Choosing your Home State – all part of the Full-time RV Lifestyle

Donna walking Zeus at Camp America in Salem, SD

Choosing your home base is part of the Full-time RV journey.  For over three years, I’ve been a resident of South Dakota (SD).  SD has been my home state even though I have never physically lived there, only visiting the state on three separate occasions.  My driver’s license, my car registration, my health insurance, and my address are all in SD.  The excerpt from my book below covers how you choose your home base.  It’s all part of Living the RV Lifestyle.

Donna’s latest book can be found on Amazon.com  and as a Kindle E-reader, Click here to go to the Kindle store.

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Editorial Reviews of Living the RV Lifestyle

“As the title indicates, this is a book with a lot of practical advice and personal experiences gleaned from living full-time in an RV…Her book details how to buy, prepare and afford the RV lifestyle of your dreams. This book would be especially helpful for newbies, but would also serve as reminders for experienced RVers.”

Marcella Gauthier, columnist of, From the Bookshelf in the Escapees Magazine (www.escapees.com) 

 “Whether someone is considering a full-timing road trip as a permanent way life or a temporary adventure, Living the RV Lifestyle: Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road is filled with the author’s many valuable tips for making the most of it.  Trying to balance domestic chores with the RVing learning curve is a challenge for most people. Toss in the need to earn a living while constantly changing locations and the business of learning how to be a nomad turns into a full-time occupation. For anyone who needs to manage all of these lifestyle factors, Donna’s new book lives up to its promise of providing practical advice for success.”

Rene Agredano, columnist for RV Life Magazine (www.rvlife.com)

My new book, Living the RV Lifestyle:  Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road is a combination of practical advice on RV living as well as personal stories from life on the road, giving you an idea of what it’s really like to live the Full-time RV life.

The excerpt below is from Chapter 3: Preparing for the Full-time RV Journey

Choosing your Home Base

Once you decide to become a Full-time RVer, then you have to decide where you would like your home base to be for such purposes as receiving U.S. mail,  your driver’s license, registering your vehicles, paying taxes, purchasing health care, where you’re registered to vote, where your will is drawn up, etc.

When you no longer have a permanent traditional home, then you need to choose a state for your legal domicile which is different from residency.  You can be a resident in more than one state, but you can only have one legal domicile.  In that one state, you have to establish contacts through such items as getting a mailing address, a driver’s license, etc.  The more contacts that you make in one state, then the state is more accepting that it really is your domicile.  If you try to have your driver’s license and vehicle registration in another state, then that state could claim you as a citizen of their state, and require you to pay their state property taxes and income taxes as well.  Since you are simplifying your life, it’s probably wise to pick one state, and have all your “contacts” there so it’s clear that this is your legal domicile.

Many people decide to stick with their current home state out of convenience.  Perhaps, you still have family there who can send you your mail, and you already have your driver’s license there, and your vehicles registered there.  But if you’re interested in moving to a less expensive state with no income taxes, and lower property taxes and insurance rates, then you may want to shop around for your legal domicile.

State Income Tax can be one of the key deciding factors.  The states with no state income taxes include:  Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington state, and Wyoming.  (New Hampshire and Tennessee also do not have a state income tax on salaries and wages, but they do have an interest and dividends tax which affects many retirees.)

Many Full-Timers find Florida, South Dakota and Texas to be the easiest states to choose as your domicile for the no state income tax rule.  You may still want to compare the states because insurance premiums and property taxes, along with driver’s license fees and vehicle registrations can vary a lot to see what the best deal is for you.

Personal property taxes vary from state to state, and some can charge a lot for your RV, and vehicles.  Vehicle registration fees also vary, and are worth checking out especially if there are any requirements on regular vehicle inspections such as once a year. You probably don’t want to drive back every year at a certain time to take care of the inspection.   Some states also charge a tax on the value of your vehicle when you register it. Usually you will get a credit for sales or use tax paid to the prior state, but not always.  It’s always a good idea to check out driver’s license regulations, and how long they are good for, and if you can handle license and vehicle renewals through the mail.  Most of the information can be found on an individual state’s website, and it’s best to check before you decide on a state.

Insurances such as Health, RV and Vehicle Insurances are also important to look into before choosing a state.  Get some quotes from insurance agencies in your chosen state.  If you happen to have your health insurance under a government program or retirement program where your state of residence doesn’t matter, then it will be a lot easier.  The Affordable Care Act made health insurance affordable for many, but was also more challenging for some Full-Time RVers depending on the state they lived in.  It’s wise to check your health insurance rates based on different states to get the best plan for the best price.  You may also want to seek out a national system of “in network” health providers so that your coverage is “portable” from state to state.  This website may also be helpful in your search for health insurance – www.rverhealthinsurance.com

Escapees RV Club also has mail forwarding services in the three favorite states of Florida, South Dakota, and Texas, and they are very helpful in explaining all the details to Full-timers. The club has many membership benefits, but there are extra fees for the mail forwarding service.  For more details, visit, www.escapees.com

Why we chose South Dakota as our legal domicile

Since my husband and I were leaving California, and had no plans to return there to live, we decided to look for a state that was the easiest and one of the least expensive states.  South Dakota came out on top for us.  First, to establish the state as our legal domicile, we found a mail forwarding service in South Dakota, and there are several to choose from.  The one we chose was recommended by a fellow RVer, located in Madison in the eastern part of South Dakota.  In hindsight, I may have chosen a mail forwarding service in one of the larger cities in SD like Rapid City or Sioux Falls, but Madison is a college town, on a lake, and very quiet and rural so it has been nice to call Madison, our home base.

