Last updated: 12/24/2016

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Copyright © 2002-2017 John Mayer. All rights reserved. For reuse policy see Reuse Policy

In this section:

This section contains information on registering your HDT, licensing issues, a discussion of towing doubles (towing a vehicle behind your 5er), and issues with driving your HDT home after your purchase.

We get the registration question a lot. Here is what we did - it is based on Texas registration, and doing this registration in Livingston where they are familiar with strange RV stuff; however, every state is different.

We chose to title the tractor as a motor home. You can do this in TX if you show that the tractor is self-contained. Search on the Texas DMV site for form VTR-61. The Texas Title Manual contains the following:

Converted Trucks and Buses
Used trucks, truck-tractor and buses, which have been reconstructed or converted to contain living quarters, should title as Motor Homes and register with passenger plates. Owners should support the title application with a photograph of the interior and exterior, a weight certificate verifying the gross weight, and a Rebuilt Vehicle Statement, Form VTR-61 explaining the alteration. The make, year model, and vehicle identification number should be the same as that shown on the title covering the truck, truck-tractor or bus.
Note: When the certificate of title is issued for this type of vehicle, the notation “Reconstructed” appears.

The advantage of titling as a motor home is that you are exempt from all CDL requirements (which you can escape other ways, as well), and that in other states, you will be exempt from running through the scales. Some states require any truck over 8,000 lbs (or other weights) to cross the scales EVEN if you are not commercial. This is the major advantage of motor home vs. truck in Texas. Your insurance may be lower as well, but I have no data to support that.

Here is the process.

  • You need a certified weight ticket for the tractor (or motorhome). Taxes are based on weight, and you also need it prior to inspection.
  • You need some pictures of the tractor. Front and side views, at a minimum. I went armed with all four sides, but they only used the front view. You cannot register without this.
  • You also need pictures of the modifications you have made to the tractor to turn it into a motor home. I used pictures of the bed, the refrigerator, the microwave, and permanent shore power. Along with this you need a written statement of your modifications, and that they are permanent (I hand wrote it on the spot). There was no inspection of any of these items in my case, and I know of no one who has encountered inspections. It is the county tax people who issue the title and registration and they are mainly interested in your $, in my opinion.
  • Now, go to an inspection station and have the vehicle inspected. You need your weight ticket, and proof of insurance. It took 5 minutes and $12 in Livingston, but I have heard of other TX (tractor) inspections that ended up requiring DOT inspections - this would not apply to motor homes or regular trucks. I recently had my truck inspected in Kilgore, TX and they actually did a real inspection, including a brake test. Go to Livingston and you potentially avoid this.
  • Finally, go to the tax office and do the title/registration. They require all the things above to be done before they will process you. Come prepared with insurance papers, your pictures and written statement on modifications, weight ticket, inspection papers and some proof of what you paid for the truck. If you run into resistance on the motor home registration, ask them to call Austin, TX and check on it. It should not be a problem.

The entire process - taking the pictures, getting them developed at Wal-Mart, scaling the truck, inspection, and registration took me less than 2 hours in Livingston.

The LLC Option

One registration option when buying an HDT (or an RV or other auto) is to establish a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) in Montana, transfer title of the vehicles to the LLC and register the vehicles through it. This will allow you to escape all sales taxes on the vehicles, and also potentially provides you some liability protection. It is a perfectly legal method to avoid taxes. You may maintain residence in your state of choice, however, there are some limitations to this. In any case, if you intend to set up an LLC you need experienced legal advice. Each state and individual situation is different, so do not depend on this website, or any online resource for legal advice.

An LLC seems best suited to full time RVers, since each state has limitations on how long an out of state vehicle can remain in-state before having to be re-registered in your state of residence. In the case of Texas (a popular residence for full timers) it is 30 days. If you inquire about setting up an LLC in Montana, the law firm you contact will forward you the laws covering your state of residence and advise you if it is practical to use an LLC to avoid taxes in your state of residence.

