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Out-of-State RV Registration: Is It Possible and Does It Save On Taxes?

If you plan to take your RV on the open road, you’ll need to register it. Depending on where you live, this could be costly. If you’re asking yourself, “Can I register my RV in another state?” to try and save money, we have the answer.

Today, we’re looking at the costs of RV registration and if there are any loopholes to save on taxes.

Let’s get started!

RV Registration Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars In Sales Tax

First of all can you buy an RV in a different state than where you live? Yes! And we wrote an article all about it. Can you register it elsewhere? Usually not, but there is some grey area.

Luckily, if you purchase your RV through a dealership, they’ll often assist you. However, they’ll typically only help if you live in the state where you’re buying the RV. Unfortunately, if you’re a resident of another state or going through a private sale, you must do this yourself.

HaylettRV.com - Josh the RV Nerd & How Taxes Work for Out of State Buyers

Can You Register Your RV in Another State to Get Around Taxes and Fees?

Most states require you to be a resident to register your RV there. However, you can find some that allow it under particular circumstances. To register your vehicle in another state to get around taxes and fees, you must ensure you’re eligible. If you meet the eligibility requirements for the state, it’s possible. If you don’t, you should think twice about it.

Another workaround is registering the vehicle in a business name elsewhere. This is common practice in Montana, and many businesses dedicate themselves to helping people do this. This may be a bit of a grey area, or it might be completely illegal, depending on your circumstances.

Pro Tip: Learn the ins and outs of truck camper licensing and registration.

can i register my rv in another state
Vehicle registration fraud is a serious offense, so be sure to know which state you’re eligible to register your RV.

Can You Get in Trouble for Registering Your RV in Another State?

Registering your RV in another state without being eligible is illegal. Officials usually charge those who do this with “vehicle registration fraud.” Depending on the situation, you could receive a misdemeanor or felony charge.

You commit this crime when you give false or fictitious information when registering a vehicle, including an RV. To avoid committing this crime, you must confirm your eligibility to register in a specific state.

Many RVers will change their domicile and become residents of states friendlier with taxes, registration, and other policies. However, some of these states have strict requirements that you must meet. You may need to spend time in the state yearly or return occasionally.

Do You Have to Register an RV By Law?

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about registering an RV. The requirements vary by state and often significantly depend on the type and size of the trailer. Most states require you to register motorized and towable RVs. However, the rules are different for each state.

For example, 41 states don’t require registering a truck camper. The nine states you must register are Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington. If you live in these states and don’t register, it could land you in serious trouble.

If you own your RV outright and don’t plan to move it off your property, you may not have to register it. However, the second it goes onto a road or highway, it would be illegal. Without a registration, you may have trouble acquiring insurance coverage. 

new travel trailers
Do your research on RV registration and taxes before heading to the dealership.

Lifetime vs. Annual RV Registration

For most RV owners, RV registration is an annual fee that they’ll have to pay. Unfortunately, when your registration expires will depend on the state. It could be based on your birthday, last name, or when you initially registered your vehicle. However, you’ll get a notice in the mail yearly, and you’ll have to pay the fee to stay legal.

There are select states, like Montana, Alaska and Michigan, that offer permanent tags for trailers. These often come with a more expensive upfront cost, but you won’t have to pay annual fees when you register an RV in that state. It won’t exempt you from state inspection or other requirements, but your registration will be valid for life. If you’re planning to own the trailer for its life, this is one option to consider.

Watch Out for “Luxury Taxes” and Use Taxes on RVs

As if RVing wasn’t expensive enough, some states place “luxury taxes” and “use taxes” on RVs. A luxury tax is an additional tax on items above a specific value. Depending on the cost of your RV, this could add a considerable amount of money. 

For example, New Jersey has a 0.4% tax on vehicles that cost $45,000 or more. This means you’ll pay an extra $200 in taxes on a $50,000 vehicle. Some states charge this tax every year and the costs can really add up.

Additionally, you must remember to consider use taxes for RVs. These are often taxes that officials impose on purchases you make out-of-state and bring back into the state to use. 

If you plan to purchase an RV out of state, check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or local tax authority. You want to avoid surprises or a massive tax bill. Doing a little work on the front end of the transaction can save you trouble.

Pro Tip: We took a closer look at RV Registration: How, Why and How Much Does It Cost to help make the process easier for you.

buying a new travel trailer
Some states have higher RV registration fees and sales tax than other states.

What State Is Worst to Register an RV?

Its hard to determine which state is the worst because of all the different rules. Some states with yearly luxury or personal property taxes will be far worse over time than those without. As for upfront costs California is one of the most expensive. In some parts, you could pay roughly 10% in sales tax. If you’re considering moving to a new state while RVing, this likely isn’t the cheapest option.

We used California’s DMV online tools to figure out the cost to register a 2023 trailer that cost $50,000. The total for registration was $5,731. Of that amount, $5,125 was taxes, and $606 was registration fees. However, there are much more economical options.

What State Is Best to Register an RV?

The cheapest state to buy and register an RV is Montana. This state does not have a state sales tax, and only three of its 56 counties have a local sales tax. Unfortunately, registering a vehicle in Montana requires you to be a state resident. You can purchase the vehicle, but you must be ready to pay your tax bill in your home state during registration.

Some people will create an LLC and incorporate it in Montana. Typically, this costs a few hundred bucks to set up, and you can then register your RV under your LLC. From there, you’ll only have to pay approximately $70 yearly to maintain your Montana-based LLC.

While this may work, it’s not the answer for everyone. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could land in serious trouble. We recommend talking to a tax and business advisor before making this decision. If the government discovers you’re doing something sketchy, they will come knocking.

Pro Tip: If you’re full-time RVing, know which states are best to domicile. Also, learn how to domicile in Florida, South Dakota, or Texas.

Stay On the Right Side of the Law with Your RV Registration

Part of being an RV owner is knowing and following the law for your RV’s registration. Trying to skirt the rules or save a few bucks in taxes can lead to trouble. When in doubt, seek professional assistance to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. You don’t want to find yourself in the slammer for violating the law.

Are you familiar with the regulations for buying an RV in your state?

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Erik B

Thursday 7th of December 2023

We live in AZ. The travel trailer model I wanted was not in stock in AZ, and the nearest one I could find was in CA. The dealer first suggested some kind of temporary CA registration in CA for a third party to drive it to the border. Then they said I would come out ahead by getting my permanent registration in CA, which would be the only registration I would need for a year. I did this. As soon as I got back home, I called the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles and asked. The DMV confirmed that there was no need to register the travel trailer in AZ as long as it was registered in CA. (For a drivable RV different rules would apply.) I had paid the high CA tax, but the AZ tax is almost as high. When the anniversary came, CA sent me a request to renew registration. I then again called the AZ DMV. They said I can keep the registration in CA if I wish. It turns out the registration in CA was considerably cheaper in CA than in AZ, so that is what I did. The AZ registration cost in AZ goes down year by year according to a fixed schedule, corresponding to assumed depreciation. I don't know how registration in CA changes year by year. For now, I am happy, but at each anniversary I intend to compare the cost of re-registering in CA vs. changing to AZ.