Some of the biggest logistical problems that full-time nomads face revolve around not having a permanent residence. When you don’t have a fixed address, it can be very difficult to do many things that you need to do in today’s society, such as:

  • Get a driver’s license
  • Register your van
  • Apply for insurance (auto, medical, etc.)
  • Get bank accounts
  • Pay taxes
  • Register to vote

We ran into this problem head on in the fall of 2018. We had been in Missouri for the Midwest Vanlife Gathering in the spring, but we left the state and booked it out West without realizing that John’s driver’s license was about to expire in October.

We obviously both need valid driver’s licenses. So we were left with the following choices:

  1. We could drive all the way back to Missouri, which wasn’t ideal since we were over 2,000 miles away.
  2. John could fly back to Missouri for a couple of days to renew his driver’s license.
  3. We could take this as an opportunity to look into alternative options that might work better with our lifestyle.

The more we thought about it, the less it made sense for us to keep our status as Missouri residents.

We don’t live there anymore, we don’t rent or own any property there (or anywhere, for that matter), and we don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

So why are we still paying the 6% Missouri state income tax? Why are we locking ourselves into returning to Missouri periodically to renew driver’s licenses and have the van inspected? Figuring something else out could reduce our tax bill and make things much more convenient for us in the long run.

Luckily, there are a few states out there that make it easy for full time travelers to establish domicile, get driver’s licenses, and register vehicles, even if they have no fixed residence. Those states are South Dakota, Texas, Florida, and Nevada.

Do you find our website helpful?

Choosing to “Move” to South Dakota

A van is parked under a brilliant sky
Gnomie contemplating his future

After heavily researching our options, we decided that South Dakota made the most sense for us. It had the fewest barriers, and it was the quickest to drive to (aside from Nevada – but because they require a one-month campground stay before granting residency, that wasn’t an option for us at the time).

Plus, there are a ton of benefits to establishing domicile in South Dakota as a nomad:

  • It is downright easy to do.
  • You only need to be in South Dakota for 24 hours to establish residency, so it’s a quick in-and-out solution for travellers.
  • Once you get your driver’s license it’s good for 5 years, so you only need to spend 24 hours there once every 5 years to maintain a valid driver’s license! (Side note: South Dakota is quite a beautiful state, so we highly recommend spending time there regardless)
  • You don’t have to be physically in the state to register vehicles. Most mail forwarding services will take care of this for you.
  • There’s no state income tax!
  • Vehicle insurance rates are some of the lowest in the country.

Those are some pretty awesome benefits! There are some drawbacks, though, namely a lack of health insurance options compared to many other states.

Health insurance is a tricky issue for nomads in the first place, and if you have regular need of a doctor it might make more sense to establish domicile in a state that’s at least near where you spend most of your time.

Disclaimer

There are many factors that go into choosing the best domicile state for you. Do not make this type of decision just because you read about it on a blog, including this one. Do your own research, because there are a lot of things to consider. To give you a starting point, we write all about the ins and outs of different domicile options in this post.

Here are the requirements for establishing domicile in South Dakota as a nomad:

  • Sign up for a mail forwarding service (about $150-$200 per year, give or take).
  • Stay in a campground, RV park, or motel in South Dakota for one night. Make sure to obtain a receipt that lists your name(s) and your mail forwarding address.
  • Bring your receipt, mail forwarding paperwork, and two forms of ID to the DMV.
  • Sign the “nomad affidavit” that they give you, which says that South Dakota is your legal state of residence and that you intend to return there whenever you’re done travelling full time.
  • Walk out with your new driver’s license!

That didn’t sound too bad. But to get our driver’s licenses we had to physically be in South Dakota.

The issue for us was that we were camped out near Bend, Oregon at the time and had to be back there in a week for an obligation. So we had one week to drive the 1,200 miles from Bend to Rapid City, SD (on the western edge of the state), get all of this done, and drive another 1,200 miles back. Time for an adventure!

Mission: Establishing South Dakota Residency

A van is stopped on the road looking at the famed Six Grandfathers mountain
The famed Six Grandfathers Mountain in South Dakota’s Black Hills

Step 1: Finding a mail forwarding service!

The first requirement to establish domicile in South Dakota is to sign up for a mail forwarding service in the state.

