Home is Where you Park it…or is it?
The beauty of RVing is that you’re free-travelling rogues, king of the open road, wanderers off the beaten path so to speak. It’s the freedom of belonging to nowhere and answering to no one. All that’s great and good until you get your car registration bill from the DMV. It’s a real drag on the hippy lifestyle and reminds you that despite disconnecting from regular life the government will still find a way to nail you down. So, what’s a free-loving traveler to do? Well, it’s a question of legal residency (domicile) and like all things in life it takes a little research to get the best deal. So, here’s the low-down:
We’re only going to talk about full-timing here, since things get tricky with a “fixed” home in addition to an RV. My best advice is check domicile and tax requirements for your individual state if you have a home.
For full-timers without a fixed home, however, you can basically set up legal residence just about anywhere as long as you plan it out. Several states are “RV-friendly” and have the bonus of no state income tax. South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee and Florida all come to mind. Tennessee doesn’t tax income, but they do tax investments so we crossed that one off the list right away. Our insurance quote for FL was higher than the other choices so that was off the list too.
South Dakota and Texas were a bit of a toss-up, and most full-timers tend to end up chosing one of these 2 states…both are true “no income tax” states, have low car registration fees and decent insurance rates. In the end South Dakota got our vote since we they don’t require a vehicle inspection or special license (Texas does). We used a mail-forwarding organization (Alternative Resources) to help with the address and registration details and should be getting our brand spanking new South Dakota plates this month. To finish the deal we’re heading up to get our drivers licences in SD next month.
Many other sites talk about domicile and do a better job than me, so I’ll link a few here:
- Escapees RV Club – Domicile Info
- Picking A Domicile State, Getting Mail & Voting As A Nomad (Technomadia)
- Choosing a Home Base (RV Dreams)
- How To Establish A New Residency When Living Fulltime In An RV (Axle Addict)
- Changing State Residency (Changing Gears)
- Tax Expenses by State (Retirement Living)
- Choosing Your RV Home Base (Book on Amazon.com)
So, was the change worth it? Our 2008 Holiday Rambler cost a mere $381 to register in SD compared to a whooping $1889 in CA, plus there’s the bonus of no state income tax and lower insurance rates. Oh yeah, baby. Definitely worth it!