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Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

February 17, 2024

Why hop on a plane when you can travel in an RV? Not only is it cheaper than buying plane tickets, but there’s no need for meals or accommodations either.

It also gives you a lot of freedom; you can travel at your own pace, make your own schedules, or even go on spontaneous trips along the way.

If you want, you can even bring your pets with you – something that you can’t easily do if you’re hopping on a plane and staying at a hotel.

If anything, you just need to be able to drive the vehicle.

Do you need a special license or can you drive one with a standard driver’s license? Does the gross vehicle weight rating matter?

For the answers, be sure to keep reading. We’ll be going over everything you need to know about RV license requirements below.

Difference Between Class A, B, and C Recreational Vehicles

differences between class a class b class c rvsThere are three classes of recreational vehicles – Class A, Class B, and Class C. Not only are their external appearances different, but they also vary in terms of cargo capacities, maneuverability, chassis used, and more.

They also have different license requirements.

Class A RVs

Class A RVs are the biggest motorhomes on the market. They’re built on a heavy-duty frame and are much heavier than traditional vehicles. Because of this, they often come with extra large wheels to support the weight.

The extra weight and wheels, however, mean that they also have the lowest fuel economy out of all RVs. Given their size, they also require extra turning space.

If you’re looking for space, elegance, and class, however, Class A is the type for you. Compared to other types of RVs, they often include over-the-top amenities such as mobile garages, washing machines and dryers, and king-size beds.

Another benefit is that you can typically tow a car with these types of RVs, which makes them excellent if you’re looking to set up camp for an extended period or are traveling with your family.

Considering how large and luxurious they are, however, they are the most expensive choice.

Weight: 13,000 to 30,000 pounds

Length: 26 to 45 feet

Class B RVs

Class B RVs, sometimes called camper vans, are a mid-size option that resembles a big van from the outside. However, they typically have a compact interior.

With that said, they still consist of a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Most Class Bs also include a shower and toilet.

Due to their smaller size, they have much better fuel efficiency, which makes them a cost-effective choice. They also don’t come with slide-outs (the engine and chassis wouldn’t be big enough), which means they are easier to drive and can fit in a standard parking spot.

On the other hand, they have limited storage space.

Still, they are a great choice for small families due to their value economy and how easy they are to handle.

Weight: 4,000 to 9,000 pounds

Length: 17 to 23 feet

Class C RVs

class a rvClass C RVs are not as big as Class As, but not as compact as Class Bs. They are medium-sized and typically have an over-the-cap sleeping area, which allows for a bigger bathroom, living room, and more storage.

These types of motorhomes can accommodate up to 6 people with no issues.

Some Class C RV models will also have slide-outs similar to those that are often found in Class As. Due to their lower price point, however, they are a better choice for those who are on a budget but would like to travel in comfort.

Weight: 10,000 to 13,000 pounds

Length: 20 to 30 Feet

Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

do you need a special license to drive an rvGenerally speaking, you don’t need a special license to drive an RV.

However, the rules do vary from state to state. Given that, it’s best to check your state’s DMW website – they will have their own rules regarding special licenses and recreational vehicles.

For example, some states may require you to update your driver’s license before you can drive an RV.

The size and state of your recreational vehicle also matter. For instance, if you have a Class A RV that weighs less than 26,000 pounds and is under 40 feet in length, chances are, you’ll be able to drive it with your normal driver’s license.

If your Class A RV exceeds that limit, however, you may need to upgrade your license with extra courses and tests to be able to drive it on the road.

Class B and Class C recreational vehicles, on the other hand, typically don’t require a special license in the United States.

If you tow a car or trailer behind the RV, however, it may cause the overall weight to exceed 26,000 pounds, in which case, you’ll also need a special endorsement or license, depending on your location.

When in doubt, check with your state’s DMV.

Different Types of Special Licenses For RVs

Some states will require you to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate vehicles that exceed 26,000 pounds. Other states will require a non-commercial driver’s license for vehicles that are over a certain size or weight.

Some states may also require that you add a special endorsement to your regular license. You can confirm which type of special license you need by contacting your state’s local DMV.

Commercial Driver’s License

There are several CDL classes. If your state requires one for RVs, you’ll need to take a written exam and vision test at the DMV, before being able to book a road test (there’s typically a waiting period between the two).

Once you complete and pass all the tests, you’ll be given your CDL. In some cases, you may be able to skip the written portion of the test if you have experience driving military trucks as a veteran and can provide the necessary proof.

Non-Commercial License

do you need a special license to drive an rvDepending on your state, you may need a non-commercial special license to drive the RV if it’s over a certain weight or length.

For example, some states require a non-commercial Class B license if you’re operating an RV with a gross combined weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds.

