South Dakota has been a popular haven for full-time RVers for years.

It’s easy to see why: South Dakota has no income taxes, no inheritance taxes, no taxes on pensions, and no tax on personal property. The vehicle excise tax in South Dakota is only 4%, which compares regularly to sales taxes, excise taxes, and personal property taxes on vehicles in most other states.

Additionally, unlike many other states, South Dakota does not require annual vehicle emissions inspections. This is great for people with older vehicles, vehicles with minor engine problems that could be expensive to fix, and vehicles with catalytic converter problems (that also could be expensive to fix!).

Simply by establishing a legal domicile in South Dakota, many lifestyle RVers save thousands of dollars in taxes and other costs compared to what they would have paid in higher-tax states like California, Illinois, and Minnesota.

Furthermore, it’s very easy to establish domicile in South Dakota: Under current law, all you have to do is show up and stay in South Dakota for at least one night (even if it’s just at an RV campground!), establish a mailing address in the state, and then go to the DMV with proof of your mailing address, some mail addressed to you in South Dakota, and some other common documents.

Again, under current law, you can do something as basic as sign on with a South Dakota mail forwarding service. Then just bring your mail forwarding contract along with you to the DMV and register your vehicle tags in the state.

South Dakota Mail Forwarding Service Vendors

Because there are such significant can’t benefits to establishing residency in South Dakota, there are multiple mail forwarding vendors established that can help you meet the state’s mail requirements, including and America’s Mailbox.

What To Bring

If you’re looking to establish domicile in South Dakota, it’s important to be prepared when you go to the DMV.

Here are the documents you should bring:

  • Lease agreement or property title, or even an RV campground receipt that shows your new address in South Dakota
  • Either a piece of mail with your name and address on it or a mail forwarding service contract with a South Dakota firm, listing a South Dakota address.
  • South Dakota residency affidavit
  • Raised-seal original birth certificate or passport (photocopies are not acceptable)
  • Proof of Social Security number, such as a pay stub, W-2, SSA-1099, or other 1099 with your Social Security number on it. Alternatively, if you don’t qualify for a Social Security number, you should bring Social Security documents supporting that.
  • Raised-seal, original proof of any name changes – including divorce decrees, if applicable
  • Certified marriage and/or adoption documents.
  • Your current out-of-state drivers license
  • One piece of mail with your new address on it. If you do not, bring the receipt / invoice proving you have a mail service agreement with a South Dakota vendor.

Once you’ve established your domicile/residency in South Dakota, under current law, you can also register to vote. And great news! You’ll also be eligible for jury duty!

How To Maintain South Dakota Residency

To remain a South Dakota resident, you must stay overnight in South Dakota at least once night every five years.

That’s it.

Other than that, you don’t need to be present in South Dakota at all to maintain your South Dakota driver’s license. This is generally sufficient to maintain your status as a South Dakota resident. . However, if you are a full-time RV or nomad maintaining a very limited physical presence within the state, you should keep proof that you stayed overnight in South Dakota (for instance, by keeping an RV campground receipt), in case someone should challenge your resident status in the future.

What to Be Aware of

Not everybody in South Dakota’s a big fan of absentee full-time RV owners voting in a state where they don’t spend much time. As of this writing, there are at least two bills introduced in the South Dakota legislature that would make it more difficult for RVers to establish and maintain legal residency in the state.

House Bill 1232 would prohibit South Dakota county auditors from granting residency to most people who don’t have a permanent sleeping place of abode within South Dakota. It would also exclude those seeking to establish South Dakota residency solely for the tax advantages, and who don’t have a definite plan to return to the state following a period of absence.

The bill would also require you to show proof of a fixed address within South Dakota, and specifically excludes RV campgrounds and mail forwarding services from acceptable evidence of residency for the purposes of being eligible to vote. The bill includes provisions for bona fide South Dakota residents who are homeless.

Senate Bill 124 is even more expansive, requiring that addresses used to establish residency exclude commercial and industrial addresses and undeveloped lots.

What’s the outlook for these bills? That’s tough to say. At press time, neither of them have made it out of committee to the floor of either the South Dakota state House or Senate.

Both bills were introduced by Republicans. And Republicans dominate both houses of the state legislature.

Politically, however, granting voting rights to RV owners who are almost never in the state is usually a tough sell to legislators’ hometown constituents.

At present, however, both bills are aimed at limiting full-time RVers’ and other nomads and permanent out-of-state residents’ ability to vote in South Dakota elections. Outside of that, they’ll have little or effect. So you can still enjoy the tax benefits, vehicle registration benefits, and other financial perks of South Dakota residency.

Insuring Your RV

One last thing: I’m “Mr. Insurance,” and this wouldn’t be a Mr. Insurance blog post if we didn’t have an insurance takeaway!

Just because your RV is registered in South Dakota doesn’t automatically mean you should have your RV insurance and other vehicle insurance in that state.

Generally, you should keep your vehicles insured in the state where they are primarily stored or garaged. That may not necessarily be in your state of residence.

Note that South Dakota’s vehicle insurance laws are a little unusual: To obtain vehicle insurance under South Dakota’s laws, your vehicles must be registered in South Dakota.

The best way to get the best possible vehicle insurance coverage and pricing is to work with an independent  insurance agency that can help you compare insurance policies from multiple different carriers in the states in which you are primarily operating, storing or garaging your vehicles.

Whether you’re just looking to insure a single RV or you have multiple vehicles to insure, Select Insurance Group is your expert source for all things related to insuring your cars, RVs, trailers, and recreational vehicles.

Contact us today, and either fill out the online inquiry form or give us a call directly at (855) 438-7353.

See you on the road!

Steve “Mr. Insurance” Ludwig
CEO, Select Insurance Group


For Further Reading

RV Insurance 101

ATV Insurance – What You Need To Know About Insuring your ATV, UTV, Quad, or Snowmobile

High Net Worth Car Insurance – Auto Insurance Tips for HNW Drivers