California Driver’s License Classifications (A Complete 2024 Guide)

California Driver's License Classifications (A Complete Guide)

Class A Commercial, Class A Non-Commercial. 

Class B Commercial, Class B Non-Commercial. 

Class M1, Class M2. 

All these California license types might get you confused. 

Which one should you get?

Well, in this complete 2024 guide, we’ll be talking about the California driver’s license classifications. We’ll explain what each class can operate and how to get it. 

So are you ready?

Let’s go!

Types of Driver’s Licenses in California

Let’s break down and explain in detail the different types of licenses: 

  • Class A Commercial (CDL)
  • Class A Non-commercial (non-CDL)
  • Class B Commercial
  • Class B Non-commercial
  • Class C Commercial
  • Class C Non-commercial
  • Class M1
  • Class M2

Class A

A Class A CDL holds the most authority among all types of licenses. It allows you to drive the heaviest of vehicles — any combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. 

A Class A CDL also allows you to tow a trailer vehicle of over 10,000 pounds, provided you are employed or are offering to volunteer for commercial purposes. 

On the other hand, a Class A non-CDL holds the same towing power as a CDL license but only permits you to drive vehicles that weigh no more than 26,000 pounds. 

You are also allowed to drive housecars over 40 feet but not exceeding 45 feet. 

And remember, non-CDL means that it should not be used for hire or commercial purposes. 

Class B

A Class B CDL holder can operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of more than 26,000 pounds. However, the towed vehicle should be less than 10,000 pounds

As for Class B non-CDL, it can operate vehicles that weigh no more than 26,000 pounds. And, your towing capability is capped to no more than 10,000 pounds. 

Class C

A class C non-CDL is what most private citizens have. Despite this, you actually are allowed to drive more than just your basic sedan or SUV. 

Along with your usual private car, a class C license holder can drive a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less. You may also tow a trailer no more than 10,000 pounds.

There is also a commercial class C license. With a class C CDL, you can transport hazardous materials as well as carry 16 or more passengers, provided you have proper endorsements, 

Class M1

A class M1 license allows you to operate any two-wheeled vehicle such as motorcycles, scooters, and any vehicle classified as M2. 

Class M2

A class M2 license is the restricted version of the M1 license. You may only operate motorized bicycles, mopeds, or any vehicle that does not go faster than 30 MPH. 

How to Get a Non-Commercial License in California

If applying for a non-commercial class A or B license, you need to submit or fulfill the following: 

  • Completed driver’s license application
  • Completed health report
  • Pay the application fee
  • Pass a vision test
  • Pass the pre-trip inspection test
  • Pass the driving test
  • For non-CDL class A, pass the Recreation Vehicles and Non-Commercial Class A Trailers Law test
  • For non-CDL class B, pass the driver’s examination for 45’’ Housecars Law test

If applying for a basic class C license, you must submit or fulfill the following requirements: 

  • Completed driver’s license application
  • Identity and residency documents
  • SSN
  • Pay the application fee
  • Pass the knowledge and driving tests
  • Get a fingerprint scan and photo 
  • Signature

If you’re a minor, you must satisfy the following additional requirements: 

  • Must be at least 16 years old
  • Completed driver education and driver training
  • Held an instruction permit (California or out-of-state) for 6 months
  • Signed parent certification – 50 hours of supervised driving completed

How to Get a Commercial License in California

To apply for a CDL in California, first, you need to get your commercial learner’s permit (CLP). 

In order to get a CLP, you need to present the following requirements: 

  • Class C non-commercial license OR a temporary/interim license
  • Completed CDL application form

You also need to visit a Department of Motor Vehicles and:

  • Present a 10-year history record check – only for those who were issued a DL in a different state or jurisdiction within the last 10 years
  • Completed medical exam
  • Social security number (SSN) proof
  • Identity document
  • Residency documents
  • Pass the vision exam
  • Pass the knowledge test
  • Photo of you

You will receive your CLP once you pass the knowledge test (maximum of 3 attempts).

After 14 days of getting your CLP, you can schedule an appointment for your CDL skills test. Once passed, you will be issued a temporary CDL valid for 60 days. From there, you will get your official CDL after 45 days.

How to Get a Motorcycle Class License in California

Here are the requirements for getting an M1 or M2 license:

  • Present your driver’s license or ID card application
  • Get a photo & fingerprint scan
  • Pay application fee
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pass knowledge and skills test
  • Have an instruction permit for 6 months (adults 21 and over do not need to submit this)

Minors have to submit additional requirements as follows:

  • Completed driver’s ed and behind the wheel training
  • Certification of Completion for motorcycle training

Submit the above at any DMV field office. 


At first, the California driver’s license classifications can be a bit confusing. What with all the weights and towed trailers, commercial and non-commercial, and all that. 

But once you are familiar with it, you’ll see that it is pretty straightforward. 

Before we go, let’s give you a very quick review. 

  • Commercial licenses are for hired or employed drivers, while non-commercial are for private use. 
  • Class A CDL can operate combination vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds or more and towing 10,000 pounds or more. 
  • Similarly, Class B CDL can operate single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds but cannot tow vehicles more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C CDL is used for transporting hazardous materials and 16 passengers. These license holders need to get the right endorsement for these uses. 
  • Class A non-CDL cannot operate a vehicle over 26,000 pounds, but it can still tow a trailer over 10,000 pounds. 
  • Class B non-CDL can only drive vehicles less than 26,000 pounds, as well as tow vehicles less than 10,000 pounds. 
  • Then there’s the regular Class C non-CDL. This will allow you to drive your private vehicle. However, it can also operate vehicles with a GVWR of fewer than 26,000 pounds and tow less than 10,000 pounds. 
  • As for Class M1 and M2, these can operate motorcycles or any two-wheeled vehicle. 

So whatever you’re planning on driving, make sure you get the right license for it. 

Good luck!

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