Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV: An Expert’s Guide to Each State

Putting an animated RV Driver License  being put out on  the table.

Do you need a special license to drive an RV? Here’s the truth, in most states, and for the majority of vehicles, no. No you don’t. Unless you’re going big, you should be completely fine. 

But if you are going big, I’ve got you covered. I spent hours curating the list below. Think staring at internet forums and state DMV sites until your eyeballs almost fry. Then comparing that with other lists on the web. And then once again triple checking your work.

But enough about that. Let’s get down to business! Read on below and see if you need any special licensing.

Table of Contents

What license do you need to drive an RV?

To put it simply, the type of license you need to drive an RV depends on the state you’re in. Some states don’t require any special licensing at all. Others require you to get a Class A/B CDL (commercial driver’s license), a Class A/B NCDL (non-commercial driver’s license), or a special endorsement.

And before you think about just skipping out because “the cop that pulls you over won’t notice”, your insurance will. There is a chance that your company will deny your claim if you’re not complying with state law. 

But here’s the good news. The majority of states in the U.S. don’t require any special licensing for you to use your rig. 

A fake drivers license.

And, as long as your RV’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is under 26,000 lbs, or the trailer you’re pulling is under 10,000 lbs, you can drive your motorhome with the license you use to drive your regular car in ALL 50 states!

Now yes, I understand that this can be a little confusing, but I’m not going to leave you high and dry. Below is an updated list of every state that requires a special license for your RV.

States that do require a special license for your RV or trailer:

I spent hours combing through state’s DMV websites, official forums, and other sites and compiled a list of 15 states that do require additional endorsements or licensing. 

To be completely honest, many state sites concerning the matter were vague. So I would be sure to double check with your local DMV before hitting the road. But there was a lot of time and research put into this, and consistent updates are being made to make sure it’s accurate.

State

Licenses Required

California

California

Class B needed for any vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs or longer than 40 feet.

Class A needed for towing over 10,000 lbs.

 

Connecticut

Connecticut

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Hawaii

Hawaii

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Kansas

Kansas

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Maryland

Maryland

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Michigan

Michigan

Double R (Recreational) Endorsement needed to tow 5th wheel plus another trailer.

Nevada

Nevada

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

J Endorsement needed for towing over 10,000 lbs.

New Mexico

New Mexico

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

New York

New York

R (Recreational) Endorsement needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

North Carolina

North Carolina

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

South Carolina

South Carolina

Class E needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class F needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Texas

Texas

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Washington DC

Washington D.C.

Class B needed for any single vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs.

Class A needed for multiple vehicles with GCWR over 26,000 lbs.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin

CDL required for any vehicle longer than 40 feet.

Wyoming

Wyoming

Class B needed for vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs and towing under 10,000 lbs.

Class A needed for vehicle with GVWR over 26,000 lbs and towing over 10,000 lbs.

More Questions

What is required for a CDL or NCDL?

Getting either of these special RV driver licenses is similar to getting the one you currently use for your car. You’ll be required to take a written exam, take a driving test, demonstrate how to use air brakes, and perform a pre-trip inspection. 

I have heard that when applying for a non-commercial license, the inspection portion of your testing is far less intense.

As far as I can understand getting your R or J endorsements in NY and NV are similar in nature. Pay for a test, take a 15 minute driving test, and then a simple fee to add the endorsement to your license.

A driving test picture for a CDL so you can drive an RV.
A CDL driving test.

Is there a difference between a CDL and an NCDL?

This depends on the state you live in. Some do distinguish between the two, and a NCDL (non-commercial) is only for recreational or personal use. Other states such as Wisconsin don’t distinguish between activities and issue only one license. I’d recommend checking with your DMV since this isn’t always clear or necessary.

Do I need to change out my license when moving to another state?

Yes, unfortunately you’ll have to go through the hassle of changing it out, even if you bought your RV in a state that doesn’t require one.

Do I need to change out my license when traveling through another state?

Traveling out of state in a Class A RV.
Law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada will honor your state’s licensing requirements when traveling out-of-state.

If you’re worried about traveling out of state because of different laws regarding licensing you’re in luck. Out-of-state law enforcement honors your home state’s requirements. This means that if I was traveling from my home state of Utah and was pulled over in Nevada, I wouldn’t be ticketed for not having a class A or B license. Even if I was driving a Class A RV over 26,000 lbs. 

This same law also applies to Canada! We’ve driven through multiple times with heavy trailers and 5th wheels with no problems.

What is GVWR?

GVWR stands for gross vehicle weight rating. This is the maximum amount of weight your rig can safely handle. This includes the weight of the vehicle itself, in addition to any passengers and cargo.

GCWR on the other hand stands for gross combined weight rating. This is includes the vehicle, the vehicle it is towing, and any passengers or cargo.

Curt Manufacturing has a pretty good article on all these terms.

Where to find my vehicle’s GVWR?

The GVWR that can be used to  determine if you need a CDL for your RV
The GVWR sticker on my Ford Ranger that I use for off-road trips.

There’s a few different ways to do this. The first being to simply check your owner’s manual. While writing this article I looked through mine and found it’s GVWR on page 119. So, you might have to dig a little bit. If you don’t have your physical manual, you can use a quick Google search to find it. And using CTRL+F, you can quickly scan the page for your rig’s GVWR.

Another way to do this is to look at the driver’s side door (or passenger door for Class A RVs). You’ll generally find a sticker next to the VIN that shows your motorhome’s GVWR.

If neither of these work, call the manufacturer with your VIN number and they should be able to help!

Which RVs typically surpass weight requirements?

Normally, the only motorhomes you need to worry about surpassing weight thresholds are Class A’s and 5th wheels. A larger Class A RV’s GVWR will normally hover around 30,000 lbs. The average GVWR for a 5th wheel is 18,000 lbs which surpasses  the 10,000 lbs towing limit of many states.

Do you need a special license to drive an RV or 5th wheel
A 5th wheel’s GVWR is typically more than 10,000 lbs meaning you’ll need a special license in some states to one.

Closing Thoughts

Well, unless you’re driving a behemoth, no need to worry about any special licenses or endorsements. In fact, there’s not much need to worry in most of the U.S.!

Still on the fence and thinking about renting a motorhome, but aren’t sure about driving a Class A RV or 5th wheel? Check out my article on the other 6 types of motorhomes you can rent.

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