A Guide to the Different Types of Driver’s Licenses

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Family on an RV vacation after getting the right types of licenses

What types of licenses do you need to drive an RV, a large truck, or a motorcycle? In the US, there are many different types of driver’s licenses, each required for different classes of vehicles. Whether you are a recreational vehicle owner or a commercial fleet manager, it’s important to understand the types of licenses and how they might relate to the vehicles you plan to drive.

Whether you plan to drive your personal car, a truck, or a business vehicle, you’ll need to be in possession of a Class D license. However, particularly large, heavy, or difficult-to-drive vehicles may require additional licensure to operate.

License Rules Vary by State

As we go into the general categories of different types of licenses, it’s also important to remember that license laws can vary by state. Before making your plans, be sure to read up on local laws in your state and in each state you will travel through. Research the type of license you will need based on a vehicle’s size, weight, and combined towing weight.

You can usually find specific information regarding types of licenses on the DMV website for each state.

Standard Driver’s Licenses

First, let’s look at residential driver’s licenses. These are licenses necessary to drive cars, trucks, and motorcycles that are typically used by individuals, families, and non-freight businesses. Standard driver’s licenses include Class D, Class M, and Junior DJ and MJ licenses.

Cars and Trucks: Class D License

Most vehicles require a Class D Driver’s License. This license includes all vehicles that would be classified as “cars,” including sedans, compacts, hatchbacks, etc. Most vehicles classified as “trucks” also fall into this category, including pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and cargo vans. In general, if it fits in a normal parking space, then it likely only requires a standard Class D License.

Motorcycles: Class M License

To drive a motorcycle, you will need a Class M License. This certifies that you know how to handle a high-speed motorized two-wheel or three-wheeled vehicle. In many states, you can receive a Class M License a year earlier, at age 16 rather than 17, without needing a learner’s permit.

Junior Drivers: Class DJ and MJ Licenses

Some states require teen drivers to carry a Junior driver’s license. It comes with a few additional safety restrictions, such as curfew and number of passengers. Junior licenses are classified as Class DJ or Class MJ, depending on whether the teen is driving a car or motorcycle. Generally, a teen can have a learner’s permit at 15 1/2, earn their Junior license at 16, and carry the junior license until 17 or 18, depending on the state.

Commercial Drivers Licenses

Professional truck driver with a CDL and other types of licenses

In order to drive large, heavy, and multi-axle vehicles, a driver may be required to carry a commercial-class driver’s license. Commercial driver’s licenses are called CDLs in common notation. CDLs include classes A, B, C, and E, along with a list of endorsements that certify that the driver has additional skills for certain types of vehicles or cargo.

26K lbs with Trailer: Class A License

A Class A CDL allows the driver to operate large vehicles and tow even larger trailers. Vehicles can weigh up to 26,000 lbs, and towed cargo can weigh up to 10,000 lbs. 18-wheelers, livestock carriers, and large RVs all fall under this category, including RVs towing additional vehicles or trailers called “toads.” A Class A CDL holder is typically also cleared to drive Class B and C vehicles with the appropriate endorsements.

26K+ Vehicles No Trailer: Class B License

A Class B CDL is necessary to operate any vehicle that, unhitched, weighs more than 26,000 lbs. This includes Class A RVs, city buses, dump trucks, and large box trucks. A Class B license holder can also operate some Class C vehicles, provided they have the right endorsements.

Endorsements are special certifications indicating greater driving skills on different types of licenses, as well as greater responsibility. We will go through the endorsements a little further on.

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Human or Hazardous Cargo: Class C License

A Class C CDL allows the driver to operate a vehicle carrying hazardous material or more than 15 passengers. For example, states require a Class C license to drive most types of buses.

Taxi and Livery: Class E License

Driving a for-hire vehicle, such as a taxi or town car service, requires a special license that indicates additional training and responsibility. A Class E license is required to drive a taxi, drive for a livery service, or operate a rideshare vehicle like Uber or Lyft.

Commercial License Endorsements

Special endorsements for these types of licenses include:

  • H – Hazardous: Licensed to transport hazardous materials. (Requires a written test)
  • N – Tank: Licensed to operate vehicles with a tank for liquid or gas. (Requires a written test)
  • P – Passenger: Licensed to transport 15+ human passengers. (Requires a written test)
  • S – School Bus: Licensed to operate a school bus. (Requires a P endorsement, written test, additional fees, and a background check)
  • T – Towing: Licensed to tow double and triple trailers. (Requires a written test)
  • X – Hazardous Liquids: Combination of H and N endorsements for transporting hazardous liquids or gasses. (Requires a written test)

The Benefits of Carrying a CDL

If you secure a Class A or B CDL, you can drive any large vehicle weighing up to 26,000 lbs with a trailer (Class A) or over 26,000 lbs without a trailer (Class B). Of all the different types of licenses, a CDL provides a far greater diversity of driving opportunities compared to a standard Class D driver’s license. You can drive Class A recreational vehicles, which are the largest vehicles, or tow a boat. You can also take commercial driving jobs, should this interest you.

Many people hold both a Class D license and a CDL (A or B). This way, they do not have to worry about driving any size of vehicle or trailer.

Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

You might need special types of licenses to drive an RV.

Before buying or driving an RV, it’s important to check the driver’s license you need to operate the vehicle. You will need to check the laws in your state, your destination state, and any states you will drive through.

  • Most RVs only require a Class D (normal) driver’s license to operate.
  • However, RVs that are greater than 26,000 lbs and/or longer than 40 feet may require a Class B CDL.
  • If you want to tow with your RV and the total weight is greater than 26,000 lbs, you may need a Class A CDL.

Do I Need a Special Driver’s License to Tow a Boat?

If you plan to tow a boat, especially if you want to tow a boat behind an RV, it is advised that you secure a Class A Driver’s License.

What About the Different RV Driver’s License Laws in Each State?

Driver’s licenses are respected across state lines. If you are worried about being licensed for an interstate trip, get the driver’s license class that provides what you need in all the states where you will travel.

How Do I Get a Special RV Driver’s License?

To drive an extra-large RV or tow an RV with a large trailer, you may need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) of Class A or B. You can get the training and testing necessary to receive your RV driver’s license at a commercial driving school. You can find a commercial driving school in almost every city, and many trucking companies offer commercial driver training as an extension of their internal driver training programs.

As a bonus, you will be able to get a truck driving job with your CDL at any time after being licensed to drive your RV.

Planning for RV Storage

In addition to a special driver’s license, extra-large RVs also require special planning for parking and storage. You will need to plan to camp in locations with RV parking and to fuel up at truck stops where other commercial license holders can operate their large vehicles. However, you can also find welcoming RV storage through a peer-to-peer marketplace like Neighbor.

This can allow you to store your RV for the off-season without having RV parking on your personal property. You can find RV storage opportunities in your community or even in your favorite location to set out from.

While some RVs require a special license to drive, all RVs need proper storage. Neighbor, a self-storage marketplace, provides places to safely store all types of RVs for a budget-friendly price.

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