USA Canada Border

Obstacles Canadian RVers face when full-timing


Canadian RVers face obstacles when choosing the RV Lifestyle

USA Canada Border
Canada USA Border near Osoyoos, BC

I was contacted recently by a Canadian couple who are considering the full-time RV lifestyle.  Their plans were to do it at retirement age but the wife has been quite ill and as many of us believe, it’s sometimes best to take advantage of opportunities when you can. My wishes for them are to have many happy years of travel and enjoyment.

Their concerns were also similar to many Canadian RVers who wish to live and travel in their RV full-time. They plan on selling their house to cover the costs of travel and living.  We Canadians face obstacles that our American neighbours to the south aren’t affected by.  I am sure they have issues we aren’t aware of but right now I am interested in helping Canadians when I can – I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I do share whatever information I have been able to find.

Responses to Questions:

Listed below are some of the responses I passed on to them – if you have anything to add please use the comment box below. Very much appreciated. 

Permanent Address

  • Canadian RVers must have a permanent physical address and not a mail box. This is a requirement for your driver’s licence, medical and vehicle insurance, passport, etc. HOWEVER PLEASE NOTE YOU CAN COLLECT YOUR MAIL AT A MAILBOX – NO PROBLEM but need a physical address to register a  vehicle and driver’s licence.  I have updated this because I wasn’t clear enough on this.  Thanks to M. for pointing this out. Sorry.

  • Some RVers rent a room in a family member’s home.  If that is what you are doing make sure you carry a copy of a receipt just in case you are asked. (You don’t need to volunteer the information – just be truthful when asked.) If asked at the border where you live – you just state the town you live in unless they inquire further.

  • Another suggestion is to own or rent a long term RV lot where you can get your mail and register your address.

  • Change the address of your vehicle registration, driver’s licences, medical, passport, etc.  This is a requirement for ICBC (BC) and MSP. Everything I have read from every Province seems to be the same – you must have a physical address.

Question:  What do Canadian RVers tell the border people as to the length of time we will be in the US?  What do we tell them as a destination since we will continuously be traveling?

As to length of time in the US.

  • Our medical, etc. only allows you to be out of the province for 6 months so you want to be sure and return prior to the 6 month deadline. Some provinces do have an extended absence request policy and I know there have been minor changes in BC so do your research before leaving.

  • At the border when asked length of time you will be away – be honest and say you will be returning in under 6 months and as to your destination – give the name of the furthest point you will be traveling to.  For example if you plan on traveling throughout California, Arizona and to Texas, tell them you will be heading to Texas via ….

  • By being honest you will have fewer problems at the border.

Do you have any suggestions to tips to help fellow Canadian RVers with their travel plans or others in a similar situation – they want to become full-time RVers and travel periodically to the US?

All the best, Carol Ann Quibell

45 thoughts on “Obstacles Canadian RVers face when full-timing”

  1. JohnB

    Hypothetically speaking, would it be possible to rent out a very small room in Ontario but not necessarily live there most of the time? i.e. Live in USA for 7 months, come back and cross the Ontario border, travel through other areas in Canada, then come back to that border again 5 months later back to USA.

    Could the government figure out that I have actually not lived in Ontario for 5 months during that year?

    1. Hypotheticallly speaking! LOL okay yes what you are proposing could work but… depends on why you are doing this. For medical? For taxes? And then there is the problem of being in the US for 7 months. The US government may declare you a resident and you will have to pay tax there. If you are out of the province beyond what you are allowed for your medical (yes even in Canada)and get sick I would hope no questions are raised.
      Your biggest obstacle is the time in the US.

  2. Gene Penko

    Hello, would like to drive my Motor Home to Vancouver Island from Ontario and leave it there in storage over the winter for a total of 9- 10 months.
    Found out when I asked my insurer that they will only cover for 6 months out of province. When asked the question why. I was told it was policy. All the other insurers also told me this. The vehicle will not be driven for 8 of the months while in a secure storage facility. Anyone heard of this 6 month out of province provision. I can understand out of country but no matter what province we are in the same country. Any suggestions of a company that will cover more than six months. Thanks

    1. Hi Gene,
      This is not something I am aware of. However, I know that if Canadians leave a rig in the US they insure it down there because our insurance isn’t valid if it’s left in storage out of the country. I would suggest you contact an insurance agent in BC to see if you can insure it locally. Please let me know how you make out.


      1. lawrence radford

        don’t insure it in B C as they will nail with 12 tax

  3. Alex

    Hi all,
    My wife and I have been looking into full time RVing for about a year now. There are many challenges we are facing with regards to permanent address. We’ve planned to sell our house and move into an RV around July. I would keep working so we could save some money. In our city we are running into huge challenges with finding somewhere to place the RV while I work and our kids continue to go to school. We looked into purchasing a piece of property but there are laws in effect that don’t allow you to live in an RV even if it’s on your own property. We also just ran out of luck with the campsites nearby because many of them have reduced the size of RV they can handle. It seems like they are expanding the amount of lots they have by dividing large lots that could large RV’s. We are currently looking into building a small house on a piece of property but it looks like our plans for freedom might be pushed out a year or 2. Does anyone know how we can get by the law of living in an RV on our own piece of property?

