Setting Up South Dakota Residency for RVers (Pt. 1)

How to choose a mail forwarding service, and what you need to become a resident of South Dakota. This has been long overdue, I briefly mentioned in my write up about Big Sioux that it cost me a total of $382 to register my vehicles but never explained why, and I never talked about why I went with My Dakota Address for mail forwarding, so here it all is.

Disclaimer: This information was correct to the best of my knowledge when this post was published in November 2012, but laws and prices change all the time. If you’ve noticed any discrepancies between what I’ve written below and what you’ve found to be true since then, please let me know so I can update it. Thanks. Last updated 5/3/16.

Many full-time RVers choose South Dakota for their domicile state, and I’ve discussed the reasons before. No state income tax, only a 3% sales tax on vehicle and RV purchases, a base state sales tax of 4% (although in the Madison and Sioux Falls area they add 2% onto that), and because it’s easy to become a resident. Their vehicle registration fees went up in July 2011, but are still reasonable – cheaper than South Carolina and Wisconsin were anyway.

Choosing a mail forwarding service in South Dakota opens up the door for you to become a resident there, but there are two things you need to do at a minimum on top of this: get a SD driver’s license, and register your vehicles. Though, as I’ve explained before the more things you can do to make the state look like your true residency, the better. But what I’m going to be focusing on here is how to get vehicle registration and driver’s license taken care of. First though, mail forwarding.

The three most popular mail forwarding companies in South Dakota are Dakota Post (formerly Alternative Resources), My Dakota Address, and America’s Mailbox. I know RVers who work with each of these companies and are satisfied customers, so you probably won’t go wrong with any of them.

Location wise, My Dakota Address is in Madison, which is about an hour Northwest of Sioux Falls, where Dakota Post is located. America’s Mailbox is in Box Elder, which is about an hour east of Rapid City on Interstate 90. Their physical locations don’t matter too much though, unless you feel the need to go to the city court house yourself to hand in your vehicle registration paperwork. More on that to come.

Any good mail forwarding service worth it’s salt will point you in the right direction for what documents work for getting your SD license and vehicle registration. In fact, many will get the vehicle registration stuff turned in for you (for a fee of course) as you don’t need to be in the state in person to do it. America’s Mailbox charges $30 for first time registrants, My Dakota Address charges $20 for the first vehicle, or $35 for two or more. Dakota Post did not have their price up on the website.

You’ll notice that each company offers several different mail forwarding options, so it’s not easy to simply state that X company is cheaper than Y, although for what I wanted (twice a month mail delivery, no e-mail notifications needed) Dakota Post was most expensive, My Dakota Address in the middle, and America’s Mailbox the cheapest. You’ll have to view each company’s prices vs. the benefits to see which works best for you.

I went with My Dakota Address, because when I was researching I found more complaints about America’s Mailbox than the other two, so ruling that one out it was the cheaper option for me – but again, I know people using each of these companies who’re happy campers. Think about if you want them to sort out your junk mail or not, how often you need mail delivered to you, and if you want notifications when you receive new mail when you’re looking at the options. Like with so many things about RVing, there is no one best plan, just the plan that works best for you.

Besides the annual rate for mail forwarding, you’ll be putting money into the account to cover postage. The minimum for My Dakota Address is $50, it’s $100 for Dakota Post, for America’s Mailbox there is no minimum. All three also have a one-time start up fee to get started: $10 for My Dakota Address, $25 for America’s Mailbox and Dakota Post – although the more expensive plans waive this fee.

Now on to vehicle registration and license plates. If you really want to drive yourself mad, you can find all this information yourself by going to the SD DMV webpage Here but I’m going to point out the important bits for you. Here is what you’re going to pay:



  • Title Fee – $5.00
  • Lien Fee (If applicable) – $5
  • Solid Waste Fee – $1.00
  • Highway Patrol Fee – $1.00
  • Wheel Tax – $4/wheel (Max of $16 annually) Note:Not all counties have this tax, but I know for a fact that Lake county (My Dakota Address) does.
  • 3% of the vehicle’s purchase price in excise (sales) tax, unless you already paid at least 3% in tax in another state. So if you bought the RV and/or truck elsestate and paid there, bring proof of this with you! Your bill of sale from the dealer will do the trick.

