We are now officially Floridians. We'll spend all of five days in Florida this year, but we're legal Floridians nonetheless.
As I've mentioned previously, for the last thirteen years, we've been using a friend's address in Louisville, Kentucky as our mailing address and we maintained our domicile there. Although Kentucky was a state with both state income taxes and personal property taxes on the value of our vehicles, we remained "residents" there largely because of our grandfathered health insurance through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (the amount we were saving on insurance more than made up for the tax burdens in KY).
But, a few events led us to change our domicile to Florida. First, our friend in Kentucky has been undergoing cancer treatment, so we wanted to relieve her of the burden. Second, she is going to be moving, so we were going to have to change addresses anyway. Third, we purchased a rental property in Florida last year, and down the road, it will likely be our top exit plan option when we are ready. Fourth, we had some really good income years and changing domiciles would have doubled or tripled our health insurance costs because we weren't eligible for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act, BUT, we've cut back on some things and we're now under the income threshold for a subsidy, and our health insurance costs will now be less than what we are paying in Kentucky.
Selling the fifth wheel and buying the motorhome just expedited the process, as we didn't want to have to register the Winnebago in Kentucky and then re-register it in another state. The plan had been to accomplish the domicile change sometime this year, but there was no rush. That all changed quickly starting in April.
Certainly, Florida, Texas, and South Dakota are the most popular domicile states for full-time RVers due to the lack of state income tax, the lack of personal property taxes, and the availability of RVer-friendly mail forwarding services that can provide street addresses and assistance in establishing "residency".
We ruled out South Dakota because they no longer have "under 65" individual health plans on their exchange that offer a nation-wide network of service providers. Early in our full-timing, we thought we would choose Texas if and when we decided to make a change, but ultimately Florida turned out to be the best choice for us since we have more family there, it's where we go in the winter if we are in the east, and now we have that rental property in The Villages.
Also, Florida Blue would allow us to get health insurance in the Blue Cross Blue Shield network and maintain that national network of coverage.
Choosing A Florida Mail-Forwarding Service
Once we decided on Florida, we had to choose one of the mail-forwarding services since we didn't want to ask a family member. There is one in The Villages, but they are not yet sophisticated enough for our needs, so we didn't consider them long.
The main mail-forwarding services for RVers in Florida are: MyRVMail (which is the mail-forwarding service for both Passport America and Good Sam), Escapees, and St. Brendan's Isle although there are several others and some mail-forwarding services that have been around awhile are just starting to try to take advantage of the full-time RVer market.
Now the top three have similar services. The pricing can be confusing as they have different levels of services and different fee structures for handling your mail. Honestly, I didn't wade through all the fees for each service to see how they compare overall.
MyRVMail is in the panhandle of Florida in Crestview along I-10 northeast of Pensacola. Passport America and Good Sam members get a 10% discount.
Escapees has been the "go to" mail-forwarding service out of their Livingston, Texas headquarters for ages, and in the last few years, they've opened it up so that RVers can use addresses in Florida and South Dakota for domicile purposes. However, all the mail that goes to your Florida address is first forwarded to their main operation in Texas before it gets shipped to you, and they charge an additional fee for the extra transfer. They recommend that you use the Florida address in Bushnell, FL (off of I-75 about halfway between Ocala and Tampa) only for domicile establishment purposes and use their mail-forwarding address in Texas for everything else. I'm not a fan of that set-up.
St. Brendan's Isle (SBI) is located in Green Cove Springs (on the St. Johns River on U.S. 17) about a half hour south of Jacksonville. Ultimately, we decided to go with SBI because I liked their Mail Scan Pro option, the fact that it was an easy drive from Jacksonville where we have family, and the fact that several other RV bloggers we know and respect had already done the research and chosen to use them: Technomadia (2013), Camper Chronicles (2015), Roamin Ryans (2017), and Wheeling It (2018). These were all helpful in knowing what to expect, although our experience was a little different.
