Texas is one of three states ideal for full time RVers looking for a domicile state. When we sold everything and left California, one of the main things we had to figure out was where to domicile. For us, the choice was between Florida and Texas, settling on The Lone Star State because we were going to be in Texas for an extended period of time and wanted to take care of everything in person. Plus, our motorhome is under 26,000 lbs which meant we wouldn’t need a special license or exam to get a Texas drivers license.
Since we wanted to sign up for the Escapees RV Club and use their mail forwarding service, we ended up driving to Livingston, Texas and spent two nights at the Escapees RV park, Rainbow’s End. This allowed us to take care of everything (vehicle inspection and registration, drivers license, mail forwarding) in one day. This post will describe all the steps we took and suggestions we have for anyone looking to do the same thing.
Becoming Texans via Escapees RV Club
Choose a State
There are three states that full time RVers consider for domicile: Florida, South Dakota and Texas. We choose Texas because of its central location, no income tax and it’s the state we are most likely to settle down in. Technomadia wrote an article on picking a domicile state with great information.
Stay at Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas. Since we decided to take care of business in person we booked two nights of dry camping at Rainbow’s End, a RV park run by Escapees RV Club. An Escapees RV Club membership is $39.95 a year. Benefits include resources for full time RVers and discount on RV parks.
We arrived at Rainbow’s End after 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. The Escapees office was already closed and we ended up getting our membership at the park’s check-in office. There are three dry camping sites at the park and we were assigned site A, which was very close to the Escapees office. The cost to dry camp with full access to the facilities (dump station, shower, laundry) and activities was $5/night (discount of $2.50/night was applied for being members).
Site A was wooded and on semi soft ground covered with leaves, branches and dirt. The trees blocked the sun for most of the day and we were only able to get about two hours of solar which meant we had to run our generator during designated hours. One important thing to note is AT&T cell service is poor. We could barely get one bar and data switched between no data to LTE depending on where we were in the park.
Getting It All Done In One Day. Thursday morning we woke up to an alarm which doesn’t happen often these days, but we wanted to get an early start to make sure we had enough time to get everything done.
1 – Sign up for permanent mailing address:
We arrived at the Escapees office at 8:10am and were met by two lovely ladies who checked us in. At 8:15am, Romona called us into the back office and got us signed up for the mail forwarding service. Note: only Escapee RV Club members can sign up for their mail forward service.
Step 1: Filled out Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent. This form allows Escapees to receive and sign for mail on our behalf.
Step 2: Filled out Escapees Mail Service Agreement and selected one of three mail forwarding options. We decided to choose Category A for $195 for the first year. The cost break down is as follows: $95 annual fee, $50 postage deposit, $15 enrollment fee and $35 cancellation fee. When we renew next year, we pay the $95 annual fee. Category A is the most basic option and allows us to request mail sent to a destination as often as we want. The other two options offer the ability to limit the type of mail that is forwarded such as magazines and junk mail. Since we don’t expect to receive too much mail to start, we went with the basic option that will forward all our mail. Romona told us we have the option to upgrade at anytime if we start to get too much junk mail. One requirement with the mail forwarding service is we have to maintain a minimum balance of $25 in our postage account.
Step 3: Romona processed our paperwork and returned with our membership cards and new mailing address. She also gave us information on where to go for vehicle inspection, registration and drivers license. We finished at 8:40 a.m. and got to check out the mailroom where all the ladies were sorting mail.
2 – Update vehicle insurance:
In order to apply for a Texas drivers license, we need two proofs of Texas address. We decided to use our vehicle registration and vehicle insurance. Joe called Progressive at 8:50am to get a new policy with our Texas address and it took just over an hour to get the new policy for both vehicles. We were happy to find out the insurance dropped around 10% for each vehicle with the same amount of coverage as before. Unfortunately, Progressive messed up our address when they processed the new policies and we had to spend extra time dealing with that. Be sure to double or triple check the information on the policy including the vehicle identification number. We met a couple that ran into an issue with an incorrect VIN and had to go back and get it fixed before they could proceed.
