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“Sounds great… but do I need a special license to drive an RV?”
It’s one of the most common questions we hear when we’re telling people about the awesomeness that is this style of travel. And the good news is, in the majority of cases, no, you do not need a special license to drive an RV.
That said, there are some more specific RV license requirements to keep an eye on, depending on the total weight of the vehicle and the state you’re planning to drive it in. But don’t worry! We’ve got everything broken down in this post so you can hit the road without any second thoughts.
Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?
If you’re a licensed driver in any U.S. state, that plastic card you already have in your wallet is more than likely already enough license to drive an RV. That is -- so long as you’re looking to drive and rent an RV of a normal size.
Some states do have special licensing requirements for driving a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, and in other areas, you may need special licensing to drive a vehicle built for more than 16 passengers.
So what does that mean to the average RVer? Do you need a special license to drive a big class A or fifth wheel travel trailer?
RV Drivers License Requirements
Here’s the good news: vehicles under 26,000 pounds don’t require a special license in any one of the 50 states. And the vast majority of RVs fit that description.
But if your rig weighs in any higher than that, you might be in need of a special license. So, while in most cases you won’t need to worry about meeting any fancy RV or motorhome license requirements, there are circumstances that will call for it. Along with the factors that determine where and when you’ll need a special license, there’s also two classes of license to be considered, commercial and non-commercial.
Do You Need a CDL to Drive an RV?
So, what’s a CDL, anyway -- and do you need a CDL to drive an RV?
A commercial license, commonly known as a CDL, is the same kind of license commercial bus-drivers and truckers get. A non-commercial special license may also be required by the state for those looking to drive large, weighty vehicles for their own private purposes.
We’ll dive more into that in just a minute. But first, let’s take a look at the three most popular types of motorhomes to see whether or not you’ll need a special license to hit the road.
Class A RV License Requirements
Class A motorhomes are actually one of the only types of rig that you may need a special license to drive. That’s because they can weigh anywhere between 13,000 and 30,000 pounds -- which is, of course, above that 26,000 pound threshold we’ve mentioned.
That said, the majority of Class A RVs aren’t that weighty, and therefore don’t require any special license requirements. Just be sure to double check the vehicle’s full, loaded weight before you set off to ensure you don’t run into any problems.
Class B RV License Requirements
With Class B motorhomes, you’re in the clear! These small and agile rigs already have the benefit of being navigable even down narrow or unpaved roads -- you know, the exact kind where you generally find the best boondocking sites.
Since Class B motorhomes tend to weigh between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds, there are no states where Class B RVs carry special license requirements.
Class C RV License Requirements
Class C motorhomes are some of our favorites for many reasons, not the least of which is their ability to pack all the Class A luxuries into a smaller (and usually more affordable) package. What’s more, these RVs are unlikely to have special license requirements, since they usually weigh only 10,000-12,000 pounds.
What States Require a Special License for RVs?
First things first: while we’ve done everything in our power to ensure these laws are accurate and up to date, laws do change. So if you have any doubts about what license is needed to drive a RV in your state, we highly recommend you check directly with the DMV before committing to purchasing or even renting a rig of your own.
But just in case you do plan on driving an extra-large rig, here are the states where you might need extra licensing to do so legally.
States That Require a Commercial Drivers License
The following states have laws on the books requiring a commercial driver’s license for vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds. The specifics for each state may vary slightly -- for instance, the licensing may be required for a single vehicle over 26,000 pounds or multiple vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 pounds, which may matter for those towing large trailers. But generally, these are the only states and districts where you’ll run into issues for going big.
- New Mexico
- Washington, D.C.
- Wisconsin: SPECIAL NOTE -- this state requires a CDL for vehicles over 45 feet in length.
States That Require a Non-Commercial Special Drivers License
In these states, you may need special licensing to drive vehicles over the 26,000-pound weight limit, but not a CDL. You’ll want to check with the DMV to confirm specific details, which can change over time, but if you’re planning to drive a rig that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, whether single or combined, you may need a different license class in the following states.
- North Carolina
- New York
- South Carolina
States That Do Not Require a Special Drivers License
Finally, here are the states where you’re free and clear to drive an RV with your regular drivers license (per our latest update).
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
What About a Special License to Drive an RV in Canada?
What if you’re planning on heading north, past U.S. borders? You might be worried about having the proper licensing, which is understandable, especially since Canadian law varies throughout the provinces just like in the U.S. There’s no need to fret, though! Unless you live in Canada, all you have to do is make sure that you meet the licensing requirements of your home state! If you’re good to go at home, you’re ready to explore the great wild north!
While it might seem like it when you first start your research, figuring out the legalities of driving an RV doesn’t have to be challenging, confusing, or frustrating. True, there are many factors to consider, but once you know what you’re looking for it’s actually quite easy! Remember the rule of thumb, 26,000 and up might need a special license, below 26,000 is ready to hit the road with only a basic valid driver's license. If you want to be sure to avoid any confusion with licensing, choose a smaller RV such as a class B or C. And most importantly, when in doubt, contact your local DMV to find out for sure what your state laws are! If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be enjoying your stress-free road trip in no time at all! Happy travels!