Cars and Carts in The Villages

You may move to The Villages with multiple vehicles.

Most people understand that they will need a golf car/cart, even if they don’t golf.

You really can’t appreciate The Villages lifestyle unless you take advantage of traveling via cart.

But, what is the proper vehicle mix?

Obviously this is a matter of personal choice, but in general folks seem to only need one car and one, or even two golf carts. A good car choice may be a small economical SUV.

It should be noted that a lot of people assume that a standard garage is OK, but many prefer having the additional golf cart garage. Many people that don’t purchase this option with their home later regret that decision. Due to lot line setback restrictions, adding a golf cart garage later may not be possible — be very careful by asking your sales agent lots of questions.

Another decision people have to make with golf carts is gas versus electric.

Be careful of your choice — all golf carts are not equivalent.

Talk to lots of folks and do a little research. Cost, reliability, performance, range, appearance, etc. are all relevant considerations. In general electric makes an excellent choice for golf and most reasonable distances.

But, if you plan to travel from one end of The Villages to the other with golf course and night driving included, most electric carts may struggle to make the grade, especially as the batteries age. Gas carts are a little noisy, not as smooth operating, and a little odorous. To help reach a happy medium some people prefer to have one of each.

On a per-trip basis gas cart fuel cost per mile will probably exceed the electrical re-charging cost per mile for an electric cart. However, when lifecycle costs are considered the formula may change. With a new set of batteries costing anywhere from $500-$900, mismanagement of battery life can upset the lifecycle cost equation substantially. Battery life can vary from a minimum of 2 yrs up to 6 yrs in the extreme.

Two special types of golf carts are in use around The Villages in addition to the normal “golf carts”: Street Legal LSV (Low Speed Vehicles) and “Nostalgia” carts.

A traditional golf cart set up for use in The Villages is typically equipped with high speed gears/motor plus convenience, golf, and appearance options. It is limited to speeds of less than 20 mph.

These carts are able to travel throughout The Villages on residential streets with posted speeds of 30 mph or less. Typically the 15 mph neighborhood streets don’t have dedicated golf cart lanes but the 20-30 mph streets do. Golf cart insurance is available at reasonable rates.

LSVs are limited to speeds of 25 mph and can travel on streets with posted speeds of 35 mph or less. To travel at these speeds on these streets, the vehicles must be registered, have a current license plate, and the operator must be licensed and insured.

Insurance is much higher than the 20 mph carts, even if you don’t license the vehicle. Since they have 15 digit VIN numbers just like automobiles the insurance companies are generally unable to provide lower cost insurance options. LSVs are equipped with additional safety features and are generally more expensive.

Nostalgia carts are classic car bodies mounted on a traditional golf cart chassis. These are fun carts for cruising the town squares, plus some models are also able to accommodate golf bags if desired. Note that tire designs must be approved for golf course use. All carts can travel on the multi-modal paths like those along Buena Vista and Morse Boulevards. There are no “official” speed limits on these trails because there is no enforcement authority, but obviously 20 mph is the “rule”.

Safety: extreme caution is required in that golf carts are not structurally designed to protect the occupants in the event of an accident. They can become unstable at high speeds when sudden maneuvers are required. Larger car and truck drivers often don’t notice them as easily as they do larger vehicles.

It is recommended you purchase your cart(s) with optional side marker and overhead canopy (also called sunscreen top), parking-brake/turn signal lights, and you use your turn signals for ALL turns — even in combination with old-fashioned hand signals.

On the topic of seat belt use, it is my recommendation to have seat belts installed in a professional manner and use them in all cases other than on the golf course. Keep in mind that the manufacturers have not installed seat belts in non-LSV carts because the industry lobbying and standards groups have not faced up to the usage patterns typical in communities like The Villages.

By not designing the carts for seat belt use they can avoid the liability associated with injuries occurring when carts are used off the golf courses (remember they were designed/tested/manufactured for golf course use). On the golf course they feel that falling out or being thrown out of a cart in the event the cart were to roll over is safer than the alternative.

Some people still believe seat belts are a detriment rather than benefit. There is always a “catch 22” type of argument that really just doesn’t hold water. Remember the early argument against seat belt use in cars? People said that if their car ended up in a river or lake they didn’t want to be trapped inside the car and not able to escape through a window so they could swim to the surface.

The reality is that the typical accident history unfolding in The Villages appears to be that individuals are often being ejected from their carts when the cart impacts another vehicle or immovable object, or possibly turns over on its side after hitting a curb, ditch, berm, or landscape feature.

A large number of accidents seem to involve a passenger being ejected, with or without the cart actually turning over, strictly due to a sharp high speed turn or avoidance maneuver. If a person were to hit their head on the pavement or curb, serious head injuries are possible in addition to bodily injuries.

It is much better, in the writer’s opinion, to be restrained and retained inside the cart, even if the cart were to tip over on its side. Even though the overhead canopy is only a sun and rain shield for the most part, and is not a structural ROPS (roll over protection system), the majority of the incidents occurring with street use in The Villages do not appear to involve full rollovers.

Note that many seat belt installations are not well engineered. There are generally no substantial attachment points provided by the manufacturers (except for LSVs). Most seat belt installations will perform some function based on minor accidents, but more substantial mounting systems will be better able to handle more significant accidents and larger frame individuals.

Keep in mind that very few installers, including the dealers, are making a substantial effort to design and engineer heavy duty seat belt mounting systems. One reason being given is that modifications are not endorsed or condoned by the manufacturer.

One more consideration relative to vehicles has to do with respect for you neighbors with driveway/street vehicle “clutter”.

Some folks come down with multiple cars, trucks, SUVs, etc and then fail to purchase a home with enough garage space, then they park the extra vehicles in the driveway or on the street. This is also aggravated by those with collector cars, extra golf carts, motorcycles, etc.

It’s really best if newcomers think this through carefully. Maybe store collector cars off-site, reduce your dependence on multiple vehicles, or work hard on your home choice/lot selection to maximize your garage space (difficult, but sometimes doable). Motorhomes, trailers, and boats are clearly covered in the covenants so off-site storage is a foregone conclusion.

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