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CA worker to SD retiree


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Questions for all of the professionals on this forum.

I am new here so please excuse me if these questions have already been addressed in one or multiple threads. I have been enjoying research on starting to full time RV upon retirement with a new to me HDT, smart car, MC, and a fifth wheel. I have watched numerous YouTube vids, gathered many thoughts through blogs, vlogs, and any other resource I can find. Here is my list of questions for those of you experienced in this community of HDT RVers.

1. Prior to retirement I plan on locating, purchasing and equipping an HDT To accomplish the above mission. I am a CA resident and plan on dialing in my setup 6 months prior to retirement, which includes selling house, cars, stuff. I then plan on SD as a domicile because of a number of reasons which some of y’all are familiar with. My question is in regards to how CA looks at these specific types of vehicles for registration purposes. I do not have a CDL, but if it helps with insurance and reg in CA could acquire one. My thought is to locate a truck anywhere in the US then have one of a few specific outfitters prepare it for RV, private coach use. Please help me understand the ins and outs of going about this. Remember, my plan unfortunately includes registering vehicle 2x both CA and SD when it is done being modified. I am uninterested in buying my rig and dialing it in after moving to SD, and that is the reason for the 2 step process. Any thoughts or experiences are welcomed...

2. As for HDT, I like the interior of the Volvo VNL 780, 860, or the mid height 740. I find the dinette that converts to bed far superior for my application as we plan on bobtailing some in our mini RV and bunks don’t seem as practical. Are there any other trucks that come with a dinette arrangement KW680, Pete579, Mack Anthem, cascadia, etc...I realize that if we bring dollars to the table anything is possible, so as I research trucks it would be nice to see some viable factory options like the Volvo’s offer. Thoughts? 

3. I like the thought of leaving the doubles. I realize for my application this might be overkill but I like the look and functionality of having the extra drivelines. Plus with added capacity I will never run into an issue if my setup changes or evolves. It seems like I give up 1-2 mpg, if that. I have more tires to purchase and the obvious maintenance of drivelines, axles, etc..It also seems like having a custom made bed for the back affords me less storage behind fuel tanks, because doubles take up space. Am I missing anything else? Which drives smoother? Is more stable? I also feel as if a truck with doubles is more appealing to a larger demographic if I ever decided this was not for us.? Love opinions...

4. Wheelbase recommendations, lets hear em..? On the deck I want a Drom, Smart car, MC, then ET air-ride hitch/gooseneck. Not sure the exact deck measurement I need for my application but suffice it to say I DO NOT want it too short...thoughts.

Thanks again those of you that respond, all opinions are welcomed as I plan my steps.

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Why don’t you get your SD Domicle set up now while you sell your house. You can then register your HDT in SD, pay SD sales tax and not have to register twice. 

2015 Itasca Ellipse 42QD

2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock Edition

2021 Harley Street Glide Special 


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If at all possible, come to the HDT National rally in Hutchinson, KS in October.  Info at the top of the HDT forum.  All your questions will be answered, and more questions raised.  There will be plenty of rigs to see, and learn how others have balanced the compromises required to do as you wish.

BTW, welcome.

Newmar X-Aire, VATICAN
Lots of old motorcycles, Moto Guzzi Griso and Spyder F3 currently in the front row
Young enough to play in the dirt as a retired farmer.
contact me at rickeieio1@comcast.net

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1. If possible, as others have said, get domiciled in SD before buying your truck. We domiciled in SD just before buying the truck and about 3 months ahead of getting on the road and everything worked out perfectly.

2. This isn't my area of expertise by a long shot, but I personally haven't seen anything that comes close to the Volvo Workstation setup.

3. We've been tandem for the almost 4 years we've been on the road, but mostly that is because I there wasn't enough of an incentive for me to have an axle removed. This one is a HUGE "it depends" question in my opinion. There are certainly advantages, especially if you are doing a smart car deck, but each person needs to evaluate the cost/benefit ratio for themselves.

