'Tricked out' golf carts costing Villages residents hefty insurance premium

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

The Villages has 100,000 residents, most of whom own golf carts, but insurance rates have jumped so high on some of the fancier models that state lawmakers might step in.

Some of the fancy carts can hit 35 mph. They have to be insured and registered, and some drivers are looking for a way around the rule.

When Tom Ditzenberg moved to the Villages last year, he did what most do and bought a golf cart. He also bought insurance.

"What we pay for car insurance now, it keeps going up every year, so why not do it for the golf cars?" said Ditzenberg.

The cost to insure traditional carts with a top speed of 20 mph is under $100 a year. But larger, fancier models that can reach speeds of 35 mph require a policy that can cost $1,000 a year in some cases, more than an automobile.

"All these seniors here, they don't expect to live here for another 100 years, all right? They want to enjoy themselves," said Tony Colangelo, who builds custom carts. "Some of these are tricked out with every gadget the car in your garage has."

That included alloy wheels, headlights, turn signals, a windshield with a wiper, seat belts, speedometer and a stereo, according to Colangelo.

Some carts can even cost as much as $28,000, he said.

While some Villagers will pay that price, they don't want to pay the $1,000 to insure the carts, so local state lawmakers Marlene O'Toole and Alan Hays are pushing a bill that drops the insurance requirement as long as the cart is mechanically altered to cap the speed at 20 mph.

Colangelo thinks people will make the change to avert the insurance costs.

The legislature meets next month, which is when lawmakers will get a look at the golf cart bill.