What License is Needed to Drive an RV? What You Need in Your Wallet

It’s that time of year when people love to take to the road and explore the nation. And if you’re like me, traveling in an RV is the way to go. But along with dreams of taking a mobile vacation, the practical aspects got my attention. For instance, I wondered, what license is needed to drive an RV?

So, I sought out the answer, and you may be surprised by what I learned.

What License is Needed to Drive an RV?

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I hate to do this to you, but the answer is: it depends. In some states, you can drive an RV with a regular license, while others require a more serious one. When asking, what license is needed to drive an RV, you need to consider which state you’re in, how much the RV weighs, and how long it is.

So, the question, what license is needed to drive an RV isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Let’s break it down.

Class B and Class C RVs Typically Get a License Break

RVs come in many sizes, and most (but not all) states determine what license is needed to drive an RV by its size.

For reference, here is a general breakdown of RV sizes.

Class:

  • A: 13,000 – 30,000 pounds
  • B: 6,000 – 8,000 pounds (Think campervan or Volkswagen van)
  • C: 10,000 – 12,000 pounds

If you’re driving a class B or C RV, chances are you can drive it with your regular driver’s license. That’s because most states allow you to use your regular driver’s license to drive anything that is under 26,000 pounds. If you pull a car behind your RV, you will have to add in its weight to determine your overall load.

If you drive an RV that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, you may need a commercial driver’s license or another special license to stay legal on the road.

What Types of Driver’s Licenses Are There?

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In addition to your regular driver’s license, each state issues other types of licenses for different purposes.

Here is a breakdown of each license type.

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What is a commercial driver’s license?

A commercial driver’s license is what operators of commercial vehicles drive. For instance, if you drive an 18-wheeler or commercial bus, you need a commercial driver’s license.

The only time you need a commercial driver’s license when operating an RV is when you drive it for commercial reasons.

That is unless you live in one of the states that require it.

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What is a noncommercial Class B license?

In some states, if you drive a Class A or a Class C RV, you will need to get a noncommercial Class B license. Or, if you’re driving an RV in a state that allows you drive a Class C motorhome up to 26,000 pounds, but your single vehicle RV weighs 26,001 pounds, you will also need to get a Class B license.

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What is a noncommercial Class A license?

If you drive an RV and pull a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, your state will likely require you get a Class A license.

States That Require a Special Driver’s License

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Remember, different states have various rules for what license is needed to drive an RV. And that’s why in addition to learning about your state’s rules below, you should talk to the authorities in your state to confirm them. State laws change all the time, and you don’t want to be caught driving an RV with the wrong license!

Here are some special rules in certain states you should be aware of.

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When you need a commercial driver’s license

Even if you aren’t driving an RV for commercial reasons, some states require that you use a special driver’s license in some instances. So, what license is needed to drive an RV in these states? A commercial driver’s license.

If you drive an RV in any of these states — and that RV (or RV and vehicle combo) weighs more than 26,000 pounds — you will need a commercial driver’s license:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii:
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • Wisconsin

In the above list, all RVs or RV-vehicle combinations weighing more than 26,000 pounds require a commercial driver’s license. The exception is Wisconsin, which requires a commercial driver’s license if the RV is over 45 feet.

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When you need a noncommercial special driver’s license

Some states require that you use a special non-commercial license such as a Class A or Class B license in certain conditions.

  • California: If you tow more than 10,000 pounds, you need a Class A license. If the RV is more than 40 feet or weighs more than 26,000 pounds, you need a Class B license.
  • Maryland: If your vehicle weighs more than 26,000 pounds, you need a Class B license
  • Michigan: When towing a fifth wheel and a trailer, you need a Recreational Double R Endorsement
  • North Carolina: If your RV is more than 26,000 pounds, you need a Class B license. If your RV and vehicle combined weigh that much, you need a Class A license
  • Nevada: The weight restrictions are the same as above. Additionally, if you tow a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, but the combined weight is less than 26,000 pounds, you need a J Endorsement
  • New York: You need a Recreational Vehicle or R Endorsement if your vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds.
  • Pennsylvania: If your RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds—or multiple vehicles weigh more than that—you need a Class B license.
  • South Carolina: A single RV weighing more than 26,000 pounds requires a Class E license. Multiple vehicles weighing that much need a Class F license.
  • Texas: RVs weighing 26,000 pounds or more require a Class B license. Multiple vehicles weighing that much or more require a Class A license.
  • Wyoming: An RV weighing 26,000 pounds and towing another vehicle under 10,000 pounds requires a Class B license. If the second vehicle weighs more than 10,000 pounds, you need a Class A license.

In the above list, all RVs or RV-vehicle combinations weighing more than 26,000 pounds require a commercial driver’s license. The exception is Wisconsin, which requires a commercial driver’s license if the RV is over 45 feet.

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States that don’t require special licenses

What license is needed to drive an RV in a state not listed above? If you didn’t find your state on our list, that means you can drive your RV with a regular driver’s license. This is called a Class D license.

But remember, state rules change frequently, so please check with the authorities in your state to get the latest rules about RV licenses.

What if I Just Keep Driving?

RV driving on road next to mountains

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Sometimes when we’re on the road, we don’t want to go home. Instead, we want to drive as long and as far as we can because we are enjoying the trip so much. What happens if you keep driving all the way to the northern border and hit Canada?

Luckily, American drivers don’t have to do anything special. What license is needed to drive an RV in Canada? The one that your home state requires. Even if you decide to get an international license, be sure to keep your US license on you to prove that you have the right to drive your RV.

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What about Europeans?

Sometimes people from Europe come to the US and want to drive RVs. In that case, as long as they have a license from an English speaking country, they don’t need to do anything more. And if they come from a country that doesn’t speak English, they should get an international driver’s license.

What Happens if You Drive an RV Without the Required License?

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If you forgot to ask what license is needed to drive an RV before you hit the road, you could face stiff fines and penalties if you get caught driving without the right license.

At the very least, a policeman may issue you a ticket for the infraction. And if you’re unlucky enough to get in a wreck, your insurance company — or the other person’s — isn’t likely to pay out if you didn’t have the proper license.

And if someone was hurt in the accident, not having the proper license could set you up for a lawsuit or even prison time.

Answered: What License is Needed to Drive an RV?

If you love the open road as much as I do, it’s important that you find out what license is needed to drive an RV in your state. All you need is the weight and length of your RV to find the answer. And remember, don’t rely solely on the information you find online. State transportation laws change frequently, and it’s important to get the most up-to-date information you can before setting out on that driving adventure.

What about you? What license is needed to drive an RV in your state? If you have any additional insight into this topic, please feel free to tell us about it in the comment section below!

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