Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV in 2023?

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Class C RV on Roadtrip

Have you ever dreamed of hitting the open road in an RV, exploring the country, and enjoying the freedom of the road? With van life on the rise and trendy RV campgrounds like AutoCamp, you’re getting more and more RV curious. But you have a lot of questions, and not just questions about buying an RV but driving one, too.

What are the licensing requirements for driving an RV in 2023?

Do you need a special license to drive an RV?

Do you have to get a CDL to drive an RV, or will a non-commercial license suffice?

Whether you’re an experienced RVer or just starting to consider this exciting lifestyle, understanding RV licensing requirements by state is essential.

Key Takeaways

  • No, you don’t need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to drive an RV under 26,000 lbs. or a travel trailer under 10,000 lbs. Of course, state laws can change, so it’s always best to double-check before hitting the open road. But generally, all you need is a valid driver’s license.
  • If your RV or trailer exceeds that weight limit, then you might need either a special license or an endorsement depending on the state.

What are the RV License Requirements?

                                                                    motorhome, camping, travel

Navigating the world of RV licensing can be confusing, with different requirements depending on the type and size of your recreational vehicle and what states you’re traveling through.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and RVs

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is necessary for vehicles over 26,000 pounds, while a non-commercial license is sufficient for smaller RVs. In some cases, a special permit or endorsement may be required for towing multiple vehicles or driving a fifth wheel.

Acquiring a commercial driver’s license ensures that you can drive anything and adhere to safety regulations. 

Because the vast majority of RVs and travel trailers weigh in at under 26,000 lbs and 10,000 lbs, obtaining a CDL for your RV isn’t necessary. Unless you’re driving a luxury bus or hauling big boy toys in your RV, you’re not going to exceed the weight limits.

But depending on your state, you may need a non-commercial CDL for class A RV that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, a trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, or a trailer that exceeds a certain length. For more details on the differences between a non-commercial CDL and a standard CDL, check out this resource.

Non-Commercial Licenses and RVs

A non-commercial driver’s license is typically all you need to drive an RV. However, some states require special non-commercial licenses before you’re legally allowed to operate an RV. Of those states that require a special license, most will ask for a non-commercial class A or B license.

RV Classes and Needs: A State-by-State Guide to RV Licensing Requirements

The primary RV classes are Class A, Class B, and Class C, with the main distinction between them being their size and weight. If you need help clarifying what RV classes there are, check this article out.

Whether you are considering a large Class A motorhome or a compact Class B camper van, knowing the licensing requirements can help you make an informed decision.

To assist you in navigating the world of RV licensing, we did the leg work for you and found the states that require a CDL or special license to drive an RV.

Keep in mind that licensing requirements can change over time, so it’s always a good idea to double-check with the state’s DMV for the most up-to-date information on license requirements. This guide serves as a starting point to help you to better understand the licensing requirements in your state and other states you may be traveling through.

If you own an RV that weighs more than 26,000 pounds when loaded, then check out these state’s special requirements.

  • Washington D.C. and Hawaii require a CDL to drive your RV.
  • Georgia and South Carolina require a class E or F license.
  • Kansas, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, and Maryland require a non-commercial A or B license.
  • New York requires an R endorsement on your license.

If your travel trailer weighs more than 10,000 pounds, then you need these states require special licenses:

  • California requires a non-commercial class A license.
  • Connecticut requires a class 2 license.
  • Nevada requires a J endorsement on your license.

And here are the other special license requirements…

  • Hawaii requires a class 4 license for travel trailers over 15,000 pounds.
  • Illinois requires a non-commercial class A, B, or C license for RVs weighing more than 16,000 pounds loaded.
  • Indiana and Wisconsin require a CDL for RVs longer than 45 feet.
  • In California, motorhomes over 40 feet require a non-commercial class B license, while a fifth wheel over 15,000 pounds requires a non-commercial class A license.
  • Michigan requires an R endorsement if you’re towing more than one trailer.

If your state is NOT listed here, that’s because they don’t require a special license to drive your RV or trailer. Hooray!

No, don’t celebrate yet. If you’re towing a trailer, you may need a special permit depending on its dimensions. So head on over to your DMV’s website to make sure you have the correct up-to-date information you need.

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Can I Tow Vehicles behind my RV with a Non-Commercial License?

Yes, you can tow vehicles behind an RV. Only Michigan has special licensing requirements for tandem towing, aka towing more than one trailer at a time.

But while you may not need a special license to tow behind your RV, your state may require an oversized permit if you exceed 32 ft.

How Do I Stay Compliant with RV License Regulations while Traveling?

The thing with permits, licensing, and endorsements is that the state can choose to update regulations at any time. So how can you be sure that you’re not going to get ticketed on your next road trip?

  1. Always check with your local DMV for up-to-date information on RV licensing requirements. Blogs are good guides, but if you want to be sure, go right to the source.
  2. Understand the weight and height limits for your RV class and your towing vehicles. This information guides you when choosing your route. Longer trailers and RVs may need to take alternate routes when traveling through mountains or tunnels.
  3. Check your trailer’s registration to be sure it’s up-to-date and easily accessible.

Now you can enjoy your road trip without checking your rear-view mirror for the flashing lights.

How to Obtain a Special License or CDL for RV Driving

What do you do if you do need a special license or CDL for RV driving? No worries, the process of getting a special license isn’t difficult.

Visit your DMV’s website to learn what tests — if any — you need to prepare for. Among the tests that may be required are a vision test, a written test, and a short road skills test. Make an appointment for your test, and just do your best.

Some states may not even require a special test, but you still want to give time for a new license to be issued before you leave on your trip.

While a CDL license can be expensive, a special driver’s license is usually less than $50.

Summary

If you’re thinking of buying an RV, don’t let special license requirements intimidate you. In most states and for most RVs and trailers, all you need is your regular driver’s license.

This is one of the first steps on your journey as an RV owner. And you’re going to have a lot more to figure out, like:

Wondering what it’s like to live in an RV full-time? Here’s some perspective to help you make an informed decision.

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