Several RV Legal Issues need to be addressed here. If you are a FullTimer, where you establish your "residence" (Mail Forwarding Service) will mean quite a bit.
Every state has certain legal ramifications that need to be considered:
- Will they allow you to be a "paper" resident?
- Get a drivers license and vehicle registration?
- Can you renew those by mail?
- Do you have to have RV inspected?
- Will you be able to vote?
- Will you have to sit on jury duty?
- What types of tax liabilities will you have?
- Can you get economical health and vehicle insurance?
- Will you need a special driver's license for your RV?
- Etc. etc.
Since each state issues their own driver's license, be sure to check out the state of your choice for driving restrictions BEFORE you change your residency to that state.
Typically, go to the website of the state you are interested in and then go to their Motor Vehicle Section to see what, if any restrictions apply - RV driving restrictions, renewals by mail, inspections, are they RV friendly, etc.??
How you register your RV needs to be considered as well.
The state of Montana offers Tax Free LLC's as an incentive to get people to register in Montana and pay no sales tax (which can be HUGE on a new RV!).
Another issue to consider very carefully - your RV is also your home. As your home, can it be entered by the police during a traffic stop, can it be searched, can you carry firearms, etc.?
The sections below will have more details and websites to help you "research" your options!
Mail Forwarding Service is a large business today for boaters and
RV'ers. Be sure to review our Mail Forwarding Service Tab for even more
Research every state you can think you may want to have as your "address" for everything - your mail, your drivers license, vehicle registration, taxes, health insurance, etc.
Make a checklist of important concerns for your situation and then analyze the best for you.
You'll find great info on our RV Mail Service page.
An RV LLC is a great idea - it can really help save money and also provide certain business advantages, especially if your RV is also used for business purposes.
An LLC is a special type of legal entity that is similar to a Corporation.
Montana doesn't charge Sales Tax on a vehicle purchase. If your RV is registered as a Montana LLC, the Attorneys in Montana claim you can reside in a different state.
However, there are very exacting records and details that must be followed to the letter!!
Unfortunately, the other 49 states within the US rely very heavily on Sales Tax Revenue to help their diminishing budget revenue.
As a result, many states are now very interested in any Montana LLC RV they see parked in their states. State Revenue Officers are seriously challenging these LLC's and imposing heavy fines and penalties to people who live in one state but have a Montana LLC registration. Many have even set up an anonymous "Tip line" - so be really nice to your neighbors!!!!
One state even mentioned sending Revenue Agents to large stadium games within their state - looking for Montana RV's!
Minnesota Department of Revenue is aggressively pursuing their legal residents that have a Montana registered RV parked in their driveway!
RV Daily Report is reporting in it's 11/16/2011 article that, according to WJON AM Radio in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Revenue has closed 22 cases with a revenue collection of $230,000 - that's $10,000+ average collection!!!!
Iowa just got added to the list of States that are pursuing Iowa residents with a Montana Vehicle Registration. RV Daily Report is reporting in an article dated 7/31/2013, that; according to the Iowa Gazette, Iowa DOT and Tax Revenue Agents are investigating Montana RV's that are being purchased by residents of Iowa.
Iowa announced on August 27, 2013 a "One-Time Deal" to pay their Sales Tax and a 10% fee on that tax by October 23, 2013 - otherwise they will come after Iowa residents that are shielding their RV purchase as a Montana LLC to the fullest extent of the law!
If you chose to utilize the Montana LLC, be sure to get it in writing from the Montana LLC Attorney, that they will represent you in the state you reside in when that state's Revenue Officer takes you to court with large penalties and fines!
One "last comment" on a Montana LLC.
If you are completely a fulltimer, without any ties to a state and ALL YOUR ID shows Montana - shouldn't be a problem!
The problem really surfaces when you have a toad and driver's license from your "home state" and your RV is a Montana tag - even worse, your RV is sitting in your non-Montana driveway!!!
That's like a red flag to a bull (State Revenue Agents)!!
Ever since National Security tightened up after 9/11, it is more "tedious" to obtain a different state license and vehicle registration.
Plus, if you are a female with one or more name changes, it can bring you to tears!
Figuring out how to be RV Legal will be very important.
Until you are ready to sell everything and not have a true "stick & brick" residence (in any state), I would keep all your ID in the state you already "reside" in.
That is perfectly RV Legal!
Once you sell it all and are ready to actually enjoy "Full Timing", then a new "residence state" become very critical. Vehicle Registration costs for an RV, Inspections and renewal periods can rule a lot of states out.
Some states will charge a Luxury Tax on your RV, EVERY YEAR!!
As a Full Timer, you probably won't actually be in your "residence" state very often - will you be still obligated to appear for jury duty? Will you be able to vote in local and national elections? Will you be required to retake a written or driving test?
Bottom line - you want a "RV Friendly" state!
South Dakota is extremely RV Friendly, that's why you see so many RV's with South Dakota tags!
There are others as well!
Before setting up your RV Mail Service address, research the typical health and vehicle Insurance costs. Even a county within a state can make a huge difference in these costs.
Perhaps the vehicle insurance is reasonable, but the health insurance issues are very prohibitive! Unfortunately, the HMO's are realizing that certain zip codes have a lot of "older people" and that will effect their rates! Research, research, research!
Visit our RV Insurance page for help with vehicle insurance info and keeping you RV Legal!
Each state, to be RV Legal, will have different RV Towing limits and restrictions on the number of vehicles that can be towed, how long the overall length can be, how wide, chains required, etc.
Trying to be RV Legal with your actual RV on the highway is an entirely new and difficult subject.
Depending on the circumstance of why you are discussing your RV with an Officer of the Law, will determine your rights.
I would immediately indicate to any officer that you are fulltiming and this is considered your "HOME". As your "Home", you have certain rights - as any homeowner does!
However, as a motor vehicle, your rights are very different and, of course, depends on the type of situation you are in when meeting an Officer of the Law!
The courts seem to believe it is your home (at the time of meeting an Officer of the Law), if your RV is actually hooked up to some utilities and parked as a "home".
A public parking lot (such as a Walmart), is NOT considered a "home" environment. If you are in a motor vehicle situation, odds are the courts will treat it as a motor vehicle.
Only an Attorney, probably from the state you are meeting an Officer of the Law in, can properly advise you to be RV legal.
My advice, get your vehicle information and drivers license and step outside of your RV. Then an officer won't "see anything" that would give probable cause to search your RV.
Even at that, it is generally accepted that they should "search" only the immediate driver area.
As in any situation with a Police Officer - Be Courteous, nice and respectful.
Treat the Officer as you would want to be treated. If you've done nothing wrong, there is nothing to worry about.
RV Firearms are a very special category! There are plenty of publications out that will guide you for each state.
An excellent source for the "latest" RV legal rules about HANDGUNS would be
Firearm Laws in 50 States
Another great source for General Weapons (Rifles, Shotguns, etc.) would be the NRA Gun Laws for States