You finally found your perfect RV to take you on your next adventure, but you have a few questions before you hit the road. Many people wonder if they need a CDL to drive an RV with air brakes and, if so, what is required.
If you have a regular driver’s license that allows you to drive in the United States, you can drive an RV even if it has air brakes. The only time you would need to obtain a different type of license is if your rig or the combined weight of your tow vehicle and rig is over 26,000 lbs. If you are looking at a larger rig, we recommend knowing the laws in your specific state concerning weight limits and special licenses.
We did it! We looked up the laws for EVERY state so you can know which states require a special license to drive an RV, over 26,000 or otherwise. Make sure and check it out here.
This article will explain the different types of classes for RVs, and which ones typically require more licensing. We will also dive into some states requiring special driver’s licenses to drive an RV with air brakes and which states do not.
By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.
Do You Need a CDL to Drive an RV with Air Brakes
A CDL, a commercial driver’s license, is used by those who drive buses and semi-trucks. In order to obtain a CDL, you have to study and pass a driving test. CDLs are a pricier type of license, so knowing if you actually need one or not, will save you time and money.
In all states, you do not need a CDL to drive an RV (even with air brakes), but you may need a special license or another type of certification.
Many larger motorhomes are equipped with air brakes that you see on larger buses or trucks. If your motorhome has air brakes, it may have you wondering if you need a CDL to drive your RV. We will go into more detail below, but the main factor that affects whether you need a CDL is not air brakes but focused only on the weight of your rig.
The reason why you might wonder this is because CDL drivers have to demonstrate their competency in the usage of air brakes during the CDL test–however, even in California, one of the legally stricter states, this is not necessary for an RV with air brakes.
Each state differs on the rules and regulations for whether or not you need a special type of license.license, a noncommercial license, or merely a plain driver’s license, and we will go into more detail with each below.
What Class of RV May Need a Special License
If this is the first time you are looking for an RV or have been in the RV world for quite some time, you have probably heard multiple types of RV classes thrown around.
People refer to RVs in the form of Class A, Class B, and Class C, and each one has many defining characteristics. There are certain classifications of RVs that may need a special driver’s license, depending on your rig’s size.
Large RVs or Motorhomes are compiled in the Class A grouping and are typically the larger RVs you see rolling down the road. Class A Motorhomes can typically house 8-10 people and are usually between 13,000-30,000 lbs.
Because of their large size, Class A motorhomes are the only RV classification where you potentially need a CDL depending on what state you’re in. If you own or are looking for a class A motorhome with over 26,000 lbs, you will need to get a CDL in some states.
There are also individual states, such as Texas, that require you to get a special non-commercial license (Class A or B) if your motorhome or RV is over 26,000 lbs. (source)
Class B RVs include campervans and are incredibly user-friendly. Class B RVs are small and will not need a CDL to drive legally. This RV class is typically under 8,000 lbs, so if you own a Class B RV, you will not need a special license in any state you visit.
Class C RVs are heavier than Class B, but far less than Class A. Class C RVs typically weigh 10,000-12,000 lbs, allowing you to drive them without needing any type of unique licensing to operate.
What States Need CDLs to Drive an RV
As far as I could discover, there are no states that require a CDL to drive a motorhome.
However, many states require a special kind of non-commercial driver’s license to drive an RV or motorhome depending on the size of the motorhome.
Non Commercial License
Some states that require special non-commercial licenses include California, Texas, and Wyoming. A non-commercial license simply means they need a specific license that is different than the regular Class C license that everyone has. A noncommercial license means that you can use it for personal reasons instead of work-related reasons. They can include certifications such as class B and Class A licenses, or may be an “Endorsement” (as is the case in California).
Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
I could not find any state that actually had a CDL requirement for a recreational vehicle. There is a lot of false information on the internet saying states like Arkansas and Connecticut have CDL requirements, but this is false–both these states just have vague policies but when asked directly RVs are excluded from CDL weight restrictions.
Individual states like Nevada require you to get a Class A license for driving anything over 26,000 lbs and a Class B for a combined weight (trailer and truck) over 26,000 lbs. Illinois has the strictest rules and requires you to get a special license when your rig weighs over 16,000 lbs.
Just a Drivers License
Some states do not require anything but a regular driver’s license to drive a large motorhome or RV legally. They include, but are not limited to; Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado, and more.
If you choose to buy or drive a larger Class A motorhome, it is recommended to reach out to your local DMV to clarify what you need. Since rules vary by state, always check with your local DMV. If you don’t want to worry about licensing, you can decide to get a smaller Class B or Class C to take with you on your next adventure.
Buying a new or used RV is an exciting endeavor for you and your family. You will have to decide how much room you will need to fit your family comfortably. There are a variety of RVs and motorhomes on the market that will fit your every need.
If you are looking for a larger RV, you will need to ask yourself if you need a special license to drive your RV. Even California doesn’t have special restrictions on RVs with air brakes. The short answer is that if you buy a huge RV or motorhome that comes in weighing over 26,000 lbs, you will likely need to get some type of separate license to drive it in major population center states.
There are different types of licenses that states will want you to gain if you drive a considerably large rig over 26,000 lbs. If you have a larger rig and you are wondering about a different license, you can contact your local DMV.