Some additional advantages to the Montana LLC route:

• The trailer can have lifetime registration.
• An HDT can be titled/registered as a motor home, and can also have lifetime plates after a certain age.
• Insurance may be cheaper than your current state.
• You can use the LLC to shelter other assets, if desired.

Disadvantages include:
• It costs a fair amount to establish the LLC, and there is a yearly maintenance fee.
• You are limited as to how long you can stay in your state of residence (if it is not Montana).
• To terminate the LLC you have to file additional paperwork.
• It may limit your financing options.
• It may complicate taking the vehicle into Canada or Mexico.

A typical LLC setup costs about $1282.50 at the time this was written.

$850 Setup cost for Bennett Law
$100 Filling Fee with the State of MT
$152.50. MT MH (Volvo) registration for the year
$180.00 MT Life time Permanent Plates for the 5th Wheel.
To explore this option in detail, contact:


John M. Bennett Thaddeus J. Brinkman Alain B. Burrese
Attorneys At Law
135 W. Main Street, Missoula, MT 59802
P.O. Box 7967, Missoula, MT 59807
Tel: 866.543.5803 Fax: 888.543.5804
Bennett Law Office

I got the following commentary from an attorney about LLC's. He brings up some interesting points:

The first issue I would address is raised by many when the issue of a
foreign (meaning out-of-state) LLCs owning RVs to avoid in-state sales tax
is raised.

There are those who condemn this practice as they somehow think tax
avoidance is illegal, immoral, or worse. There is a difference between tax
avoidance and tax evasion. To quote Denis Healey, "The difference between
tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall." Simply
put, tax evasion is taking action or failing to take action in violation of
the tax laws. Try tax evasion and the iron motel might be in your future.
Another quote from Justice Learned Hand, "Over and over again courts have
said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep
taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right,
for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are
enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions." Arranging your affairs to
minimize taxes is tax avoidance as long as all laws are followed. And
finally, Justice Hand again, "In America there are two tax systems, one for
the informed and one for the uninformed. Both systems are legal."

States that have a state sales tax absolutely hate it when a resident
employs a perfectly legal means of avoiding the tax. As a result many are passing or
have passed laws to prevent residents from avoiding this tax. Some states
have laws that say if a resident owns a foreign  LLC that in turn owns
personal property, the state ignores the foreign LLC for the purpose the
ownership and considers the resident as the actual owner. In the case of an
RV, this requires in-state registration and sales tax. Other states have
passed laws that say if the resident has the right to use the RV for more
than some time period such as 30 days out of the year, the RV must be
registered in the state along with the payment of sales tax. In both of
these examples, if the state has a personal property tax, that must be paid
as well. The net result is that in states that have these laws, creating a
foreign LLC does not avoid any tax and adds the costs associated with the
LLC. This problem is somewhat reduced if the LLC is set up by full-timers as
they can pick the state in which they are residents and they can pick a
state that does not try to find a way to collect these taxes. Of course, for
residents of Montana there is no problem but there is little need for an LLC
in this case.

Providing liability protection is often cited as a second reason for having
your RV owned by an LLC. The theory is that if your RV is involved in an
accident and a lawsuit ensues, only the assets owned by the LLC are subject
to forfeiture. This purported benefit is more an illusion than reality.
First of all, if you are driving your RV and you are involved in an accident
that gets you sued, in all likelihood both the LLC as the owner and you as
the individual operator are going to be sued. That means that your assets
and the LLC's assets are at risk. Furthermore, for an LLC to be treated as a
separate entity by the legal system, the owners must treat it as a separate
entity. That means that the LLC would need to have its own bank account and
pay its own bills. It could rent the RV to you and the rent monies could be
used to pay things like insurance, fuel, and maintenance. How many who set
up LLCs do anything like that?

