When Sabrina and I decided to start living out of our RV, it was a big decision and one that we did not take lightly. There were a lot of things to consider and it took us almost a year to get everything in place before we could make the transition. We used that time not only to shop for our RV, but also to question “Is it right for us?” In this article we are going to share some of the questions we asked ourselves in hopes that it helps you decide if this is something you would like to pursue.
Before we start, let me say that if you are planning on keeping your RV in one spot for long periods of time with full hookups, then we really do not feel there is much difference between living in an RV versus an apartment or condo and you will be just fine. We change locations a lot in our RV, usually as often as every eight days and this is where we think some lifestyle adjustments will come into play.
Do you bend, or do you break?
I think it is important to know your tolerance level for when things go wrong. Sabrina and I are exact opposites when it comes to RVing. The whole world needs to be crashing down around us before I even sit up to pay attention, Sabrina not so much. The better you are at going with the flow, the easier it will be to enjoy and even laugh when there are things going wrong with your RV, campsites, road, traffic or even the weather. Not every day will go as planned, and we feel its important to be able to make small adjustments quickly to stay on track.
How are you with downsizing and living small?
This can be a big hurdle. Some people go “all in” by selling or donating most of their belongings and some put stuff in storage just in case. Either way, you will have to get accustomed to living with less. Sabrina and I decided to let go of nearly all of our possessions, meaning everything we now own fits in our RV and tow car. When we first started downsizing it seemed easy, but as time went on and we had fewer items to choose from it became more difficult to figure out what stayed and what had to go. Our best advice on this subject is to give yourself plenty of time to downsize. Even now, we look around and say we have too much stuff!
How will you support your new lifestyle financially?
Sabrina had already started traveling full time for her work, so adding the RV to our life actually made things easier. This may not always be the case, and you may need to come up with a solid plan for making income on the road. Maybe even a backup plan in case your first idea does not work out.
Can you say goodbye to friends and family?
When you pack up and hit the road you will most likely be leaving many people behind. This will not only affect you, but them as well. You will no longer be able to text your best friend and say, “Hey let’s meetup!” or tell a family member, “Stop by Sunday for the game!” Luckily, with today’s technology and social media you will be able to do video chats with loved ones and keep in touch daily. They will even be able to follow your adventures and live vicariously through you. When it comes to a holiday or big family event, you’ll be able to pick everything up and roll on over to them. Additionally, you will now be meeting and making new friends with every new place you go.
How will you handle maintenance and day-to-day upkeep?
It does not matter if you purchase a new RV or a used one, there is always maintenance that needs to be done. If your RV is new, you may need warranty work. Or if it is used and you do not feel comfortable doing work yourself, you will have to bring your RV to a dealer to have work done. This will involve scheduling appointments and bringing the RV to a shop where they could have it for hours or even days and you will have to find alternative living arrangements during those time periods. If you are a little handy, you may be able to save money and continue to work on your RV yourself while you live in it, but this still means you might have to change your plans to allow for the extra time to make repairs. Which brings me back to, do you bend or do you break?
Living in an RV can be a very rewarding experience. But, answering these questions will help you be realistic about what to expect and prepare for any potential challenges – which makes it much more enjoyable. What other questions would you ask while thinking of going full time in an RV?
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.
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!
Have you ever noticed that RVers are extremely happy? That was one of the first things that caught our attention when Sabrina and I started going to campgrounds. Perfect strangers would come right up to us and strike up a conversation. Some would even offer to help us set up our coach – I guess we looked really clueless while fumbling around with our connections at the beginning.
So, what makes the RV community so happy and friendly? Does dumping your own waste really put you in that good of a mood??? I have a few theories and I hope to hear some ideas from readers as well.
My first thought was most people at the RV parks are on vacation and the feeling of getting away from it all would, of course, put most people in a good mood. I thought this was a solid reason except for the fact that a lot of RVers aren’t on vacation at all. Some use their RVs to travel for work, or they live in their RVs and own a mobile business.
Plus, as far as vacations go, we have stayed at many hotels and resorts and it’s rare that someone comes up to us and starts a conversation and wants to know everything about us, let alone says “Hey do you need help settling into your room? I can carry your bags for you.”
Sabrina takes a ride with our Youtube friends, Camping with the Kelly’s. They also travel full-time and always have their toys with them!
Rolling in Green?
Maybe it’s a money thing. RVs can be expensive, so people who have them must have more money than they know what to do with, right?
This made sense at first, until we started talking with people at the campgrounds and found out most of them were able to RV on the cheap. They had smaller RVs or travel trailers or they purchased used ones and fixed them up themselves. Many people also dry camp or boondock often and just do the occasional campsite to recharge and empty their tanks.