We determined that we could do everything online or through the mail except get our driver's licenses. We would have to go to Florida to get photos taken and obtain the driver's licenses.
Okay, so here is what we did, step by step. The steps may be in a different order in your situation.
Step 1 - Sign up for mail-forwarding and get our address
On April 6, we completed the SBI online sign-up form. We went with the "Travelers Special" at $12/month but then added "Mail Scan Pro Standard Volume" for another $8/month ($15 one-time set-up fee). Mail Scan Pro was the closest to the service we were receiving from our friend in Kentucky AND having it would cut down on the cost of postage of sending us hard copies.
With Mail Scan Pro, whenever mail arrives, SBI automatically scans the envelope and sends us an email saying we have mail. Then we log into our account and click on the "View Mail" tab. That brings up the following screen (click on the image for a larger version).
All new mail is in our New Mail folder and then we choose what is to be done with it next - Hold, Send, Scan, Shred, Not Mine, & Archive.
Hold is to let it sit until we are ready to have it sent at which time we move it into the Send folder. But generally, we'll have it Scanned in which case we get another email letting us know it has been scanned and is now back in the New Mail folder for viewing. We rarely need the hard copies, so we'll download it if we need it, and then place it in the Shred folder. If we need it the hard copy, we'll place it in the Hold folder until we're ready to have several pieces sent at which time we'll move them all to the Send folder.
Here's a demo video.
We deposited $100 into an account with SBI, and they automatically charge that account for the monthly fees plus any postage and scanning fees. Postage is whatever it costs to ship the mail (no upcharge on the postage) plus a $2 handling fee on each shipment (no matter how many pieces of mail are sent). Our Mail Scan Pro Standard Volume includes up to 40 envelope scans per month (and then it is 0.25 for each one over that). It's 0.50 to open an envelope and the first five pages are 0.10 each to scan (with additional pages being free). So, it's a $1.00 or less for every scan. Shredding is free.
When our account gets below $10, they automatically charge our card to take us back up to the $100 account balance and they work off that until it gets below $10 again. If we cancel the service, whatever is in our account is fully refunded.
I figure the service will cost us around $300 a year.
Step 2 - Complete Postal Form 1583 so mail-forwarding service can ship mail
April 6, we got an email from SBI providing us with our new address in Green Cove Springs, Florida. That email also included the required USPS Form 1583 - Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent. Also attached were SBI's instructions for completion. This form had to be completed, signed, notarized, and returned to their office before they could send us any mail. So, we took care of that immediately.
Step 3 - Get Florida insurance on the RV
April 10, we bought our motorhome. I called Miller RV Insurance in Oregon (our agent on the truck and fifth wheel), and they wrote the RV policy with Progressive under our new address in Florida. We had them send proof of insurance to La Mesa RV in Tucson, AZ where we were buying the rig.
My hope was to register the RV in Florida. However, because we were doing a short-term financing deal through Alliant Credit Union, we wouldn't get the title to send to Florida. Also, our driver's licenses were still in Kentucky which also confused everyone.
So, the motorhome was titled in Arizona with a lien by Alliant Credit Union. And I knew from reading our other friends' blogs, that getting a title with a lien on it to Florida took anywhere from two to four weeks. Many people have made the mistake of traveling to Florida only to find out that they will be delayed in getting registered in Florida due to the hurdle of a getting a title with a lien from a lender (in states where the lender holds the title).
I decided it would all be easier just to have a clean title, so we were okay with having it titled in Arizona until we paid of the loan. The dealership gave us a 90-day temporary registration and tag. So, we figured we had three months to figure something out.
The dealership collected 6.1% sales tax and Florida's tax would be a little over 6%. When we were ready to register, I would just have to show Florida that we already paid at least their rate in Arizona so they wouldn't charge us when we registered. If we had paid any less than Florida's rate, we would have to pay the difference upon registration.
Note: One loophole in Florida is that you don't have to pay any Florida sales tax if the vehicle was purchased more than six months prior in another state. Purchasing in a no-sales-tax or low-sales-tax-state and then registering it in Florida after six months has passed is certainly a cost-savings strategy.