Mail forwarding services give you a physical street address (not a PO Box) that you can use as your “residence” address. They will receive your mail for you and send it out to you upon request (see our Mail on the Road post for tips on getting your mail while travelling). Many of them will also walk you through the whole residency process, register your vehicles for you, and offer mail scanning services.

The most-used mail forwarding services for establishing SD Residency are:

After looking into all of these companies, we settled on Your Best Address. They have a solid array of available services and competitive prices, they do a good job of walking you through the residency process, we got a good vibe from their customer service, and they came recommended by other nomads that we know.

We think Escapees is a great option as well because of the additional benefits of an Escapees membership. But their SD service has the wrinkle of giving you a legal address in SD but a mailing address at their headquarters in Texas. We thought it would be simpler to just deal with one address.

Important Note

There was a bit of a flap in 2018 over the unexpected closure of My Dakota Address, a mail forwarding service that was widely used by the vanner and RV communities. The suddenness of this closure put many nomads in tough situations with their mail, vehicle registrations, and insurance. It also gave rise to a lot of rumors, speculation, and conspiracy theories that they were shut down by the government, and that the whole South Dakota residency thing might soon be shut down.

But it looks to us like they simply went out of business, which is not uncommon with some of the more “mom-and-pop” mail forwarding operations. Because of this, we highly recommend doing your research and going with an established company that has a solid history and many employees.

South Dakota has been cracking down on vehicle registrations recently. Because of how easy it is to register vehicles there (and the lower sales tax and lack of property taxes), people from neighboring states have been registering their new vehicles in SD to avoid paying taxes. Because of this, if you do not have an SD driver’s license, you need to show proof that you’re signed up for mail forwarding for at least one year in order to register a vehicle. This is not an issue for nomads looking to establish SD residency and register vehicles there.

Step 2: Getting paperwork notarized!

Man and woman signing paperwork with thumbs up

Once we signed up with Your Best Address, they sent us a packet of forms that we had to sign and get notarized (if you’re not registering vehicles there’s only one form you need to have notarized).

So, we headed down to the friendly neighborhood UPS store in Bend! Most UPS stores have a notary, and since there are stores everywhere we’ve used them to notarize things a few times on the road. Getting documents notarized at a UPS store typically costs about $5-$10 per stamp, depending on the location.

After our documents were all squared away, we popped over to the Post Office and sent them Priority Mail to Your Best Address.

Step 3: Drive to South Dakota!

Map view of a driving route from Bend, OR to Rapid City, SD

Once our paperwork was off in the mail, we hopped in the van and started driving east. The first night we stayed at a pretty sweet BLM campground about two hours east of Bend. Then we drove clear across Idaho, spending the next two nights at Flying J’s on either side of Wyoming.

After three days of nonstop travel, we finally entered South Dakota. As we drove east across the plains, the looming silhouettes of the Black Hills appeared in the distance. We soon found ourselves driving through a haunting forest in the midst of painting itself for fall, with mountains towering all around us.

View from the driver's seat as a van drives through some beautiful hills in south dakota
Entering the Black Hills from the West

It was one of the most beautiful drives that we’ve yet taken. And – bonus – there’s an awesome dog park on the far eastern edge of the Black Hills, right when you cross into Rapid City. “Maybe we actually will settle in South Dakota some day,” we thought.

Step 3: Camp at a campground for one night!

John and Jayme look happy posing with workers at the KOA campground in Rapid City, SD

To establish domicile in South Dakota you need to stay at least one night in a campground, RV park, hotel or motel (not a state park since they don’t provide receipts). So we booked a night at the KOA in Rapid City!

Everyone was super friendly, and luckily for us they were used to people staying with them to become SD residents. We told them our story, snapped a group photo, and made sure to get a receipt with both of our names and our mail forwarding address.

Important: When you do your campground stay, make sure the receipt has your name(s) and your mail forwarding address listed on it.

Step 4: Head to the DMV!

The next morning we gathered all of our paperwork and headed to the DMV. Boy, was it nerve-wracking! Even though what we were doing is perfectly legal, we had butterflies in our stomachs, like we were pulling a fast one on the system.