4. If you do single, then singling Mid is probably your best bet. I think the vast majority of HDTers have a typical wheelbase (229" I think?), single Mid and have very few problems. Going with the 13.2K front axle if you can find it instead of the 12.4k might buy you some flexibility.

As others have also said, the National Rally is a super resource and I would also recommend joining the Facebook group if you haven't already (https://www.facebook.com/groups/HDTRVs/).

Shawn and Andrea
Elvis the Cheagle Dog
2013 Volvo 730 / iShift / D13 XE Package / ET Hitch
2016 DRV Mobile Suites 43 Atlanta
2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited

Read the blog at 40foothouse.com


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Thanks for the response Shawn. Your opinions are in line with others I have heard. I do believe if I singled it would be mid as it has the best form and function. The only reason I bring up wheelbase/doubles is because my plan to have all three items on deck might require a skosh more weight capacity and length. Higher capacity front axles 13-14k seem like a good idea, but hopefully not at a huge ride quality penalty...lots of solutions and compromises on the quest. I would love to head to the rally, we will see as I am not retired yet. At this stage I want to check as many boxes as I can in my pursuit of the almost perfect setup, cuz nothing is perfect👍🏻🍻!

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You wont be able to buy a Commercial HDT and register as a motor home in CA.  They stopped that about 5 yrs ago.  The only way to have one registered in CA is buy one that has already been converted,  that's what I did.  So as others have advised is to get set up in SD and all should go well.    

"It is better to have more truck than you need than to need more truck than you have"

2001 Volvo 660, Cummins 400 ISX, Eaton 3 Peddle Auto Shift    
2014 Fuzion 40' Toyhauler
2015 Smart Car                                                                                                                                                                          



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I am a California resident and am also a LEO in California.  California law does not allow the conversion of an HDT to motorhome title for our purposes.  There was a time when it could be done fairly easily with the help of a tax and license specialist, but those days are gone (that is how I did mine over 8 years ago).  A few people have been successful with changing the title out of state and then registering in CA, but even this can be iffy depending on the DMV you go to.  There is actual code and case law here in CA that prevents the conversion.  I worry every year when my registration comes due that I won’t be able to renew.  It is yet another reason I want to leave the state.  South Dakota will allow out of state residents to register vehicles in there state, so it is an option to register your vehicles there ahead of time.  California unfortunately also has a reputation of going after people who avoid CA taxes and fees by doing this, so there is some risk of being reported by someone and having issues.  If you do it close to the time you leave the state, the risks are minimal though.

The Volvo is the only factory dinette set up that I am aware of.  Some other manufacturers offer some different configurations, but most of us that go with other manufacturers end up converting the interior to meet our needs.  I removed the lower bunk in my Kenworth and added a bench seat.  I also removed the OEM cabinets and built my own to meet my needs.

Tandem or single and wheelbase are personal choices to meet your needs.  There are trade offs for any configuration so go with what works for you as there is no one right answer for these issues.

Good luck with your process and I am happy to help you with any California specific issues.  I also run the West Coast Rally in June every year in Idaho.  Any of the rallies are a great place to go and see a lot of different trucks and configurations in one place and a great place to pick people’s brains about why they did what they did with their set up.

2000 Kenworth T2000 w/ Cummins N14 and autoshift
2017 DRV Mobile Suite 40KSSB4 with factory mods, dealer mods and personal mods - now in the RV graveyard
2022 DRV Full House MX450 with customized floor plan
2018 Polaris RZR Turbo S (fits in the garage)
2016 Smart Car (fits in the garage or gets flat towed behind the DRV when the RZR is in the garage)
My First Solar Install Thread
My Second Solar Install Thread & Photos and Documents Related to the build
My MX450's solar, battery and inverter system - my biggest system yet!

chadheiser.com      West Coast HDT Rally Website




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