It quickly became clear to us that the type, size or cost of an RV did not reflect the good vibes we picked up from everyone or why they were so happy.
This family of five does extended trips in their 15-ft travel trailer. Look at those smiles!
A Stress-Free Life?
Could RV travel be considered a less stressful way to vacation? Most of the RV parks and campgrounds we go to are very tranquil. When we take our first steps out of our door and breathe in the fresh air of a new day, it is wonderful and just melts away our stress.
Also, in our case we literally have everything we own on us at all times. There is never that moment of panic of forgetting to pack something since we can bring it all with us. We can even bring our pet with us to join in on the fun. Belle, our little dog has never been turned away at a campground and she gets to experience and smell all the new places we visit. After all, we are pretty sure she sees the world through her nose. So, it must be a stress-free lifestyle that puts everyone in an awesome mood!
Although the pups are usually happy, RVing isn’t always stress-free for the humans.
Sadly, I feel like I need to debunk this reason as well. RV travel can be stressful at times. There can be mechanical issues while traveling, roads you can not travel on with an RV, there are crazy drivers around you that you always need to be aware of, and there will be times that you pull into a rest area ready to stop for the night only to find there are no spots left.
So, if it’s not freedom from stress or any of my other theories, what makes us so happy to be in our RV?
This brings me to my final thoughts, and what I believe is the answer. RVers are out doing what they love – even though it may not be perfect all the time. That, combined with the feeling of exploration as they travel to new locations and experience everything a new area has to offer, makes it hard to be unhappy. Most importantly, they are doing this while being surrounded with other like-minded people.
Thanksgiving get together with four groups of full-time RVers.
When we are out of that element and tell friends or family that we are planning on spending a few days somewhere off-grid with no water or electricity, they give us a crazy look and ask why we would want to go back to the middle ages. When you tell someone in the RV community they say, “Oh you’re going to love it, and you should spend more than just a few days!”
The RV community is very supportive and always ready to lend a helping hand. They want you to succeed and share this wonderful experience with others. The positives of RVing far outweigh the negatives. The freedom and sense of adventure that it brings, as well as the satisfaction of being able to work around a problem on our own or with help from others, is very rewarding.
Happy RVers getting ready for the weekend!
Smiles are contagious, and we love when we pull into a new campground and are greeted with so many smiling faces and friendly waves. So, keep them coming and pass them onto others as they enter this wonderful, happy community.
You can follow along with Kenny & Sabrina’s happy adventures on their YouTube channel: Moving Forward.
When Sabrina and I started shopping around for our first RV, we quickly realized there was a lot of equipment that goes into one – from mechanical to electrical to plumbing! So when we then decided to buy a used RV, we were even more concerned about how we would be able to recognize potential problems. We did not know how all the systems worked and we sure wouldn’t have known if they were working properly just by having a salesperson walk us through the RV while we were distracted by the floorplan.
Self-inspection vs. hiring a professional
We continued shopping and hoped by the time we found an RV we would know enough to do a thorough inspection ourselves. That was the plan anyway, until we found one in Ohio 400 miles away from us. It was the perfect match for what we were looking for, a 2016 Vista with only 5,000 miles on it and it was priced $10,000 less than anywhere else in the country. Our first thought was, “What’s the catch?”
We contacted the dealer in Ohio, Shafer’s Truck and RV Sales, and asked for additional photos and more info on the RV. Everything sounded too good to be true. We heard the RV Geeks mention in one of their YouTube videos that when shopping around for an RV to use a third-party inspector before you purchase one. We did not even know that was a possibility!
We then did an online search for RV inspectors and found the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA) website. There we found Rick Amos, an inspector in Ohio that would be able to drive out to the dealer for us and look over the RV. That was huge for us! This saved us the time and the cost of traveling out of state for an RV that could have been a mess in disguise. We also liked that the inspector had no emotional attachment to this RV and his mission would be purely fact finding. We really wanted this to be the one, which could have blinded us to potential problems if we had tried to inspect it ourselves.
We liked that not only were there check boxes, but photos of what was inspected as well.
Setting up the inspection
Sabrina and I talked it over and, before calling the dealer, we said if they did not allow the inspection then we should probably walk away from the RV. We contacted the dealer and they said it was not a problem, just let them know what day it would be and they would bring it inside and hook it up so the inspector could test it all out. Right away we thought that was a good sign. We did have to pay the dealer a $100 deposit to put a two-week hold on the RV, so no one could swoop in and buy it out from under us while the inspection took place. It would also give us some time to travel there and make the purchase if the inspection went well.