    1. Hi Alex, The local bylaws are what affect the issue of placing an RV on a piece of property to live on. The property usually have to be out of town and in rural areas. I have seen where really small towns may allow it for short term (a year or two). I am sorry I can’t be much help but it all depends on where you live. I’ll post this on FB to see what other information we can get.

      1. Stephen Leonard

        Most municipalities in Ontario have zoning bylaws preventing long-term habitation in an RV on any lot, even if there is a permanent house on the urban or rural property. If a land owner is building a house on a septic and well serviced county lot, the municipality may allow the RV to be hooked up to the services for as much as 2 years or while the building permit is active. Time frames will vary. Check with the local municipal office to find out what they allow. But generally, municipalities do not want RV’s becoming long-term housing as it devalues the neighborhood and does not generate the tax revenue your want.

  4. Patricia

    Hi, if I’m a full time rver in British Columbia do I need a physical address forcefully to have license and insurance, and what if I do long term park in an Rv park does it count like an address? Thanks

  5. Joe

    I was told that I need a DZ licence for 40′ diesel pusher motorhome in Ontario. Is this true? What happens to those who don’t get that licence when stopped by the police?

    1. Do you live in Ontario? Are you legal driving your motorhome where you live? I would verify with Ontario Motor vehicles to discuss your concerns.

      1. SS

        In Ontario you will actually require a class DZ licence. The “D” class licence will cover the size and weight category and the “Z” class is the air brake endorsement.

        1. lawrence radford

          same as in B C any unit total length over 30 one needs a class 7 licence and if it has air brakes one needs that endorsement as well

    2. SS

      In Ontario you will actually require a class DZ licence. The “D” class licence will cover the size and weight category and the “Z” class is the air brake endorsement. First driving out of class means that you are operating a vehicle illegally and as all policies of insurance issued under the statutory conditions operating or being involved in an illegal activity will mean your policy is void and will not answer in respect to a collision. Second, you will be subject to a charge under the highway traffic act.

  6. Pingback: Saskatoon RV Lots Provide an Ideal Escape From Rising Interest Rates | SproutNews

  7. Linda Marshall LeRoux

    Thanks. I just found this site. It is very helpful. My husband and I plan to full time in 2017. We were gone 5 months this year in our RV, so have come to the decision that keeping our house is not worth it, and it’s costly to do both. RVings is something I we are not willing to give up 🙂

    1. Thanks for your message Linda – I agree it is costly to have both and it’s fine if that’s what’s important but it comes down to what is important to you. I really wish you well with your plans. Thanks for sharing. Carol Ann

      1. Linda Marshall LeRoux

        Thanks Carol Ann

        1. You are very welcome – most of us are in the position that we have to decide as to what is important to us. We can’t always afford both although I’m sure we would like to. 🙂

    2. Ivan Lee Livingston

      This has been a long day of study on the matter.
      One approach I took was to ask OHIP and the RCMP if I’m allowed to be homeless and will I still get Hospital care without a permanent tarp or teepee.
      I worked for the Government so I have 23 years of education on how to get under their skin.
      Well OHIP gave up an answer when I said I would like to rent a bedroom in someones home for 1 buck a month….technically I said you didn’t say how much the permanent residence has to cost as long as my mail goes their.
      I plan to turn this into a blessing instead of a $ 2,000 apt on Vancouver island plus utilities.
      I’m going to drive the back roads of Chowichan Valley till I find a beautiful winery or farm and get out my checkbook to rent an acres of land.
      I figure that should be my new home were my mail can be thrown in a box for 50 bucks a month.
      I might even stop at COSTCO and buy big steaks and BBQ up some for the farm people and watch the sun set while I enjoy my new home and give the Government the peace sign ….kind of…..LOL

  8. Bart

    Oh we are finding great information on full time living so anyone who posts thanks.

    1. Thanks Bart – very much appreciated. Everyone has information they can share to help the rest of us and it’s really appreciated. That’s what we hope this site is all about – sharing information. 🙂
      Carol Ann

  9. Bart

    My girlfriend and I are planning to make the switch to full time RV. Now our plan is to move west to BC from Ontario as winters in Cali are far more pleasant than Fl. We are planning to work 6 months in summer we are truck drivers. So its easier to find work for the summer in BC. We are getting around the 4 months by simply returning home for 1 week in the winter. It means as long as we do that we are never in America for more than 4 months. Were planning to get the Thousand Island membership and this will make it easy to do. I hope this helps there are simple things you can do to bypass (legally) some issues.