As states are constantly seeking means to increase tax revenues, what you
learn today about how your state of residency treats foreign LLCs might be
different tomorrow. You can't just learn the law today and assume that you
are good to go for all time. The law can change, you can go merrily on your
way only to discover that you have become a tax evader.
Another problem that might be encountered with a foreign LLC is that you can
have problems if you are stopped by a law enforcement officer (LEO) and your
driver's license state differs from the state of vehicle registration. There
is nothing illegal about this but some LEOs don't understand it. You might
have to prove that you have the right to be driving the RV, which is not in
your name and registered in a state in which you are not a resident.

One last problem is that financing and insuring an RV owned by an LLC is a
little more complicated than if you owned the RV in your name.


In order to be legal to drive your HDT (or motor home, or pickup/trailer combo) you may need to upgrade the class of license you hold. It varies wildly by state, but is usually based on the GVWR of the vehicle, or the combination of vehicles when towing. Some states, such as Washington, don’t require any upgrade of your license, as long as the truck is for personal use. Washington is also an example of a state that does not have an “upgraded” license class. You either have a “regular” license, that entitles you to drive any weight private vehicle, or you have a CDL. You can find a summary of licensing laws on  the Changing Gears website.

Many states have upgraded classes of license, based on the GVWR. I’ll use Texas as an example. In Texas, if the GVWR of the vehicle exceeds 26,000 lbs, or if the GVWR of the vehicle and the trailer together exceed 26,000 lbs (if the trailer is over 10,000 GVWR) then you need a Class A non-CDL license - otherwise known as a Class A "Exempt" license. This is basically a Class A CDL without the parts pertaining to paperwork (such as logbooks and in-service times). This is true even if the HDT is registered as a motor home. Note that even a large pickup, like an F450 may require this upgraded license, if used with a heavy trailer. It is based on the GVWR, NOT the actual scaled weights. For Texas, the test is pretty simple. Study Chapter 14 of the CDL licensing handbook. You then take a written test - you must get 14 of the 20 questions correct. After that you have to take a road test with your truck and trailer. In many locations this may take up to two to three weeks to schedule. The road test in Livingston is pretty simple - there are several tight turns, but it is basically driving around town. In some locations you have to parallel park the trailer - yes, you read that right.  But in Livingston the most that you ever have to do is back in a straight line.

In Texas if you drive a motor home over 26,000 GVWR then you need a Class B Exempt license. If you tow a trailer with that motor home that is over 10,000 lbs GVWR then you need a Class A instead of the Class B.

Some states (only a few) require a true CDL to drive an HDT.

Some states, but not all, require an air brake endorsement to your license to drive a vehicle equipped with air brakes. Texas does not require an air brake endorsement for an RV.

Even if your state does not require an upgraded license for your situation, if it offers one you should study for it and move up to it. Often this will be the case if you title your HDT as a motor home. Many states do not require an upgraded license to drive a motor home. So as long as you are not towing a heavy trailer (10,000 lbs in TX, 15,000 lbs in CA; other states may vary) you will be legal to drive your "motor home" without an upgraded license. However, as soon as you hook up the heavy trailer you need the class A. The information in the tests is important to know and study if you are driving a large truck. My advice would be to upgrade your license if your state offers that opportunity.

There is also the issue of being stopped in another state and the officer not recognizing your license as being valid. This is especially true if you live in one of the few states that allow you to legally drive the HDT with a class C (or passenger vehicle) license. You do not want to be in the situation of having to fight a citation like this. If you do decide to drive your HDT with a “normal” license in other states then I would carry a copy of the appropriate state vehicle code with you. You don’t want to get a ticket for an "out of class" license. Bear in mind that licensing and registration is reciprical between the states - so if you are legal in your state of domicile you can drive legally anywhere.

If you want a good RV driving school, that can also teach you to properly drive your truck, check with the RV Driving School. They come highly recommended, and it is one-on-one instruction.

For copies of Texas drivers manuals and CDL study guide, download them from . For a Class A or B exempt license study the CDL guide and especially the rules and regulations in Chapter 14. You have to know the lighting positions on the truck and you have to know about combination trailers (Chapters 5,6,7) . So be sure to look at those sections. Other than that, the test is pretty simple - use the study guide questions to test yourself.