Step 4- Complete & File Declaration of Domicile
Another thing we could do in advance and by mail was complete a Declaration of Domicile. It's a simple form that is required for each individual. We had to complete it, sign it, have it notarized, and then send it in to the Clay County Court Clerk with a check for $10 for each form.
We completed these forms on April 10 at La Mesa RV while we had access to a notary, and then we sent them in. They were recorded April 13, and sent back to us with the recording information.
Not all states have that form, but it certainly helps prove your intent for a state to be your legal residence.
Step 5 - Change Address with all of our contacts
Most people will likely file a Change of Address with the USPS to have all mail coming to their former address sent to the mail-forwarding service. Since we were using another person's home address, we skipped this step as we didn't want to cause any confusion at the local branch of the post office.
But we did start changing our address with every business we could think of. This is important because you need to prove your residential address to get your driver's licenses as follows:
3. Proof of Residential Address
Customers may not use their current driver license or ID card as proof of residential address. Customers must submit TWO different documents with their residential address (printouts or faxes of these documents are acceptable). Residential address documents include, but are not limited to:
Deed, mortgage, monthly mortgage statement, mortgage payment booklet or residential rental/lease agreement;
Florida voter registration card;
Florida vehicle registration or title (print a duplicate registration at www.GoRenew.com);
A utility hook up or work order dated within 60 days prior to the application;
Automobile payment booklet;
Selective service card;
Medical or health card with address listed;
Current homeowner insurance policy or bill;
Current automobile insurance policy or bill;
Educational institution transcript forms for the current school year;
Unexpired professional license issued by a government agency in the U.S.;
W-2 form or 1099 form;
Form DS2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status;
A letter from a homeless shelter, transitional service provider or a half-way house verifying they receive mail for the customer. The letter must be accompanied by a Certification of Address form;
Mail from financial institutions including checking, savings or investment account statements;
Mail from federal, state, county or city government agencies; or
FDLE registration form completed by local sheriff’s department.
It's a long list, but we knew we were never going to have most of those documents. We were counting on our RV insurance policy and a statement from our bank with the new address.
The Federal Real ID Act of 2005 set new standards for the issuance of driver's licenses and I.D. cards, and it went into effect in May 2008. That's when extra documentation became necessary to become "Real ID compliant". Florida is a Real ID compliant state and started following all the necessary procedures in January 2010. Starting October 1, 2020, if your state is NOT Real ID compliant, you won't be able to use your state-issued ID to board a commercial plane even if you are only flying within the U.S.
Step 6 - Obtain Title to the RV
Here's the dilemma for full-time RVers, at least the way it's done in Clay County, Florida. If you live in your RV, you don't have a physical address that can be put on your driver's licenses. They won't put a P.O. Box or a known mail-forwarding service address on your driver's license. So, what they do is put your RV's license plate number on the license in place of the street address.
Therefore, you have to register your RV and get your license plate before you can get your driver's license. But in order to register our RV, we needed the title.
Because we just purchased the RV, and we were unsure of the timing of the title flow between the La Mesa RV, the Arizona DOT, and Alliant Credit Union, and because we didn't want to mess anything up, we decided to do nothing until we paid off Alliant and could get a free and clear title from Arizona.
We paid our loan off on May 10, and then I started following up with Alliant on the title. Actually, the most helpful person in this process was a young lady named Amy at La Mesa RV. She knew who to talk to and how to determine when everything was complete.
Amy finally let me know that the lien had been released and a clear title had been printed and mailed to our Kentucky address (because that is what was on our driver's licenses at the time of purchase). The title was issued on May 19. So, we were just hoping that the title would make it to Kentucky while we were still in Indiana. Then, because the RV doesn't have to physically go to Florida, we could get the title, fly to Florida, register the RV and get our driver's licenses at the same time.
