Exploring the country by RV is the perfect solution to escape cabin fever while safely avoiding airports and other major transportation hubs as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. If the idea of renting an RV feels overwhelming and out of reach, we've compiled the driver's license requirements for driving an RV so you can be on your way to your next great adventure.
Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?
A common question first-time RV'ers have, "do I need a special kind of driver's license to drive an RV?" While the answer for this question varies based on the type of RV you plan on driving and the state you're traveling in, the short answer is not necessarily. Some states require a commercial driving license for an RV, while other states do not.
"Some states have stricter standards, while others have almost none at all," said Patrick Hardy, President of Hytropy Disaster Management. "For example, in California, to pull a trailer that is more than 10,000 lbs (but not over 15,000), you are required to have a Recreational Trailer Endorsement to your Class C License. California DMV administers a basic written examination on the laws, but no skill exam is required. If you have an A or CDL, you don't need the endorsement."
There are two kinds of special licenses. A commercial driver's license (CDL) is required to drive a large vehicle like a bus, and a non-commercial special license is required to drive different RV classes.
What Are the Motorhome Classes?
There are three classes of motorhomes ranked by size. These include:
Class A is 13,000 to 30,000 pounds.
Class B is 6,000 to 8,000 pounds.
Class C is 10,000 to 12,000 pounds.
If you decide to rent an RV through a rental firm like Cruise America, you'll get a Class C RV. You typically won't need a special license to drive this or a Class B motorhome. Class A motorhomes, on the other hand, may require commercial licenses.
This gets a bit tricky when comparing it to driver's licenses. Usually, Class A is the standard license all drivers get in most states. However, RVs may require you to get a Class B license.
Renting an RV by State
Even if you're driving a smaller size RV, every state has its own requirements about the type of driver's license required to drive an RV. There are 10 states that require you to get a special non-commercial driver's license. Here's a look at a few guidelines from a couple of states:
California: California requires a non-commercial Class B license for RVs over 25,000 pounds and a Class A license for RVs over 10,000 pounds.
Texas: Texas requires a non-commercial Class B license for vehicles more than 26,000 pounds and a Class A license for multiple vehicles with a combined weight of over more than 26,000 pounds.
That said, 34 states don't require you don't require you to get any sort of special license. You'll be able to drive an RV using your normal driver's license.
It's always important to confirm with your state's DMV prior to renting an RV, as the laws are subject to change.
How to Apply for a Commercial Driving License (CDL)
In Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin, you'll need a commercial driver's license (CDL) to drive an RV.
"Every state has its own set of requirements to obtain a CDL, and each type of CDL (A, B, or C) will have additional requirements," said Tory Jon, owner of Camper FAQs.
Jon advises that the process typically goes as follows:
You must first meet all of the requirements — minimum age, provide proof of name, DOB, and SSN, pass a vision test, etc.
If you meet all of the above requirements, then you will have to take a knowledge test.
After completing the knowledge test, you will receive a CLP (commercial learner's permit).
After 14 days of receiving your permit, you must pass a skills test, including a driving test.
You will then get your CDL. If you are applying for a specific class of CDL, there may be additional requirements.
Avoiding a Special License
If you want to rent an RV with ease, the simple answer is to rent a smaller sized vehicle. A class C vehicle will likely fit in the weight parameters for a regular driver's license. The smaller size is better for RV beginners who are still learning how to maneuver a larger-sized vehicle.