Moving to a new state is exciting, but you’re likely overwhelmed with ensuring you have all your “pelicans” in a row.
I’ve moved to Florida twice, both times to Tampa Bay. My first move was when I fled the cold weather in Upstate New York to attend the University of Tampa, and the second time was when I accepted a job at a non-profit.
I soon left the U.S. for greener international pastures, but that’s a story for another day.
To help you navigate moving states, I’ve put together a moving to Florida checklist. It covers everything from switching to a Florida driver’s license and finding doctors to enrolling your children in school. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your new home in the Sunshine State.
Your Moving to Florida ChecklistBeige Aesthetic Colorful Checklist by Laura
Do you want to save this moving to Florida checklist for a rainy day? Click on the image above to download it.
Whether you’ve picked one of the best beach towns in Florida to call your new abode or you’re excited to soak in the sunshine inland from your backyard pool, below is a breakdown of the moving to Florida checklist above to help reduce the stress of your cross-state move.
1. Purchase Homeowner’s Insurance
If you’re purchasing a Florida home out of pocket, having homeowner’s insurance isn’t a requirement. Only banks mandate home insurance as a mortgage condition.
Nevertheless, buying homeowner’s insurance is wise. Your insurance can protect you from the following:
- Hurricane, tropical storm, fire, and tornado damage
- Personal property damage
- Liability coverage (if someone injures themself on your property)
Your real estate agent should be able to provide you with recommendations for purchasing homeowner’s insurance. Just be ready to potentially pay a higher homeowner’s insurance fee than the state you’re moving from; according to one study, it costs about three times as much as the national average.
Regardless of whether you take your real estate agent’s advice or research insurance companies or independent agents on your own, comparing your options and reading reviews is vital. Not all homeowner’s insurance policies offer the same coverage.
So, look for a policy that balances cost and a level of protection that satisfies you.
2. Update Your Address
You should aim to update your address one to two weeks before your move-in date. You can visit this page to learn how to change your address online with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
But changing where physical mail arrives is only a part of the process of updating your address before you move to Florida.
Below are other places you’ll need to notify about your address change, where applicable to your situation:
- Your employer
- Banks and lenders
- Credit cards
- Social Security Administration (SSA)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Insurance companies
- Subscription services
When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and notify someone of your new address.
3. Get a Florida Driver’s License
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to rush to the DMV the moment the U-haul arrives in your new driveway to register for a Florida Driver’s license.
Instead, you’ll have 30 days from the time you move to obtain it.
And now, for the bad news: You must go to the oh-so-dreaded DMV in person to get a Florida driver’s license.
In most cases, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork, take a vision test, and pay a fee. Having to take a written or road test isn’t off the table. But luckily, it’s only under special circumstances.
4. Register Your Vehicle(s)
By law, you must register your vehicle(s) in Florida within ten days of establishing residency. Alternatively, if you start employment in Florida before making a permanent move, you’ll need to register your vehicle(s) within ten days from that time.
You’ll need a Florida driver’s license to register your vehicle(s).
Other documents you should gather in preparation for the vehicle registration process include:
- Proof of car insurance
- Vehicle title
- Emissions test (varies according to the district)
You’ll also need to pay a fee, which is based on your vehicle’s model and weight.
Be sure to secure your license plate to your car after it arrives in the mail. I didn’t do this during my second move to Florida and got pulled over because of it.
I also recommend marking it in your calendar to renew your vehicle registration every year before it expires.
5. Register to Vote
Registering to vote is mercifully a two-for-one task when you’re making your way through this moving checklist, as you can do it at the DMV office on the day you register for a Florida driver’s license.
But if you missed your opportunity at the DMV, you can hop online at Register to Vote Florida to complete the process.
The items you’ll need to register to vote in Florida include:
- Florida driver’s license
- Completed voter registration form
Yes, it’s that simple. You’ll be able to keep track of the voter registration process online to know when they approve you.
6. Enroll Your Children in School
Regardless of whether you’re moving to Florida during summer break or the middle of the school year, enrolling your children in school should be one of your top priorities.
Every school handles its enrollment process a bit differently. However, in most cases, you’ll need to provide proof of your new Florida address in order for them to allow your child to register for their school district.
Unlike some states, where the address determines which district your child will attend within a county, Florida public schools operate on a zone system; each county operates its own school district.
That said, you’ve likely already researched school districts before deciding to move to Florida. So, it’ll simply be a matter of checking with your real estate agent or reaching out to the school directly to see what paperwork you need to complete to enroll your children.
7. Notify/Change Health Insurance
It’s hard to find someone that doesn’t groan these days when hearing the words “health insurance.” If you have an insurance company that operates in the state you’re moving from and Florida, lucky you!
In that case, you can almost skip this step in our moving to Florida checklist. You’ll simply need to notify your insurance company of your address change and check to see if there are any changes to your monthly premium.
If your current insurance plan doesn’t operate in Florida or the area you’re moving to, you’ll need to do two things:
- Notify your current health insurance of the last date you’ll be living in your state.
- Find a new health insurance company for Florida coverage.
If you qualify for subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, be sure to reach out to the Health Insurance Marketplace to update them about your address change as well.
8. Find New Doctors
Regardless of your health insurance situation, you’ll need to find a new primary doctor in Florida.
There are several avenues you can take for finding a primary care doctor and any other specialists you may need, including:
- Asking for referrals (your real estate agent is a great start)
- Consulting with your insurance company
- Checking the Florida Medical Association’s list
- Reading reviews online (with a grain of salt)
Even if you’re in tip-top health, it’s wise to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor. You never know when you might need them.
