Flip back seat and cargo area, which makes the cart versatile to haul two additional people or feed/tools just by lifting or dropping the seat. You can also replace the bag racks with just a cargo box. $550.
  • Lift kit. This gives the cart more ground clearance and usually includes heavier-duty tires. $800.
  • Rain cover, to completely enclose the cart when needed with heavy-duty, zip-down clear plastic. $225-$500.

Bottom Line.

A used golf cart is a reasonable investment for most stables, as a people-mover and for light farm chores or hauling.

For an initial investment of $2,000 to $3,000 for a used electric cart, plus batteries every 5 years or so for between $500 to $900, you can expect 10 to 20 years of service. Depreciation for a used cart is roughly $100/year if it's cared for properly, so if you sell it or keep it over its lifespan, You'll have reliable transportation around your farm for around $200 a year. The time you save on the farm is likely worth a lot more than that.

Margaret Freeman
Associate Editor