We emailed the new insurance policies with our new address to the Escapees office and they graciously printed out copies for us.
3 – Vehicle Inspection:
We packed up the motorhome and drove both vehicles to Harrison’s Body Shop about 7 miles away for the inspection. We called ahead to see if an appointment was necessary and were told to drive over anytime during business hours. The inspection for both vehicles took about 30 minutes and each inspection was $7 (cash only). The inspector drove the Jeep and tested all the lights and functions. He also rode in the RV and asked us to use the lights, horn, and windshield wipers to make sure they were in working order.
Once the inspection was complete, we received a Texas Department of Public Safety Vehicle Inspection Report for each vehicle good for 90 days to get our vehicles registered.
4 – Vehicle Registration:
By noon, we made it to the Polk County Tax office and went in to get all the paperwork we needed to fill out for the motorhome and Jeep. The woman behind the counter asked us questions about each vehicle and highlighted all the fields we needed to fill out. For each vehicle we had to fill out two pieces of paperwork: Application for Texas Title & Application for Registration Purposes Only.
For each vehicle, we paid a one time New Resident Tax of $90. For the motorhome, we had to show proof of empty weight and a photo of the sticker by the driver’s side was sufficient. We were able to email the photo to their office as proof.
We finished at 1pm and total registration and fees was under $450. Note, the office only accepts cash or check. We received our vehicle registration, Texas plates and window stickers on the spot. We also decided to surrender the California title on our vehicle for TX at no additional charge. The timeline to receive the new title is about 2 weeks.
Registering a vehicle out of state. We asked the woman about registering a vehicle stored out of state and she walked us through the process and asked us a few questions. Since there were no issues we decided to register the vehicle we have in storage outside of Texas. The process was very similar, except instead of an in state vehicle inspection, the office accepted a visual inspection of the VIN which we performed on the vehicle before we put it in storage.
We also learned that a vehicle inspection is only required next year if when plan on being in the state.
5 – Drivers License Application:
At 1:45pm, we arrived at Texas department of Public Safety which happens to be right next to the jail and across from Harrison’s Body Shop. There was an automated touch screen check-in kiosk to get in line along with the paperwork to apply for a drivers license. Note: the office is closed daily from noon to 1:30pm for lunch.
The estimated wait was 28 minutes, but we ended up waiting close to 50 minutes because there was only one person working that day. Some people had a wait time of over 2 hours. The cost was $40 for each new drivers license application with motorcycle endorsement. The cost for a drivers license without any endorsement is $25. Since we each had a valid CA drivers license, we had to surrender it for our Texas licenses and didn’t have to take a test. If you have additional endorsements on your license, it’s worthwhile to include them in the application process. If we didn’t pay for the motorcycle endorsement at that time, we would have had to take the motorcycle exam and driving test to add it later.
For proof of identity and address we used our U.S. passport, social security card, vehicle registration and our new vehicle insurance policy. Before we received our temporary paper license we each took a photo and an eye exam. The timeline to receive our license in the mail is 2 weeks. We didn’t have to take a written or driving test because we surrendered our valid CA drivers license and our motorhome is less than 26,000 pounds. If your motorhome is over 26,000 GVWR, Texas requires you to have a non-commercial class license which involves a very comprehensive exam. Our Texas drivers licenses will be valid for 6 years and renewals can be done online.
Celebrate and put on the New License Plates!
By 3:30pm we were finished with the entire process and very glad we took care of it all in person. If we had to do it all over again, we would arrive a few hours earlier to Rainbow’s End RV Park and take both vehicles for inspection at Harrison’s Body Shop before we setup camp. This way we could have left the RV when we spent the next day running around town in the Jeep. We would also have a big breakfast and pack a lunch because it was a very long day and we didn’t have many options or the time for lunch in town.
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