Transportation is a potential land for those who want to develop their trucking career. However, not all drivers know which type of driving license should they choose? A CDL or non-CDL license? What’s the difference between CDL vs non-CDL? In this article, we are going to explain and answer all of those questions, as well as make a quick comparison between CDL vs non-CDL to give you a clear understanding of these two licenses.


cdl vs non cdl
What are the differences between CDL vs non-CDL?


1. What are CDL and non-CDL drivers?

First of all, a CDL or commercial driver’s license allows drivers to drive a vehicle under the U.S government requirements. Specifically, a CDL driver can operate any vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rate (GVWR) over 26,001 lbs, can travel with 16 passengers  (including the driver), can carry hazardous materials as well as can drive a tanker or double or triple trailer. In addition, a CDL is a must if your job is related to commercial transportation. Moreover, if your vehicle needs special requirements such as hazardous materials, you need to obtain the appropriate endorsement as well. 

On the other hand, the non-CDL is a standard driver’s license that every citizen should obtain to operate their own car. This type of license allows drivers to use the under 8,000 lbs gross weight trucks. In addition, you also can use this license to do some types of jobs such as taxi driver. food delivery or small truck drivers.   


2. What are the differences between CDL vs non-CDL? 

Of course, there will be differences when you obtain a CDL vs non-CDL. Here are the key components that can be used to distinguish these 2 types: 


2.1. Written test (Knowledge test)

The very first difference between CDL vs non-CDL is the test that drivers must do to receive one. In order to obtain a CDL, drivers must apply for and complete one Knowledge test, one Driving test, and one Endorsement test. In brief, the Knowledge test will include information of general vehicle operation, combination vehicles, and air brakes. 

  • General operation: CDL general vehicle operating skills exam questions may cover cargo tie-downs, emergency protocols, retarders, and downhill gradients.
  • Combination vehicles: Couplers, safe trailer connections, service lines, and parking protocols are examples of combination vehicle questions.
  • Air brakes: Air brake inquiries may involve subjects such as air pressure, spring break mechanism, and slack adjusters.
  • Endorsement knowledge test: Depending on which type of endorsement you take, the content of the test will be modified. 

Besides, a written test for a non-CDL license related to the vehicle operation, safety as well as traffic laws. 

  • Vehicle operation: Seatbelts, turn signals, and rearview mirrors are examples of vehicle operations issues.
  • Safety: Questions about safety may include braking distance, speed limits, and alcohol consumption.
  • Traffic law: Questions about traffic law may cover subjects such as left and right turn rules, street signs, and stoplights.


  • Combination vehicle
  • Air brakes
  • Endorsement knowledge test
  • Vehicle operation
  • Safety
  • Traffic law


>> Read more: CDL Study Guide


2.2. Driving test

A driving test for a CDL requires drivers to perform their ability to drive, such as up or down steep, go over bridges and the rail tracks as well as around curves. Moreover, the examiners may also record your speed, lane changes as well as stop, and safety. 

Overall, when you are in a non-CDL driving test, the examiner may be asked you to demonstrate your ability to drive your motor vehicle safely. For instance, you may be asked to operate your car and follow the street signs and regulations, make a turn, or do parallel parking. Importantly, they also record your driving behavior, such as wearing a seatbelt, keeping your hands on the wheel, or turning on the signals before making a turn. 



cdl vs non cdl driver
A CDL drivers 


2.3. Classes

In general, there are 3 classes in the CDL, which are CDL Class A, CDL Class B, and CDL class C. Each class has its own requirements that permit you to operate a type of vehicle. Depending on your decision, you can choose the appropriate class. 

On the other hand, the non-CDL license only has class D. This type of license allows the driver to drive a single-unit vehicle that weighs less than 26,001 lbs. In addition, you also can use a class D license to drive a vehicle attached to a trailer that doesn’t exceed 10,000 pounds. 