Again, the RV doesn't have to go to Florida. You can register the RV by mail as long as you have all the proper documentation and submit Form HMSV-82040 APPLICATION FOR CERTIFICATE OF TITLE WITH/WITHOUT REGISTRATION. That form includes a section for VIN verification which does NOT have to be done in the state of Florida. It can be done by any law enforcement officer wherever the RV is located. It can also be done by a licensed dealership, but if it is done by an out-of-state (not Florida) dealership, the verification must be on the dealership's letterhead.
The title arrived in Kentucky on May 30 while we were in Indiana. I scrambled and got us a flight to Jacksonville, and we had the title shipped on May 31 to Linda's sister there.
Step 7 - VIN Verification
The whole flying to Florida thing came up suddenly. We had originally planned to register the RV by mail, and then fly to Florida later in the year to get driver's licenses. We had plenty of time to get a VIN verification since any law enforcement officer could do it.
Suddenly, I realized we needed to get that done immediately or the trip would be for naught. Our flight was early in the morning on June 1, so there would be no time then. A few phone calls later, a police officer showed up at our location in Indiana and did the verification filling out the appropriate section on the HMSV-82040 form. Whew.
Note: Of course, if you take your RV to Florida, you can have the VIN inspected when you get there.
Step 8 - Go To DMV and register RV
We flew into Jacksonville on Friday, June 1, and the title showed up on Monday, June 4. That afternoon, we drove to the Clay County DMV.
Because the counties where RVer mail-forwarding services are located are more in tune with full-time RVers, they are familiar with what they need from us and how we're a little different. It's more likely they will get things right and do it faster. We definitely wanted to deal with folks that were familiar with SBI's customers.
SBI's information said walk-ins are best from 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. and from 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. We timed our arrival to be right at 2:00.
In Clay County, they handle both motor vehicles and driver's licenses. Some counties don't handle both, so just be aware if you go to a different county.
We took a ticket and waited to be called. It took 15 - 20 minutes for our number to come up.
Here's the registration checklist for new residents from the Clay County Website:
Registration checklist - please bring all items below:
Vehicle title or address of lien holder (state registration if title isn't available).
Vehicle or Form HSMV-82042 (ID Verification) (form completely filled out).
Registered owners must be present, or bring Form HSMV-82040 (Application for Title).
Proof of Florida insurance (card, policy, or binder). Proof of insurance must be for this vehicle and must show an effective date equal to or before the date of registration. If none of these are available, an affidavit can be downloaded and completed. The State of Florida requires that each motorist carry a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability Insurance on all motor vehicles (not including trailers and motorcycles). Driver license and registration will be suspended immediately if the insurer denies the insurance information submitted for the registration.
A signed picture ID (driver's license or valid passport).
Bill of sale or invoice if the vehicle was purchased less than 6 months ago. Florida sales tax may be applicable.
Military personnel should bring a copy of orders. Click here for Important information for military servicemembers and their families about Florida driver licenses and motor vehicles.
All leased vehicles require a Power of Attorney from the leasing company in order for the lessee to sign the title application.
Florida sales tax exempt number on lease vehicles.
We handed the clerk our clean Arizona Title, our completed Form HSMV-82040 (Application for Title) including the VIN verification, our proof of Florida insurance, our passports, and our sales contract showing the date of purchase and taxes we paid.
All was in order, so we then just had to decide whether we wanted a specialty plate. Florida has license plates that don't cost any extra, and then they have a large selection of specialty plates. I don't like Florida's standard plate, so we opted for the "Protect Wild Dolphins" plate. It's an extra $20/year but the extra fees go to a good cause and the plate looks better.
Note: We had to register our Jeep Liberty in Kentucky, and Kentucky is slow about getting titles sent out. When we finally get it, we'll register the Jeep in Florida by mail.
Step 8 - Get Driver's Licenses
Once we got the RV registered and got our new Florida plate, the same clerk handled our driver's licenses.