9. Determine Who Will File Your Taxes
Many people rejoice when moving to Florida for the tax breaks it offers.
Sean Polley, the CEO of Polley Wealth, explains. “One of the best benefits of moving to Florida is that there is no state income tax. Therefore, for someone moving from a state where they paid state income tax, there can be a significant difference in pay and an opportunity to direct that income toward other financial goals.”
If you file taxes on your own, you might not need to track down a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who works with Florida residents.
But if you’re like me and would rather leave important numbers to a professional, you may need to find a new CPA, especially if tax season is around the corner.
10. Set Up Your Utilities
Your real estate agent or condo/apartment complex are great resources for knowing the utility company options you have in your new local area.
You should do your due diligence to research them, and given that the options vary so much according to the Florida district where you’ll be living, I won’t attempt to cover them here.
Instead, below are the utilities you’ll need to set up or check to see if they’re included, depending on your situation:
- Waste management
Home security also falls under the “utilities” category.
While you’re at it, be sure to cancel utilities from the house you’re moving from.
11. Choose a Moving Company
It’s unlikely you’ll want to lug your belongings by multiple car trips to your new digs, especially if you’ll be moving to south Florida.
So, whether you choose to rent a truck or hire a company to move your belongings for you, the first step is to ensure the company is okay with crossing state borders.
You should also ask questions such as:
- How do they package fragile items? What happens if an item breaks or gets lost during shipping?
- Does the company have insurance coverage? What does—and doesn’t—it cover?
- How much experience does the moving company have?
- What additional services does the company offer? (Unpacking, storage, etc.)
It can be unsettling to leave your belongings in a stranger’s hands, so being thorough with your vetting process will help give you more peace of mind.
12. Connect With Your Community
Connecting with your community might be far from your thoughts as you prepare to move.
While that’s understandable, consider this: Chatting with locals before you move can give you insider knowledge on things like school “A” versus school “B,” the most reliable WiFi provider, and the community’s locally beloved CPA.
So, how do you meet these people?
The Internet is a great start, of course. Facebook and Meetup groups are excellent ways to meet people in the community you’ll be moving to.
You can also get in touch with a local organization for a cause you care about.
Once you arrive in your new Florida home and feel more settled in, you can also attend local government meetings and take a yoga or other class that will connect you with people of similar interests as you.
The Benefits of Moving to Florida
If you’re searching for a moving to Florida checklist because you’re on the brink of signing a mortgage for a Florida home, below are some perks that will get you excited about your pending move.
No State Income Tax
Florida is notorious for not having a personal income tax. That saves many individuals hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year.
Note that corporate income tax doesn’t have the same leeway, so speak with a tax professional if you have questions about how this law applies to your situation.
Arthritic joints, rejoice!
There’s a reason why snowbirds flock to Florida in the winter. That said, northern Florida can get quite cold in the winter, often seeing frost and sometimes snow.
In contrast, southern Florida’s heat can be excessive for some during the summer. So, do your homework to determine where in Florida is the best place for you weather-wise.
Lower Cost of Living
Not only will you save money in income tax in Florida, but the state is relatively inexpensive compared to many in the U.S.
According to data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Florida falls in #32 as the least expensive place to live in the U.S.
So, you’ll feel a financial pinch if you’re moving to Florida from Missouri, which ranks as the lowest cost of living in the U.S. But you’ll feel richer if you move to Florida from states like Hawaii, Massachusetts, or California.
From trendy beaches in Miami to quiet beach towns on the Gulf Coast, beautiful beaches abound in Florida.
Generally speaking, the water is clearer and calmer on the Gulf Coast than on the Atlantic. The exception to this is southern Florida, where beaches in and around the Keys enjoy Caribbean-blue water.
Great for Retirement
The Census Bureau’s 2020 data revealed that Florida came in second after Maine as the state with the greatest percentage of residents aged 65 years and older.
While a percentage of the 21.3% number undoubtedly accounts for people born and raised in Florida, it isn’t surprising that many retirees move to Florida, making it their state of residence.
Florida offers an excellent quality of life for retirees, along with a sense of community, retirement-friendly recreational activities, and more.
The Downsides of Moving to Florida
No place is perfect. So, below are some downsides of moving to Florida.
Other Taxes Are Higher
It’s not all sunshine and “orange groves” in the Florida tax department.
Timothy Uihlein is a Certified Financial Planner at Vincere Wealth Management. He says that some of the biggest disadvantages of moving to Florida include “Higher property taxes and sales tax, a necessary evil in lieu of state income tax.”
So, before you dream of how you can spend the money you save in state income tax, work with a financial planner to crunch the numbers to get a better feel of how much money you may (or may not) have left over.
Florida receives its fair share of hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornadoes. That means you may need to evacuate your home at times if you live along the coast.
You also might be subject to paying higher property insurance rates.
Cockroaches, Oh My!
Bugs are a pesky nuisance that comes with living in Florida’s tropical climate. Mosquitos can be present year-round, but they arrive in droves during the rainy season.
So, it’s wise to hire a pest control company as a preventative measure against cockroaches, termites, and other insects in your home.
Unfortunately, pest control won’t prevent alligators from paying you a visit. Whether you live on the west coast, east coast, or an inland destination like Orlando, alligators abound in Florida state.
Get Working Through Your Moving to Florida Checklist
Whether you’re moving next week or next month, it’s never too early to prepare for your Florida transition. So, print out the checklist I provided above and feel satisfied as you whittle away at the tasks on it.