The South Riding RV Travels


Buying the RV

The rules vary slightly from State to State. We tried originally to buy in New York State and gave up, eventually buying in Ohio. Note that trailers count as vehicles for this purpose and will have different plates to those of the towing vehicle.

Basically you have to buy the RV, pay tax on the purchase according to the rates prevailing for the registration address, buy registration plates and insure it - not necessarily in that order.

Having found the RV and agreed to buy it you may have to sign an agreement with the dealer and pay a deposit. Read the fine print because in some states such as New York, there is no requirement for them to return the deposit if you decide not to buy and they can pursue you for all their costs or even the total cost. Even having agreed up front that our agreement to purchase was subject to us being able to sort out the administrative and legal details, it still took us six weeks to get our deposit back from the dealer.

We eventually bought privately which in some ways is even more fraught. Now I have a US bank account (HSBC) based in Buffalo and I had adequate funds and I'd warned them to expect a major transaction. When I enquired where the nearest branch to Cleveland, Ohio was, I was amazed to discover it was Buffalo - 200 miles to the east. There isn't a branch in Ohio - or most other states for that matter. Thus I couldn't just go and get a bankers draft or the cash.

This led to trying to wire transfer the funds from one bank to another. So we went to the seller's bank and sat with the bank manager and attempted this. 20 phone calls and five days later we eventually managed it. Now part of the problem was mine since I didn't have a phone number for them to ring me back on. I'd filled in the forms my bank faxed and assumed that was enough. It wasn't, they needed to ring me back to confirm and I wasn't available. You end up taking an awful lot on faith. I had irrevocably transferred $30k+ to someone else's bank account on trust that he would then sign over the title. Not recommended for the nervous.

The next challenge was to transfer the title. This had fallen apart in New York State because they require you to have six points of US identity to register a vehicle (or a trailer). Your passport with I94 visa count as three. We had a US bank account and a US credit card which gave us two more points but we could not come up with a sixth. We have no American driving licence or Social Security Number - and no possibility of getting them. UK documentation is worthless for these purposes.

In Ohio we checked this in advance. It is absolutely useless to talk to an official front desk person. What you are trying to do is too far outside the box. We asked for a supervisor who checked with the manager and decided that our passports and I94 and UK driving licence were sufficient. Note that you also need to do this at a main county office. There are smaller local offices but these don't always have resident supervisors and managers.

The other thing you need is a US address in the state in which you are registering the vehicle. This does not have to be in the same county but must be in the state. We used the address of the niece of our main hosts. We didn't have to show any proof of this address but you might have to show a piece of franked mail. Note that it is illegal for a US citizen to do this and they have to advise a change of address within 30 days and if they move out of state they have to change their registration plates and driving licence.

If you buy through a dealer then he will charge you the tax appropriate for the registration address and a fee for the registration plates. We had to do this ourselves. In New York this would have been 8.25%, In Ohio it was 6.25%. Not an insignificant sum on $30k. We also had to pay a fee to a notary to witness the signatures of the seller and buyer on the title and the registration fee. Both the bank and the Department of Motor Vehicles will notarise for you. The plates cost $65 and the whole process took about 30 mins.

One little point is that the plates are valid until my next birthday which is 10 months rather than 12 months which I had expected. The rules on this vary from state to state. I think the renewal fee will be about $65


We didn't have either a new UK driving licence (ie with photo) or an international one. This caused some debate but eventually they agreed our UK licence was adequate for all purposes (I have been driving 40 years - it might be different if it was a recent licence). We did investigate getting a US drivers licence (as they call it) which we understand we would need to do if we stay in the US over one year. The fine print in New York suggests that we need a visa and I94 (entry permit) with more than six months' stay remaining and US Immigration will only give us six months at a time. Thus we cannot get a US drivers licence (from New York).

You also need insurance. Now the commonest insurer for RVs is Progressive who have a special policy providing the additional cover you need. Again calling their front desk gave us the bald information that they could not do it without a US drivers licence. We went through brokers RV Alliance. They had no problem initially with the UK driving licence although they fell at the final hurdle in New York. Apparently a US drivers licence is necessary in New York State and Michigan but not elsewhere. Working from Ohio they had no problem although the cost was a little higher. Inner city Cleveland is a more expensive insurance district than upstate country New York. However at $750 we didn't feel that was bad (about the same as I pay for my UK car). Oh, and the insurance company was Progressive!

Note this policy only covers me for up to 150 days on the road. If I travel for longer I need a full-timers clause which will cost approx $400 more - but they then cover contents and personal possessions which would normally be covered by house insurance. Since the RV is in store until the spring I'm not sure which I will need until I return.