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Can You Tow an RV without a Special License?

There’s a distinct driving learning curve when new RV owners decide to tow a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Some new owners practice in a parking lot, while others will attend driving school.

But we wondered if some states require a special license or at least an additional test for towables.

So we searched the Internet to discover the answers.

Let’s dive in!

What Type of RVs Can You Tow?

Towable RVs include any non-motorized recreational vehicle. Class A, Class B, and Class C are motorized RVs and have a cab area where people sit. In contrast, you can’t ride in a towable rig because they connect to a tow vehicle.

Travel trailers and pop-up campers connect to a vehicle via a hitch and receiver on the tow vehicle’s bumper. Sometimes they’re referred to as “bumper pull” RVs. Fifth-wheel campers have a much different way of connecting to a truck.

The front of the end cap attaches to the bed of a truck. Whereas a sedan or SUV can tow lightweight travel trailers, a truck is required to pull a fifth wheel.

What Do I Need to Pull an RV?

When looking at towable rigs, you must also consider the vehicle that will pull them. It must be able to tow the right amount of weight. If you’re new to the RVing world, you might have to purchase a vehicle and an RV.

For example, a Bambi 16RB Airstream is around 16 feet long and has a maximum GVWR of 3,500 pounds. This means you’ll need a vehicle with a towing capacity of more than 3,500 pounds to tow this small travel trailer safely.

On the other hand, a Grand Design Reflection 297RSTS is almost 34 feet long and has a maximum GVWR of just under 10,000 pounds. You’ll need a much larger tow vehicle to transport this travel trailer safely. As RVs get longer and heavier, your tow vehicle will have to increase in towing and payload capacities.

Can You Tow an RV without a Special License?

You don’t need a special license to tow most RVs. And, in most cases, you don’t even need an endorsement on your current license. Attendance at a driving school isn’t required, nor is a vehicle driving test at the DMV.

If you have the right tow vehicle, you can hook up a trailer at the dealership and drive it off the lot immediately. However, some heavier rigs may require a special license to tow.

How Many Pounds Does a Trailer Need to Require a Special License? 

You don’t need to worry about getting a special license to tow your RV in most states. However, say your combined vehicle weight between your trailer and tow vehicle is over 26,000 pounds. Then you might have to get a special license in some states like California or New Mexico.

This isn’t common, as most RVs are well under 20,000 pounds. But if you’re driving a dually truck and pulling a 45-foot toy hauler, you may be approaching that 26,000-pound threshold.

What Happens If You Tow Overweight?

Nothing legally happens if you exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle or overload the trailer to exceed the GVWR. But there are substantial safety concerns. This is why it’s critical to know the towing capacity of your tow vehicle before purchasing an RV.

If you tow a rig over your limit, you risk damaging the transmission or putting too much stress on the brake system. This may lead to expensive repairs. Towing an RV that exceeds your vehicle’s towing capacity can also increase sway, which is extremely dangerous to you and other drivers.

Not only are tow vehicles rated for a certain amount of weight, but so are RVs. You risk damaging the frame if you load up your rig with too much cargo and exceed its GVWR. You also increase the risk of sway if the trailer is overloaded. Should you get into an accident, insurance may not cover the damages because you didn’t heed the manufacturer’s warning.

Do I Need a Special License to Drive a Motorhome? 

Like towables, you don’t need a special license to drive a motorhome in most cases. Across the country, only a few states have specific requirements regarding the operation of RVs.

These states are the same states that require a special license for towing a combined weight of over 26,000 pounds. Some of these states also have a length restriction, so driving a motorhome over 40 feet may require a special endorsement.

Is Towing an RV Easy?

With practice, towing an RV will become easier. At first, it can be quite daunting. But learning how far you have to swing to make a turn and how long it takes to come to a complete stop will help you tow safely. Backing into a campsite will always be more challenging than just pulling through, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

And for the most part, you don’t have to worry about special licensing or endorsements. However, it’s essential to check with your local DMV to understand the requirements of your particular state fully.

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