Man stands at the counter at a DMV office
John getting his driver’s license taken care of

The nerves ended up being entirely unnecessary, though. When it was our turn, we told them with shaky voices about our scenario and explained what we were trying to do, worried it wouldn’t make any sense to them. But they were immediately like, “Alright, you guys live in an RV or something?” Almost like they were asking us something as nonchalant as clarifying our names.

“Why, yes! Well it’s a van, but yes, we are nomads”.

“Okay, great. We’ll need your license application, proof of mail forwarding, campground receipt, and two forms of identification. Oh, and you’ll need to sign this affidavit.”

We gave them our documents, signed their forms, took an eye exam, snapped a photo, surrendered our Missouri IDs, and we had our South Dakota driver’s licenses in hand! The whole process took about 15 minutes, and was way easier than any other driver licenses we’ve ever gotten.

John and Jayme stand outside the DMV, holding their new South Dakota licenses and looking happy

Step 5: Drive back to Oregon!

Map view of a driving route from Rapid City, SD to Bend, OR

Now that we had our South Dakota driver’s licenses, we turned right around and started back towards Oregon. This time we took the southern route through the Black Hills, and we took a brief stop to check out Six Grandfathers Mountain. Then it was on to a Flying J in Casper, WY for the night, followed by two more Flying J’s in Utah, then the same BLM campground we stayed at on the way east. We had made it back to Oregon just in time!

Step 6: Get our new license plates!

Your Best Address (and most mail forwarders) can register your vehicles for you, and the great thing is that you don’t have to be in the state! We waited a couple of months before switching our vehicle registration, but we recently got our brand new South Dakota plates!

Step 7: Switch our auto insurance!

One big benefit of “moving” to South Dakota is that they have lower auto insurance rates than many other states. Switching our car insurance was a simple matter of logging onto their website and updating our address to our new one in South Dakota. Doing this slashed our premium by over 20%!

Important Note

Most auto insurance requires you to have a “garageable” address, which a mail forwarding service decidedly is not. There are insurance agents you can speak with in South Dakota that are fully versed on the mail forwarding scene and can navigate you to good auto insurance options. It’s also worth noting that America’s Mailbox has their own campground, which means they technically qualify as a “garageable” address where you have the option to live and/or store your vehicle.

It’s also a bit of a question mark what insurance companies and financial institutions will do if they catch wind that you have only a mail forwarding address and not a physical residence. After the sudden shutdown of My Dakota Address (which we talk about above), some nomads found themselves dropped from their auto insurance policies because their address had been “outed” as a mail forwarding address. Financial Institutions are required under the Patriot Act to have physical addresses for all their customers – so it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member’s address to provide in addition to your mailing address.

Step 8: Register to vote!

Voter registration is handled at the county level in South Dakota. To register to vote, you need to physically appear at the County Auditor’s office in the same county where your legal address is located (you also need to provide a one-night campground receipt within said county).

Since our mail forwarding address (legal address) is located in Sioux Falls, we would have had to drive all the way to the eastern end of the state to register to vote in Minnehaha County. That wasn’t possible at the time, but we plan on heading up to Sioux Falls to get this done before any major elections come around.

If you prefer to do this all in one go, both Escapees and America’s Mailbox are located in Box Elder, SD, just outside of Rapid City. Your Best Address and Dakota Post are located in Sioux Falls.

We’re Now Officially Residents of South Dakota!

John and Jayme showing off their new South Dakota license plates

Becoming residents of South Dakota was a fairly painless process and in our opinion made a lot of sense for us. Again, we must emphasize that before making this type of decision for yourself to do your own research and make sure you understand all the implications of making such a change.

No matter what your domicile needs are, we highly recommend stopping through South Dakota on your travels. It’s a beautiful state filled with wonderful people, and it has some of the most incredible scenery that we’ve encountered in our travels.

We are now the proud holders of South Dakota driver’s licenses, and Gnomie is looking fresh with his new custom license plates!

For more awesome vanlife tips and epic build guides, be sure to follow us on Instagram @gnomad_home and on Facebook. Cheers!

Enjoyed this post?

More Dope Sh...enanigans

  • Hi, I am new to the whole concept of transferring my residency to another state but it sounds intriguing. I am nearing retirement and I would love to avoid any expense that is not absolutely necessary. I was reading in a SD Legislature, Legislative Research Council Report https://mylrc.sdlegislature.gov/api/Documents/207175.pdf, quote: “Driver License – If someone has lived in the state 90 days, they are considered a resident eligible to obtain a driver license (SDCL 32-12-26.1)”. This seems at odds with the guidance provided here. What’s up with dat?

