Do I Need a Special License To Drive My RV Legally?

man holding special license to drive rv

Most of us who have purchased an RV assume that we can just hop in and go.  But have you ever wondered if you need a special license to drive an RV? 

In many cases, our current driver’s license may be all we need to navigate down the road in our Class A, B, or C rigs or trailers.  But when does it become necessary to have a special license to drive an RV? Let’s review.

What is a Special License?

Let’s start by defining what constitutes a “special license.”  For instance, this refers to any license that isn’t a passenger vehicle license.  In other words, there are several types of endorsements that fall under a special license, like a motorcycle or a chauffeur endorsement.  

There is also what is known as a CDL, an acronym for “Commercial Drivers License.” For example, over-the-road truckers have CDLs to operate 18 wheelers.  School bus drivers are also required to have one to maneuver their vehicles through our neighborhoods, as are garbage truck drivers, and those that transport hazardous waste materials.

Lastly, the process to qualify for a commercial driver’s license is much more involved than our typical motor vehicle license. Not only do candidates have more in-depth and thorough testing, but they must also be over the age of 21, pass a medical examination and vision test, get a learner’s permit and go through a pre-trip inspection before they can take a road skill and driving examination.

Semi truck driving down the road. Semi drivers need a special license to drive.

Are RVers Required to Have a Special License?

Most special licenses to drive an RV are based on the weight of the RV. For instance, if your RV is less than 26,000 pounds then nothing more than a regular passenger vehicle license is needed.

Once you go over 26,000 lbs. however, that’s when special licenses kick in, and there are several different types.

States That Require a Non-Commercial Driver’s License

Class A non-commercial special license to drive an RV is required if you are driving a combination of vehicles/towing that weigh over 26,000 lbs. in these states: 

  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington, D.C
  • Wyoming

Similarly, a Class B non-commercial special licenses are required if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs. in these states:

  • California
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Wyoming

In addition, a Recreational Double R endorsements are required if you are towing a 5th wheel and a trailer behind in:

  • Michigan

States That Require a Commercial Driver’s License

If your RV is over 26,000 pounds, a Commercial Drivers License is required in the following states:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • Wisconsin
Person taking drivers test for a special license with test supervisor in the passenger seat

States That Do Not Require a Special License to Drive an RV

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Special License to Drive an RV in Canada

Lastly, if you are considering travel through Canada with your RV, all provinces now accept reciprocal licenses from The States. So, you will not need anything more than your current driver’s license to operate your vehicle in The Great White North.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the weight of your RV is the deciding factor if you indeed need a special license to drive an RV. It’s important to know the weight of your RV, or the combined weight of your truck and towable to determine if you are driving legally. If you want to know how to weigh your RV at a truck stop, read the guest article we wrote on how to do that.

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14 comments
  1. Hi Jason,
    A CDL is not required for New York State if you’re over 26,000 pounds. There is a special “R“ endorsement that is necessary and is added to your standard drivers license. This is similar to how New York State approaches a motorcycle license. The “R” endorsement does not have a written test, but you do need to take a 15 minute road test. You have to parallel park, demonstrate checking air brakes, answer a few questions about the chassis, and get around a small course without hitting anything. Based upon New York State DMV being closed because of Covid, you cannot take the road test as of today.

  2. My wife and I have a Texas class B license which is required if your GVWR is over 26,000 lbs and towing less than 10,000. The written part can be taken at any drivers license office but the driving portion is limited to 35 sites statewide (I think). We chose a location away from the real big cities which was about a 100 miles away. I took the driving portion one week and my wife did also a couple of weeks later (this site only did 1 driving test a day).

    We were nervous but looking back it was not too bad. We both are glad we did it and joke to each other about being licensed drivers when conditions are a little sketchy

  3. yes i have a cdl I’ve had it when they went to a commercial lic but i’ve ben a truck driver since had my lic and i got all indorsement doubles triples tankers oversize and tankers hazmat’s i have to and retest every five years for any thing hazmat related an take dot medical physical every two years forty years of driving cross country looking to retire in five more years sell my house and go see the country slower than i did in the truck as a driver i think its a good idea to take the same test that i took ppl really have no clue just how dangers’ a combination vehicle can be there is a lot more to hooking up a trailer an going down the road sorry about the long story but forty years on the road i’ve got some story that you don’t want to here about but i do like your channel its helping get set up with my toy hauler an my motorcycle

  4. I live in Nevada. A non-commercial Class A license is required for a combined GVWR of 26,001 lbs. The test is fairly simple. The tell you what portions of the handbook to study. You take a written test to get your learners permit. When you take the driving test you will have to pass a pre-trip inspection using your terminology. Once you’re successful with the pre-trip you will continue on with a skills test which includes a straight line stop, backing up in a straight line, and an alley dock back up from a 45° angle. After passing the skills test you have a road test. That’s it.

  5. Your article is not quite correct foe CA. If you are pulling a 5th wheel weighing between 10000 and 15000 pounds you need an endorsement to your Class C license. The endorsement requires a written test, but no road test. The written test is the same as for a non-commercial Class A. (Most RV dealers, and most CHP officers don’t know this either. The problem could arise if you are in an at fault collision. Your insurance company could deny coverage because you were not licensed to drive the rig.) If you are pulling a 5th wheel.over 15000 pounds you need a non-commercial Class A license. This requires both a written and road test.

  6. BC Canada
    As you said weight makes the difference so many 5 wheels require special licence.
    We have a class A
    Require “air”
    It is a two full days and a hand’s on test a different day. Test is short
    course
    Plus we require brakes for our” tow”
    I had my “1” or you call it something different 1 is the highest driver’s licence on road but can’t ride a bike ( I have that too)
    We were in the Yukon this summer and now parked in a driveway.
    Enjoy some of your utube

  7. Hi Jason,

    I live in Washington state and have the regular drivers license which is all I need to drive my class A. However I drive the RV all over the country. Is my lisence reciprocal with all states or would I need to comply with each state I’m driving in licensing laws?

    Thank

    Greg

  8. Texas requires a class B license if over 26,001. I’m good right now I’m at 14,000, next year I’ll be getting close plan on getting a 150 series grand design and new truck maybe a Ford F-250. We on vacation at Corpus Christi, TX Naval Air Station since 15 September leavening Sunday 11 October.

  9. All states in the United States are part of the inter-state compact agreement for Motor Vehicle Laws. This agreement also provides that if your license is good to drive your vehicle in your registered state (of the RV) then it is good to drive in all other states. I believe that you are misleading people to believe that if they are driving through one of the states that require some type of CDL or special license that they would need that license, not so..

  10. The Driver’s License Compact amongst most but not all states (Georgia, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Tennessee are not members) does not state that one state must honor the driver’s licenses of another state. The purpose of the compact is more about states sharing information about the records/violations/suspensions of drivers for licensing purposes. There are no federal laws mandating that states must honor each other’s licenses. In fact, in my Internet research I have been unable to find any official statement about the topic of driver’s licenses reciprocity amongst the states. It’s a gray area and I have even read of RV drivers being harassed on occasion and even being not allowed to continue on their journey until a “qualified” driver can take over. These were just a couple of anecdotal reports I came across and it appears that law enforcement officers for the most part will accept your out of state license as good enough. However, as far as I can tell in my online research so far is that it could become a problem on a rare occasion if you are not in compliance by weight, length, trailering in a particular state.

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