Investing in an RV may mean taking on issues related to titling and registration. Neither one is necessarily complicated but getting it right means avoiding potential fines and other penalties. Fortunately, purchasing an RV from a licensed dealer eliminates most of the issues involved. A legitimate dealer is fully versed in what is required by law.
Note that titling and registration requirements are the domain of the states. There are no federal standards. As such, what an RV owner is required do in one state may be different than what their counterparts in other states are required to do.
Also note that, for the purposes of this post, an RV is any type of motorhome or towed camping vehicle, including homemade teardrop trailers. Conversion vans, converted pickup trucks, and the like are not covered because they are more motor vehicles than anything else.
1. RV Titling Requirements
Motorhomes in every state must be titled. This is because they are motor vehicles in addition to camping vehicles. Similarly, all motorhomes must be registered and insured. They must pass all applicable state safety requirements as well.
When it comes to towed vehicles, titling gets a little bit tricky. Most modern towed vehicles come with titles designed to protect owners against theft. However, vintage trailers and homemade units may or may not have titles attached.
Many states do not require titles for homemade trailers. That doesn’t mean owners cannot obtain titles. They can, just by submitting acceptable proof of ownership, pertinent information about the trailer itself, and the application fee. Obtaining a title on a homemade trailer makes it easier to register and insure the vehicle.
2. RV Registration Requirements
State registration requirements usually coincide with titling requirements. For example, motorhomes have to be registered because they are motor vehicles as well. Most states require registration for fifth wheels and travel trailers. Even tent campers require registration in most states. Homemade trailers are often an exception.
The tricky part is determining whether something like a homemade teardrop trailer or tent camper has to be registered. Take New York State, for example. The law says that homemade trailers do not have to be registered if they are used for certain purposes. But if a trailer’s main purposes is camping, then registration is required.
3. Titles, Registrations, and VINs
Titles and registrations are usually a non-issue with modern RVs. Anything manufactured within the last 30 or 40 years is probably going to be titled. And if it is anything larger than a camping trailer, it is also going to be registered. But for smaller trailers and homemade models, titling and registration is affected by another issue: the VIN.
Let’s say you own a travel trailer manufactured a decade ago. You are installing your AirSkirts inflatable RVs skirting when you notice a plate attached to the trailer tongue. On that plate is the trailer’s VIN. And if it’s not on the tongue, maybe you saw it on the frame or attached to an exterior storage compartment.
Now, imagine you own a homemade trailer instead. It doesn’t have a VIN. Still, you want to get a title so that you can register and insure it. Now what? You can apply for a title from your state by following the procedures outlined above. Your state will issue a VIN when it creates the title.
Almost all the RVs on the road today have legal titles and registrations. There are some exceptions to the rule, mostly when you are talking homemade trailers. At any rate, know the laws in your state before you take any RV on the road.