    1. Hi Bart,

      Nice to hear your plans but unfortunately you might have been given incorrect information. You can’t get around the allowable time spent in the US by coming back home for a week. Anyone remaining in the U.S. for an extended period of time, or who makes multiple trips every year, must be careful not to exceed the annual threshold of 120 days. This means that every time within a calendar year that a person enters the US is counted towards the maximum threshold of 120 days. It doesn’t start over every time you come home. Here’s a post I did on this subject – if you have any questions please let me know and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

      Carol Ann

      1. Chuck allan

        I its a lowed on medical that you can stay longer then 120 day at lest thats what im told by and GOV members.

    2. lawrence radford

      make home base in Alberta as B.C. what 12%sales tax on all vehicles brought into the province Alberta does not

      1. lawrence radford

        I bought a used motor home in b.c. and they charged me 12% sale tax to if I had gotten to Alberta a bit soon and had my Albeta drives licence I could have gotten a permit to take it to Alberta 14000 in sales tax hurt

  10. Cara-Leigh

    I would like to know where I can get insurance coverage for my contents. I live in the Lower Mainland of BC and am having trouble with this. I am told that unless my 35′ Class A motorhome is skirted, it is not considered a permanent residence. Also, even though it has been completely renovated, with new plumbing and wiring, due to the fact that it is an ’86, most places are unwilling to insure it. This is really frustrating. Please help.

    1. Hi Cara-Leigh,

      My apologies for not responding sooner. It is possible to obtain insurance and I will see what I can find out from my agent and get back to you. I am in the middle of moving out of our house and back into the RV and will look into this next week. Sorry for the delay.

      Carol Ann

    2. lawrence radford

      any insurance company that handles Aviva they have the best coverage for price and then bcaa membership for the towing of you unit if it brakes down

  11. Paul Frigon

    Thanks for the info, my wife and I will post the results of our research once complete. Right now we are gathering info from each of the provinces. (primarily western Canada) as to medical coverage while out of province, and various insurance rates.

  12. Paul Frigon

    My wife and I are planning on full timing next summer when I retire from the forces. We will be able to be transferred to any province at that time, do you happen to know what province is the best for, registering/insuring our truck/trailer as well as what province tends to be the easiest to still cover medical expenses while traveling?

    1. Hi Paul,

      We discussed your questions on our weekly Blab session and unfortunately no one seemed to have an answer for you. It comes down to how much traveling you are planning on doing, where you would like to be in terms of amenities, weather, family, etc. I do know that in BC you can get a 2 year absence permission for medical once in 5 years which is nice to be able to access. However, in the Maritimes some of the provinces have become more lenient at as well. I have a post on medical coverage for Canadians where I break it down province by province.

      As to vehicle insurance – I think I would have a tendency to choose where you would like to be – have a couple of choices then speak to insurance companies in each province. That would be my starting point. I am sorry I don’t have anything really concrete for you but it’s a start. I would really like to know what you find out in your research and if you are willing to share I know others would appreciate it. Apologies for not responding sooner.
      Carol Ann

  13. Hazel

    Canadians cannot be in the US for longer than 4 months per year or the IRS will be after them to pay taxes. How do full timers deal with this limitation?

    1. Hi Hazel,
      Anyone remaining in the U.S. for an extended period of time, or who makes multiple trips every year, must be careful not to exceed the annual threshold of 120 days.

      Canadians who spend longer may be subject to U.S. tax laws. In order to avoid liability for U.S. tax, individuals must file the Closer Connection Exemption Statement for Aliens (IRS Form 8840) with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. This form acknowledges that you have exceeded the “substantial presence test” in the current year, but establishes your closer residency connection to Canada. Individuals who file the form each year by June 15 may remain in the U.S. for up to 182 days. The substantial presence test only applies to those present in the U.S. for more than 31 days in the current year. The test considers the total number of days in the U.S. over a three year period.

      Here is a very well written article in RVwest that may clarify it a bit more for you.

      As to your question about how full timers deal with this limitation – they follow the rules. They keep accurate records of each time they enter the US and for how long. When in doubt they file the Closer Connection to Canada form . There is really no way of getting around this.

      Hope this helps.
      Carol Ann

  14. Andrew hampson

    It is not totally true that you require a physical address for drivers license and vehicle registration. I contacted the DMV in Nova Scotia on this exact subject and I was told that I can have a PO box and still retain my NS registrations and license.

    1. You are fortunate if that is true because most of the provinces require a physical address. Thanks for passing on the information!

  15. Courtney

    Do you know if a site that you are occupying year round counts as a permanent address?

    1. Hi Courtney, yes it should qualify. Your mail can either be received there or any other place. Your mailing address does not need to be the same as your physical address. Hope that helps.

  16. Loni

    is your blog recent. today is May 6, 2014. I like following but would like to know this information.


    1. Hi Loni,
      Thanks for your email. Yes, the information is current. Unfortunately most of the challenges Canadians face who wish to full-time have not changed over the years.

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