The question of Mail Forwarding for RVers is one of the most common ones we get from people hoping to go full time or planning long RV trips away from their sticks and bricks home.
We talked to Amber Hobert, the President of Dakota Post, one of the largest of the various mail forwarding companies that service RVers.
We also talk about when it makes sense for RVers to declare residency in South Dakota and also registering their vehicle in South Dakota. It’s an interesting conversation,
What to do with mail is a question we are asked about a lot by RVers planning to go fulltime or to be on extended trips away from home.
Others want to know about the tax benefits of registering their RV in South Dakota or even declaring South Dakota as their residency.
Here's the full transcript of our interview with Amber Hobert.
Mike Wendland: Amber, thank you very much for making time out of your schedule to join us and talk about mail forwarding. How are you today?
Amber Hobert: I'm doing very well. How about yourself?
Mail Forwarding Services for RVers
Mike Wendland: We're doing excellent. Let's talk a little bit about Dakota Post. I have used your service and there's a number of other ones out there, I know.
This has become a very important concern for people as they embrace the full time RV lifestyle. Exactly how does it work and when should one consider signing up with a mail forwarder if you're a full time RVer?
Amber Hobert: Even if you're a snowbird, you can still sign up for service with us. We have short term and long term policies for both.
A good portion of our customers though are full time in the RV traveling world and so as you can imagine, your mail doesn't stop coming to you just because you no longer have a home.
We make sure that we can get the mail in here and then find you wherever you are to get your mail back out to you.
Mike Wendland: Now, how do you get that mail back out to somebody who is on the road? They may be in Montana this week, Idaho next week, down to Utah, and then Arizona. How does one get their mail that way?
How do you get your mail when you are on the move all the time?
Amber Hobert: Yeah. We have a couple of different options. We have some of our customers that just do traditional mail. They put in a forward of their address to here, so we would receive their mail in and then they pick the option of how frequently they want to get their mail.
Whether it's once a week, once a month, twice a month, and then at that time they know that their contract is for the 16th of the month. So they know 16th of the month, right before that they need to let us know where they're at. They can go onto the website, they can enter in their information, they can give us a call.
And then that way we make sure that we're sending it out to the correct location because as you said, we have people who are traveling to a different state, different location all the time.
Mike Wendland: Now there are-
Amber Hobert: The other option-
Mike Wendland: Yeah, I was going to go to the other option. In fact, when we used the service, we were gone pretty much half the year and I really got hooked on being able to look at my mail online. Explain how that works. I can't do it justice cause you guys do it all the time, but I just thought it was magic. It was pretty cool.
A Virtual Mailbox for your Forwarded Mail gives you access from the road
Amber Hobert: Yeah. That's the other option is to have a virtual mailbox. That is by and far one of our most popular plans.
Essentially your mail comes in here, we go ahead, we scan it into a portal. You have an individual login that you go to our website, you put in your own credentials, and then you can see everything that's been scanned into your mailbox that day.
From there, you can go ahead and tell us, “Don't do anything with it,” which means we're going to put it in your box. “Shred it” if it's junk mail that you don't want. Or you can ask us to open it and scan the contents to you.
Maybe it's your credit card bill and you want to see all your charges to make sure that you're paying the right amount and that everything looks okay, then we open up, we scan that to you, and then that information, we just have to back an envelope, put it back in your box.
For the virtual mail customers, they let us know whenever they want their mail. A lot of customers that are virtual, they don't get their mail for over a year because they have everything that they need out of it, so they don't want the extra paper. In an RV, obviously your space is limited, so that's important too.
Mike Wendland: You say you look at a digital image of it and determine whether it's worth saving and whether it's not. I know at the time I used you guys, it was the first part of the year and of course I was getting all my tax forms coming in.
I was working with my accountant back in one state and we were in many different states, but it was so nice to get those in, and then I could take a scan of it, and just forward those electronic files right on, and I didn't have to go visit them in person.
Every now and then I'd have you deliver them and that wasn't too hard, I just would find a campground or where we were going to be and they would all show up.
Now there are some types of mail though that are not forwarded and could you talk about those that RVers need to be aware of? I'm thinking of perhaps like checks sometimes that are not allowed to be forwarded. What do you do then?
What about important financial papers and a mail forwarding service?
Amber Hobert: We still receive a lot of checks in here. It's not something we run into a lot where we have run into, and other people just running into difficulties with, sometimes with financial institutions. That do have a personal mailbox number, they perceive that to be a P.O. box.
