Which CDL License Should I Get?

The Simple Answer: Get a Class A License

A Class A license is much better than a Class B license. If you are paying for your own school, you should get a Class A license and add as many endorsements as you can. Each DMV written endorsement test will cost about $35.

  • A Class A license allows you to drive “the big truck”. A Class B license allows you to drive some trucks that are bigger than regular cars and delivery vans, but not the largest (most profitable) vehicles.

  • In theory, you could save a little money by getting a Class B license and taking fewer endorsements, but this rarely works in practice. School for a Class A license costs $3,000 for five weeks. School for a Class B license costs $2,500 for four weeks. But with a Class A license, you can make $45,000 to $90,000 per year, while with a Class B license, you can make $17,000 to $50,000 per year.

  • There are a lot more jobs for Class A truck drivers than Class B truck drivers. Even if your current job only requires a Class B license, having a Class A license will mean that when it is time to find work elsewhere, you will have many more options.

  • If you have a Class A license, and you want to drive a class B vehicle (not a bus), you can do so. You don’t need to change your license in any way.

Note: The training costs in this article are “California prices”, and include the required medical exam(s) and DMV written test fees, but these prices are fairly typical across the continental U.S.

What If Someone Else Is Paying for It?

If you are getting your school paid for by someone else, you still want the Class A license. If you have an existing job where you currently don’t need a commercial driver license (equipment operator, carnival ride operator, etc.), and your employer wants you to get a license to be able to transport the equipment, they will almost certainly go with the cheapest option. If they decide that they are willing to pay for you to get a Class B license, ask if you can pay the $500 difference. This $500 will be a great investment.

Driving a Bus

  • If you get hired by a bus company with no previous commercial driving experience, the bus company will train you. They will have an established training program and you will be part of an established routine. They will train you to get a Class B license and a Passenger (P) endorsement. It is not to the advantage of the bus company to give you any extra training. You can offer to pay the difference in cost. It is unlikely that they will say yes, but you can ask. You should note that most unionized city bus drivers make more than $50,000/year.

  • If you have a Class A license, and you want to drive a bus, you’ll need a couple of endorsements, but that’s all. Go back to the DMV and take the written test for a “P” endorsement (“Passenger”) and/or the written test for a School Bus (S) endorsement. Depending on the state, you might need to perform a driving test in a bus, but you won’t need to repeat driving school.

Why Not Start with Class B and Get Class A Later?

If you want to upgrade your license from a Class B to a Class A, you will have to redo the truck driving school from scratch: $3,000 and five weeks. It is much better to get a Class A license from the beginning.

Which CDL License Should I Get?

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