Hi sprinter209. I am a long time CA resident who is in the middle of building a new (retirement) home in WA. I haven't lived there yet (we hope to move in July) so I regret that I cannot help you with your first questions. I do know that you only register the vehicle in the state where you live. I will move to WA well before my SMB is completed. I will come back to Fresno, sign sale papers and pay them, take the vehicle to WA and register/get plates in WA. We will owe no tax of any kind to CA; neither will you. I am not versed regarding WA law insofar as cargo van vs. motorhome. My GUESS is that it is illegal not to notify the DMV and to have the vehicle re-registered as a motorhome. If you finance it and title it as a motorhome, I am pretty sure you can write off the interest on your federal taxes by stating that it is a second home. I also GUESS that you cannot insure it for anywhere near its full value if you tell the insurance co. that it is just a utility van. And because you pretty much have to tell the insurance company, I again GUESS you and/or they have to notify the DMV that it is insured as a motorhome.
I do know a LOT of motorhome owners (from states that are not MT or HI) create an LLC (limited liability corporation) in Montana. Lawyers there will do it for you for a couple hundred dollars and they register the motorhome as a second home that you live in when you need to do "business" in Montana. Supposedly the motorhome is a legal expense for doing "business" there and the registration you owe yearly thereafter with the MT DMV is something like $40/year. CA has become more aggressive in cracking down on people who live here and do that. I do not know how vigorously WA would go after you if say you got a ticket in WA while driving with MT plates and they discover your primary residence is in WA.
I think there may be a thread or two on the Tiger forum and on Expedition Portal. Also you can enter "LLC Montana motorhome-registration" under "all these words" in a Google search and find more info. You'll probably get links to lawyers who will handle everything for you for the fees I stated above. You just download their documents, fill it all out, include a check, mail it to them, and they go do it all for you, including mailing the plates back to you. I think people who get caught and can't prove having a MT business have to re-register the vehicle in home states (depending on how zealous that state is) and may pay a small fine, but I have never heard of anybody being prosecuted. I am not going to do this, but I know there are many thousands who do.
Sorry I can't answer the first ??s, but I hope this other stuff helps you some.
hi tomh - i'm reaching out to you and a couple other "senior members" to see if you can advise me where to address this topic:
i'm a washington resident buying 2017 sprinter from smb west. i want to register and plate in washington. but i'm ignorant of how washington calculates its use tax (and don't trust the over-the-phone answer i may get by calling some random worker).
my question: will i pay less in use tax if i register/plate as a cargo van than i would after smb upfits into rv? relatedly, i'm wondering how other washingtonians dealt with transit from fresno to washington state, and subsequent registration. (does smb provide a temporary trip permit?)
thanks for any help you might be able to provide. -