    • Hi Mark, I can’t speak to that. But I can tell you from experience that you can indeed get a SD driver’s license with nothing more than a mail forwarding address and a campground receipt. Us and many other nomads have done just that. If you have further questions, mail forwarding services in SD such as Dakota Post, Your Best Address, and America’s Mailbox can provide further guidance and are able to walk you through the whole process. Hope that helps!

  • Do you also have a blog entry that covers the cost of health insurance? I’ll be retired likely when I do this, and the rest of the requirements are very clear, thanks to you. I appreciate it.

    • Hi Lisa, we don’t have a post on that, unfortunately. I’m not sure if we will do one because it’s a very complex that varies greatly from state to state, and from situation to situation. Although we do a lot of research, we are not insurance experts and we don’t want to give out incorrect information on something so vital. Sorry we couldn’t be of more help.

      ~John

  • I enjoyed reading your article! I work for the South Dakota Residency Center, and we also provide digital mailbox services and assistance with establishing SD residency. I want to make your readers aware of this additional option that is very affordable. You can google South Dakota Residency Center. Thank you.

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa…

    While reading through the various descriptions of fees that one would have to pay when registering a vehicle, I notice that there is mentioned a 4% excise (of vehicle value!) tax to get a title- how is that not mentioned here (or on several other “vandweller” blogs)?
    That fee alone is tantamount to another sales tax, and is stated to apply even for passenger vehicles (such as my SUV). This would amount to ~$2,000!

    Am I missing something here? I have fully owned (cash purchased) my vehicle for several years, purchased in another state, have already paid the sales tax, and there are no liens on it… what gives?
    Surely this website needs to be updated!

    • Hi Ben, I think you are misunderstanding. You are exempt from the 4% excise tax if you already paid tax on the vehicle in another state. In other words, if you are transferring a title from another state, you will not owe any tax to SD (unless you are transferring from a state that charges less than 4% tax, but there are only about 5 states in that category). You do need to provide documentation of tax paid, but that’s the case with title transfers in most states. If you are registering a vehicle that you just purchased, then of course there is a 4% excise tax, which is a lower tax rate than all but 5 states.

      Once you get hooked up with a mail forwarder in SD, they can walk you through all of the specifics of your situation. I hope that clarifies things.

      ~John

  • Thank You and all those posting info on becoming a nomad not of choice but for survival…for need…
    Can’t afford a apt…
    Thank You…

  • Not sure where your information that TX only needs a mailing address is coming from – it’s not accurate. Texas law clearly states that one must provide valid residential address (no top of any mailing address) and business address, including registered agent’s is not acceptable: Texas Administrative Code, Title 37, Part 1, Chapter 15, Subchapter B, Rule 15.25

    • Hello, please see this page from Escapees RV Club giving a detailed rundown of the process of establishing Texas domicile as a nomad: https://www.escapees.com/education/domicile/texas/. Escapees operates a mail forwarding service and a campground that you can use for your legal address in the state of Texas. They also have friendly customer service that will walk you through the entire process of getting established. We personally know several nomads who have worked with Escapees and have gotten Texas plates and driver’s licenses without having any sort of residence in the state. Hope that helps!

      ~John

  • Unfortunately, not having physical address is a problem in the US, for all financial institutions and insurance, a remnant of slavery. No, not everyone has local “family or friend’s” address they can give, obviously. Homeless shelter might be one type of address that can work in some situations. Addresses of campgrounds, hotels. As soon as nothing is actually mailed there, so one has to either have fully electronic correspondence or has to setup a separate mailing address in addition to the “residential”, where stuff such as insurance or debit card can get mailed to. Another option might be to file USPS forwarding on random “residential” address (like some apartment unit), but they won’t forward government mail.

  • Hi- I enjoyed reading through your story and the information you posted. We, the South Dakota Residency Center, in Spearfish, SD, love to assist travelers with establishing residency in South Dakota. Please visit our website, choosesd.com, to learn more. We are happy to talk to you on the phone if you have questions.