The driving test is pretty simple - but you WILL have to take a new driving test. In some locations they do make you parallel park the RV. In Livingston they usually do not, but in all locations you will need to be able to back up 100' in a straight line. The rest of the test is just common driving. Make sure you signal properly, especially leaving the station, where you will likely be parked roadside. If you have an air brake vehicle you should know how to do an air brake test - although they typically do not ask you to do one. But you need to know how, anyway. So practice it.


Texas State Inspection

I hear it all the time - "I don't want to register in TX because they have state inspection, and I don't want to have to go back every year for inspection - it is too much trouble."

You do NOT have to go back to Texas every year for inspection. When you do go back, you have three days from arriving at your in-state "destination" to get inspection done. If you stay out of state you can drive with expired inspection stickers. Police from other states do not care - and have no authority - to enforce TX state inspection rules. It is simply not an issue.

In 2015 Texas started combining the inspection with registration renewal. You have to show that you have a current inspection BEFORE they will issue your new registration. However, if you are out of state you can still "self certify" that fact, and not be forced to come back to Texas. Use the online registration website and there is a section during registration to self certify your "out of state" status. Really, the inspection process is not an issue at all.

The information below is from the Texas Department of Public Safety website (Inspection Questions)

I'm returning to Texas. How much time do I have to get my car inspected, once I cross over the state line?

Time allowed to acquire inspection certificate.

The Department of Public Safety extends the time within which a certificate of inspection shall be obtained by a resident owner or operator of a Texas-registered vehicle, when the vehicle has no valid inspection certificate. The extension will be granted only on the first occasion of operation in this state during an inspection year and only until the resident owner or operator of the vehicle has arrived at his home, station, or destination in this state and for three days thereafter.

Getting Your Truck Home

Once you buy the truck you need to drive it home. Since the truck is typically registered as a commercial semi-truck the best possible situation is that you have a CDL. The truck remains a commercial truck until you re-register it as a private vehicle. If you can, and your state allows it, register the truck and obtain plates for it before you go to pick it up. Generally, if you have the VIN and a Bill of Sale you can do this. If you can not get it registered to your home state before you get it, make sure that you get a temporary tag from the originating state (dealer/seller) that allows you to transport the truck. These are generally 30 day temp tags, but they may be shorter duration. If you have temp tags on, then you almost always have to go through the scales. I would not bypass them if I had temp tags. If red-lighted, present your papers and explain what you are doing. Do not offer your license unless required, but do offer insurance papers and bill of sale. The scale personnel are used to dealing with commercial vehicles. If they see a non-CDL they are VERY likely to shut you down. You will then be in the position of trying to get them to change their mind by convincing them you are non-commercial. You don’t want to be in that position.

If you are buying from a private party that currently has valid plates on the truck, see if you can drive home on those plates. Make sure you get a letter from the owner of the plates giving you permission to drive the truck. This may keep you from being stopped (since you have good plates on it).

Make sure you have a valid license of the proper class for your state. If your state allows driving a +26,000 lb vehicle on a “normal” license, then I would carry that statute with me. If your state allows for an upgraded license then I would try real hard to get that before buying the truck.

I drove my truck from Kansas City to Livingston, TX on the seller’s plates. All glad-hands were removed and the valves plugged, so if it became an issue I could point out I could not haul a semi-trailer (a weak argument, but an indication of intent). I had “Private RV Not for Hire” signs on the truck. I bypassed the few scales that were open and did not have an issue. If chased down I would have played dumb and hoped for the best. Probably not the best strategy. In the future, I will pre-register any truck I buy and put my own plates on. I will have “Private RV Not for Hire” signs on the truck. If you have a properly registered truck (in your name) then you should not have any problems. Personally, I bypass scales and have never been stopped. But that is a personal choice.

