Most RVers don’t have to meet special RV driver's license requirements. However, there are exceptions depending on your state and how big your RV is…
Some would think that driving RVs, especially large Class A coaches, requires a special license. In most cases, that's not the case.
However, there are some states that do have special RV driver's license requirements. These requirements depend on the weight and sometimes the length of the RV.
So, which states have special RV driver's license requirements and which don’t?
We had this question come up in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group, so I thought it’d be good to dig deeper into different states’ laws. Here’s what I learned…
(Note: State laws, rules, and regulations are subject to change. We highly recommend that you check with your local DMV to confirm the details below before buying, renting or driving any RV.)
Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?
A new RV owner, Clark, asked the following question in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group:
“…The question I have do other states require the same class B as they do in Nevada if you are driving a coach over a certain weight with airbrakes?…”
Our RV community was happy to help, with well over 500 comments! Many people answered with their resident state’s laws, and others offered input on learning airbrakes. Plus, some introduced Clark to the idea of registering your RV in a different state than you live.
The responses were helpful overall, but I figured it’d be great to consolidate more information into this article.
The Simple Answer
Most RV owners do not need a special license, no matter what state they live in. As long as your RV weighs less than 26,000 pounds, you do not need a special license in any state. That covers the majority of RVs.
To put it in perspective, here are the average weights of the different RVs:
- Travel Trailer: avg. 3,000-5,000 pounds
- Class B: avg. 6,000-10,000 pounds
- Class C: avg. 10,000-12,000 pounds
- 5th WheeL: avg. 12,000-15,000 pounds
- Class A: anywhere from 13,000-30,000 pounds
To be more specific by what I mean by RV weight, I mean the GVWR or GCWR. You don't need a special license or endorsement if the GVWR or GCWR is 26,000 pounds or less.
What Is GVWR vs. GCWR?
The GVWR is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. It’s the total weight (including the vehicle, passengers, and cargo) that a vehicle can safely handle, according to the vehicle’s manufacturer.
The GCWR is the Gross Combination Weight Rating. It’s the measurement used for combined vehicles (like a truck towing a travel trailer). It includes the combined weight of the vehicle, trailer, passengers, and cargo.
Wisconsin and California have special circumstances for length, too.
If your RV is longer than 45 feet in Wisconsin, you need a CDL. If your RV is longer than 40 feet in California (&/or over 26,000 lbs), you need a Class B license.
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Types of Special RV Driver's License Requirements
The states that do have some sort of special requirements require either a CDL, a special noncommercial driver’s license, or an endorsement.
Commercial Driver’s License
Some states require you to have the same driver's license as semi-truck drivers (CDL) if your RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds. A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a driver’s license required to operate large, heavy, or hazardous material vehicles in the U.S.
Not very many states require this and, again, it’s only if you’re vehicle weighs more than 26,000 pounds.
Wisconsin is an unusual case where they require a CDL not dependent on weight but if your RV is over 45 feet long.
Special Non-Commercial Driver's License
Your standard driver’s license is a non-commercial driver's license. However, some states require a special “class” of non-commercial driver's license for RVs. It’s similar to how some states require you to have a special class license to drive motorcycles.
These special Non-CDLs are usually called Class A, Class B, Class E, or Class F depending on the state.
To get a special Non-CDL, you typically have to pay an application fee and pass either a written or driver’s test (or both).
A license endorsement adds certain driving privileges to your standard driver’s license. The endorsement appears on the driver’s license itself (often a sticker).
Additional testing, application fees, etc. may be required to get an endorsement in the states that require it.
States That Have Special RV Driver's License Requirements
Brace yourself to be annoyed with me because I’m not going to list which states require special licenses. Why? Because the information available online is wildly inconsistent.
Even trusted websites have conflicting information. Plus, the DMV sites themselves have confusing or non-existent information.
I could list the states that most sources agree on, but I think that’s irresponsible of me. I could contact every state’s DMV, but that would be inefficient of me.
The best thing I can do for you is to recommend you contact your local DMV directly.
Remember, you only need to do this IF your RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds. And, in the case of California and Wisconsin, if your RV is over 40 or 45 feet, respectively.
What If Your State Doesn’t Require a Special License but a State You’re Visiting Does?
You may be familiar with your state’s laws, but what about the states you plan to visit in your RV? Do you need a special license to drive your RV into states that do have special RV license requirements?
The answer is no, you do not need a special license to drive in another state if your state does not require it. Requirements for driver’s licenses are based on the driver’s home state of record, not where they’re driving.
So, as long as you have the correct license for your state of residence, you can legally drive anywhere in the United States and Canada.
Jen Goes to Driving School!
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Speaking of driver's license, Jenifer goes to driving school to learn how to drive our new 5th wheel. Actually, we both learn how! Check out the video to see how we did.
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