    • Hi Lynne, thanks for the info and resources! We definitely recommend reaching out to places like yours when navigating this process!

  • I couldn’t find anything on your site about using a service like America’s Mail Box to establish the legal address needed to open South Dakota checking and savings accounts. Can this be done?

    • Hi Mike, the bank account aspect is a little trickier, since per the Patriot Act banks need to have a physical address on file, not just a mailing address. We got around this by using my parents’ address as our “physical address,” and using our mail forwarding address as the mailing address where the bank sends cards, etc. Doing it that way – using a friend or family member’s address as the physical address – is one way to do it, and also probably the safest/easiest/most legal way.

      However, America’s Mailbox specifically has their own campground/RV park attached, so there is a possibility that you may be able to use that as your physical address (Escapees in Texas also has a similar setup). I have heard about this being a potential workaround for insurance companies’ requirements for a “garageable address” for your vehicle, so it could possible also work for banking, but I am not positive. You could always attempt it and see if they accept the address. It should work as long as the address you use is a real street address and doesn’t have something like PMB (personal address) appended to it.

      The unfortunate reality is that right now most of the legal/financial infrastructure is not set up to easily accommodate those of us without a fixed address. Hope that helps!

      ~John

      • John, many thanks for your reply. I checked with America’s Mailbox, and they did not offer the option of using their attached campground/RV park as a physical address. They instead agreed with your suggestion of using a friend or family member’s address. But if I follow the steps you detail to establish South Dakota residency, but then give a South Dakota bank a physical address in California, say, won’t that void my South Dakota residency and leave me liable for California income taxes? Maybe I’m missing something. I recently retired, and once the COVID virus abates, I want to sell my house and travel the world a few years. I’m just looking for the ability to bank online and withdraw money from ATMs as needed. And, yeah, if I can reduce my tax burden, too, that’d be swell. But it feels like in order to bank, the government expects me to buy or rent a place in South Dakota, or at least rent a room in a shared residence, which would cut into my travel budget. I never realized how tricky this aspect of life on the road could be. Any further guidance would be appreciated.

        • Hi Mike, I’m not sure if that would void your residency. We used an address in Missouri, but didn’t pay taxes there. You would basically only be using that address for banking. Your mailing address, insurance address, address that you give the IRS, and vehicle registration should all be at your mailbox in South Dakota. From a state’s perspective, I believe they would have to make a case that you are still a “resident,” and if you don’t own or rent any property in CA, your vehicles are not registered there, you are not registered to vote there, and you ARE registered to vote in SD (you can also do this with a campground receipt), and most of your addresses are in SD, they might have a tough time making a case. That said, I have heard anecdotally that CA is particularly aggressive about pursuing people who they think are “moving” out of state to avoid taxes, so I can’t say that they won’t try. Also, I am not a lawyer and I am not a tax advisor, so I can’t necessarily offer concrete advice in this arena – I can only tell you what I have heard and what I know from experience.

          ~John

        • Mike, I agree and am in a similar situation. Leaving any traces of residency in California, especially California might get you in trouble with the FTB as you have a residence in CA that you use with all your banks etc. The more I’m reading the more it sounds like the only real option is to go with a “friends & family” address. That imo defeats the purpose of the mail forwarding services. I might as well ask my friends or family to check my mail… Biggest issue is not everyone has friends and family in S.D. Not really sure what the solution is to this issue, but none of my banks seem to accept any PMB address like those services mentioned. Does anyone have any other tips how to get around this issue with the banks?

          • Hello, yes, banks generally have caught on to the PMB thing. When we were domiciled in SD, we used a relative’s address in Missouri for our “physical address” that we provided banks, but our mail forwarder was our mailing address so our relatives did not have to deal with our mail. This worked fine for us, but your mileage may vary.

            There are many legal implications that go with domicile, and it’s very important to cut all ties with your previous state and create ties with your new state in order to avoid your previous state going after you for taxes. The founders of Escapees (who are also attorneys) published a very informative article about how this operates with respect to RVers: https://www.escapees.com/establishing-domicile-for-rvers/

            Hope that helps!

            ~John

      • Hey John! Does having your banking physical address in a different state impact your domicile in South Dakota? I’m worried about moving my blog (online business) to South Dakota but having my banking physical address still in California. Wondering if that raises any red flags, and what you did about your business banking address – is that also at your parents? Thanks!