The good news is that applying for a non-commercial driver’s license is much quicker than applying for a CDL. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll still need to take a written test, vision exam, and road test at the DMV.

Special License Endorsement

Some states will require drivers of recreational vehicles to have a special endorsement. Put simply, it’s a special marking or sticker on an already existing license that indicates the individual has been given additional permissions to operate an RV.

Depending on your location, you may need to fill out an application at the DMV, pay a fee, and take a road test or written exam.

Which States Require a Special License to Drive an RV?

Most states don’t require the driver to have a special license, regardless of the RV’s size or weight. Having said that, there are some exceptions. For example, some states require a CDL for recreational vehicles that are over a certain size.

States that have additional license requirements:

California: RVs over 40 feet in length and weigh more than 10,000 pounds, or those with fifth wheels with a combined weight of more than 15,000 pounds

Arkansas: RVs (and all vehicles) that weigh more than 26,000 pounds

Hawaii: RVs that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, or multiple vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds combined

New Mexico: RVs that weigh more than 26,000 pounds or multiple vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds combined

Kansas: RVs that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, or multiple vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds combined

Maryland: RVs (and all vehicles) that weigh more than 26,000 pounds

New York: RVs with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds

Pennsylvania: RVs (single or multiple vehicles) that weigh more than 26,000 pounds combined

Texas: RVs (single or multiple vehicles) that weigh more than 26,000 pounds combined

Wyoming: RVs that weigh more than 26,000 pounds

Washington, DC: RVs that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, or multiple vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds combined

Keep in mind, however, that rules may change at any point so it’s best to confirm with the local DMV for the specific requirements. Generally speaking, however, vehicles with a combined weight of under 26,000 do not need a special license to operate.

This also applies to towable RVs (ie. special licenses are not necessary to pull a toy hauler, travel trailer, or fifth wheel).

Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV Across the U.S.-Canada Border?

You do not need a special driver’s license to cross the Canada-U.S. border. However, you will need:

  • A valid travel document (e.g. passport) for each person traveling in the RV
  • A valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and a copy of your vehicle’s registration. You’ll need the insurance and registration for your other vehicles as well, whether you’re towing a travel trailer, or pulling a truck camper or dinghy.
  • If the RV is rented, electronic or printed copies of your rental agreement, booking voucher, and insurance certificate, as well as written permission to take the motorhome across the border
  • Medical documentation and other health screening information (e.g. proof of vaccines)
  • If you’re bringing your pet, a copy of their current rabies vaccination
  • The customs requirements for both countries (Canada has the ArriveCan app, which you can use to expedite the process)

Special Licenses to Drive an RV – FAQs

What is the gross vehicle weight rating?

special licenses to drive an rvThe gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) refers to the maximum amount of weight that an RV can carry safely, including the weight of the passengers, cargo, and fuel.

In most states, vehicles with a GVWR of under 26,000 pounds do not require a special license, though there are some exceptions.

What kind of driver’s license do you need to drive a class C vehicle?

You can drive a Class C RV with a regular driver’s license in all 50 states, as long as the motorhome has a gross weight of less than 26,000 pounds. The vehicle also has to be less than 40 feet in length.

What states require additional licensing to drive an RV?

Washington D.C. and Wisconsin require drivers to have a commercial driver’s license (CLD) to drive an RV. To obtain a CLD, an individual must first apply for and pass a written knowledge test before completing a CDL driving test (the latter may be exempted in some cases).

Which states require an endorsement or noncommercial driver’s license to drive an RV?

California, Hawaii, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Nevada, New York North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, and New Mexico require drivers to have a noncommercial driver’s license or a special endorsement to operate or tow a recreational vehicle.

Do you need additional licensing to drive an RV into Canada?

driving rv into canadaNo, you do not need additional licensing to drive an RV into Canada, as long as you have the correct license for your state.

Keep in mind, however, that you will need to bring additional documents with you to cross the border such as your passport, vehicle insurance, rental papers, and other documentation.

Can You Drive an RV With a Temporary Driver’s License?

No, you cannot drive an RV with a temporary license; you must have a standard driver’s license issued by your state.

Licenses for Recreational Vehicles – Overview

Hopefully, that answers the question of whether or not you need a special license to drive an RV. As you can see, it depends on several factors, including your location, size, and weight of your motorhome.

While some states require special endorsements and licenses, others do not have any requirements. When in doubt, check with your local DMV office – they will have everything you need to know about what type of license you need to operate your RV.

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Marcus Washington

Marcus Washington is a well-rounded expert in RVs and campers. With a wealth of experience, Marcus shares his expertise through his valuable guides, helping enthusiasts and newcomers alike navigate the world of mobile living. His advice covers everything from maintenance to maximizing space, ensuring every road trip is smooth and enjoyable. You can trust Marcus to guide you in your RV and camper adventures.

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