There are also late fees for failing to register your vehicle within 30 days of the purchase date, which is important if you’re going to be buying a vehicle after you ‘move’ to SD. It doesn’t matter if the actual RV purchase is in another state and you have a temporary tag from that state that lasts longer, at 31 days the late fees come into play. This late fee may also prove problematic if you’re moving from some place like South Carolina. We’ll come back to that in the second half.

License plate:

Cost varies depending on the weight and age of the vehicle.

  • For non-commercial cars, pickup trucks, and vans, click Here.  This is a direct link to the chart from the SD DMV website. You’re looking for the weight and age of your vehicle in the rows on the left hand side, and the number 12 across the column at the top – because you’re paying to register the vehicle for 12 months. As an example, Bertha is 4,100 lbs and 11 years old. If you find where that row intersects with 12 months, it cost $50.75 to register her.
  • For a larger truck or van (still non-commercial) you’d be looking at the Gross Weight chart.
  • For non-commercial trailers (this includes travel trailers and 5th wheels, as well as a trailer you might pull behind a larger motorhome to carry belongings) click Here. These charts are all read the same way. Cas weighs 2,200 lbs dry weight and is 13 years old, so it costs $28.00 to register him for a year.
  • For a motorhome (class A, B, or C) your chart is Here.

So, I kind of had 1,600 words and still wasn’t done with this article, so I broke it up into two parts. Next up will be what documents you need and forms that need to be filled out to get your vehicles registered in South Dakota, and Driver’s License information. I’ll probably be posting the second half up on Thursday unless something crazy happens in the interim that demands to be written about.

If you have any questions about this material, or see anything that you think is a mistake, let me know. I spent a good hour and a half while I was writing this going to each company’s website again to compare prices, and scouring the SD DMV website, but it’s certainly possible. Have a good week all!

For part two of this post, click here.

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48 Responses to Setting Up South Dakota Residency for RVers (Pt. 1)

  1. MARVIN November 12, 2012 at 8:23 am #


    Another great post !

    Accurate , concise , and readable . Your research and clickable data points are the best .

    The RV community will be a better place due to your experience and efforts .

    Thank You – Be Safe


    • Becky November 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      Thanks Marvin, safe travels and happy trails to you too.

      • Bev August 24, 2015 at 10:36 am #

        Becky, Thank you for your great article. I have a couple of clarifying questions if you don’t mind.
        1. I just bought my rig in CA a few months ago and of course paid a lot of taxes. Should I wait until that registration to expire before registering it in SD?
        2. Do you know if this could be an issue with the company financing my that is a credit union and only has offices in CA and requires me to have a bank account with them and would having that call into question my residency?
        3. My CA driver’s license doesn’t expire until October of 2018. Do I wait until then to get a SD one?
        4. Do you know anything about setting up a (online) business with an LLC and if the cost for that would also be cheaper in SD?
        Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
        Thanks so much. Bev

        • Becky August 25, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

          Hello Bev.

          1. You won’t get a credit on registration in SD for having paid recently in CA, so if you want to save yourself some money, yes probably a good idea to wait although you certainly don’t have to, you’ll just end up paying for both in a short amount of time.

          2. It might, you’ll have to contact your credit union and ask if they’ll have a problem with you “moving” as they’re all different. If you stick with your bank in CA after “moving” yes, it will make your claim as a SD resident less sure. Will it be enough to cause a problem? I’m afraid there’s no way to know for sure, all I can say is the more of your business you move to SD, the less likely you are to have a problem.

          3. No you don’t have to wait, in fact if you let it expire that’d be bad. You’ll turn it in to the DMV in SD when you get your license there, no matter how long it’s still good for.

          4. I have heard that the price for LLC’s in SD is reasonable, but I’ve never researched it myself since I don’t need one for the online work I do right now.

          Hope this helps!

  2. Gary November 12, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Becky … appreciate the effort and detail you have put into this for all the RV’rs out there. One request, if I may … could you go into some more detail as to “why” a person would choose to change their residency state?

    I think it would be a great help for those of us getting ready to follow in your footsteps to havea better grasp of the pros & cons of doing such a thing. Thanks and Happy Trails!

  3. Becky November 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Hello Gary. Well I wrote a post before ( about residency state selection that discussed the three big ones RVers go with, that might help some.

