RV Living: Do You Need A Commercial Driver’s License For It?


Purchasing an RV can be an exhilarating experience. You can’t wait to pack up your stuff, make it your home, jump in the driver’s seat, and travel to your heart’s content. However, an RV is still a vehicle–and a big one at that–and it’s still subjected to laws governing vehicles in your country and/or state. Before you hop on the adventure of your life, you need to cover your legal fronts first– your driver’s license, first of all.

Do you need a commercial driver’s license to drive your RV? In most cases, you do not need a commercial driver’s license. However, it depends on the weight of your RV and in what state you are in. You may also need special endorsements in addition to or instead of a commercial license, depending on where you are.

Read on and I will tell you what the different kinds of driver’s licenses you may need for specific situations, as well as how to apply for a commercial driver’s license if you need one. I also have a list of license requirements per state, so you can check what licenses and endorsements you need to apply for according to your area.

Commercial Driver’s Licenses for RV Owners

A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a special driver’s license that is used to regulate and monitor certain kinds of vehicles through classifications set by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The classifications are usually based on the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating or (GVWR), as well as what kind of materials or the number of individuals being transported in said vehicles.

Image source: itd.idaho.gov

There are three major vehicle CDL types: Type A, B, and C. However, depending on the state, there may be licenses or endorsements you need to get in addition to or instead of a Class A, B, or C CDL.

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is applicable for a combination of vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs. You may need one if you use your RV to tow another vehicle, or if you own a truck and trailer combination altogether weighing more than 26,000 lbs.

Class B CDL

A Class B CDL is for a single vehicle that has a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or heavier. It also applies to vehicles that have a GVWR of over 26,000 lbs that is towing another vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. This can apply to larger RVs or large bus conversions.

Class C CDL

You will need a Class C CDL if none of the above criteria applies to your vehicle and if your vehicle is meant to transport hazardous materials or HAZMAT (which would be very rare), or if you mean to transport 16 passengers or more inside your motor home (which is also very rare).

How Do You Get A Commercial Driver’s License?

In order to get a commercial driver’s license, you first need to be at least 18 to 21 years old. In some states, you can get a commercial driver’s license at 18, but you can only drive within your state. If you are over 21, these restrictions would not apply.

Application requirements sometimes differ from state to state, so you will need to inquire at your state Department of Motor Vehicles regarding the application process and requirements. Some states allow you to print out your own application forms from their website, while some require you to fill out these application forms in person.

Common application requirements would be some valid identification, proof of US citizenship, and proof of state residency. Other states also require a medical and visual examination. You will also need to pay some fees. Some areas require the full amount upfront, while in others you can pay at the end of the process. The cost varies from state to state, but they usually cost around $25-$50 more or less depending on the vehicle.

Next, you need to study your state’s CDL manual. Some states have it available for online download, while for others, you may need to grab a copy at your local DMV. You will need to study it well, since a commercial driver’s license application involves a written examination. You can consult practice questions and tests that are available online, but make sure that you don’t just memorize the answers. You need to familiarize the concepts and principles of driving with a CDL because questions may vary from online tests or even previous CDL exams.

After submitting your application form and requirements, you will take the written commercial driver’s examination. When you pass your exam, you will be issued a learner’s permit. If you don’t, ask your local DMV how you could retake the test. You may need to pay additional fees. In some areas, you will be required to accomplish a training course before assessing your skills and giving you your CDL.

After a few weeks of practicing on your vehicle and finishing any required training, you will need to schedule your skills and driving examination using your own vehicle. When you pass this final exam, you are ready to receive your commercial driver’s license.

Does Your RV Need A Commercial Driver’s License?

Class A RV

Class A RVs are the biggest of single-unit motor homes, and although some varieties may be safe from CDL guidelines, they can weigh from 16,000 to 30,000 lbs. If you are driving a Class A RV or are planning to get one, make sure to take note of the weight of your RV, because if it weighs over 26,000 lbs, you will need a commercial driver’s license to drive it, especially across state lines.

Class B RV

For someone who wants a more compact yet comfortable camper, a Class B RV may be for you. Class B RVs do not need a commercial driver’s license, since they typically weigh around 4,000 to 14,000 lbs, which is pretty far from the 26,000 lbs minimum requirement for a commercial driver’s license.

Class C RV

“Class C RV” by iatravelerOpens in a new tab. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Opens in a new tab.

Class C RVs are quite popular among RVers, since they get pretty close to the space and comforts that Class A RVs give you, while being more compact and lightweight. In most cases, you will not need a CDL for a Class C RV. Class C RVs can weigh from 12,000 to 20,000 lbs, which can get pretty close to the CDL minimum, but not quite get there. However, you may need a CDL if you are planning to tow a trailer or another vehicle to your Class C RV, since CDLs also take into account combined weights of a pull vehicle and their towed vehicle.

Fifth Wheel

Most fifth wheels can be lightweight depending on the size and the material, but they can weigh up to 20,000 lbs, which gets pretty close to the 26,000 lbs minimum requirement for a commercial driver’s license. You also need to take into account the weight of your pull vehicle–this can be a truck, a van, or a car that you use to drive around with your trailer–and if their combined weight exceeds 26,000 lbs, you may need to apply for a commercial driver’s license.

Van

When it comes to weight restrictions, vans are probably the safest of all of your motor home options. If you are driving a van alone, you will not need to get a commercial driver’s license. Vans usually weigh less than 10,000 lbs, giving you lots of leeway. They weigh far, far below the 26,000 lbs minimum for you to be required a commercial driver’s license.

What States Require A Special Or Commercial Driver’s License To Drive An RV?

Aside from the Class A, B, and C license requirements we outlined above, some states may also require special licenses or endorsements specific for campers or motor homes. We have a concise list of states with license requirements, but it is best to consult your local Department of Motor Vehicles or visit your state DMV website to know the specifics of driving an RV in your state.

Here Is The List Of States:

STATESPECIAL LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
ArkansasCDL for vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs
CaliforniaClass B license for vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs or have a length of over 40 ft  
Class A license to tow anything more than 10,000 lbs
ConnecticutClass B CDL to drive single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.
Class A CDL for vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
HawaiiClass B CDL to drive single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.  
Class A CDL for vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 pounds.
KansasClass B CDL to drive single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.  
Class A CDL for vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
MarylandClass B license for vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.
MichiganSpecial recreational double R endorsement for drivers towing a fifth wheel plus a trailer at the same time.
NevadaClass B license for single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.
Class A license for vehicles with a  combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.  
Special J endorsement for drivers towing a vehicle that is more than 10,000 lbs 
New MexicoClass B CDL to drive single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.  
Class A CDL for vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
North CarolinaClass B license for single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.
Class A license for vehicles with a  combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
PennsylvaniaClass B license for single vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.
Class A license for vehicles with a  combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
South CarolinaClass E license for single vehicles over 26,000 lbs.  
Class F license for vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
TexasClass B license to drive a single vehicle over 26,000 lbs.
Class A license to drive vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 lbs.
WisconsinCDL for vehicles longer than 45 feet.
WyomingClass B license to drive a single vehicle over 26,000 lbs or to tow anything less than 10,000 lbs.  
Class A license to drive vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 lbs or to tow anything over 10,000 lbs.

Conclusion

If you don’t have an RV yet, this may be a major thing you should look into when choosing what kind of motor home to purchase. Part of driving an RV and living independently is dealing with a bit of bureaucracy here and there. However, after you get your special license (if you need one) you are ready to go and have the adventure of your life!

Ash

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