        • Hi Kristin! Our business is actually registered in Wyoming using a registered agent (https://www.northwestregisteredagent.com). It’s $125 per yer, and you get mail scanning and a physical address (not a mailbox) to use for your business, which works for bank accounts as well. In our situation, we actually use our Registered Agent address as the business address for banking, taxes, etc., but we’ve given banks mailing addresses near our actual location for mailing out debit cards, etc., and it hasn’t been a problem.

          The issue with using a mail-forwarding service for a banking address is that they are required to be labelled as “Personal Mail Boxes” (PMB), which can’t be used for a physical address. If you’re moving a business, though, you will want to have a separate Registered Agent for your business – not just a personal mail forwarding address. Registered Agents have to be a physical office location, because businesses are generally required to be able to receive legal notices during regular business hours. The RA will receive mail, legal notices, etc., and generally serve as the “location” of your business.

          We registered our LLC in Wyoming right off the bat, even though we lived in Missouri at the time (we did this to get around the Amazon affiliate program’s ban on Missouri residents). We’ve maintained it in WY through “moving” to South Dakota, and now to our current status as New Mexico residents. We also have a 501c3 nonprofit (United We Van) set up in Missouri using the same registered agent company for the address, so you can really register a business entity in just about any state.

          Wyoming is frequently brought up among the best states in the US to register a business in, since they have no taxes and offer some other benefits. I can’t speak for South Dakota specifically, but I’m sure either state would be WAY cheaper than CA 🙂 – WY is $125 per year for the RA, then $52 to file an annual report with the state, and that’s it (minus the initial filing fees, etc).

          Hope that helps, and feel free to reach out with more questions!

          ~John

          • Thanks so much for your detailed reply! I’ll look into those things! I am still a sole proprietor, but may look into becoming an LLC.

          • You forgot to tell her that is she maintains any nexus with California, such as physical address on file, actual presence, voter, car registration, property, CA accounts, etc her WY LLC will trigger foreign corporation registration requirements in CA, complete with mandatory $800/year franchise tax and by any means will not remove state taxation requirements in high-tax CA. You can play avoiding foreign LLC registration with a state like SD, without income taxes, but you can’t play this money-grabbing game with the state like CA. They’ll know she has that WY LLC once they see her federal return (and they will see it if she filed in CA earlier years).

          • *with the money-grabbing state like CA! SD does not pursue foreign LLCs because they have no corporate or personal income tax, CA will purse the fact of WY LLC unless all traces of personal nexus are cleanely severed from CA. Or, if she never files federal return for WY LLC, which is only possible if it generates 0 income.

      • And for that (unlawful discrimination against people without physical address) you have to thank Patriot Act, in case someone isn’t old enough to remember how these draconian requirements came about. Patriot Act -> Know Your Client -> War on US Expats. More to come, be assured. The goal is more control.

    • Hi Chuck, we certainly could have flown to SD instead of driving. The process works the same, and the DMV also accepts hotel/motel receipts. For us, though, flying is a HUGE hassle, especially last minute. We need to book flights (and flying in/out of small airports like Bend and Rapid City is not cheap), find/pay someone to watch our dogs while we’re gone, pay for a hotel, pay for a rental car to get around, pay for food, etc. All things considered it worked out to be WAY cheaper to drive, we had our home/bed/kitchen with us the whole time, and we also got to take an awesome road trip!

      But if your situation is different, than you certainly can fly in to SD to get all of this done. In fact, many Americans who travel abroad full time also use SD as their state of residency – so it’s not just vanlifers and RVers!

      ~John

  • A point of clarification, you do not need to join a mailing service to register your vehicles by mail in South Dakota. It might feel like a daunting process when you begin but it really is easy. I just registered my 1991 Ford f250 which will be traveling to Baja California in the next few months in South Dakota by mail gathering the forms from the South Dakota motor vehicle department online and working with the good people of Pennington County which is where Rapid City is located.

    There is not a clear tutorial that I could find on a website or forum that exactly explains this process but between the motor vehicle department website and asking the right questions with the clerks at Pennington County I got all the forms I needed. I filled them out and mailed them back and 5 days later they let me know that if I wanted to send them a check for $107.61 they would mail me the license plates and new title. I opted to pay a two and a half percent fee and put it on a credit card over the phone. It should be noted that non South Dakota residents cannot write a personal check but will need to either mail a money order or certified check or use a credit card, not a debit card to complete the transaction.