And then of course depending on the sensitivity, then they're a little bit cautious that I don't want this just going to a P.O. box. Usually that's something that we work through with the vendor and we don't have a lot of trouble with that type of thing anymore.
Mike Wendland: Now are these things then that the RVer would arrange to have set up before they sign up for the service or in the middle of the service? Is that a pretty easy thing to work around?
Amber Hobert: It's pretty easy to work around. Usually it's just a matter of education to that vendor to say, “Okay, this is essentially where their mail comes. This is their touch point.”
We have it before people sign up, during, people that have been with us for a long time and then decide that maybe to have a new vendor that we work through that with them. But typically we can find ways to just educate them more than anything.
How should fulltime RVwers decide where to declare residency?
Mike Wendland: Now, mail forwarding, of course, is one of the more important things that those who are on the road a lot need to to deal with it, those snowbirds or full-timers. But another question that we get asked a lot, actually there's two of them that I'm going to run by, because I know you handle out of state residence, South Dakota residency, and vehicle registration.
Declaring South Dakota for residency by RVers
Let's start with residency. For a lot of our viewers who have sold their house, the full-timers who are going out on the road and maybe they're looking to be gone a year or two years, but they don't really have a sticks and bricks house. It makes sense, you got to have a residency somewhere. Tell us why South Dakota is so attractive to so many.
Amber Hobert: Well, a lot of it has to do with our tax base.
South Dakota has no state income tax
Here in South Dakota we don't have a state income tax, so essentially for people that means that your social security and then having a state tax come out of it, any kind of a pension isn't going to have additional state taxes coming out of it. And no personal property taxes here in South Dakota.
So it's very fortuitous when it comes to that for people to sign up here as far as, obviously if you're living on a fixed income, every little bit of that counts. And then along with the fact that we have lower vehicle insurance rates, our excise tax on the purchase of vehicles or RVs is relatively low compared to the rest of the nation. So that's kind of what makes South Dakota kind of unique in that aspect.
Fulltime RVers can register their RVs in South Dakota
Mike Wendland: You can register your vehicle, I think. What are the requirements of that? Do you need to be on the road, not in one location a certain length of time? What do you have to do to register a vehicle in South Dakota because boy, those license fees can be pretty expensive in many states.
And of course, if you buy one, the sales taxes, as you mentioned earlier. What about registering a vehicle? When does that make sense?
Amber Hobert: You have to register your vehicle here, you just need to be a South Dakota resident. We help you get that set up and get plates. Then from there, we do have a couple ladies in house here that just work strictly with vehicle registration to make sure that you have all the documents that you need.
And then they work directly with the County Treasurer's office in order to obtain those plates or tags for you depending on if you're licensing for a first time or if you're a renewal.
So they work with that just to make sure, because every state is different, so it can be kind of a difficult if you're coming from a different state trying to figure out what to do here for the first time.
Mail forwarding for RVers makes sense
Mike Wendland: So the the answer of staying connected with mail is not as difficult as many think when they start dreaming about hitting the road. I get this question all the time from people saying, “I'm not going to be able to get my mail and what do I do then?”
So the mail forwarding services are good. What do they start at? Let's go back to that for a minute. What does mail forwarding, how much does that cost somebody?
Amber Hobert: The mail reporting plans for the year start at $144 and then they go up to $228, which is our virtual mail.
Mike Wendland: Okay. So the $144 is $12 a month and that would have it forwarded to you physically, but-
Amber Hobert: Correct.
Mike Wendland: For the $228 you can log on anytime, see how it mailed you, have accumulated, whether you want it forwarded, or shredded, or whatever the case may be. It's not a bad return.
It's not as expensive as many people, I think, thought and it's so convenient. Last question I want to ask you, Amber, is how do you do this? How does somebody begin this procedure and tell them how they can get ahold of you at Dakota Post.
Amber Hobert: Oh, sure. You can certainly go on the website and you can kind of research the plans if you're kind of a self starter. If not, you can always give us a call here in the office and we're happy to go through each of the plans and what they consist of.
Our number here is a toll free number that we have, which is 1-800-477-2664. Or you can go on to our website which is dakotapost.net and you'll find all that same information there as well.
Mike Wendland: Well, I'll put links to those in the shownotes for all of this. So a number of services, vehicle registration, South Dakota residency if you are truly a full timer, and mail forwarding, whether you're a snowbird, and this is the time of year many are thinking about escaping the cold of winter and all of that.
How do you get your mail? Well, we just solved that for you. Amber from Dakota Post, thank you so much for making time for us and helping our audience understand how they can get their mail on the road.
Amber Hobert: Absolutely. It's our pleasure.
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