How Much Does It Cost To Get a CDL License? – 2021 Informational Guide

| Last Updated: November 7, 2021

Whether you are on a limited budget or not, knowing beforehand how much you'll spend to get your CDL will help you plan for the entire process better. 

Several factors go into determining the overall cost, making the cost vary from state to state. Here's a breakdown of how much you can expect to spend to get your commercial driver’s license.

Quick Questions Before Starting

Before you start the process of acquiring a CDL, it's important to assess how easy or difficult the process is for you and if you can commit yourself to it for the entire duration. 

How Difficult To Get a CDL License?

The process for getting a CDL is a lengthy one, given all the detailed requirements that you must meet. However, the hardest part isn't fulfilling the requirements. 

For most aspiring commercial drivers, the hardest part is proving to themselves their aptitude for trucking work. 

You should ask yourself if you are ready to put in long working hours on the road and if you are really cut out for driving work.

How Long Does It Take?

On average, seven weeks are enough to obtain your CDL through a full-time CDL professional course. 

However, it can be up to six months before you get your license when attending a part-time CDL school program. 

How Much Does It Cost To Get a CDL License?

The cost of obtaining a CDL will depend on several components. Below is an overview of some of the components that will determine how much you'll pay for your driver's license. 

1. CDL Application Fees

Some states will charge you between $6 (Tennessee) and $43 (North Carolina) in CDL Application fees to capture your details such as identity, residence, medical conditions, physical limitations, and desired CDL type.

However, most states do not charge any application fee to CDL aspirants. 

Photo credit: dmv.pa.gov

2. CDL License Fee

You'll have to purchase a four- or five-year CDL license at $40-$170. The license fee varies by state. For example, New Jersey charges $42 for a four-year license, while New York charges $164.

The license fee may also vary depending on the type of CDL. In Alabama, a Class A CDL costs $53.50, $43.50 for Class B CDL, and $23.50 for a Class C CDL. 

Massachusetts will charge you $140 for an out-of-state CDL.

Besides the CDL purchase fee, you have to pay for a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP). The CLP will cost you $10-$125. New York charges $10 for the CLP, while New Jersey charges $125.

In some states, the CDL license fee will vary depending on the applicant's age. In Texas, for example, you'll pay $97 for a new eight-year CDL if you are between 18-84 and $26 for a two-year CDL if you are 85 or older. 

Some states will charge varying CDL license fees based on the validity period of the CDL. For example, Vermont charges $60 for a 2-year CDL and $90 for a 4-year CDL. 

3. CDL Schooling Cost

If you attend classes in a formal CDL trucking school, you can expect to spend $3,000 to $5,000 on average. Company-sponsored training will be more favorable, even to the extent of paying you during training. 

The CDL training cost will vary depending on the trucking school, location, and CDL type. It may be between $2,500 and $8,000 or more in some instances. 

4. CDL Endorsements Costs

The cost of CDL endorsements will vary depending on the state and the type of endorsement. You'll pay between $2 and $80 per endorsement. 

Each added endorsement is $2 in New Jersey and $76 for a passenger endorsement in California. 

5. CDL Tests

Some CDL-related tests you will pay for include:

  • CLP Knowledge Test at $25 (Alabama) to $35 (Massachusetts and Washington)

  • Road Test at $30 (Ohio) to $60 

  • Pre-inspection Test at $10 (Ohio)

  • Skills Test (Pre-inspection, Basic controls, and road test) at $20 (Alabama) to $250 (Washington)

If you fail a test, most states will charge you for retesting, with some costs being as follows:

  • $10 in Florida for a knowledge exam retest

  • $20 in Florida and $35 in California for a skill exam retest

6. Medical Tests

Depending on the state and doctor conducting your Department of Transportation (DOT) medical test, you can expect to pay between $80 and $150 for the DOT exam. 

7. Waivers, Name Changes, and Duplicate CDLs

Some states will charge you to obtain a CDL waiver or another. For instance, Ohio charges $25 for a farm waiver. The same state also charges $27 for a duplicate CDL. 

You might also pay up to $10 for a duplicate commercial learner's permit.

If you would like to change the name on your CDL license, you'll pay some money. California charges $28 for a CDL name change. 

8. Other CDL-Related Costs

Besides the above direct costs, you may incur other costs such as food, transport, and accommodation expenses. 

It's hard to fix a price range for these additional costs, but they can easily pull the total cost to upwards of $13,000. 

If your CDL training center is far from your home, you'll have to cater for expenses such as meals, accommodation, and fuel or public transport fees. 

What is the Most Affordable Way to Get a CDL?

The most affordable way to get a CDL is by joining a paid or sponsored CDL training program offered by a trucking company. 

Most trucking companies are always in an endless cycle of shortage of truck drivers. As such, they are left competing for the few drivers available through tactics such as increasing wages. 

To end the shortage menace, companies choose to train their own CDL drivers and afterward employ them. They thus offer company-sponsored CDL training programs that last 3-6 weeks. 

While a paid program can be highly beneficial in that you might even get paid during training, it might tie you down with the company with low pay for at least one year as per the contractual agreement.

Another more affordable option is to check whether there are scholarship opportunities or favorable CDL training loan facilities in your state. 

Conclusion

The total cost to get a CDL can range between $2,500 and $13,000. The cost depends on several factors such as the type of CDL, testing state, various directly related fees like actual CDL license fees, and other indirectly related costs such as accommodation and transport.

People Also Ask

The process for getting a CDL can be a lengthy one, and you might have some lingering questions about the process. Here are a few common ones people ask about getting a CDL. 

Can You Get a CDL Without Going To School?

You can get a CDL without going to a commercial driver training school. The downside to this option is that your hireability rate will be lower since most companies want formally trained drivers.

The way to do this is to study for the commercial learner's permit knowledge test and CDL skills test on your own. But you'll have to pay for actual driving training with a licensed commercial driver. 

Sometimes, you can get a friendly sponsor with a valid CDL to train you for free. 

Can I Get My CDL License Online?

No, you can't get your CDL license online. The CDL training process is a practical one with all the requirements for practical driving hours. You can't take practical driving classes online. 

Is Getting Your CDL Worth It?

It's worth getting your CDL license. 

Besides an attractive annual pay of $35,000 in your first year to over $75,000 as you gain more experience, you'll enjoy other benefits such as frequent traveling, health insurance, and retirement benefits. 



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.