    But the big reason people who choose to live on the road change their state of residence in the first place is tax burden. In South Carolina for instance, if I had remained a resident of that state, I’d still be paying property taxes on my truck and trailer every year, on top of the license decal renewal. This wasn’t like a one time sales tax kind of thing, it’s something South Dakota charges it’s drivers every year. In exchange South Carolina has one of the cheapest gas taxes in the US – but that doesn’t do me any good if I’m not in the state to take advantage of it.

    Income tax too. I’m working as I travel, and I didn’t want to deal with the headache of filing in South Carolina as well as all the other states I’m going to be working in – what if South Carolina as my home state tried to claim some of my income taxable there because that’s where I “live”?

    Some states are worse for taxes than others. You’ll have a much better idea than I do how your state rates as far as taxes are concerned. And there are reasons to stick with your original home state too. If you own property for instance, since owning property in one place yet claiming residency in another sets up red flags. Or if you’re going to be spending a significant part of your time in that state for one reason or another.

    I hope that helps some. I don’t know where you’re coming from so it’s hard for me to tell you which would be better for your case without knowing more. Feel free to ask for more info or e-mail me if you’d like. 🙂

    • Gary November 12, 2012 at 10:36 pm #


      That helps and thanks. Pretty much what I was thinking but I must have missed the reasoning behind the decision in your earlier post. We have low liscense fees and no state income tax in Texas so nothing really to gain by changing our residency when we head out in May to do some full timing.

      I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something and it sounded like you had done a great deal of homeowrk on the subject and I appreciate your sharing with the rest of us. Happy Trails!

      • Becky November 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

        Yeah Gary, Texas is one of the big three states for full-timers (Florida being the third) so if you’re already a resident there it probably makes sense to stick with them, I was more posting this for the people who lived else-state and wanted to make the move to SD.

  4. Sherry November 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Great detailed post Becky. You made it all so very clear. I sure wish someone would do one just like this for changing your residence to Florida. Their state park discount added to other low tax things makes it a good deal for those who are there for the winters.
    Sherry recently posted..Silver Glen and Juniper SpringsMy Profile

    • Becky November 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      Yep Sherry, the big three all have their own advantages. I’d try to do one for Florida or Texas but really it’s hard to know exactly how the process goes until you’ve gone through it yourself. It wouldn’t be nearly as detailed as my one for SD.

  5. Larry Bandstra November 13, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    Very interesting article and timely too. We had actually settled on FL for our new “home” state but are taking another look at SD only because of the insurance cost. The only deterrent for SD is the 3% tax on the truck and trailer no matter when it was purchased.

    FL law states that if your bought your vehicle prior to 6 months before becoming a resident then there is no property tax. But if you have to pay it, it is 6%.

    We are coming from South Carolina and are very familiar with the “sock it to me” tag tax every year!!!

    Thank you for your research and the concise way you shared it!
    Larry Bandstra recently posted..Want to Buy a House???My Profile

    • Becky November 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Larry, have you paid an excise (sales) tax on the vehicles in another state and have proof? If so then you’re covered. South Carolina collects that tax (but only up to a maximum of $300) on vehicles and I think motorhomes, but they don’t on trailers. So I needed to pay the 3% for the Casita in SD but nothing for the truck since I brought proof (my Bill of Sale from the dealership). I’m actually writing more about that in part 2 on Thursday.

      That being said Florida is a good state for full-timers too. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. 🙂

      • Dale November 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

        SD looks cheaper than FL by a ways. If you bring a vehicle into Florida you are out 225 bucks just for the hell of it (initial registraion fee they call it), and that’s before taxes, cost of tags, and titles.

        • Becky November 15, 2012 at 3:33 am #

          Eww! That part isn’t so fun. But then again it’s a much nicer place to winter. 😉

  6. Bill November 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Great info, Becky… Thank you!

    A few minor issues I noticed:

    (1) The link you give for motorhome fees is the same as for trailers. I believe you wanted this link instead:

    (2) “to buy buying” -> “to be buying” (I assume)

    (3) “RV and/or truck elsestate and paid”; I get the gist of what you’re saying, but “elsestate” doesn’t parse 😉

    (4) trivial typo: “comercial” -> “commercial”

    Thanks again for your hard work towards enlightening us! (Bowing reverently toward Coffeyville…)

    P.S. I just saw (on Chris and Cherie’s Tecnomadia site) a profile of a cool couple who fulltime with their motorcycle on a lift system on the rear of their Class A motorhome. Thought that was pretty interesting, although a Class A would be major overkill for me! 🙂

    • Becky November 15, 2012 at 3:39 am #

      Fixed, good catches.

