On Monday, Dave and I became official Florida residents. I’ll write more about just exactly how we did this (it’s a little more complicated when a boat is your only home), but first is the question of why we chose Florida.
I mean, if we don’t have a land-based dwelling, why choose one state over another?
Everyone will have a somewhat different factual situation and I want to emphasize that the choice depends a lot on the specifics.
First off, why do you have to be a resident somewhere? Well, you pretty much have to have a residence for tax purposes, getting a driver’s license, voting and other legalities. As far as I know, all banks require you to have a legal address, too.
Our situation is that we no longer rent or own real estate anywhere and do not want to use a friend’s or relative’s address as ours. We wanted to use a mail handling service and use our address there as our legal address.
If you are using a mail service as your address (that is, no physical address in the state), there are only a couple of states that will accept it for things like car/boat registration, driver’s license, and voting. Florida and South Dakota are the primary ones, although I’ve heard it can be done in Texas, too.
In other states, you have to come up with a physical residential (non-commercial) address. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard, both on cruising and RV sites. I didn’t bother with calling state offices.
We knew from scores of other cruisers that St. Brendan’s Isle mail handling service (located in Florida) both did a very good job with mail AND had spent time educating county officials as to the peculiar circumstances of full-time cruisers/RVers/entertainers and others with no fixed address. In short, it’s relatively easy to establish residency in Green Cove Springs and take care of the legal formalities.
So ease of using a mail service as our address was a big factor in choosing Florida. Add in that we actually are planning to base ourselves in Florida, the decision was pretty simple. I mean, we have no real connection to South Dakota, the mail services there are more geared to serving the RV population than cruisers, and it’d be out of our way to go there to do the initial formalities. Since we’ll be in Florida, it makes sense to be able to vote here, particularly on issues that affect cruisers (or least to vote for a representative).
There’s also the fact that Florida has no state income tax (neither does SD). But that’s countered by high insurance rates if you have a car (depends on ZIP code where vehicle is; about 35% higher than our rate in Illinois, same vehicle, almost identical coverage). It looks like health insurance rates will be higher as Florida residents than as Illinois residents, but there will be more options available (SD has notoriously few choices). Overall, we think that financially it’ll be about a wash for us versus our old home in Illinois; I did not compare to South Dakota but I’m guessing that SD would have been a little cheaper overall.
So here we are! Residents of Green Cove Springs, Florida.