It's the last month of 2015, the weather's chilly, and snow boots are replacing golf shoes on the feet of too many of us. That means it's...
All things being equal, December is one of the best months in which to buy a new car. Salesmen are going to be pushing to make or exceed their sales targets for the year, and savvy negotiators can parlay this ambition into great savings.
In particular, the days between Christmas and New Year's Day are the ripest for savings, as dealers look to unload the last of their previous-model-year stock and get a jump on selling the new models.
But if you're reading this, you aren't just an ordinary prospective car buyer. Whether it's just ten or 20 minutes to your favorite local course, a weeks-long golf road trip, or you're renting one for an upcoming excursion, you want to know what are the best cars for golfers.
Here are some questions the best cars for golfers need to answer:
Will it fit all your gear?
There are lots of big cars and SUVs out there, but they're not all going to support good feelings among four golfers, their clubs and their luggage over the course of a trip. For example, my father and I brought our clubs on a trip to California a few years ago, and the trunk of the Jeep Compass we rented - by no means a "compact" vehicle - was far too narrow to accommodate our two bags in their travel cases alongside other family luggage easily. Long story short: it was not a fun ride from the airport to the house we'd rented some 90 minutes away. In other words, when assessing cars for a golf trip - whether to rent or buy - be aware that not all cargo space is created equal.
Not only that, but some "premium" car brand models offer less in the way of space than their lower-priced counterparts. For example, Ford's largest sedan, the Taurus, offers an impressive 20 cubic feet of trunk space. But the MKS, Lincoln's similar-sized offering, offers only 18.7 cubic feet of trunk space. And when you're trying to play Tetris with golf bags and suitcases in a trunk, every little bit of space counts.
Want to max out on space? Look into a full-size SUV like the Ford Expedition, which offers a mammoth 42.6 cubic feet of trunk space. It's safe to say that even inveterate over-packers will be able to wedge their belongings in with their clubs, with plenty of room to spare.
Beware smaller SUVs and crossovers - in a lot of cases they offer less space than less-expensive generous-size sedans. For example, the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder offer just 18 and 16 cubic feet of trunk space, respectively.
How long can you stave off a mutiny?
If you're going to be packing, say, your regular foursome into one vehicle for a few-hours drive to your destination, you're going to want them to be comfortable and happy for the duration. That's why second-row legroom is key to any road-tripping golfer.
Remember when Buick used to pay Tiger Woods millions of dollars a year to promote their cars? It was no random choice. For instance, their LaCrosse offers a whopping 40.5 inches of passenger legroom, which is tops among midsize sedans, and a full four inches more than the class average (and nine inches more than the average economy airline seat offers). And with 38.1 inches of legroom, the Ford Taurus is not far behind. Not bad for sedan-loving golfers.
Note: The LaCrosse may be an attractive option for its legroom, but beware - its trunk only offers 13.3 cubic feet of cargo space. You might be able to jam four bags inside...
What else keeps the group in harmony on a golf road trip? Creature comforts, of course! As traveling golfers, our favorite convenience features are satellite radio, built-in GPS and smart device hookup ports (i.e. strategically-placed USB ports). Many car buyers see built-in GPS as superfluous, especially with apps like Google Maps bringing that functionality to smart phones. But the easy-to-read (and safer to use) large screens of built-in GPS units, as well as their easy integration into the car itself, argues well for the extra expense of adding them as an option, especially if you anticipate needing quick directions to golf courses, hotels and restaurants in unfamiliar places.
Back-up cameras can also be valuable, especially if a crowded back seat might impede your view. And effective and easy-to-control air conditioning and heating is also a big plus, especially when each passenger has control over his or her own little zone.
What vehicles offer the best value?
"Value" can mean a lot of different things to the average car buyer. For a golfer, we would peg the notion of "value" to fuel efficiency first of all. This is where SUVs, for all their comforts and storage space, don't look so great. But let's be honest - if you can afford a Ford Expedition or its competitors, fuel costs probably won't be much of a deterrent. Still, you may be pleasantly surprised that some hybrids, like the Lexus RX 450h, also boast considerable trunk space, thanks to some clever engineering.
Should you get a - gasp! - minivan?
As "uncool" as minivans might look, they may represent your best bet for all-around storage capabilities, comfort and safety. In our research for this piece, a number of veteran traveling golfers said something to the effect of, "Yeah, minivans don't look great, but for four guys and all their gear on a golf road trip, they're pretty hard to beat." If you can't see yourself owning a minivan, consider renting one for your golf trips instead. All the major rental companies have a Minivan option that should work for you.
What else should you consider?
These are by no means top-priority items, but as a golfer, they make the difference between a vehicle you like and one you love:
- Is the trunk-liner material easy to clean?
- Is the second-row of seating as safe as the front row?
- Are there enough cupholders, and will they both keep your morning coffee warm and your bottle of water cold on the way to and from the course?
- Are there any valuables compartments in the car, in case you don't want to bring your phone, watch or other valuables on the course but don't want them visible?
- If you're going to be on the highway a lot, adaptive cruise control is an awesome feature that helps you keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, even if it is not at a consistent speed
- Want to go green? Driving-distance limitations (and current seatbelt troubles) aside, the Tesla Model S might be the ultimate golfer's car, with 26.3 cubic feet of normal trunk space and another 5.3 cubic feet of storage space under the hood. Its lack of traditional engine and fuel tank open up an awful lot of space for clubs and luggage.
Is your car particularly well-suited to golfers and golf trips? Any advice for links-lovers looking for a new ride? Let us know in the comments below!