Washington State Driver’s License Classes – And How to Get Each One

Washington State Driver’s License Classes

So, you need a Washington driver’s license.

But which one?

Yes, there’s more than one driver’s license class in the state. 

And knowing which one you need is essential. 

After all, it affects the type of vehicle you can drive.

Luckily, we’ve got what you need. 

Here’s a complete guide to the different Washington State driver’s license classes. 

We’ve even included the steps to get each one!

Are you ready to dive in?

Let’s go!

What Are the Driver’s License Classes in Washington State?

Washington State offers five driver’s license classes. These are referred to as:

  • Class PDL
  • Class A CDL
  • Class B CDL
  • Class C CDL
  • Class M

Class PDL

PDL stands for Personal Driver’s License. It’s the credential you need to operate private vehicles that weigh under 26,001 pounds. 

It includes sedans, SUVs, pickups, and even RVs. 

Remember, these vehicles should be for personal use only. 

Now, you can get a Standard Class PDL license or an Enhanced one. 

Both allow you to operate the same kind of vehicle. 

However, you can also use an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) to board a domestic flight. Moreover, you can re-enter the U.S. by land or sea from Mexico and Canada.

Class A CDL

CDL stands for Commercial Driver’s License. So if you see this, that means it’s for commercial purposes. 

A Class A CDL operates combination commercial vehicles like tractor-trailers, flatbeds, or big rigs. 

These vehicles should have a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of over 26,000 pounds and tow units weighing over 10,000 pounds.

And, since it’s the highest CDL class, you can also use it to operate any commercial vehicle with a lower weight rating. 

Class B CDL

Some commercial vehicles weigh over 26,000 pounds but aren’t combination vehicles. 

Box vans, dump trucks, and some city buses are examples — and you need a Class B CDL to drive these.

You can also tow a unit using these heavy straight vehicles, but it can’t weigh over 10,000 pounds.

Yes, the Class B CDL can operate commercial vehicles with a lower weight rating, but never one that’s higher. 

Class C CDL

Not all commercial vehicles weigh over 26,000 pounds. 

If the commercial vehicle weighs under 26,0001 pounds and (if applicable) tows units fewer than 10,000 pounds, a Class C CDL is needed. 

However, a Class C CDL is only needed IF any of these apply:

  • The vehicle is used to transport hazardous materials that require placarding
  • The vehicle is used to carry 16 or more passengers

If not, then a regular Class PDL license will do. 

Class M

Technically, this is more of an endorsement — something you add to an existing driver’s license.

The Class M endorsement allows you to operate a 2-wheel motorcycle or a 3-wheel motorcycle, depending on what you apply for. 

How to Get a Class PDL License in Washington State

Whether you want a standard or an Enhanced Driver’s License, you’ll go through the same steps. 

Remember, both are PDLs.

Step 1: Get your Instruction Permit if you’re under 18. You can get one by either of these options:

  • Option 1: Attend a Traffic Safety Education (TSE) course
  • Option 2: Take a knowledge exam

If you go with Option 1:

  1.  You have to be 15 or older. 
  1. You must make an account with License eXpress to pre-apply and get your Washington Driver’s License (WDL) number.
  1. You need to then enroll in a driving school with a curriculum meeting state requirements. You must also give your WDL number to the school. 

You can find approved course providers here

  1. Complete your online application or visit a DMV office at least ten days before the course begins to get your learner’s permit.
  1. Pay the $25 instruction permit fee. 
  1. Print or get your temporary instruction permit. Your official permit will arrive in the mail. 

If you go with Option 2:

  1. You have to be 15½ years old or older.
  1. Create a License eXpress account (or log in if you already have one) to pre-apply online.
  1. Make an online appointment for your knowledge test.
  1. On your visit, do the following:
    1. Pay the $25 test fee (it’s best to check with the DMV office you go to because rates may vary per location)
    2. Pass the knowledge test
  1. Complete your online application or go to a DMV office with documents proving your identity if you want a permit with a photo. If you opt for the latter, remember to make an appointment.
  1. Get your temporary instruction permit. Expect your official permit to arrive by mail within seven to ten business days.

Step 2: Work on your Intermediate Driver’s License if you chose Option 1. Option 1 allows you to get a license before you turn 18 years old. 

