One of the most common questions we get asked by RV-curios folks is “do you need a special license to drive an RV?” While each state has its own set of rules and requirements when it comes to motorhomes and trailers, by and large, you don’t need a special license to drive an RV. This being said, there are some exceptions, so it’s a good idea to inform yourself about different types of RVs and licenses before riding off into your next adventure.
RV Drivers License Requirements
Because the selection of RVs out there is so broad, it’s difficult to give you a blanket answer for each particular brand or class of RV. So instead, we’ll work with the weight of your vehicle.
The first thing you need to know is that if your RV is under 26,000 pounds, you can drive it with a regular drivers license in any state. But there’s a bit of a catch: if you have a trailer, some states will consider the combined weight of your vehicle and your trailer to make up the 26,000 pounds.
For some context, let’s look at the average weight of three main groups of RVs:
- Class A: The Class A RV is by far the largest and is usually associated with luxury features. These vehicles range from 13,000 to 30,000 pounds. Since they are the heaviest RVs, a Class A motorhome license will probably be the only one you need to be concerned about.
- Class B: The Class B RV is the smallest and most streamlined RV. These vehicles range from 4,000 to 14,000 pounds, so all you need is a standard or commercial driver’s license.
- Class C: The Class C RV is a middle-tier RV. These range from 10,000 to 12,000 pounds, so in that sense, they’re similar to Class B – no special license required.
- Trailer RV: These vehicles are usually around 5,000 pounds, but as previously mentioned, you may have to combine this weight with the weight of your vehicle. Overall, you should have more than enough room to stay under 26,000 pounds.
As you can see, there is a fair amount of variety in RVs and you’ll need to look into the specifics of your particular class and model in order to know your own figures.
Do You Need a CDL to Drive an RV?
First things first: what is a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) anyway? This is another tricky question as each state has its own guidelines and terminology. Not every state will have the same idea of what a CDL is or should be. But in essence, this license relates to particularly large or heavy vehicles, such as trucks or buses. The ambiguous nature of these terms makes it difficult to discuss them. So, instead of getting into the nuances of CDLs, let’s look into the requirements of each state and any “special” driver’s license that may be relevant to RV drivers as of 2020.
States That Require a Special Non-Commercial Drivers License
- In North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC, in order to operate one vehicle above 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class B license. Similarly, in order to operate multiple vehicles above 26,000 pounds when joined, you will need a Class A license.
- In California, Maryland, and Texas, in order to operate a vehicle above 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class B non-commercial license.
- In Wyoming, in order to operate vehicles above 26,000 pounds and joined to vehicles above 10,000 pounds, you will need a Class A license. Similarly, in order to operate vehicles above 26,000 pounds and joined to vehicles under 10,000 pounds, you will need a Class B license.
- In Michigan, in order to operate multiple vehicles joined together, including a fifth-wheel and a trailer, you will need a recreational double ‘R’ endorsement, as well as your regular license.
States That Require a Special Commercial Drivers License
- In Connecticut and Hawaii, you need a CDL to operate vehicles above 26,000 pounds.
- In Indiana and Wisconsin, you need a CDL to operate vehicles above 45,000 pounds.
- In Kansas and Michigan, you need a CDL to operate a Class A above 26,000 pounds.
- In New York, you need a CDL to operate a Class B above 26,000 pounds.
- In South Carolina, you need a CDL for a Class B to operate one vehicle above 26,000 pounds. Similarly, you need a CDL for a Class A to operate multiple vehicles that weigh above 26,000
What About Cross Country Trips?
So, having looked through all this information, you’re probably a bit flustered and overwhelmed. That’s perfectly understandable, as there is a ton of information regarding RV license requirements out there, plus 50 states to consider across the country! But this may get you thinking: do you need to meet all these requirements if you want to drive across state borders during your trip?
The simple answer is no. States have a reciprocal agreement, meaning that your home state’s license (and the vehicles it applies to) will be respected in all the states you visit. Although all this information is listed out for you to read and learn, you only really need to know what your particular state guidelines are. So, if your state allows you to drive your RV without a special license, then congratulations, you’ve lucked out!
Conclusion: Planning Your Trip
Before you hop on your new RV and ride off into the sunset, it’s important that you look up the specifics of your own state. While this list is comprehensive and up to date as of 2020, these guidelines may change at any given moment. Nothing can ruin your trip faster than getting ticketed or stranded hundreds of miles away from your home state, so do your due diligence and learn all about the rules and requirements of your state. Depending on where you live, getting a special license may even be as simple as booking an appointment with your DMV.
If you’re still in the initial stages of planning, this information can also help you make important decisions. Is the luxury and comfort of driving a Class A RV worth the hassle of consistently staying on top of state regulations? Every situation and trip are different, but with these simple insights, you can make the decision that’s best for you and your potential travel companions!