Double Towing

Towing doubles (sometimes, incorrectly, called triple towing) involves towing a car or boat behind your 5th wheel. It is legal in many states, and many people do it. With a MDT or HDT you are probably towing with as safe a tow vehicle as you could have. An HDT certainly has enough power, brakes and stability to handle a double towing situation, where it is legal. 

We do double tow, although I have to admit it makes me nervous. I am much more relaxed when towing just the trailer. If building an HDT from scratch, I would seriously consider piggybacking a vehicle. You can configure an HDT to carry just about anything, but if you are just looking for a runabout then a Smart car cross loaded is ideal.

The main legal issue involved with  towing doubles is the combined length of the three pieces. Most states allowing double towing have length restrictions on the total length. Some have length restrictions on individual pieces. You need to check the referenced links for particular state restrictions. But in general, length restrictions are rarely enforced, and you can probably tow through most states without any issue as long as they permit towing doubles. Especially if you stick to interstates and the national network. We have only heard of one person being cited for over length. If you are stopped, you are usually told to separate the car, so you should be prepared to do so.  Check the Blue Ox site at  for general towing info, products, and towing laws. Towing laws are also available in some of the Road Atlas', and Woodall's has a good summary as well.  I'm not advocating towing over length or towing doubles through states that do not permit it. You have to make your own decisions about those issues. The fact that enforcement is sporadic does not mean that it is legal to exceed length laws, or state towing laws restricting towing doubles.

With an HDT and reasonable size 5th wheel you are most likely going to be over length in the majority of states. Our short wheelbase (182”) truck with our 38’ 5th wheel is almost 60’ when combined. Adding a car and tow hitch easily pushes that to an additional 15’, depending on the vehicle. In our case we are 74' 10". Most states have lengths restricted to 70’ to 75’, putting our combination over in many situations. Some argue that if your “home” state allows the length that you are towing then all the states you pass through need to honor that under state reciprocity. That is not true. Each state can enforce its own length restrictions, as well as double towing laws. You can try that argument alongside the road, but I doubt you will get far. Be prepared to unhook. Again, there is NO reciprocity between states on towing doubles, or on length laws! 

Another consideration in towing double, knowing you may be over length in a certain situation, is liability. What would happen if you were involved in an accident? Would your liability increase because you were “illegal”? Would your insurance carrier deny a claim because you are "illegal"? It is something worth considering in deciding if you want to double tow.

There are many people – probably thousands – who have double towed all across the country for years without a problem. From a technology perspective, double towing with an HDT is safe if your equipment is properly set up. You need to educate yourself on the state towing laws, and watch out for those states that strictly enforce double towing laws.

So what do you need to do if you want to double tow? Here is what I would recommend. These are strictly my opinions - take them for what they are worth. 