    There are three forms you need to provide from the South Dakota department of motor vehicles, an application for title and registration, a bill of sale and in odometer form if your car is 9 years old or newer. they also want to see a copy of your driver’s license and social security card which we made photocopies of and they accepted without being notarized. It is helpful to include a cover letter and any communication you may have had with them by email prior to submitting your application.

    The people in Pennington County could not have been nicer or more helpful. I understand there are some counties that are not as helpful or perhaps reluctant but Pennington County was amazing. They have the greatest number of vehicles registered to out-of-state residents which is why I chose it.

    I love my home state of California but had I registered this vehicle here it would have had to come 27 hours North every two years for a smog inspection and be insured in California for a California registration / title to be valid. It would have also cost five times as much. I am proud to be able to pay taxes in all the places I live but registering my truck in California really would have become and onerous burden.

    I hope this helps…

    Don Miguel
    Todos Santos
    Baja California Sur

    • Hi Don Miguel, thanks so much for the information! I’m sure this will help some readers of this site! While you do not need a mail forwarding service to register vehicles by mail, you do need one in order to obtain a South Dakota driver’s license without a physical address. Thanks again!

      ~John

      • I think you may find that obtaining a drivers license in state which you do not reside or live has become far more complicated under the real ID system. I don’t know how current your information is but you are going to have to commit a crime to obtain a DL in a state you do not or have not resided. I’m not going to speak to South Dakota specifically but I own land in Nevada, I was married in Nevada, I work in Nevada from time to time and had a Nevada drivers license until recently which Nevada was happy to take away from me when they found out I was residing in California most of the time.

        Here is the requirement for what are called ‘full-time travelers” from South Dakota and it includes a residency affidavit, I don’t know what the penalty for lying on the affidavit is but if you may want to consider the consequences.

        https://dps.sd.gov/driver-licensing/renew-and-duplicate/full-time-travelers

        Here are a list of documents you need to get a drivers license and they are nowconsistent now throughout the United States.

        ”All applicants are required to provide two documents proving your residential/physical address. These documents must show your full name, your physical/residential address, and be less than one year old. Examples of such documents are a utility bill, a pay stub, a rent receipt, a phone bill, a bank statement, a mortgage document, a homeowner’s insurance policy/bill, a tax document, your vehicle registration, etc.”

        Best of luck to you all it is a beautiful evening here in Baja.

        • Hi Don Miguel, we obtained our South Dakota driver’s licenses in October 2018, and they were Real ID licenses.

          Also, per the residency affidavit, there’s no language on there that states “I will return to South Dakota to live full time within a certain timeframe.” They specifically do not mention any sort of timeframe, which is the key here. You could travel indefinitely, for years or decades even, and never break your vague assurance that you are a South Dakota resident. As far as we were concerned when we obtained our licenses, we were planning to remain South Dakota residents (and happily pay them yearly fees to keep our vehicle registered in the state) for the foreseeable future. Since then, our plans did change, and we are now happy residents of New Mexico.

          As a full time traveler, there’s only so much you know about what the future holds. Even if you’re not a full time traveler, future plans change all the time. So it’s pretty hard to lie on an affidavit with so few specifics about your future plans (and even harder to prove it), and we certainly did not lie when we signed the affidavit. Not to mention, it seems like South Dakota specifically makes their process friendly to full time travelers (the most friendly of any state) so that they can capture the additional revenue involved.

          Hope that helps!

          ~John

          • John some of your information is totally wrong. To begin with it’s easy to get health insurance in South Dakota if you’re on Medicare under 65 and disabled you can get Medicare supplemental insurance also you can get a real ID with the gold star if you produce your birth certificate at the time you get your driver’s license I go through your best address and been of South Dakota residence for The Last 5 Years got my driver’s license in 2015 from South Dakota with the gold star.

            • Hi Mark, thanks for commenting. I’m not sure where you’re seeing wrong information.

              We also got Real ID licenses from South Dakota, and I discuss that in the comments.

