Establishing Domicile in South Dakota

When you don’t have a permanent physical home address, you can establish residency (your domicile) in any state. Some states are better than others for this purpose. The three most popular states for full-time travelers to establish residency are South Dakota, Texas, and Florida. These states don’t have a state income tax and they are also pretty lenient as to what is required to establish residency. We chose to make South Dakota our domicile for a couple of reasons:

  1. As we own a consulting business that we will continue to operate while traveling, South Dakota not having a corporate income tax was a big draw.
  2. Once residency is established, you only have to spend one night in South Dakota every five years. This requirement aligns with the go-with-the-flow nomadic lifestyle of full-time travelers.
  3. There are no vehicle inspections in South Dakota. Some states require vehicles and/or travel trailers to be inspected once a year. This requirement may interfere with the go-with-the-flow nomadic lifestyle of full-time travelers.
  4. We are originally from Wisconsin, where the majority of our family still lives, and plan to visit there regularly. South Dakota’s proximity to Wisconsin will make it easy for us to make our required residency visit.

Other things to consider when choosing a domicile are vehicle registration rates, sales tax rates, health insurance rates, and vehicle insurance rates. As we are coming from San Diego, EVERY aspect of transitioning to South Dakota is more affordable for us – yay for us!

How To Establish Domicile

 Set Up an Address

The first step in setting up a domicile is to establish a PMB (private mailbox) with a mail forwarding service. You will use this address as your legal address for everything – registering vehicles, drivers license, banking, tax returns, voting, etc. We chose Americas Mailbox in Box Elder, SD, just outside of Rapid City. This is a legal residential address, not a PO Box. In addition to receiving your mail, they help with registering vehicles, getting registered to vote, and getting you in touch with contacts regarding vehicle insurance, health insurance, accountants, and attorneys.

It was very easy to get our mailbox set up. We sent in the required information from their application checklist, which is found on their website, and our mailbox was set up literally the day they received our information.

When they receive mail for us, they will scan the exterior of each piece and upload it to their website. We will determine what mail can be tossed and what should be sent to us. They will then send us our mail when we request it.

Register Vehicles

Americas Mailbox also has a vehicle checklist with the information needed to register your vehicles. I emailed the information to them, they emailed me back with the registration cost, and I sent them a money order along with original copy of the title and a notarized power of attorney giving them the power to register our vehicles on our behalf. The license plates and registration were sent to our mailbox at Americas Mailbox, which we picked up on our recent trip to Rapid City. You DO NOT need to have a South Dakota driver’s license in order to register your vehicles.

Obtain Driver’s License

This, of course, needs to be done in person. Show up at a Driver Exam Station with the following items:**

  • Current Driver’s License
  • Proof of Social Security Number (only if current license does not have a gold star in upper right corner) such as social security card, W-2, 1099, or pay stub.
  • Passport or other proof of lawful status in the U.S.
  • Hotel/Campground Receipt (dated within the last year) – We stayed at the onsite hotel at Americas Mailbox and they gave us a receipt that had both of our full names on it for this purpose.
  • PMB Receipt – Americas Mailbox gave us the exact printout we needed.
  • Marriage Certificate (only if name has changed at some point in your life)
  • DD-214 (only if you want ‘Veteran’ to be printed on your license)

Once at the exam station (where an exam is not required if you have a current, valid license), you fill out an application. You then step up to the counter, hand over your documents, sign a Residency Affidavit stating you intend to return to South Dakota after being absent, perform a quick eye test, get your picture taken, sign the electronic pad, and then you’re handed your new driver’s license. Southern Californians are used to blocking an entire day for the DMV, so the fact that this only took about 20 minutes was amazing – we didn’t even need an appointment!

**Verify needed documents at the SD Department of Public Safety here or by calling (605) 773-6883. Make sure to tell them you have a PMB address.

Vehicle Insurance

Get quotes from numerous insurance companies and make sure they know you’re going to be a full-time traveler.

Health Insurance

Honestly, this is on the to-do list. Travis is a veteran, so he has insurance through the VA. As we are self-employed, we pay for my health insurance out of pocket. Americas Mailbox gave us a couple of contacts for agents in South Dakota. I’ve also done some research on my own and have one company in mind that seems like it would be a good fit. And the third avenue I’ll explore is the RVer Insurance Exchange website, which has been suggested on other full timer’s blogs.

Move Our Business

Our business is currently registered in California, but our attorney is in the process of getting it registered in South Dakota. Once that is done, the business will be ‘closed’ in California. While you can most likely take care of this on your own, we have peace of mind knowing that everything is being done properly and legally.

