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Whether you’re considering traveling the country in a recreational vehicle or committing to the RV lifestyle, it is important to know what type of documentation you’ll need to do so. Can you drive a motorhome with just a regular license? Or do you need a special driving license to drive an RV in the US?
I have been on many RV trips with my family, and let me tell you: I have always driven with my regular license.
As a general rule, to drive an RV in the US you will need a regular driver’s license. This license allows you to drive passenger cars as well as RVs and travel trailers with a GVWR of less than 26,000 pounds. In comparison, a standard RV weighs less than 10,000 pounds.
In general, travel trailers weigh on average 5,000 pounds and most motorhomes weigh less than 10,000 pounds. A class A motorhome, weighing between 15,000 and 30,000 pounds is the heaviest type of RV.
But just in case you plan to drive an extra-large rig, here’s everything you need to know.
Are RVs Commercial Vehicles?
An RV is mainly used for recreation and is not considered a commercial vehicle. Thus, most states do not require drivers to have a commercial driver’s license to operate their RVs that are below the 26,000-pound weight limit.
But just in case you are thinking of driving a large RV over 26,000 pounds or carrying more than 15 passengers, let clarify what special and commercial driver’s licenses are in the US.
What is a Special and Commercial Driver’s License?
Generally speaking, there are two types of special licenses: a commercial and non-commercial license. While some states will require you to have a non-commercial special license to drive an RV over a certain length or weight. Others will require you to carry around a commercial driver’s license for large and heavy vehicles. A non-commercial driver’s license will allow you to drive a vehicle of 10,000 lbs or less. These include passenger vehicles, trucks, vans, and SUVs.
On the other hand, a CDL is a driver’s license required to operate large, heavy, or placarded hazardous material vehicles. To drive these specialized vehicles, you must apply for proper endorsements on your CDL. One endorsement that can be used by RV drivers of a large rig is the Passenger (P), allowing you to carry extra passengers (generally more than 15). To obtain this, you need to pass a specialized knowledge exam and driving skills test.
Do You Need a Special Licence to Drive a Class A RV?
Class A motorhomes usually weigh anywhere between 13,000 lbs to 30,000 lbs. Any Class A over 26,000 pounds will require the driver to obtain either a special non-commercial or a commercial driver’s license (CDL) depending on the state.
On the other hand, drivers of Class B motorhomes are in the clear! These rigs are small, agile, and streamlined. These vehicles are ideal for narrow roads and congested streets and weigh somewhere between 6,000 to 8,000 lbs. Drivers don’t have to worry about obtaining a special licence.
There is also the Class C RV, which is a huge fan favorite due to its affordability while still having almost all luxuries a Class A RV has to offer. What’s better, these rigs are also unlikely to have special licence requirements since they weigh somewhere in between 10,000 and 12,000 lbs.
What States Require a Special Licence to Drive an RV?
Driving licenses in the US are a little confusing because some states require a commercial license for an extra-large or heavy RV and other states call it a special non-commercial. The following states have laws that require either a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or a non-commercial special license for vehicles that weigh over 26,000 lbs. However, it is very important to note that laws change. So if you have any doubts, I highly recommend that you directly double-check your DMV regulations before setting them out.
The table below shows whether you will need to obtain a commercial or non-commercial special license to drive an RV in that state. Note that if you are on an RV road trip you will need to comply with the laws in each state that you are driving in.
|State||Which type of license will you need? CDL or Special License?|
|California||Class B Special License if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Connecticut||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Hawaii||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Indiana||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Kansas||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Maryland||You will need a Class B licence if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Michigan||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
You might need Recreational Double R endorsements if towing a 5th wheel and a trailer behind.
|Nevada||You will need a Class A or Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|New Mexico||You will need a Class A or Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|New York||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|North Carolina||You will need a Class A or Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Pennsylvania||You will need a Class A or Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|South Carolina||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Texas||You will need a Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Washington, D.C.||You will need a Class A or Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Wisconsin||CDL if RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
|Wyoming||You will need a Class A or Class B licence if your RV weighs over 26,000 lbs.|
Important Questions to Ask Before Driving an RV
Can I Drive an RV With a Car License?
As a general rule, you can drive an RV that is less than 26,000 pounds with a regular car license. Most RVs and travel trailers will fall under this weight limit.
What Is the Longest Trailer You Can Pull Without a CDL?
The longest travel trailer you can tow without a CDL depends on the weight. In most states, the combined weight of the truck and trailer must be less than 26,000 pounds and the trailer must weigh less than 10,000 pounds. If you add a boat or trailer behind the trailer you will need a CDL for the double trailers.
In general, any trailer with a rating above 10,000 lbs will require a Class A commercial endorsement or license.
Is There an Age Limit for Driving a Motorhome?
In the US the age to obtain a drivers license varies by state and is between 15 and 17 years old. You can drive an RV once you have your license as long as there are no limits. However, many RV rental companies require you to be 25 years of age to rent an RV.
Additionally, complications may arise when you reach the age of 70. At 70 years old, you are required to renew your driver’s license – and you must renew it every three years after that. As long as you meet the minimum eyesight requirement and you are not prevented from driving for any reason, your renewal should be straightforward. This gives you the freedom to continue RVing even at retirement age!
Do I Have to Stop at Weigh Stations?
Generally speaking, RVs do not have to stop at weigh stations. However, the following states have random checks at police discretion, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
So it depends on which state you are driving in and its particular laws. Some states will require you to stop at weigh stations if you are driving an extra-large rig. Although an officer may require you to stop over at a weigh station in a state that allows random checks.
What Do I Need If I Want to Go to Canada in My RV?
To enter Canada in an RV, the driver must have a US, Canadian, or international driver’s license. Every person in the RV needs to have their passport. You will also need proof of insurance and up-to-date registration for the RV.
If you’re bringing pets along, you also need their paperwork.
Firearms and weapons are also not allowed unless you are hunting and have the proper paperwork for it. However, some states have lockers at the border for you to safely store firearms in the US. Excessive tobacco and alcoholic products are also not allowed when crossing the border.
Final Thoughts on Driving Licences Needed to Drive an RV in the USA
Whether you have to obtain a special license or not really depends on the weight of your RV. It is very crucial to know the total weight of your vehicle or the combined weight of your truck and towable. Fortunately, most motorhomes are light enough that you will not need to obtain a special license in any state.
However, if you are unsure of driving an RV in the US, you can have one delivered to your campsite. In fact, I have even had my own RV delivered to a campsite recently. When you rent a camper on Outdoorsy or RVEzy you can choose to have an RV delivered. The delivery and setup fee is generally between $100 to $200.
If you want more information on RVs for your family trip, here are more blog posts that may help:
- How to Rent an RV for an Epic Road Trip: Helpful Beginner’s Guide
- 17 Key Questions to Ask Before Renting an RV for Your Family Vacation
- RVshare vs Outdoorsy (Which is Best in 2021)
Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever. We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug! We travel with kids and extended family. I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.
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