We’ve been avoiding some of the biggest RV questions for a while now. Why? Because choosing residency, handling mail and getting health insurance as a full time traveler are all fully loaded subjects.
Honestly, it’s got to be up there with puberty, the birds and the bees and why drugs are bad conversations. Yet, where to call “home”, getting mail and health insurance that will work around the country are topics that are extremely important for every full time traveler to figure out.
We’ve been avoiding these questions because in the past we didn’t necessarily have the personal experience to back it up and everyone’s wants/needs/situation is unique so a general info article wouldn’t provide much help. Before we even hit the road we were pretty well setup: We were already Texas residents (one of the most popular states for nomads) so we never had to deal with RV residency. Then there’s Jason’s mom (she’s the coolest) who has been graciously handling our mail for us. We choose not to have health insurance (we pay out of pocket and sometimes head to Mexico).
So why make this post now when we’re over 4 years in? Well, we’re about to be forced into making some changes: with the new healthcare act, we’re going to either pay a fine or pay for insurance (so insurance it is). Also mom isn’t going to want to handle our mail forever, or want us to run our business from her address.
It was high time we stop dodging the inevitable, do the research and share what we learn with you.
We had a few beers, put our big boy pants on and simplified everything as much as we could into bite size pieces. You can blame any incomplete information as well as grammatical and spelling errors on the beer.
We’re not going to get into all the details (trust me there’s a lot) because it could be overwhelming and to be honest we don’t know all the answers. Plus, everyone’s situation and needs are different. This info is to help get you started with your research, orient you in the proper direction, and to provide our personal research and recommendations. So, here we go…
Picking a Domicile (AKA Residence)
Pretty much everything is affected by the state you ‘reside’ in. Texas, South Dakota and Florida are the 3 most common states full timers use for residency…for a long list of reasons that mostly boil down to saving you a ton of money and hassle. Your domicile or residence affects a lot of important things. So let’s look at the 5 biggest things to consider when choosing your state of residency.
1. Health Insurance
This is a loaded subject that’s had a lot of changes recently and is affected greatly by the state you live in. This is why we are going to highly recommend you talk to Kyle of RV’er Health Insurance . I knew we were going to like him when he said,
“I am not your typical insurance agent. I don’t believe you need to insure every single aspect of your life. Over-insuring is a result of a society over-exposed to fear-based marketing and consumerism.”
We couldn’t have said it better and it’s exactly the way we feel! He’s an RV’er so he understands our challenges, needs and knows how to maximize benefits and minimize costs. You can find him here: RV’er Health Insurance
You can read all about our insurance experience here: Finally Insured! Our Simple, Affordable RV Healthcare
2. Income Taxes
Some states have income taxes (some are really high like California) and some states don’t have any (like Texas). Choosing a state with a very low or no income taxes can save you a lot of money.
3. Driver’s License
You will need a driver’s license from the state you reside in. So things like online renewal options (not all states have this) and frequency of renewal will be important to consider. Another thing to consider is the class of license, if you choose TX and your RV is over 26,000 pounds you’ll need to plan on getting a class B non-commercial license (which can take up to 3 months to get) Oh, and don’t forget to register to vote while you’re at it. Most states will let you do this at the same time you get your driver’s license.
4. Vehicle Registration and Insurance
Vehicle Registration and insurance has to be in your state of residency. And oh my how the frequency of renewal, rules, and regulations vary from one state to the next! We have the best insurance agent at State Farm that totally understands our nomadic needs and has saved us a lot of money. But unless you are a Texas resident, it won’t do you any good to call him. (If you are a Texas resident and want his info, let us know).
***update: We’ve received lots of requests for our insurance agent in TX, please only call him if you are interested in obtaining insurance, please be respectful of his time. We are not getting any kickbacks or discounts for this info, we just think he’s been great to us for all our insurance needs from RV, Smart Car, Business, Renters and so on. www.willtweed.com 972-242-0393 he’s also on Facebook if you want to check in socially 🙂
Even once you have a state of residence and a mailing address…there is still the issue of getting that mail to wherever you are. There are mail specific services out there such as Mailbox Forwarding (around $15 a month). They receive your mail, scan it, email it and then you decide if you want it shredded or forwarded to you at your current location.
If you want mail forwarded, you’ll need to pick a location. Some campgrounds, Harvest Hosts locations, Friends, Visitors Centers, and of course Post Offices will accept packages for you. You will always want to call ahead and ask nicely if that is something they offer and if so what the mailing address is and to whose attention the package should be sent. I know it sounds complicated but it really isn’t a big deal once you get the hang of it. (You’ll also want to sign-up for Amazon Prime, it’s the best way to get packages quickly when you’re constantly on the move.)
This isn’t everything that is affected by the state you domicile in, but its most of the biggies. Whew, it’s a lotta information to think about right?!? Now you see why we needed that beer!
You could research all of your residency options and all of the details that come along with the switch until you’re blue in the face… (I have already spent more hours than I care to recount) or you could save yourself a lot of time and headache by joining a group like Escapees (this is probably what we’ll do).
Escapees is a membership program that helps with residency in both Texas and Florida (and soon in South Dakota). They have years of experience with a wide range of much needed services like mail to helpful newbie stuff like RV’ers boot camp. Right now memberships are only $30 a year. It’s a great group and a one stop shop with lots of people to help and answer questions (they even have referrals for lawyers, but let’s hope you don’t ever need one of those!).
If you know of any other great services like Escapees (I did find a couple of others but escapees seem to be the best), please let us know in the comments below, because it’s always good to have more options.
Well, I think that about sums it up. I hope we have given you some resources and given you a little insight on things to consider when choosing a residence. And don’t let all of this overwhelm you, because in the grand scheme of everything, these are just details and life is too short to not live the life you want!
Feel free to ask questions below, we may not have the answers but with all of us together I bet we can find one!
If you’re considering this lifestyle and you have never visited our RV’in page you may want to check it out, it’s full of useful stuff (at least we think it’s helpful).