RV REGISTRATION & LICENSING


RV Registration:

My original rv registration was in North Carolina, where I had purchased it. I insured it with GMAC, through Good Sam. My car was with another company and I left things that way initially – so did not get a multi-vehicle discount.

Several months later, when I sold my house in NC, I called my auto insurance company to give them my forwarding address and was told that my NC plates and insurance would be invalid after 30 days, because I no longer had a physical address in NC. Whoops! I didn’t expect that.

Yucca in Bloom - AZ wildflowers

Once I started traveling, I set about finding a state to register my vehicles in. I had heard that South Dakota was an RV-friendly state, and another RVer had mentioned Alternative Resources, so I looked them up on the internet and discovered that, for a reasonable fee, they would handle all the rv registration details, and registration for the car as well, through the mail. I would then have to show up in SD within 90 days to get a SD driver’s license, which would be no problem, as I was going to head in that direction anyway.

RV and auto insurance rates also differ from state to state. There's a lot of checking and thinking that needs to go into this RVing life.

I have met many folks who register their vehicles (or at least the RV registration) in South Dakota for the above reasons, even though they still own a home in another state.

WARNING: The above information may change. For starters, neighboring states are not happy with residents from their states crossing over to SD to register their vehicles and save on taxes. And, according to what I hear, the US Department of Homeland Security regulations may be at the bottom of some of the controversy. So, especially if you own real estate in another state, do some thorough checking to avoid future problems.

RV License:

Is a commercial, or special, rv license required? In general, the answer is “no”, though you would be wise to check with the driver licensing office or website in your state. When a special license is required, it is usually for RVs or trailers over 26,000 lbs, or over 45’ in length.

Residency Issues & Tax Issues:

Residency issues are not a problem for part-time RVers, but for full timers, it can be a problem. The issue is the difference between the terms "residence" and "domicile."

Residence, or residency, can be defined simply as the place where you live. Even if you have two or three homes that you may spend time in during different seasons of the year, each one is your residence as long as you are there.

Domicile, on the other hand, is a legal term. It's where we pay taxes, conduct business, get our rv registration, driver's license and so on. It is considered the place we will return to when we are absent from it.

According to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, "domicile" is 1) a place of residence and 2) a person's fixed, permanent and principal home for legal purposes.

4-Nerve Daisy - AZ Wildflowers

4-Nerve Daisy at Petrified Forest National Park

RVers have wheels on their homes and travel from place to place so the legal issues become more problematic, and domicile issues are at the top of the list for full-timers.

South Dakota was considered my domicile - that state allows an RVer to register to vote, using the address of a motel or an RV park. Since my rv registration and mail-forwarding address were also in SD, I never ran into this residency/domicile problem.

However, a recent excellent article in Escapees magazine (July/August 2013) by Shawn R. Loring, an attorney licensed in Texas and California, stated that at least one investment company would not accept the mail-forwarding address as valid and required a permanent
physical address for the investor. If the investor couldn't provide it, they would have to take their investment business elsewhere.

This requirement on the part of investment institutions is due to  a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) regulation and can, possibly, be traced back to the Dept. of Homeland Security regulations I mentioned above. Our world is indeed changing.

The FINRA regulation states, in part, that "for an individual who does not have a residential or business street address... the residential or business street address of a next of kin or another contact individual" can be provided.

Mr. Loring pointed out the importance of RVers, required to provide an address in this situation, making sure  their mail-forwarding address is used as their personal legal address and that all correspondence gets directed to that address. The alternate address must be correctly identified and recorded as the address of the RVer's "next of kin or another contact individual." By creating that distinction, it should be possible to avoid exposing yourself to tax liabilities in a state that is not your intended domicile.

Escapees RV Club works hard for RVers rights. Try to get a copy of this article - it may save you from some heartaches and/or headaches.


Residency requirements are different in every state and even in different agencies within that state, so I am not going to try to give you advice on this. Obviously, every state has an interest in classifying you as a resident in order to levy taxes. On the other hand, they will be eager to classify you as a non-resident in order to deny you any state-funded benefits.

If you have ties in more than one state, you may be liable for taxes in all of them. The best way to avoid that situation is to make a clean break if possible. My advice is to talk with your tax attorney or accountant, especially if you are still working. You can also check with the relevant agencies in your state to see what their requirements are.

Obviously, hitting the road as a full-time RVer requires a good amount of research and some careful decision-making. Whatever happened to the simple life?

Petrified Wood at Petrified Forest NP in Arizona

On the Crystal Forest Trail at Petrified Forest National Park


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