      Motorcycle on the back of a class A, huh. Well it goes to prove that there are often several different answers to a problem if you look around. Now you have at least one more option to think about. 🙂

    • Bev August 24, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Bill, just to let you know, your link as well as all of Becky’s for the SD DMV only go to the homepage of the website and one still has to figure out where to go from there.

      • Becky August 25, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

        You’re correct Bev, they use to go to real pages, but the SD DMV must have changed the links at some point between 2012 and now (hence the disclaimer I keep up).

        I’m afraid I’m low on bandwidth for the month so I can’t afford to hunt down the new links right now (I only get 3 GB a month here in Yellowstone). If you find the new links feel free to share them, otherwise I’ll update them when I have the data and the time which admittedly will probably be a while.

  7. Luisa March 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    Hi, and thanks for your post! Me & my Mom are about to become new, full-timer’s, and we currently live in NC (which is BAD for taxes!!). After reading everything, we are thinking about becoming residents of South Dakota. (The cheaper and easier, the better!) What I want to know is has any of this information changed??? This post was published in Nov. 2012!! I need the most up-to-date information obviously. Btw, we haven’t bought the RV yet, but are VERY close to doing so!
    Thanks, and I hope to hear back from you soon!

    • Barbara Gonzalez June 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

      Greetings Luisa,
      You’ve probably have already received your answer. I am from Stedman, North Carolina. Little country town located outside of Fayetteville. We are now making decisions on how to make this dream of being full timers come true. Trying to figure out which state (SD/Texas) best suits us. Becky’s article on SD is wonderful. Don’t know if she has the same info on Texas. I will ask her.

      Yes, the excise (sales tax) is now 4% in Lake County, Madison SD.

  8. Becky March 26, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Hello Luisa,

    First of all, congratulations on your impending adventure! You both must be very excited.

    The prices went up slightly the year after I wrote this (2013), but it’s still cheaper than any other state I’ve lived in. The renewal process hasn’t changed since then, and I haven’t heard about any changes for new residents in the various RVing communities I’m in, but it sure doesn’t hurt to go take a peek. I found all of this information between asking on forums like, and visiting the SD Motor Vehicle site at hope that helps!

    Safe travels and happy trails.

    • Luisa March 27, 2014 at 2:21 am #

      Becky, thank you SO much! 🙂 I will def. look into those sites. Btw, we just put a deposit on our RV yesterday!!

      • Becky March 27, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

        That’s awesome Luisa! May it give you many years of faithful service on the road. What kind is it?

        • Luisa March 28, 2014 at 1:27 am #

          LOL…it’s a 2014 Keystone Hideout 27DBS. It has the “Silver Birch” interior, and the double “bunk-style” beds, plus a large dinette, a sofa/bed and a queen bed. We also have a 55-lb. dog traveling with us, so we needed the space! 🙂

    • Barbara Gonzalez June 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

      Hey Becky,
      Thanks for all your efforts and time in providing the document on SD. Have you consider doing one on Texas? That would be outstanding. Your article is the best of I have found. You break it down very well.

      Kind Regards,

      • Becky June 3, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

        It’s unlikely right now Barbara as I have no first-hand experience with Texas, it’s hard to write about things you don’t know. The Escapees RV club is based out of Texas and they have a lot of information about becoming a TX resident though, that’s where I’d go to start:

        Hope this helps!

  9. Dewey & Stacy June 29, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Hi thanks for post! Me and my wife are planning to go fulltime next year. I had a question about vehicle inspection. In my state NY we need to get a inspection every yr. how do people handle this? If your out state. I don’t know if all states have this.


    Dewey & Stacy

    • Becky June 29, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      The three big states for full-timing (South Dakota, Florida, Texas) don’t have this, and that’s one of the reasons why full-timers like “living” there. It sounds like you’ll just have to go back to NY every year for this inspection unless you can find a way to exempt from it? May want to do some digging on the NY DMV website or call someone there and explain your situation and see what they say. Good luck, and enjoy full-timing!

      • Dewey & Stacy July 1, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

        Thanks for the info. I think South Dakota sounds nice to use as a home base since were selling our house anyway. I think it will be much easier to do since there a lot of info about how to do it.

