It's hard to believe it has be 8 months since we left our home in Minnesota. So far our travels have taken us to 35 states and we have logged over 13,000 miles on our motorhome. Yeah we've seen a lot and moved a lot. It's been fantastic so far and we have really loved every bit of it. We've made some new friends along the way and have immersed ourselves into the RV community that is out there.
One of the reasons I wanted to write up this blog post because I know a lot of people that do what we do or intend to have questions about the relocation process is like. There is some good information out there and there is some bad information out there. We found all of it.
One of the good pieces of information that we came across early on was through Escapees. Escapees is the company/service we use to get our mail forwarded. They are based out of Livingston, Texas with a few other locations around the country. It was through them that I was able to setup a time to chat with a domicile lawyer named Miri Wakuta that works with Loring & Associates. As an escapees member we were able to setup a free consultation back in February where she guided us through the process of what it takes to switch our domicile from MN to TX. That benefit alone is worth the price of your escapees membership.
The big thing that she stressed and this isn't legal advice but intent was a huge part of proving your new domicile. The more evidence you have to prove you intend to live in Texas or whatever location is key to establish your domicile. She mentioned things like joining Escapees and getting a Texas address but other things that would prove intent could be things like registering vehicles, using doctors and other services in that state, and actually living there.
Step 1: Get a Texas Address! - Done
The next step in the process for us to was going to be to register our vehicles. This was a little bit of curveball for us. When we set off in April our first stop was Augusta, Georgia so that I could attend The Masters golf tournament. We didn't think our next steps through too well, because after Georgia we started heading towards Texas to get vehicles registered. We made it as far as New Orleans before we realized we didn't have our new titles for vehicles yet. We purchased our motorhome in February and our Jeep in March and the titles were still hung in the MN DPS. One more curveball to add to that mess was that both titles would have to be mailed out to our old MN address, and because they are legal documents they can't be forwarded, so they get sent back to the state. Then once they get them back I could apply to have them reissued to our new Texas address. Needless to say we weren't going to wait around in Texas until the middle of summer to get all of that taken care of, we had a lot of the country to see!
So we headed back east and up the East coast with a couple stops back in the Midwest between April and October. If you want to follow all of that you can go HERE.
By the middle of October we were on our way to Texas with titles in hand. This is where we really started researching what we needed to do and what the steps were to get everything switched over.
We started here with an Escapees document that does a pretty good job laying everything out and the locations you need to go to take care of stuff. To me that is all kinds of complicated. So here are the easy steps that we took plus some info on taking the driving tests I had to take to get the proper license in the state of Texas. More on that later!
Step 2: Get insurance that is valid in Texas
We did this prior to getting to Livingston, TX. We chose to get our insurance through National General which is who Good Sam contracts out to provide "Good Sam" insurance. We found the prices were actually better than what we were paying using our old insurance and coverage was very similiar. Wish we would have switched earlier.
Step 3: Get vehicles inspected
We did this at Soda Auto Repair in Livingston. It cost us $7 per vehicle to get this done. It only took 10 minutes. The inspection just looks at whether lights, brakes, wipers, etc work. There is no emissions check in Polk County.
Step 4: Register vehicles in Texas
This involved going to the County Tax Accessors office in Livingston. To get our vehicles registered we just needed copies of our titles, inspection certificates, proof of insurance and I think I had to show them my MN drivers license. You wil also need to tell them the weight of your RV. I snapped a pic of the vehicle tag that is inside my coach and states the GVWR. I think the cutoff is 26,000 pounds if you are more, you pay more. Oh and a check, no credit cards! We paid right around $600 to get our motorhome and Jeep re-registered.
Step 5: Get Drivers License
This process wasn't too bad. I read horror stories from people needing to provide all kinds of documentation and it wasn't bad at all since we had passports. We just had to show them our vehicle registration, our escapees card which was proof of our Texas address. Then we showed them current passports, social security cards, and our MN drivers licenses. If you don't have a passport then I believe you need to provide a birth certificate. The cost for each drivers license was $25.
Applying for a Texas Class B Non-CDL License
This is one area where I got a lot of bad information. I think part of it was due to the fact that the DMV in Livingston didn't have a standardized practice for how they treated RVer's even though they saw a lot of them. I read stories of people needing to parallel park their rigs, taking multiple sections of the CDL test, air brake testing, etc.
Talking with the employees at the DMV in Livingston it sounds like they finally have a system for dealing with RVers so hopefully the information I give you is all you need.
There was a lot of information out there on who needs to take this test. People were saying because we drive recreationally versus commercially we don't need this special endorsement on our license. Not true!
I know for a fact that anyone driving an motorhome over 26,000 pounds for a dry weight needs to take this test. I'm pretty certain anyone with a combined weight between truck and trailer over 26,000 pounds also needs to take this test. I don't want to be one of the blogs out there handing out bad info so I'll stick to the motorhome side of things.
The process of getting this endorsement involved taking a written test that was solely based on Section 14 in the Texas CDL Handbook. It was a lot of questions about the size of vehicle you are driving and permits needed. I remember there being something about road flares vs flags. There was some stuff about farm vehicles. The test is 20 questions and you need to get 14 correct to pass. I read through that section of the handbook a couple times and took some online practice tests and was able to pass on my first try. There is also an app that has some CDL practice tests. I wasn't able to find any practice tests specific to section 14 so I just took it as good knowledge to know about driving a big rig.
I took this test at the same time that I applied for my license. After I passed I was then issued basically a trainer's permit/license for this endorsement until I was able to take the road test. Also I had to pay an additional $11 to upgrade from a standard license. After passing the written test I was able to setup an appointment to take my driving test which the earliest they could get me in was 1 week from the time of my written test. So we extended our stay at Rainbow's End park and hung out in Livingston a little longer. I've read this is about average for what they are booked out on driver's tests.
The Driving Test
I showed up about 10 minutes early and parked in the large lot south of the DMV building. The instructor later had me move my rig to the shoulder of N. Washington Ave facing south. They didn't ask me how I got the rig there, which was a small concern since technically I wasn't licensed to drive it. The pretrip inspection included testing the brake lights, turn signals, headlights, wipers, and horn. Even though I have air brakes they didn't ask for any of those tests. After that, Talia who was super friendly hopped in and read through a document and we were off.
We started heading south through town, looped back on highway 59, exited onto a frontage road, came back to Washington Ave heading south. Did a lane change then turned left and headed north on highway 146 for about 1 mile. We turned onto a side street where she hopped out and instructed me to pull forward about 100 feet and back up straight down the street until where I dropped her off. No turning, no parallel parking!!! After that we made our way back to their office and were done! It took 25-30 minutes max. Nothing tricky! Didn't get asked about road signage which is another thing I read you would have to do. Not a bad thing to pay attention to, but wasn't part of my test.
Overall they are mainly looking to make sure you use your signals, mirrors, and understand how to move your vehicle between lanes and take a corner.
Hope that helps a few of you that are considering going through the process! If you have any questions feel free to reach out via email or the comments below and I'll do my best help.
The Cook & The Coach
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