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Establishing Domicile and What It Really Means For Full-Time RV Residency

Establishing Domicile and What It Really Means For Full-Time RV Residency

Most people are residents of the state where they own or rent a home and spend most of the year. However, full-time RV residency can cause some complications, especially when you may travel from state to state. RV domicile is the answer for most RVers, but you need to know some important things when setting it up.

Today, we’ll share all you need to know about establishing your full-time RV domicile. Let’s get started.

What Is RV Domicile?

An RV domicile is your legal address where you’ll vote, register vehicles, and file taxes. Those who enjoy full-time RV residency will need a domicile, even if they don’t plan to spend much time in that state.

Unfortunately, regardless of your lifestyle, the government will require you to establish your domicile. Every U.S. citizen has to have a domicile to pay taxes, vote, open a bank account, and perform other official matters.

One mistake that many make is confusing domicile and residency. However, it’s important to understand the differences.

Establishing RV and Nomad State Domicile

How Is Domicile Different From Residency?

While residency and domicile may sound the same, they’re very different. Your domicile is where you legally reside, and where you intend to return to after being absent. You’ll register vehicles, pay taxes, and vote at this address. You’ll be a legal resident of that specific state. 

Residency is a slightly different concept. It is where you choose to live. In other words, it is where your home is right now. It is often the same as your domicile. However, you may have multiple residences but only one domicile.

You may own a beach house for summer trips or a mountain condo for skiing adventures. These dwellings serve as temporary residences where you don’t plan to live permanently. You won’t be a legal resident of the state, which means you can’t vote in local elections, take advantage of resident discounts, or any other state benefits.

Furthermore, residency is often a condition of domicile. In other words, to establish a new domicile you often have to prove residency. This is usually done through the official setup of vehicle registration, driver’s licenses, and even utility bills or pay stubs address to the new address.

Why Do I Need a Domicile State as a Full-Time RVer?

Full-time RVers must have a domicile state, primarily for legal reasons. You must register your vehicles, obtain automobile insurance, and pay taxes.

While RV life can provide some freedoms, it doesn’t release you from these required parts of life. Establishing your domicile is an essential step in becoming a truly full-time RVer. Some states make it more appealing to domicile there than others.

Pro Tip: If you’re new to RVing, establishing your domicile can be quite tricky. Make sure to also stay on top of everything you must do to avoid these 17 Beginner Full-Time RV Mistakes.

Tom Morton posing in front of RV after establishing domicile
You will need to establish an RV domicile so you can register your vehicles, obtain automobile insurance, and pay taxes.

Things to Consider When Choosing an RV Domicile State

Not all states make it easy or worth your while to reside there. You’ll want to consider several things when selecting your RV domicile state. Let’s take a look.

State Taxes

Very few of us enjoy paying more taxes than necessary. As a result, you’ll likely want to consider the taxes residents pay, specifically income taxes, in each state.

A handful of states have no income taxes. These include Wyoming, Washington, Texas, South Dakota, Nevada, Florida, and Alaska. While you’ll still need to pay federal income taxes, you’ll get to keep more money in your pocket by choosing to live in one of these places. 

Homeschooling Laws

If you plan to travel with children, consider homeschool laws for each state. Some states aren’t as homeschool-friendly as others.

A handful of ones in the northeast have very strict regulations. They often require parents to submit plans and information at the start of the year and quarterly reports. It can be a full-time job keeping track of it all.

When considering your options for your RV domicile state, you can do yourself a favor if you select a more homeschool-friendly one. You’ll have enough to worry about while RVing and traveling with your family. Jumping through governmental red tape and deadlines will make it unnecessarily more complex. 

Vehicle Registration Fees and Inspections

Registering your vehicles is necessary for becoming a resident and establishing your domicile. Some states have expensive fees for registering vehicles, especially if new to the state. You’ll also want to consider the required inspections for registering or renewing a car.

You don’t want to drive back to your domicile state to have your vehicle inspected yearly. Luckily, some states have a reputation for lower-than-average registration fees and few inspections. Some states will allow you to self-inspect your vehicle if out of state when it’s time to renew your registration. 

Full-time RVer parked in national park.
Many full-time RVers will establish domicile in Texas, South Dakota, and Florida.

Vehicle and Health Insurance

Costs for vehicle and health insurance vary from state to state and city to city. Some states have notoriously high car and health insurance premiums. Unless you enjoy paying high prices, call and get a quote before getting too far.

When changing their state residency, many face difficulty because vehicle and health insurance policies may not be available in every area. You may have to change insurance due to your current provider not having a presence in your new location.

Time-in-State Requirements

Some states require residents to spend a certain amount of time there to become and maintain residency. However, other states have no time-in-state requirement.

