Why We Chose Florida as Our Domicile State

Plus, tips for an easy transition.

Kenny & Sabrina Phillips Kenny & Sabrina Phillips  |  01.03.2018

I guess the first thing you are asking is “What is a domicile and why do I need one?” As full-time RVers, even though we travel all over the country, we still have to choose one state as our domicile. This is the state that is seen as your permanent home and where you have significant connections to. It is where you will file your taxes, register to vote, obtain your driver’s licenses, get health insurance and use for your estate planning.

People have asked us what our reasons were for choosing to domicile in Florida. Of course, the answer is that we wanted annual passes to Walt Disney World! Well, that was one of the reasons, but there was a bit more to it than that.

Why Choose Florida as a Domicile?

We were living in the state of Virginia when we purchased our RV. When we decided to live out of our RV we were suddenly able to choose what state we wanted to use as our home state. Sabrina has always been partial to Florida because that is where she grew up. So, we started to research Florida to see what advantages there would be for us to move our home to Florida.

The one advantage that peaked our interest the most was no property tax on RVs! In Virginia, everyone pays property tax on vehicles. Including, you guessed it, recreational vehicles. Moving out of Virginia could potentially save thousands of dollars a year. Another advantage is Florida has no state income tax. While this did not help us too much since Sabrina works in multiple states with state income taxes, it may be a plus for others.

Florida also does not require vehicle inspections which would help us avoid special trips yearly back to our domicile state. The last reason was that Florida offers health care plans that allow us to use health care services outside of the state other than just for emergencies. We felt these reasons made Florida the right choice for our domicile.

Becoming Floridians

Setting up a domicile can be a bit tricky and it took us some time to research how to go about making it happen. If you are thinking about making Florida your domicile then hopefully this will be helpful. As with all things, there may be some new information since the time we set this up, so we recommend you always check the state’s website for up to date information.

This is how we became Floridians step-by-step:

  • Set up a mailing service. We chose Escapees Mail Service based on their great reputation and reviews. They forward our mail to wherever we are in the country as we travel. The set up was all done via telephone, email and mail and did not require us to actually go to a particular location, which made it easy. Their service provided us a mailbox as well as a street address in Florida to be used as our physical address. People always ask if we get anything for recommending them and we don’t, we just like their service.
  • Update Address. Once we had a physical address, we then changed our bank/credit card addresses as well as our cell phone billing address to our new Florida address. You will need to do this so that you can use your statements as proof of residency when you go to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) for your new driver’s license. Be sure to make these changes over a month before your trip to the DMV to give the monthly statements a chance to update with your new address.
  • Change over auto insurance. Florida requires a vehicle to be insured in their state before you are able to do the registration of a vehicle.
  • Call the DMV. Once you have decided which DMV location you would like to use, give them a call or check online before just showing up, many of the DMVs in Florida are by appointment only and we don’t want you to waste a trip.
  • Verify VIN & Odometer. We were then ready for our trip to Florida. Before we went to the DMV we stopped at a bank in Florida with a parking lot large enough for our RV. We needed to get the paperwork to verify our vehicle’s VIN and odometers notarized. We were able to download the form from the Florida DMV website. If you have a small enough RV and can fit it in the DMV parking lot you can just bring it to the DMV and they will send someone out to do this.
  • Go to the DMV. You will need to bring two proofs of your residential address to the DMV (we used a bank statement and a credit card statement). You will also need primary identification (this cannot be your driver’s license from your previous state) and you will need proof of your social security number.
  • Establish connections. To solidify that that this is your actual home state you need to now obtain health insurance in the state and establish those significant connections by finding physicians as well as lawyers for estate planning.

Those are the exact steps we took to make Florida our home state and it went very smoothly. Our final tips are to be aware there is an impact fee for each vehicle you register in the state, so be sure to check the updated cost so you are prepared for it. Also, bring cash or a check to pay for the DMV services as they will charge you a fee to use a debit or credit card.

We hope this info helps anyone who is looking to make Florida their new home state!


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6 Comments

  1. Mark Ford Posted on 09.13.2018

    In response to Lewis Edge’s comments, for pre-Medicare aged full-timers, South Dakota is not a great option in 2018 due to poor health insurance choices.

  2. Andy Friedman Posted on 02.11.2018

    One detail that was overlooked with vehicle registration that caused me a bit of a headache: if your vehicle has a lien-holder, you cannot register/title it until the DMV has the vehicle title in hand (although they can issue you a temporary registration in the meantime). They’ll provide you with a form that you need to send to your lender requesting them to release the title to the FL DMV office where you’re getting your work done. Once the DMV receives the title (in my case this process took about a month) they’ll send you a letter stating that they have the title and you have 30 days to come in and finish the process. Not to worry, if you can’t make it within 30 days they’ll send you one more letter saying you have another 30 days. But after 60 days they send the title back. So if you’re a full-timer on the move there can be some tricky timing involved here. My recommendation is to plan this out 2 months in advance so the DMV will have your title when you get there and you won’t have to make multiple trips from out of town like I did.

  3. marie Posted on 01.06.2018

    dont you have to actually live 6 months and a day to get the tax benifits or be considered a full time resident? just trying to get a clear understanding of how you can establish residence in a state but not actually live there..

  4. Lewis Edge Posted on 01.06.2018

    While establishing residence in Florida apparently made the most sense for Kenny & Sabrina Phillips, after selling our home in New Jersey last March after our retirement, and after doing considerable research, my wife and I decided to become legal residents of South Dakota.

    According to Forbes, while New Jersey has the second highest tax rates in our nation, South Dakota has the second lowest. South Dakota has no property taxes, income taxes, inheritance tax or personal property tax. Vehicle registrations in South Dakota, which are reasonable in cost, can be handled through an agent by mail or courier service. No vehicle inspections are required. Pennington County in South Dakota charges no wheel tax. Before leaving New Jersey, we had already registered our vehicles in South Dakota, through our mail forwarding agent, and obtained license plates for them.

    Vehicle insurance rates there are reasonable. We had only to prove that we spent a single night in South Dakota and supply documents proving our US Citizenship to obtain legal residency and driver’s licenses/legal photo IDs which require NO written exam for adults currently licensed in another state. To maintain legal residency, there are no requirements for us to return to South Dakota. After our visit to the state and establishing residency, my wife and I were able to utilize the services of an estate attorney in Rapid City to prepare new wills, durable powers of attorney and powers of attorney for healthcare via phone, email and postal mail.

    Before establishing residency in South Dakota, my wife and I had never visited the state, had low expectations but were delighted and pleasantly surprised once we arrived in Sioux Falls in early May of last year. We drove our Itasca motorhome, with car in tow, across the state on Interstate 90 to Box Elder (adjacent to Rapid City) where we established residency and were enthralled during our travels over the beauty of the state’s landscape.

    Our visits to the picturesque Black Hills, magnificent Mount Rushmore, the spectacular Crazy Horse Memorial both carved into towering granite peaks and the other-worldly Badlands, which are easy day-trips by car from the Rapid City area, were visual feasts. Although my wife and I continued our travels into numerous other national parks in the USA and Canada our travel experiences in South Dakota were unsurpassed.

  5. Michelle Boles Posted on 01.06.2018

    This is a very good article, with step by step instructions regarding how to become a Florida resident. Good info to have. Thanks

  6. Lou M Posted on 01.04.2018

    Great article and information as always. I plan to switch my residence to Florida hopefully this year. I also love the idea of mail through Escapees. Happy Travels!