We emailed Rick and he took over from there, setting up the time and day of the inspection. All we had to do was wait to hear what he found out about it … hopefully nothing bad. Rick emailed us at the end of his inspection day and said it went well and he would have a full report for us within the next two days. That actually made us nervous. We were thinking what did he find that would take two days to put together in a report?
One of the many detailed pages of the report and a photo of an outlet that was not able to be used.
The report came in and wow was it detailed. This report was amazing. He inspected things that we would have never even thought to check. Overall, he only found minor issues with the RV and he also had photos documented in the 28-page report. We were very happy with Rick’s findings. Not only did he give us plenty of information to help us comfortably move forward with our decision to buy, but we learned so much about our RV that day.
We called the dealer and told them that Rick had found a few items. The dealer told us that Rick spent 9 hours looking over the RV. We had no idea that he had put that much time into it. The dealer asked us to send a copy of the report and they would take care of everything that was found.
Report showing awning pulled out of track and possible caulking fails.
The inspection cost us $500 and it was well worth it when you consider the price of an RV and how many horror stories there are out there of RV failures shortly after a purchase. We would have never been able to do this level of inspection on our own.
We kept thinking sticks-and-bricks homes are inspected before purchase, so it only made sense to have a big purchase such as this also inspected. Luckily, the RV did not have any major issues and has proven to be a great buy for us. We are about to hit 20,000 miles on our Vista and have only had minor issues caused from shaking and rattling down the road.
When we arrived at the dealer, I was able to use the info from the report and check that all was fixed as promised.
If you found this article helpful, we also have a Youtube video about the inspection.
A little more than six months ago, we decided to purchase and then move into our 28-foot Winnebago Vista. Why would we do such a thing, you might ask? It all started when Sabrina, who was working as a physician in a hospital-based group practice, decided to make a change in her career.
As with many physicians today, she enjoyed taking care of her patients and working with great colleagues. However, she did not enjoy the mountains of paperwork, fighting with insurance companies, and all the behind-the-scenes requirements that took her time but did not seem to contribute to better patient care.
She decided to reduce her hours to part time and began working as an independent contractor for a Locum tenens company. Locum tenens is very similar to travel nursing, but for doctors. Sabrina loved it! She was suddenly her own boss – choosing her hours, the locations and the duration of her assignments. There was just one catch … we would be apart for extended periods of time.
We did not like the time apart. I could see how much she enjoyed the work though and it was important to me that she was happy. We started to brainstorm ways we could spend time together and keep her new job. We found an answer, but it sounded a bit crazy. I would sell my small business that I had in town, she would leave the hospital she had been at for the past five years, move out of our 1,300-sq. ft. apartment and buy an RV so we could set out on the road. We had already been downsizing for the past year to move into a smaller apartment, so why couldn’t we downsize enough to move into an RV?
Inside our empty apartment, after downsizing for RV life.
We had never owned an RV before and – other than one camping trip when I was younger – we had no experience as campers. So, what did we do? We turned to where everyone learns about anything these days, YouTube! There we found channels of people who were not only able to live in an RV, but they made it look enjoyable. We were hooked on this idea fairly quickly and started to do tons of research.
We had so many questions and as they were answered new questions arrived. What type of RV do we need? What would our physical address be? Who do we owe taxes to? Where do we park every night? What would we do for health insurance? Could our dog safely stay in the RV alone? But as we found an answer for each question, this crazy idea seemed more sane.
We became excited that this could actually work. Sabrina could do locum work full time. I would either workcamp or do online freelance work and we would just move our new home on wheels from location to location.
The Test Run
We thought it would be a good idea to rent an RV for the weekend just to see what we were getting ourselves into. Despite the rental RV itself being gross, having non-working systems and a half emptied black tank upon pick up. We had a blast!
We even caused a “poocano” on arrival to the campground when I did not secure the waste tank hose well enough. We laughed so hard that weekend and had such a great time that we knew if we had this much fun in a rental, we would really love having one of our own.
Now we just needed to find an RV that would fit our needs. So, the hunt was on to find our new home and continue to learn as much as we could about how to properly operate an RV and its systems.
Finding the perfect RV for us proved to be more challenging than we thought. We made a must-have list and that helped narrow it down a smidge. One key decision was that we wanted to stay under 30 feet to make it easy to maneuver and to avoid length restrictions at national parks.
Sabrina and I went to dealers, searched online and attended every RV show we could. After walking though the Winnebago Vista LX 27N we were sold. We ended up taking a special trip to Forest City, IA, and took the Winnebago Factory Tour just to learn more about the brand and workmanship. After several more months of research, we ended up purchasing the Vista.
Now we travel full time with our little dog Belle while we work from the road and see the country. And we managed to fit everything in the RV – we don’t even have a storage unit!