Under Real ID, we needed:
- One of the following as a primary identification document: Valid, unexpired passport OR Original (or certified copy) of a government-issued birth certificate*
- A Social Security Card or proof of our social security number which could be a W-2 form (not handwritten), Paycheck/stub with SS#, SSA-1099, or Any 1099 (not handwritten)
- Two documents (per Step 5 above) to prove residential address
*Note: If you are using a birth certificate, and you have legally changed your name by marriage, divorce or court order, you must submit the original or a certified marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order to prove the legal change. Photocopies are not accepted.
We handed her our passports and our Social Security Cards. My card is metal, and they didn't like that, so I had to complete Form HSMV 71330 - Self Certification of Social Security Number as a back-up.
We handed her our Declaration of Domicile Forms and our RV insurance information as proof of residence, but she didn't like those either. I guess because we are RVers (or because so much other documentation), she cut us some slack and just had us each complete Form HSMV 71120 - Certification of Address.
We also told her that we wanted to be organ donors, so she added that information.
We each then looked into the machine nearby for an eye test and read off the letters in the line she told us to read. We passed that.
Finally, we walked over and sat down to have our photo taken, and she did that from her workstation.
And that was it, we were almost good to go. For what it's worth, Florida began issuing a new, more secure driver's license in late 2017, and you can read more about the specifics here: Florida's NEW Driver License & ID Card.
Step 9 - Pay Fees
Then we had to pay all of our fees as follows:
- First-time, one-time Initial Registration Fee - $225.00
- Title Fee on Used RV - $85.25
- Two Years* of Registration Fees ($58.85/yr) - $117.70
- Two Years* of Specialty Plate Fees ($20.00/yr) - $40.00
- Howard License Fee - $54.25 (Base of $48.00 + $6.25 Tax Collector Convenience Fee)
- Linda License Fee - $54.25 (Base of $48.00 + $6.25 Tax Collector Convenience Fee)
* Note: Because we listed me as the first owner on the title, they went by my birthday, and because my birthday is next month, they went ahead and collected two years' of registration fees. There is no pro-ration of the registration fee so, basically, we paid one year's fee for this month (June 2018), and then another year's fee for July 2018 to July 2019. So, if the timing works out, you will save a little money if you register in the birthday month (or shortly thereafter) of the first person to be listed on the title.
Our total was $576.45. We could pay by cash, check, or credit/debit card (card payments added 2.39%), and since we forgot our checkbook, we incurred another $13 (and change) for the credit card fee.
But at least it was all done, and next year we'll only have to pay $58.85 registration renewal plus our $20.00 specialty license plate fee. Our driver's licenses are good for eight years.
On the way out of the DMV, we picked up our driver's licenses from the receptionist. We were there almost an hour and a half including our initial wait time.
Step 10 - Register to Vote
While we were in Green Cove Springs, we went a couple of blocks down to the office of the Clay County Supervisor of Elections to register to vote. For that, we needed our new driver's licenses and our Declaration of Domicile documents.
When we walked in, the lady that helped us immediately said "You're RVers aren't you?" She said the RVers come in with a packet of papers like we had, and it was a bit of a give-away since I had an RV-Dreams logo on my shirt.
They had a special "cheat sheet" on how to complete the form for full-time RVers. That only took us about ten minutes.
You don't have to register to vote in person. That's another thing that can be done online here: RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov.
So, there you have it. As long as you prepare and have everything you need when you arrive, it's an easy process. The biggest stumbling block seems to be the RV title if there is a lien on it. And getting your mail changed over to your new address a month or so out will help you have documentation that you are receiving important mail there to help prove your "residence". Also, making sure you have your RV insured through a licensed Florida agent is a necessary step.
Our approach certainly wasn't the traditional approach, but we got the job done and don't have to worry about it going forward. Perhaps some of it may be helpful to you.
Oh, and if you decide to also use St. Brendan's Isle, we'd appreciate it if you let them know we sent you. Use our number - # 13895 - and we'll get a little "refer a friend" bonus.