It is all so overwhelming! There are so many things to consider when transitioning to become a fulltimer…more than I ever imagined. Fifth wheel or motorhome? What kind of tow or towed vehicle? Which options are critical vs which are nice-to-haves? Which state to establish residency? Which mail forwarding service to use? What health insurance plan? How to support ourselves? And those are just the questions relating to our future life. We have to get there first by selling our house and all of our stuff, which requires a whole different set of decisions!
To add to the difficulty, there are no right answers. Everyone has opinions and everyone’s situation is somewhat different. For some, a motorhome is the way to go; for others, only a fifth wheel will do. Each has their pros and cons. And each requires some amount of trade-off. We are finding that this is true for almost every decision we have to make. Although having options is a good thing, sometimes I think it would be easier if there was only one way to go (especially considering how decision-deficient we are) !
So here are some of the decisions we've been pondering recently:
Type of rig: pretty much since we made the decision to go fulltime, we were set on a motorhome. I guess there was a sense of comfort since we've owned 2 motorhomes and have towed a car. But as we learned more about fifth wheels, we have completely changed our minds. Although I am nervous about towing such a big unit (even though everything I've read and heard says that they're easy), there are many reasons so many fulltimers go this route. First of all, they have a more homey feel. The floorplans tend to be more open with more space for both living and storage. This is something that we have to seriously consider with an 80-pound dog who needs his soft bed and a cat with a litter box. We don't want to have to be tripping over them or their stuff. The fifth wheel also seems to be more suited for staying in one place for longer periods of time, which we believe we will do. There will be the occassional overnighters and minimal day stays, but for the most part we anticipate staying put anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. There are a lot of other benefits too but I could probably write an entire blog on just those, so I'll move on for now.
Tow vehicle: the decision of a fifth wheel led to the need to educate ourselves about diesel trucks, not something I ever thought I'd be doing. The size of the fifth wheels we're considering will most likely require a 1-ton dually pickup. And even if we thought we could get by with a 3/4 ton, everything we've read suggests getting more truck than you need, so we'll probably just make the investment up front. It all gets very complicated with weights of not only the trailer but all the stuff you pack into it, including water and gas. I'm not sure I really understand it all, but I'm learning more everyday! And here is one of those trade-offs I mentioned. I'm not thrilled with having to drive a big truck as my primary vehicle. A lot of fulltimers with fifth wheels end up having a 2nd car, which the 2nd person drives separately. We may decide to go this route eventually, but we don't really like the idea of having to drive separately or having the expense of a 2nd car, so to start out we're going to stick to one vehicle.
State of residency: we've just started looking into this, but just like everything else, there are many factors to consider. State income tax is a big one. Because we're going to be working, we don't want to be 'double-dipped'. Both your state of residency and the state you worked in require you to pay state income tax. That's a big reason why people set up residency in a state which doesn't have any state income tax. There are several of these, but TX and SD are the most popular. Your state of residency also affects your insurance rates, both health insurance and vehicle insurance. We still need to do more research on this - I don't know how much of an impact that will be. Another big factor is how easy it is to set up residency knowing that you don't plan to be there physically. Voting, renewing licenses, etc all have to be considered. Also, I believe some states have stricter rules on establishing residency. And then, of course, the availability of a reliable mail forwarding service has to be considered. Right now, we're leaning toward TX because of the Escapees club services, but we've also thought about SD so as we learn more about the insurance, that may cause us to change our minds.
So you can see with just the few topics above, how much energy is put into every decision. I can't imagine anyone being able to make such a major transition in the spur of a moment. We frequently find ourselves getting frustrated because even if we come to some conclusions, many of the decisions can’t be executed yet. It seems like so many are dependent upon something else happening, and ultimately most are dependent upon selling the house. It just doesn't feel like things are progressing as quickly as we would like them to, but I guess that's just impatience speaking. So as hard as it is, we're trying to stay focused on what we can do now - get rid of stuff, get rid of more stuff, and then even more! This is not the fun part of the journey, but I know it has to be done and the more we can get done now, the less it will stress us out later.
My head is spinning, as it does almost everynight. I'm sure looking forward to reaching the simpler life!
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