        Thanks again,
        Dewey & Stacy

  10. john oberly July 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    can we do this if we are not RV’ing , but moving round by plane and car ?

  11. john oberly July 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    can we use this mail forwarding even if we are moving around by plane and car ?

    • Becky July 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      I don’t see why not John, as long as your traveling domestically. I’m not sure that my service would send my mail to another country, and if it would i bet I’d have to pay a lot more.

  12. Neil August 15, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    I have owned my RV for 4 years and my car for two years, paying cash for both and while residents of Oregon. Why do I have to pay excise tax when registering in SD and would they still consider the trade in difference when I purchased these vehicles.

    • Becky August 16, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by excise tax in this case Neil, you mean sales tax on the vehicles? I had to pay sales tax on my RV when I moved to SD because in South Carolina I hadn’t paid any at all. I didn’t have to pay sales tax on the truck when I moved because I had already paid at least 3% tax on the truck when I bought it.

      If you paid sales tax when you bought your RV and car, just bring your proof with you to the DMV and you won’t need to pay it again. If you didn’t pay it in Oregon, yes you will need to pay it. Why? I don’t know, I’m not a bureaucrat and I don’t decide on these policies, I just follow them because otherwise my RV lifestyle would be a challenge.

      Since I didn’t have to pay sales tax on my truck, I’m not sure if trade in from previous vehicle fits into it or not. I didn’t trade in anything to buy my RV so it wasn’t a factor for me.

      I hope this helps.

  13. Rachel October 26, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    Your info helped me a ton in deciding which state and service to go with so thank you! We just got to South Dakota and are going tomorrow to get our new address, register the truck and camper and get our new drivers licenses! So thank you!

    • Becky October 27, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

      Heya Rachel, so glad to hear that this helped you make an informed decision. With luck the DMV and registering went quickly today, it was a pretty fast process when i did it. You’re welcome!

  14. Catherine January 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    Thank you for the great article. We are planning a two week trip from NC to SD in September to make our move. I’ll have to find a new job that allows me to move from place to place but as an experienced program/project manager and scrum master, I don’t think that will be difficult.Thanks for the great information

    • Becky January 30, 2016 at 11:07 am #

      You’re welcome Catherine, glad you found this helpful! Best of luck on the job searching.

    • Barbara Gonzalez June 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

      Hey Catherine,
      We are also from North Carolina (Fayetteville). We will be full timers in the near future. Have you purchased your RV yet? We wish you the best on your travels. We’re going to Hershey, PA RV show in September.

      Kind Regards,

  15. Deborah R March 9, 2016 at 4:16 am #

    I know this is an old post, but I wondered if you had advice on when I should set up my mail forwarding service. Maybe I’m missing the point and you have to do it in person, but we are leaving our house at the end of this month and won’t be moving (and passing through SD) until 3-4 weeks later. Any advice is appreciated!

    • Becky March 9, 2016 at 9:20 am #

      Heya Deborah!

      You absolutely can and should set up your mail forwarding ahead of time online. I did it about three weeks before I hit the road, to make sure none of my mail would get lost in the shuffle, it took me about a week to change my address with all my previous employers, insurances, etc. so at least give yourself that much time for it.

      • Deborah March 9, 2016 at 10:34 am #

        Thanks, Becky. That makes complete sense.

        I just saw you on Technomadia’s latest YouTube video. Great talk! I am setting out with my partner but I would definitely go it alone if I was single. Your blog is great, it is a really useful tool especially for those of us starting out. 🙂

        • Becky March 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

          You’re welcome and I’m glad you’re finding my blog helpful! Yeah, that video with Cherie and Chris was a blast, glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  16. Deanna Keahey September 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    Thank you SO much for your informative articles on setting up residency. I’m currently in South Dakota going through the process. It was much easier for me to decide what to do and figure out how, by reading your blog. Thanks again! – Deanna.

    • Becky September 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      You’re very welcome Deanna and I’m glad you found this helpful!

  17. Dana Jones October 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    We are retiring and plan to go RBI gain but not full time. Will come back to bricks and mortar every few months so we’re not selling our home. Can we still establish SD residency and keep our home in Missouri?


  1. Madgeylou – First Week Out - July 24, 2015

    […] we undertook the process of becoming South Dakota residents. In my research to prepare for this trip, I saw that a lot of people without a fixed address become […]

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