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 (this was back in 2012) 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 (and links) change all the time. South Dakota no longer holds quite the cost advantage for becoming a resident as it did in 2012 when I first “moved” here, but it’s still not a bad option. 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 8/15/17.
Many full-time RVers choose South Dakota for their domicile state, and I’ve discussed the reasons before. No state income tax, only a 4% sales tax (although some counties add onto that), and because it’s easy to become a resident. Their vehicle registration fees went up again in April 2015, 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 – $10.00
- Lien Fee (If applicable) – $10.00
- Solid Waste Fee – $1.00
- Highway Patrol Fee – $1.00
- Wheel Tax – Varies by county, for the PDF chart (last updated January 2016) click here. For Lake county it’s $5/wheel (Max of $60 annually). Some counties don’t have a wheel tax at all.
- 4% of the vehicle’s purchase price in excise (sales) tax, unless you already paid at least 4% in tax in another state. So if you bought the RV and/or truck else-state 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.
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 16 years old. If you find where that row intersects with 12 months, it cost $75.60 to register her (as of 2017).
- 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 18 years old, so it costs $37.80 to register him for a year (as of 2017).
- 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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