Choosing a Truck

Once we purchased our Airstream, we needed to find the right truck to tow it with. As we did with the trailer and trailer options, we did a lot of online research and visited multiple dealerships. After doing our research, we compiled a list of features that were necessities, as well as a few luxuries. Our list included crew cab, 4×4, tow package, trailer brake, trailer backup assist, backup camera, blind spot monitoring, large gas tank, bed liner, and a towing capacity of at least 9000+ pounds — but more on the towing numbers later.

Not all dealerships or car salesmen are created equal. When we were just browsing, we were walking around a dealership (that shall remain nameless) when a salesman approached. We were looking at one vehicle in particular and asked him what the towing capacity was because it wasn’t listed. He looked at the sticker and pointed at the GVWR (truck weight + max payload). We turned around and left. There was no way we were going to work with a salesman – who sells trucks – who doesn’t know the difference between GVWR and towing capacity. We talked with another salesman who really didn’t seem to know much about the product he was selling either or where to find the answers to our questions. Plus, they were blaring country music in their showroom. Ugh. We ended up at San Diego’s Mossy Ford in Pacific Beach where we worked with Pedro Ramos. Spread the word about this dealership and salesman. So knowledgeable. So professional. So worthy of our business.

We ended up purchasing a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine. It was a demo vehicle with 249 miles, so it was considered ‘used’ which helped with the price. We qualified for all of the rebates Ford was offering, so after all discounts and rebates were applied, we ended up paying about 23% below MSRP. We were very happy with this, seeing as it had every feature were looking for and even some we weren’t.

We are not truck people. We aren’t even car people. We’ve always been people that need to use a vehicle to get from point A to point B safely. But now, we’re truck people, because we have to be. And guys, this truck is beautiful and we love it. It’s big, though. Really, really big – and that’s been an adjustment.

Now, back to those towing numbers I spoke of. The most important information to know when purchasing a truck for towing is the truck’s GCWR (gross combined weight rating). The GCWR is the total weight of the truck, truck passengers, truck cargo, trailer and trailer cargo. You also need to know your trailer’s base weight and GVWR, gross vehicle weight ratio. The GVWR is the maximum your trailer can weigh per the manufacturer. Our trailer’s base weight is 5,868lbs and the GVWR is 7,600lbs. So, again, research is key as well as having accurate numbers. Here is why the numbers matter:

 

  • Truck Curb Weight:            4,890lbs
  • Truck Max Payload:            2,030lbs
  • Trailer Tongue Weight:         700lbs
  • Trailer GVWR:                      7,660lbs

TOTAL Combined Weight:   15,220lbs

Our truck has a GCWR of 16,100lbs, so there is 880lbs to spare if we are ever maxed out on the truck and trailer. I never foresee that happening, but it’s good to know we’re safe if it does. Also, Ford’s recommended maximum towing capacity for this vehicle is 10,700lbs, so we are also safe there. Just as all dealerships and salesman are not created equal, nor are towing capacities. Things that affect towing capacity are the engine, the sizes of the cab and the bed, wheelbase, tires, tongue weight, axle ratio and probably a number of other things. Two side-by-side trucks may look identical, but have completely different numbers. Do your research, but it also helps to work with a salesman who knows his stuff and knows where to find answers quickly if he doesn’t.

Choosing Airstream Features

Choosing the layout, decor, and features for our Airstream was a little stressful. We’ve never spent a night in an Airstream, so we’re going into the Streamin’ life as newbies and aren’t quite sure what our needs or wants will be.

After looking at a few different trailers, we decided fairly easily on the layout we wanted. We chose the 27 length (which is actually 28 feet) because we didn’t want the trailer to be too long that we’d have difficulty pulling or parking it, but wanted to make sure we had plenty of space. We knew we wanted the twin beds vs the queen bed after seeing how much room the twin beds give you, as well as more sleeping surface per person. We were debating between a Flying Cloud and an International, mostly because of the price, but opted for the International as the interior finishes are nicer and more our style. The rest of the decor features, such as a Signature vs a Serenity and the color package, were basically decided for us when we found a 2017 International Signature 27FB with twin beds in Ebony Oyster Ultraleather Décor at the dealership. To be honest, if we had had a choice, we would have chosen the Signature over the Serenity and the Ebony Oyster over the other two color options any way. We’re extremely happy we got the exact trailer we were looking for.

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The exterior of the International 27FB.
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The floor plan for the International 27FB with twin beds.
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Looking towards the rear of the trailer at the 42″ x 97″ dinette/bed, 66″ lounge/bed, and galley.
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Looking towards the front of the trailer at the 34″ x 78″ twin beds.