              As far as health insurance, you can indeed get health insurance in South Dakota if you are a resident (as you can in any state that you are a resident of), and it’s no harder than any other state. However, at the time we wrote this article, South Dakota had fewer options on the healthcare.gov exchange compared to other states, which we felt was important to note. And if you are nomadic, health insurance purchased on the exchange will only work for non-emergencies in the state you purchased it in, which is a huge reason why health insurance is tricky for nomads. If you are on Medicare that is an entirely different situation, and I can certainly make a note clarifying that.

              Health insurance is an incredibly complex topic that is extremely difficult for many nomads to navigate. The way our system is set up in the US it can be difficult if not impossible to obtain health insurance that works nationwide, unless you get health insurance through your job or are on Medicare. For those of us that have neither, we’re stuck with: 1. insurance from the healthcare.gov/state exchange, which only works in your home state; or 2. short term “health insurance” plans that work nationwide but don’t cover nearly as much and can deny you for preexisting conditions.

              Hope that clarifies things.

              ~John

        • Not true for “all states”, simply!…I can speak for California: this 2-doc address proof requirement is for Real ID – but your Driver’s License DOES NOT HAVE TO BE REAL ID! DL is a separate document from Real ID (a license to drive, not a license to fly airplanes without passport), and in California you can get both: NON-Real ID DL and Real ID DL. Only latter requires 2-docs for address. My lastest and recent California DL is non-Real ID which I opted for, and did not require 2-doc for address. I won’t be playing their unlawfuil Real ID games.

  • Super duper helpful article! Thanks! Is your ID renewal date your birthday (five years later) or five years from the date you got you ID. Therefore you and your partner have the same renewal date? And so I understand properly, you can renew your ID once online, but after that you have to go back? So, in theory, you don’t have to go back to SD for 10 years? We don’t plan on that. It’s been one of our favorite stops and the motorcycle riding was amazing.

    • Hi Robyn, the renewal dates on our licenses are our birthdays. My understanding is that you can renew once online, but I would double check with SD when you’re planning. And SD is quite a beautiful state, we love going there as well!

      ~John

  • Hi! We are preparing for full time RV living from SC. SC charges property tax each year on our car and motorhome probably around $2500 each year! They do have a max sales tax of $500 so that was nice when we purchased them. Florida will charge us the difference if we decide to register them there. Do you know if we will be required to pay sales tax on motorhome if we register our motorhome there which would be over $3000. Thanks

    • Hi there, I’m honestly not sure about property taxes, and I imagine that differs by county. I don’t believe you’ll have to pay sales tax (we didn’t), but I do know that the cost to register an RV in South Dakota is assessed by weight. Since our van is technically a passenger vehicle, we didn’t have to go through the RV registration process. Most counties in SD also charge an annual “wheel tax,” which is usually about $4 per wheel per year for any vehicle (so a 4-wheel car would be taxed $16 per year).

      I recommend contacting the people at our mail forwarder Your Best Address – they are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and will hopefully be able to answer your questions. Their phone number is 1-800-419-1690 and their website is https://www.yourbestaddress.com/. Hope that helps!

      ~John

    • Hi Bart, my understanding is that Wyoming does not allow you to use a mail forwarding service as your legal address for driver’s license and registering an insuring vehicles, so it’s not an option unless you have a friend/family member who lives there. South Dakota, Texas, Florida, and Nevada all allow you to use a mail forwarder, which is the big reason why these states are so attractive. This can be a complex subject, though, so I urge you to do your own research and not take my word for it! Hope that helps!

      ~John

  • This is a FANTASTIC resource for those people who are looking to find a way to do van life full time! I’m in Missouri so stop by and say hi if you come back this way! 🙂

  • Cool, I have been wondering about this for a while. I have lived in a van and then a car while working in one area and using a mailbox and that worked fine but I might want to do some long term vanaobde traveling one of these days.

    • South Dakota is one of a handful of states that make it easy on nomads. And no matter what, we highly recommend visiting, it’s quite a beautiful place!

      • thanks, John! I loved it there and this would be a really good reason to go back for a visit! I like the idea of not having to hit up friends to send me stuff in the mail.

  • I got my Master’s Degree at South Dakota State University and went skiing in the Black Hills one Christmas break while at Mizzou. A beautiful, diverse state!