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What Are the Differences Between a CDL and Non-CDL?

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A commercial driver's license or CDL and non-CDL licenses are for operating vehicles in the United States. In order to receive either form of license you apply with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. The requirements for a CDL and non-CDL license vary from state to state and the cost for these licenses will vary as well.

CDL License

CDL licenses allow you to drive vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight of more than 26,001 lbs. CDL licenses can have endorsements that allow transport of 15 or more passengers, hazardous materials, trucks with tankers and trucks with double or triple trailers. You can only hold a commerical driver's license in one state and you must apply for it in your home state. In order to transport hazardous materials you must be at least 21 years of age in most states.

Non-CDL License

A non-commercial driver's license allows you to drive a vehicle with a total weight of less than 8,000 lbs. These vehicles include passenger cars, trucks, vans and SUVs. Drivers as young as 15 can obtain a learner's permit for operating passenger vehicles in some states. These drivers are required to have a licensed driver over the age of 21 years old in the vehicle with them at all times. These licenses have endorsements that include driving with glasses, operating a vehicle during daytime hours and the ability to operate a motorcycle.


Those who have CDL licenses are allowed to drive passenger vehicles but you are not allowed to operate any commercial vehicle with a non-CDL license. The test required for a CDL license includes questions regarding use of the vehicle systems including air brakes.


Christell York has been writing professionally since 2008 for various websites and offline for "The Houston Press." She specializes in technical, automotive, travel, personal finance and food articles. York has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Phoenix and is currently seeking an associate degree in baking and pastries at the Art Institute of Houston.

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