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Pricey 'Golf Cart' Insurance Has Retirees Fuming

Martha C. White, NBC News Contributor
Thursday, 7 Feb 2013 | 2:05 PM ET
Global Electric Motors
Source: Global Electric Motors
Global Electric Motors

Go greased lightning? Not exactly, and Florida retirement community residents aren't too happy about paying up to $1,000 to insure "hot rods" that have a top speed of only 25 miles per hour.

Now, state lawmakers are taking action to help seniors avoid pricey premiums on their LSVs, an acronym that stands for "low-speed vehicle." In plain English, it's a souped-up, street-legal golf cart that can be driven on roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or lower.

The important difference is that golf carts are identified with serial numbers, while LSVs are assigned vehicle identification numbers. "They think their homeowner's policy is going to take over ... but a homeowner's policy does not insure it as a vehicle," said Tony Colangelo Sr., owner of The Villages Golf Cart Man.

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The Villages in central Florida is the state's biggest golf-cart community. It's home to about 87,000 on- and off-road versions — and plenty of angry residents are up in arms at insurance bills that range from $600 up to $1,000 for LSVs.

"They come in here all upset because their insurance is so high," Colangelo said.

Lawmakers in Florida's House of Representatives and Senate have proposed concurrent bills that would offer a way to avoid premium sticker shock. They would let LSV owners mechanically convert their vehicles to golf carts by installing "governors," speed-limiting devices that would lower the vehicle's top speed to the 20 miles per hour approved for golf carts and making some other modifications.

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In addition, "The owner of the converted vehicle must contact the regional office of the department to verify the conversion, surrender the registration license plate and the current certificate of title," and pay a $40 fee, according to the proposed legislation. The sponsors are pushing the state government to take up their bills when it reconvenes next month so the law could go into effect July 1.

But Colangelo said even the proposed fix has some drawbacks. The prospect of slowing down a higher-end LSV to effectively turn it into a golf cart wouldn't appeal to customers who had spent more to get those features in the first place. And for owners who can't afford to insure their LSVs, "I'd probably say the modifications would cost them anywhere from $600 to $1,000," he said.

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