Do I need a special motorhome driver’s license? (State Laws)
Most RVs do not have to meet specific RV driver’s license requirements. However, there are exceptions depending on your condition and the size of your RV…
Some might think that driving recreational vehicles, especially large Class A coaches, requires a special license. In most cases, this is not the case.
However, some states 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 license requirements and which do not?
We had this question in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group, so I thought it would be good to dig into the different state laws. Here’s what I learned…
(Note: State laws, rules and regulations are subject to change. We strongly recommend that you check with your local DMV to confirm the details below before buying, renting or driving an RV.)
Do you need a special license to drive a motorhome?
A new RV owner, Clark, asked the following question in our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group:
“…The question I have is do other states require the same class B as in Nevada if you drive a coach of a certain weight with airbrakes?…”
Our VR community was happy to help, with over 500 comments! Many people responded with the laws of their state of residence, and others offered information on learning airbrakes. Additionally, some have pitched Clark the idea of recording your RV in a different state than the one you live in.
The answers were helpful overall, but I thought it would be good to put more information together in this article.
The simple answer
Most RV owners don’t need a special permit no matter what state they live in. As long as your RV weighs less than 26,000 pounds, you don’t need a special permit in any state. This covers the majority of recreational vehicles.
To put things into perspective, here are the average weights of the different RVs:
- Travel trailer: avg. 3,000 to 5,000 pounds
- Class B: avg. 6,000 to 10,000 pounds
- Class C: avg. 10,000 to 12,000 pounds
- 5th wheel: avg. 12,000 to 15,000 pounds
- Class A: between 13,000 and 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?
GVWR is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the total weight (including vehicle, passengers and cargo) that a vehicle can safely carry, according to the vehicle manufacturer.
GCWR is Gross Combined Weight Rating. This is the measurement used for combination vehicles (such as a truck towing a caravan). It includes the combined weight of the vehicle, trailer, passengers and cargo.
Wisconsin and California also have special length circumstances.
If your motorhome is over 45 feet in Wisconsin, you need a CDL. If your RV is over 40 feet in California (and/or over 26,000 pounds), you need a Class B license.
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Types of Special RV Driver’s License Requirements
States that have special requirements require either a CDL, a special non-commercial driver’s license, or an endorsement.
Commercial driver’s license
Some states require you to have the same driver’s license as a tractor-trailer driver (CDL) if your RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds. A Commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a driver’s license required to drive heavy, heavy, or dangerous vehicles in the United States
Few states require it, and again, it’s only if your vehicle weighs more than 26,000 pounds.
Wisconsin is an unusual case where they require CDL not dependent on weight, but if your RV is over 45 feet long.
Special non-commercial driving 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 recreational vehicles. It’s similar to how some states require you to have a special class license to drive motorcycles.
These special non-CDLs are usually referred to as Class A, Class B, Class E, or Class F depending on the state.
To get a special Non-CDL, you usually have to pay an application fee and pass a written or driving test (or both).
A license endorsement adds certain driving privileges to your standard driver’s license. The mention appears on the driver’s license itself (often a sticker).
Additional tests, application fees, etc. may be required to obtain approval in states that require it.
States that have special RV driver’s license requirements
Prepare to be annoyed at me because I’m not going to list states that require special licenses. Why? Because the information available online is extremely inconsistent.
Even trusted websites contain conflicting information. Additionally, the DMV sites themselves contain 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 each state’s DMV, but that would be inefficient on my part.
The best thing I can do for you is to recommend that you contact your local DMV directly.
Remember, you should only 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 know the laws in your state, but what about the states you plan to visit in your RV? Do you need a special license to drive your RV in states that 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. Driver’s license requirements are based on the driver’s home state, not where they drive.
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 is going to driving school to learn how to ride our new 5th wheel. In fact, we are both learning how! Watch the video to see how we did it.
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