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Where Is My Home?

If you are going to be a full-time RVer, this is a question you will have to answer sooner or later. As much as we would like to be gypsies and say our home is where our rig is, the realities of life, laws, insurance, taxes, etc. demand that we declare a particular address as our home. How you choose what state and address depends on a lot of different things and does involve state laws so what anyone tells you to do should be well investigated and should take your own specific situation into account. Seeing a lawyer wouldn’t hurt either.

If you are getting a pension from a job, be aware that changing your state of residence may have no affect on paying taxes on it. Also, if you plan to spend the bulk of your time in one state, you should check their residency and vehicle laws. They may be able to claim you as a resident and that may very well be OK by you if you don’t travel a lot. Each state has their own definition of what makes you a resident so be careful and know the law. Every state has their laws posted on their site on the Internet so Google away.

Most full-timers choose from 3 particular states to reside in; Texas, Florida, and South Dakota. Why those states out of so many others? Because those 3 have no state income tax. Why not Washington state which has no income tax? Because the other 3 have no income tax, no state inheritance tax, no personal property tax, reasonable sales taxes, low insurance rates, low vehicle registration fees, you can become a resident by mail (car tags, mailing services, *voting) and slight differences between them that will make at least one of them right for you.

For instance, South Dakota has very low insurance rates, good private mailing services specifically for RVers, no car/smog inspections, and is located in the upper part of the country for us Yankees. They also have a VERY low special sales tax rate on new vehicles. South Dakota is a popular choice but be aware that they require you to come back to the state every 5 years to renew your license, they now follow the stricter Homeland Security laws for identity proof, and if your birthday is in a winter month, you will need to contact them for a deferment every time your license renewal comes up if you don’t want to drive or fly in snow.

Florida has GoodSam mailing services, well-known beaches and amusements when staying there, and so on. Car tags are a little harder to get but once done the first time no problem. If you have a Senior Access Pass or Handicapped Pass, they only honor those for residents so you could save half off on state park admissions by registering there if you go to Florida often. DisneyWorld also has a discount for residents. Downside, they may be on the opposite side of the country from where you like to hang out if you need to go back there for legal matters and they do have some extreme weather.

Texas is the home of the Escapees RV club and their mailing services. If you have not heard of them, you should check them out. Like Good Sam , they have discounts on camping fees, get-togethers, chapters, seminars, biannual Escapades/Rallies, Hops/Caraventures, a magazine, etc. as well as their CARE Facility in Livingston, TX for injured/sick RVers to be able to stay in their rigs while recovering and several of their own RV parks. I belong to both clubs by the way which is not a bad idea for anyone. Just make sure you wear the right vest or hat to the right event! If you like to winter in Texas, registering there might be a good idea. On the downside, they require an annual smog inspection in some counties including Harris County where the Escapees mail service is located and an annual safety inspection of all registered vehicles in all counties.  They are not expensive but a pain if you are there every year. If you are out of the state when your stickers expire, you are not required to return to the state but must get the inspections as soon as you return even if just driving through. Upside, they are usually pretty understanding about jury duty calls when you are out of state and are out of state voting friendly.

How you become a resident of each is only slightly different. If you want to vote, there will be some additional requirements such as having to spend one night physically in South Dakota to vote there and so on.

You start with a mailing service which you will need if you are traveling. Family and friends are great but a professional service is more reliable and worth the money. I’ll go more into mailing services another time. You should then register your vehicles and and get a drivers license in the state. Vehicles can be done by mail with the help of the mailing services or others. The drivers license requires your presence for that oh so lovely picture of you and the eye exam. Then tell everyone you know that you are now a resident of state X, Y, or Z and hit the road.

*Voting usually requires at least a one day or more stay in the state.





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