After we established ourselves with the mail forwarding service, we received our address with our own private mail box (PMB) number.  We now get in touch with the service by phone or via email.  The mail forwarding service will send your mail to any location that you give them which could be where you’re staying at a campground or a relative’s home.  In addition, you can set up the mail forwarding based on your own preferences such as weekly, biweekly, and monthly.  The mail service also can help you with registering your vehicles, and recommending local insurance companies for your vehicles.

Once we secured our mailing address which we arranged while we were still in California, then we stopped in Madison, SD, and stayed for a couple of nights.  All you need to do to get your driver’s license and register your vehicles is to get a PMB for your local address, and to stay in SD for one night, showing proof of your stay with either a receipt from your hotel or from your campground.  Then go to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in SD http://dor.sd.gov/Motor_Vehicles/  to take care of your driver’s license and vehicle registration. The mail forwarding service also helped us with the DMV paperwork. The driver’s licenses are good for five years, and then you would need to return in person, but you can handle vehicle registrations, and insurances through the mail.  (The state of SD now requires you to sign a Residency Affidavit which you also bring to the DMV.)

Ahead of time, we also contacted a local insurance agent for the vehicle insurances including the truck and Fifth Wheel, and to determine what the property tax would be on both.  The rates were very good, and reasonable, especially compared to California.

The main reason we return to South Dakota every year has been for the health insurance.  Being only in our 50s, and not having any other health insurance, we chose insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and it has been a great insurance plan.  www.AveraHealthPlans.com  in Sioux Falls, SD is our company, and the doctors and services have been outstanding.  Avera is one of the companies in SD that didn’t have any issues with Full-time RVers.  The way health care is changing, it’s hard to say what the future will hold.  We’ve only traveled back to SD once each year to see our primary doctors, and coordinated our trips around the country to pass through SD.  We’ve also been able to have questions answered, prescriptions filled, etc. while we’ve been living on the road.  We haven’t had any major health issues, but for those who are 65 and older, you probably could handle your health insurance needs through Medicare, and with a supplemental health insurance plan.  If you’re under 65, then it does take some shopping around for the best plan.

After choosing South Dakota, we actually considered switching to Florida when we were looking at buying property there, but between their rule of having to live in the state for six months and a day along with the higher vehicle insurance rates, we decided to stay with South Dakota.  We didn’t really look into Texas, but with the Escapees RV Club based in Texas, they would be a big help in assisting with locating your domicile to their state.

Returning to South Dakota every year has begun to feel like returning “home.”  We still sightsee around South Dakota, visiting sites like the Corn Palace with artwork entirely made out of corn, and the Wall Drug Store, a wonderland of western art and photo collections with a restaurant and unique retail outlets.  The incredible national memorial and parks of that state have also made it well worth our time to visit every year.  We have our favorite campgrounds, and our memorable experiences like driving right through Sturgis, SD during the 75th annual Biker’s Rally in 2015.

By Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A. © 2017

Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A., CHT is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Western Astrologer and Author who counsels clients through her business of Iris Holistic Counseling Services on the road at http://www.DonnaFisherJackson.com. She has published the self-help book, The Healing Path of the Romantic: Type Four of the Enneagram Personality Type System and a novel, Clara & Irving: A Love Story of Past Lives, based on the true story of a Romantic. And now her latest book, a travel adventure book, Living the RV Lifestyle:  Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road.  All of her books are available in a print and Kindle edition on Amazon.

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About Donna Fisher-Jackson

Donna Fisher-Jackson, MA, CHT has been traveling around the United States and Canada in her tiny home - a 39 foot Fifth Wheel Bighorn RV since 2014. Her new book, "Living the RV Lifestyle: Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road" is now available on Amazon. She continues to do her counseling work on the road. For seventeen years, she lived in Northern California where she pursued studies in Western Astrology, Holistic Counseling, Hypnotherapy and Past-Life Regression. Donna completed certification in Astrological Counseling with the Astrology Institute West in the San Francisco Bay area. During her time in the Bay area, she also graduated with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology specializing in Holistic Studies from John F. Kennedy University in Northern California. Her counseling business, Iris Holistic Counseling Services, began in 1999. In her counseling work, she shares the insights of Hypnotherapy, the Enneagram, Dreamwork, Western Astrology and the Mythic Tarot. She specializes in life transitions, relationship issues, mid-life, career/vocation and life purpose.
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