Is it illegal to live in an RV? Do I need a special license? Where can I park?
This is just a small sample of questions first-time RVers have to ask themselves. Nowadays, RV life is all about convenience. New models are decked from floor to ceiling in convenient features, right down to the plasma TVs and heated mattresses. But RV life isn’t all fun and games. There are a number of must-know facts to familiarize yourself with before hitting the road. Here is some basic RV knowledge to help you avoid costly tickets and last-minute detours.
1. You can legally live in an RV
Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s totally legal to live in an RV. It seems like every few years a new myth pops up about regarding RVs. Most recently, HUD proposed a regulation that people thought made it illegal to live in an RV. In reality, the law did little more than limit RV status to vehicles over 400 square feet. RV shipments are a $20 billion a month industry, with thousands of people opting to live full-time inside their home on wheels. Plus, there are many powerful organizations like RV Travel, RVDA and RVIA that make any new regulations tough to enforce.
2. You (most likely) don’t need a special license to drive
You might think you need a special license to drive a massive vehicle like an RV. But the short answer is that a standard driver’s license is good enough to drive most RVs. You only need to get a special license if you’re driving an RV over 26,000 pounds. Thankfully, only rare class A models exceed that weight limit. If you do happen to drive a mega RV, check your local state law. You need either a class B license or a commercial driver’s license if you live in one of 18 states. A good rule of thumb? Opt for a smaller model to be safe.
3. You must declare a state of residency
Looking to go off the grid? Good luck. Nowadays, going off the grid is less about evading the government as it is untagging yourself from unruly Facebook posts. You may travel full-time, but you still have to declare a state of residency. That means you must have a legal address for residency, vehicle registration and a state driver’s license. Many full-time travelers opt to use friend or family addresses. One thing to consider? State income tax. Nine states have no state income tax, meaning you can save big money come April.
4. Texas is VERY RV-Friendly
Everything’s bigger in Texas. At least, everything but RV fees. Texas is widely-considered one of the best places for RVers to settle down. In addition to having no state income tax, Texas also has extremely low costs for vehicle registrations. They also make it easy to register to vote by mail. Add in the wide open land and ample camping, and Texas it’s clear that RVer should definitely mess with Texas.
5. Gas is More Expensive
Think you pay a lot for gas? Think again. RVs are notorious gas guzzlers, with most manufactures claiming their models get anywhere from 10-20 miles per gallon. Even worse, many models require you to fill up with costlier diesel fuel. You can save on gas costs by opting for a smaller model RV (the less weight, the better.) But be prepared to cringe when you refill your tank.
6. RV Laws Vary from State to State
All states aren’t created equally. That’s especially true when you’re driving an RV around. While certain states are RV friendly, others are less than inviting. Case in point: California. From high parking costs to speed limits on large vehicles, California ranks as one of the worst states for RVers to take a road trip. Even worse, many of their roads ban RVs over 40 feet. Be sure to double check state laws before taking your RV on a cross country road trip.
7. There Are Size Restrictions
Road bans aren’t the only thing you have to worry about when driving a large RV. The bigger your RV, the more you have to pay attention to parking and camping regulations. Though state parks and national parks are home base for many RVers, they can also have strict restrictions. Some parks limit RV sizes to as little as 20 feet. Other parks have a limited number of spaces available for 30+ foot RVs.
8. You Can Park at (most) Walmarts
Oh, Walmart. This corporation has long been a national treasure, providing everything from mega savings to internet memes. But there’s another reason to appreciate this American institution: free parking. Yes, Walmart allows RVs to stay overnight in their parking lots…for free. You may not have electricity or water stations, but you can’t beat that price. Though most Walmart locations allow overnight parking, certain store managers prohibit this practice so be sure to check this state-by-state directory.
9. You Can Park on Private Property
You don’t have to limit your RV experience to remote campgrounds. Looking to stay in the city? Check out Boondockers Welcome. This online community connects RVers with private property owners who allow free parking at their homes. Seriously. Boondockers Welcome has hosts all throughout the U.S., so you can enjoy a free stay from coast to coast. Just don’t forget to leave a tip.
10. You Can Camp For Cheap
Let’s face it: RVs get a bad rap. From high prices to expensive repairs, RVs aren’t viewed as affordable. That is until you crunch the numbers. The average cost of RV camping in the U.S. is just north of $29 per night according to Wand’rly. That number takes into account private RV parks and public campgrounds. That equates to roughly $870 per month, far less than the price of rent in a coastal city. The world is your oyster when you consider the thousands of campgrounds available at this affordable price.