If you choose one with strict regulations, you’ll need to plan your travel route to ensure you stay the appropriate amount of time in the state each year. This can make it frustrating, especially if you find yourself on the other side of the country.

You may realize you must visit your home state to meet this requirement, thus interrupting your plans.

Some states are better than others for full-time RV domicile. As a result, Texas, South Dakota, and Florida are three of the most popular ones that RVers choose. They have no state income taxes, have friendly homeschooling laws, and have various health and automobile insurance options.

Additionally, many programs or organizations have established networks in these states that help RVers establish their domicile. Escapees and America’s Mailbox are a couple of the popular options, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. These companies will walk you through the process and help make it as easy and painless as possible.

Pro Tip: Use these tips on How to Change Your Domicile to Texas to make the process quick and painless.

Tom and Caitlin Morton posing in national park while full time RVing.
Establishing full-time RV residency will give you the freedom and flexibility to explore the world.

How to Establish Full-Time RV Residency

You’ll need to do a few things to establish your full-time RV residency. Unfortunately, you typically need to complete these in a certain order to make the process as smooth as possible. Also, every state is going to have its own specific requirements.

So let’s walk through a high-level overview of how you can establish your RV domicile. Let’s dive in.

Secure a Physical Address

You need to get a physical address in the state where you want to domicile. If you use a mail-forwarding service, they’ll likely give you a physical address when you sign up for their services.

However, if you have a friend or family member willing to allow you to use their address, that can work too. However, this could put you in a pickle if those friends or family members decide to move, or not be diligent about getting you your mail.

Register Your Vehicle at Your New Address

Once you have secured your physical address, you’ll want to call your insurance company to change your insurance policy to reflect your new state. You can then head to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or the county officials’ office to register all of your vehicles. Some states will require all cars to be present or pass an inspection before registering them.

Familiarize yourself with the requirements for registering your vehicle. You don’t want this process to take longer than necessary or to make multiple trips to the DMV. Something as simple as organizing your paperwork and having the correct documents can ensure a smooth process.

Change Your Driver’s License to New Address

You’ll need to change your driver’s license to reflect your new address and new residency. The DMV will require you to surrender your previous license when registering for a new one.

Remember, you won’t walk away from the DMV with your actual license. They’ll typically mail it to your new address within a couple of weeks.

This may not be a problem, but some locations won’t accept temporary paper driver’s licenses for package pickups or when purchasing alcohol. You may want to wait to leave the area until you’ve received your new license in the mail.

Man driving RV across the USA
Before you head out on the highway, make sure to go through each critical step of establishing RV domicile.

Change Your Address on Other Accounts 

Once you’ve switched everything over, go through the painstaking process of changing your address on all your other accounts. This includes banks, credit cards, and any accounts that store your previous address.

One mistake that many people make is forgetting to change their shipping address wherever they shop online. As a result, they’ll accidentally ship something to their previous address. 

Register to Vote

Some state DMVs will simply ask if you want to register to vote. If they do, that’s one less thing you have to worry about doing.

However, some states may require you to mail in your application or follow up in some capacity to complete your voter registration. If you plan to exercise your right to vote, follow the proper process for where you’re registering.

If you choose one of the popular RV domicile states, they’ll send your information to the appropriate department to ensure you can vote for the next election.

Establish Connections in Your Domicile County

You want to establish connections in your domicile county to show your intent to return to the area. Some RVers who did not do this important step were required to pay taxes because they didn’t show proof that they were establishing connections in their new county.

Set up doctor appointments, get a contact with a local lawyer, and register at the local library. If anyone were to question your domicile status, you want to show proof that can eliminate any potential questions.

Complete an Affidavit of Domicile and File It With the Court

In some states, you must file an Affidavit of Domicile with the local court system to share your intent with them. This form typically requires a notary signature, which many domicile services have readily available.

You can’t forget to complete this important step, or it could cause issues for your legal status down the road. Again, if anyone were to challenge your domicile status, this serves as more proof.

Car driving quickly while towing an RV camper
If you want to RV full-time, establish your domicile and then get ready for some epic adventures.

Are There Resources to Help Full-Time RVers Establish Domicile?

There are many resources available to help full-time RVers establish their domicile. Escapees is one of the largest. They’ve helped tens of thousands of RVers over the years to establish their domicile. Some of their resources and documents are more helpful than the local county offices in some places.

However, find yourself a reputable company that has experience working with RVers. The more experience they have, the easier and smoother the process will be for you.

5 KEY STEPS TO DOMICILE AND GET A HOME ADDRESS | FULL TIME RV LIVING | EP-36

Set Up a Home Base With an RV Domicile

Having a home base can be very important, especially if you must stay put for a considerable time. Some domicile services will have campgrounds and other parks that allow guests to stay for long-term and permanent stays.

Getting your RV domicile squared away early has many benefits and makes it easier to enjoy your life on the road.

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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