**Above photos from airstream.com**

 

Just as when you purchase a vehicle, there are many optional features that can be added to an Airstream trailer. Our trailer already had the optional powered (as opposed to manual) awning installed, as well as the rear and roadside window awnings. The trailers are pre-wired for solar panels and we knew this was a must for us because we would be living and working in the trailer and needed all of the power we could get. We opted for the 200w Flex solar package. We also chose to have a Blue Ox SwayPro hitch installed in order to distribute the weight of the trailer better as well as help control sway while towing. The third option we chose was to have Maxxair vent covers installed on each ceiling vent. These vent covers allow for the vents to remain open at all times circulating air, including while towing and when it’s raining. One thing we did not opt for at this time was the rear view monitoring system (back-up camera). We were unsure if we needed this, but since the trailer is prewired for it, it can be installed at a future date if we deem it necessary. There are many more optional features available, but most are luxuries that are a little ridiculous, like a dishwasher.

Buying an Airstream

Travis and I have talked about a life on the road for quite some. We finally found ourselves in the right position to follow through, but then the question was, ‘Where do we begin?’

If you’ve determined that an Airstream is the type of travel trailer you want, the best place to start is the Airstream website. Download the brochure and look at the different lengths, layouts, and finishes to determine what is best for you. As we are planning to eventually live in our Airstream fulltime, we determined the 27 would probably be the best fit for us.

The next thing you need to do is to see a range of trailers in person. Even if you don’t plan on buying new, go to the nearest dealership that sells Airstreams to get a better feel for the size and layouts, as well as the MSRP – if it’s a strictly Airstream dealership, even better. Be upfront with the dealer and say that you’ve just begun looking and are really only there to get a better idea of the options available. I’m sure ‘just looking’ turns into ‘just buying’ often enough that the dealer shouldn’t feel discouraged or that they are wasting their time.

We live in San Diego and went to a nearby RV dealership that carries Airstreams so we could get a feel for them. We spent some time looking at every trailer they had, noting which models and lengths we liked best. We left feeling a little more educated and much more confident about the exact layout we wanted, but still kept our minds open to the various possibilities.

As a brand new anything is considerably more expensive than a used anything, we also looked on RVtrader.com to see if there was anything available anywhere near us. We found a 2012 Flying Cloud 27FB with twin beds (more about the twin beds later) listed for sale in Orange County. We contacted the seller and setup a time to come see it. After looking at the trailer, which was in great condition for a 5-year-old trailer, we decided that we’d rather buy new. After all, this was going to be our primary residence in the near future. We felt more comfortable with something no one else has ever used (or abused). We wanted to be the first to sleep on the mattresses and the first to, ahem, use the lavatory. Also, after seeing the Flying Cloud, we decided we wanted to go with an International, which is one step up. The interior finishes are a little more chic in an International and a little less RV-ish.

The dealership we visited in San Diego didn’t have any models with twin beds on their lot. The reason we chose twins instead of the queen option is that there isn’t much room to move around the queen bed. With twins, there’s a decent-sized aisle between the beds that allows for a place to change in the ‘bedroom’. There also more sleeping surface per person with the twins. A queen is 60” x 75” and each twin is 34” x 78” – so each person gets four more inches in width and three more inches in length. There’s also a little more storage space both inside and out, which is definitely at a premium in Airstreams. We contacted the gentleman we worked with at the dealership to see what it would take to get an International 27FB trailer with twin beds. He said we would have to order it, which comes with a fee, and that it’d have to be a 2018, which means more $$$.

We looked online at other dealerships and found that the Orange County Airstream dealer had the EXACT trailer we were looking for. As we had just driven to Orange County the day before, we really didn’t want to drive up there again if we weren’t going to get the price we were looking for. Those of you that are familiar with Southern California traffic understand why. We called the dealer to see if we could discuss price over the phone. They said absolutely not; that’s not how they do business. They assured us that we would not be disappointed with the price if we made the trip. We said we’d make the trip the next day. We did not. They called us to check in. We again reiterated how we did not want to waste a half of a day driving if we weren’t going to get the price we wanted. They asked what our price was. We told them. They said they’d give us a call back. When they called back they explained the pricing structure (what they paid, how much they need to profit on each unit, etc.) and offered their very best price – the absolute lowest they could go. As it was just a sliver under 20 percent off the MSRP, we accepted! We drove up the next day to take a look at our new Airstream and take care of the paperwork. The dealer we worked with said that was the best discount he’s ever seen on a trailer! (Of course, he might say that to everyone.)

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Coming soon….choosing optional features for the Airstream and deciding on what truck to buy.