Class A

Class B

Class C

Class D


2.4. Cost

The cost of both CDL vs non-CDL will vary depending on state. However, the fees to obtain a CDL license may between $40 and $500. For example, Connecticut now costs $70 for the physical license, $16 for the written exam, and $30 for the road test. The state of Alaska, on the other hand, costs $120 for the physical license, $25 for the written test, and $25 for the driving test.

Non-CDL license is around $10 to $100. For example, the state of Missouri presently costs $10 for a three-year non-CDL license. Alternatively, the state of Virginia presently costs $89 for a six-year non-CDL license.


$40 – $500 $10 – $100


2.5. Renewal 

Depending on your state, you may have to renew your CDL every five or eight years. In addition, you may have to complete the knowledge test, driving as well as health requirements. 

A skills test, a driver’s test, and an eye exam may be required to renew a non-CDL driver’s license. Depending on the state, you may not be required to take another driving test if your license’s expiration date has just occurred or is about to expire. If your visual abilities do not satisfy specific standards at renewal, you may be required to drive while wearing glasses or contacts. Depending on the state, you may be required to renew your non-CDL license every two to twelve years.


2.6. Job Outlook

Currently, the CDL drivers are in an urgent shortage. The present driver deficit is estimated to be approximately 50,000, but this figure is predicted to rise to 174,000 by 2026. With the volume of freight handled by trucks, having adequate truck drivers is critical to the economy. Thus, if you are considering being a truck driver, this is a good time to start!


There are various types of non-CDL driving employment. While non-CDL drivers are restricted to operating cars weighing less than 8000 pounds, there are many different sorts of driving occupations that fall within these parameters. The majority of these occupations are for carrying products in a local area; with many businesses and restaurants now offering home delivery services, these sorts of jobs are on the rise. Some non-CDL drivers transport products from establishments such as pharmacies or department stores, as well as meals from restaurants or grocery stores, on a local basis. Local businesses also hire non-CDL drivers to deliver products to their customers, such as office supplies, packages, or retail stock. As of Jul 11, 2022, the average annual pay for a non-CDL in the United States is $46,978 a year.


non-cdl driver
Non-cdl drivers can work as taxi drivers


3. Is getting a CDL the best career truck for you?

In general, you already see the difference between CDL vs non-CDL as well as their benefits and drawbacks based on what we introduced above. You can see that the CDL class is likely to win because you have more choices to choose when obtaining one. However, if you prefer working close to your house as well as spending a shorter time on the truck, the non-CDL is not a bad choice. In short, depending on your abilities and demand, you will find a suitable option.


4. What are the frequently asked questions (FAQs) of the CDL vs non-CDL?


4.1. What does a non-CDL do?

Non-CDL drivers can operate vehicles weighing less than 8,000 pounds, which includes automobiles used to deliver food and goods, as well as smaller trucks used to transport various items such as large packages and mail. The majority of these jobs are in the same city or town. While a CDL driver has more professional choices (such as commercial transportation employment and driving bigger trucks), those without a CDL may find plenty of work.


4.2. How much does a CDL make?

According to a trusted statistic survey, the average yearly wage for CDL truck drivers in the United States is $66,196 per year. There are several elements that influence how much truck drivers earn every year.


>> See more: CDL Driver Salary


4.3. Is the box truck manual?

Aside from an engine, the box truck with a gearbox might be either automated or manual shift. A basic Class D driver’s license is necessary to operate a box truck, whether it has an automated or manual transmission.


4.4. What is a class D license?

Class D license or non-commercial (non-CDL) license allows drivers to operate any vehicle that does not require a motorcycle or commercial license. 


4.5. Do CDL truck drivers quit?

Yes. Sure. When truck drivers feel undervalued and underpaid, they leave their employment in search of something that offers a better salary, perks, and working conditions.



In summary, both CDL and non-CDL are good tools for those who are interested in driving jobs. However, depending on your demand that you should choose the most suitable type of license for yourself. We hope that our information of CDL vs non-CDL will help you determine your future jobs. If you think CDL is better for you, we strongly suggest you practice on our CDL Practice Test to score high and receive the license right from the first time.