  1. First, ensure the vehicle you want to tow is relatively light, and is able to be towed 4-wheels down. Relatively light to me means under 4000 lbs (or right around that).
  2. Make sure your trailer has a hitch that is capable of handling the stress of double towing. It is not just the vehicle hitch weight (which is relatively light) that counts – the effect of the vehicle pushing on the trailer must be accounted for, even when using a braking system on the toad. The typical hitch on a 5th wheel will have to be reinforced. Make sure it is tied into the frame. You must have gussets at every direction change on the hitch and framework.
  3. Make sure the safety chain hookup points on the trailer are not just part of the hitch assembly. That way if the hitch assembly separates from the trailer, the safety chains will not go with it. This may take a little extra effort, but is worth it for the extra safety. Same thing for the breakaway system.
  4. The tow hitch system you select is really a personal choice. Setups vary on ease of hookup and visibility of the base plate on the vehicle. Just make sure there is a good breakaway system. Personally, I think any of the good “no-bind” systems that store the tow hitch on the trailer are the way to go.  
  5. Make sure that the height of the hitch on the trailer is no more than 4" higher than the hookup point on the towed vehicle. The closer you can exactly match them the better. The towed vehicle hookup point cannot be higher than the trailer hookup point. In other words, the tow bar can point "up" from the car to the trailer, but by no more than 4". You do not want the car to over-ride or under-ride the hitch in a hard braking situation.
  6. Make sure you have a brake system on the car. This is not optional, despite what you might hear about motor homes towing cars without them. In a double towing situation if you brake hard on a slippery road the forces of the car pushing on the trailer will likely cause a jackknife. I want the brake system to have a good application monitor in the truck. That way I know if the brakes on the car are being applied, or if they are dragging.
  7. Personally, I want a camera on the back of the trailer. Without it, you have no idea what is going on back there.
  8. A tire monitoring system is a requirement, not an option,  in my view. There is no way for you to see if a tire is flat, or probably even to hear a blowout. The rig is just too far away. For most tire monitoring systems to work you will need an external antenna on the truck or a repeater in the trailer. If you have an unattended flat on the vehicle you WILL eventually have a fire at the tire. And you likely will not be able to control it. We know a person who lost their towed vehicle this way -and almost lost their motor home.
  9. If you do not have disc brakes on the trailer, I would seriously consider them. We upgraded our trailer to disc brakes after several years. Even with the HDT - which brakes VERY well - the difference was very noticeable.

Driving doubles is not really much different than normal towing. The car will track within the trailer tracks, so corners are not really an issue. Of course, there is no chance of backing up, so you better be sure of your clearances when turning. You do have to allow additional stopping space, so I would increase my following distances. Normally, I allow a four - six second interval between me and the vehicle in front. A 50% increase to 6-8 seconds, where possible, is a good idea.

You need to be cautious in bad conditions. In heavy wind if the trailer were to whip at all, the car would be affected at a greater rate. In any slippery road condition I would consider breaking the double and driving the car separate. Especially in snow or ice, your chances of getting into a jackknife situation increase with the double tow.

Here is what I do, for what it is worth:

  • I never tow at night

  • I try not to tow in rain or other slippery conditions. If it starts raining I get off the road as soon as practical.

  • I generally do not tow in wind over about 35-40 mph. An HDT handles wind far better than a pickup - in fact I barely notice 30 mph winds - but I try not to push my luck.

  • I drive about 60-62 mph. This keeps me out of "packs" of vehicles. At that speed they all pass you. It makes it easy to keep your distance from other vehicles.

  • I stop every 2 hrs for a safety inspection.

  • I have a brake monitor light in the cab of the truck. This tells me when the brakes on the Jeep are activated. That way I KNOW the system is working, or if the brakes are dragging.

The equipment we are using is: Blue Ox Aventa II tow bar (10K lbs rating), SMI Air Force One air-based brake system (this is a "live pedal" system), a color camera on the 5er to monitor the Jeep, and some additional tire monitors on the Jeep (with an external antenna on the truck). On the Royals International that we started towing doubles with, we reinforced the trailer hitch with heavy steel plate - it is definitely not coming off! On the trailer we own now - the New Horizons that we had custom built - we had the hitch area "overbuilt" at the factory.

A note about the brake system. We originally used the Blue Ox  Toad Stop II system, and I DO NOT recommend it. It never worked to my satisfaction on my Jeep, although it does work well on a friends Acura. The more popular, and in my opinion better, brake systems for use with an HDT are the SMI Air Force One, and the M&G system. Both use the service brake air supply to drive the toad brake system, and are permanent live pedal systems. Both have a track record in use on HDT's towing doubles. We upgraded to the SMI Air Force One when we purchased the New Horizons. The Air Force One is easier to install and works well. Both require service brake air to be fed to the toad.

The map below shows the states that allow towing of doubles. If the state has a number in it, it allows doubles, and the number indicates the overall length. States with "NO" in them, or states with no numbers in them do not allow towing of doubles. In addition, British Columbia does not allow towing doubles of any type, so if you are using that route to Alaska you need to be aware of that. Click on the map to expand it.

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