Millions of Americans are embracing the freedom of road-tripping amid an immense spike in RV popularity. As many as 61 percent report that they’d love to vacation in an RV in the next year. Once they develop a taste for the RV lifestyle, many are reluctant to settle back into their usual lifestyles — and slowly start dreaming of becoming modern nomads. 

Is that you? 

As you dip your toes into the next step, a flood of weird and exciting RV internet content awaits you. Unfortunately, helpful videos about boondocking and ways to winterize your recreational vehicle will soon be interrupted by messages that risk crushing your dreams. 

“Living in an RV is illegal,” many videos and online articles warn. The irony? From what we can see, at least half of this kind of content sprouted from the imagination of folks who spend their entire lives on the road. 

Let’s be clear. Living in an RV isn’t, in fact, illegal — and most content suggesting otherwise is no better than clickbait. However, that doesn’t mean some people new to the RV lifestyle don’t accidentally break the law. Let’s explore that further!

  1. What Qualifies as ‘RV Living’?

Let’s agree to define “RV living” as full-time RV living. Full-time RV-ers may spend all year on the road, or they may park their RV at an RV park for months at a time. They may stick to one state or drive all over the country and even abroad. The one thing they have in common is that they don’t live in a brick-and-mortar home. Some full-time RV owners hold onto those homes as a backup plan, while others sell their homes and invest everything into life on the road.

A white camper parked in front of a mountain

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  1. What Could Be Illegal About Living in an RV?

The major thing directly related to full-time RV life is your domicile — your official home base. If you take off to live on the road and never come back to the state where you’re registered, that can have serious legal implications. 

While every state is different, some require registered residents to spend a certain number of days within the state’s borders. Failing to do that could land you in hot water. In extreme cases, you might be accused of fraud or tax evasion, especially if you also run a business. State residency is often a problem for people who take out a title loan on an RV, as some states allow these loans, while others outlaw all types of equity loans.

Many full-time RV-ers solve this problem by establishing a nomadic domicile. States that embrace the RV lifestyle include South Dakota, Florida, Texas, Nevada, and Wyoming. Nomad-friendly states don’t have state income tax, don’t require RV-ers to spend significant amounts of time within the state, and are home to mail-forwarding services that make life on the road more convenient.

Becoming an official nomad in one of these states should clear up your most pressing legal challenge, but that doesn’t mean you don’t risk breaking the law. As a full-time RV-er, it’s your responsibility to:

  • Find legal overnight parking facilities. 
  • Understand the rules around boondocking, including the permitted length of your stay and electricity usage.
  • Be familiar with the legal weight capacity of your RV.
  • Know that you can’t drink alcohol at many state parks.
  • Understand that you can’t dump gray water on public property. 
  • Comply with zoning laws if you plan to park your RV on your own property. 

In other words, while RV living is not, itself, illegal, RV novices who don’t understand their responsibilities risk falling foul of the law. The RV community can help you navigate these hurdles (most experienced RV-ers are always ready to help newcomers!), but when in doubt, consulting a lawyer is always a good idea. 

  1. A Final Word

The decision to pack your life into your RV and live on the road year-round changes everything — including, in some cases, the laws you need to be aware of. The moral of the story? Start considering the legal implications of RV life before you take your adventure full-time, seek legal advice when necessary, and make sure you know what is and isn’t allowed wherever you go.