Van dwelling and RV full-timers need an address. The U.S. government likes to be able to trace its citizens to an integer number and a street name. They like to have some place to send parking tickets, and jury duty notices. You know, stuff that’s really meaningful to Americans.
Within the next month or so I will be purchasing some kind of van, so I’d better figure out which state is best for registration. Now, let me be clear: I’m not nearly as committed to this living in a van idea as you might think. I’m not selling all of my belongings. I’m merely downsizing, and whatever’s leftover will be stored at my parent’s house or at a storage facility nearby. I’ll be renting out my condo for income. I reserve the right to hate van dwelling and move back into my condo.
So… changing my address just for vehicle registration? That seems like a huge commitment. But I really don’t want to pay all the fees associated with registering a vehicle in California. According to my calculations, if I purchase a used 2005 Ford E-350 for $9,000, I will have to pay $307 in registration fees, plus $810 in sales/use tax. Total: $1117. Cali, that ain’t cool. You’re robbing me blind.
Most RV full-timers in the U.S. seem to agree that if you have to choose a state to call home, South Dakota is optimal. South Dakota has ZERO state income tax, ZERO inheritance tax, and FOUR percent sales tax (which is not paid on vehicles, motorhomes, or recreational vehicles). There is a THREE percent excise tax on the trade difference of a vehicle, although this rule does not apply if the vehicle is over 11 years old, and was purchased for less than $2200.
Vehicle registration fees in South Dakota are determined by the age of the vehicle and it’s weight. According to my calculations, registering a 2005 Ford E-350 in South Dakota for $9,000 would run me $109.50, plus the 3% excise tax ($270). Total: $379.50. Mucho better.
But I don’t want a South Dakota address. I’m a California girl at heart. I really like my spiffy CA driver’s license. I even like the picture of me on it.
Is it possible to be a California resident, but register my vehicle in South Dakota? Hm…
I spent hours scouring the internet for answers. Most everyone said that initial registration must be done in person, or through a mail service like the ones mentioned above. Except for one random guy on some random forum. According to this internet stranger, the Clay County Treasurer’s Office will do out-of-state registration by phone. Apparently this is the deal: you call the office and say you want to register a vehicle, they tell you how much money they want, and you mail in some forms and a check. A few weeks later they mail you your plates. Well, if you can’t trust strangers on the internet, then who can you trust?
So that’s going to be my first plan of attack. Sweet Jesus, I hope it works. I haven’t purchased a vehicle yet, so it’ll be awhile before I can test the theory. Stay tuned to find out if it works.