  1. You have to be at least 16 years old. 
  1. You have to hold your instruction permit for 6 months or longer.
  1. You have to complete your Traffic Safety Education (TSE) course.
  1. You have to undergo 40 hours of supervised driving, with 10 hours done at night. 
  1. You must have a clean driving record. 
  1. Schedule your knowledge and driving test by making an appointment online.
  1. Do the following on your scheduled date:
    1. Pay the testing fees (the amount will vary per location)
    2. Pass the knowledge and driving test
  1. Apply for your intermediate license online or in person. The requirements may vary depending on your choice. The table below details these:
OnlineIn Person
*Only available if your instruction permit has a photo.

*Secure permission from your parent or guardian.

*Pay the licensing fee ($81).

*Get your temporary Intermediate Driver’s License and expect the official one to arrive within seven to ten days by mail.
*Required if your instruction permit doesn’t have a photo. 

*Schedule an appointment online

*Go with a parent or present a notarized Parental Authorization Affidavit Form.

*Present proof of identity, Social Security Number, Washington residence, and citizenship (the last two are for Enhanced licenses).

*Pass a vision test.

*Have your picture taken.

*Pay the appropriate licensing fee. That’s $81 for a standard license and $116 for an enhanced one.Get your temporary Intermediate Driver’s License and wait for the official one to arrive in the mail.

Step 3: Get your Personal Driver’s License.

Wait until you turn 18. 

The WA DOL lifts all restrictions on your intermediate license.

That means you have full driving privileges already. 

And there you go — now you have a Washington State Class PDL driver’s license. 

But what about if I chose Option 2?

What if I’m getting a first-time license at the age of 18+?

What are the permit and intermediate license restrictions?

We’ll talk more about that in our complete guide on ‘How to Get A Washington State Driver’s License’. 

How to Get a Class A, B, and C CDL in Washington State

Although there are three CDL classes in Washington State, you can secure them using the same steps.

Step 1: Get everything in order.

  1. Ensure your eligibility for a Washington State CDL. Here are the requirements:
    1. You have to be 18 years old OR 21 years old (if driving interstate)
    2. You must be a US citizen or have lawful presence
    3. You must live in Washington State
    4. You must hold a WA-issued Class PDL license that has full driving privileges 
  1. Decide on your CDL class and endorsements.
  1. Self-certify your CDL class and submit your medical documents online.

Step 2: Get your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) or CDL permit.

  1. Schedule your CDL written test.
  1. On your appointment, bring the following:
    1. Your valid Washington driver’s license 
    2. Social Security Number
    3. Proof of citizenship, permanent residence, or non-domicile document

Check here to ensure you have the correct paperwork.

  1. Pay the $35 testing fee and $40 CDL permit fee.
  1. Pass all necessary CDL and (if applicable) endorsement written tests.
  1. Get your CDL permit.

Step 3: Work on your CDL.

  1. Hold your CDL permit for 14 days or longer. 
  1. Complete an Entry-Level Driver Training (EDLT) program.
  1. Schedule your CDL skills test. You can take it with:
    1. A DOL examiner (call 360 902 3785)
    2. A Third-Party examiner (you must inform a DOL examiner before you can contact the third-party provider directly)
  1. Pay the $250 CDL testing fee. 
  1. On your appointment, ensure you have the following:
    1. Your Washington State-issued driver’s license and CDL permit (both must be valid)
    2. Your Medical Examiners Certificate (if necessary)
    3. A registered and insured CMV within your CDL class/endorsement (you must have an authorization letter from the owner if you borrowed it)
  1. Pass the CDL skills test.
  1. Visit a driver’s license office at least 24 hours after you pass your skills test (don’t forget to make an appointment) and do the following:
    1. Show your current driver’s license.
    2. Present a Medical Examiners Certificate (if applicable)
    3. Provide proof of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Residency (click here to see what you can or can’t use).
  1. Get your CDL.

That wasn’t so difficult, right?

But you might be wondering what the CDL endorsements are…

Maybe you want to know more about CDL restrictions. 

You can learn about all that and more in our complete guide on “How to Get a CDL in Washington State”. 

How to Get a Class M Endorsement in Washington State

What if you prefer to ride a motorcycle or a trike?

Then you must have an M endorsement on your license (PDL or commercial).

Here’s how to get one.

  1. Be 16 years old or older.
  1. Have a Washington State-issued driver’s license (at least an Intermediate license).
NOTE: If you don’t have a license yet, check out our earlier section on How to Get a Personal Driver’s License (PDL).
  1. Decide which endorsement you need:
2-Wheel Endorsement3-Wheel Endorsement
Your 2-wheel motorcycle or scooter’s engine displacement is over 50cc and can go faster than 30 mph2-wheel motorcycle or scooter with a stabilizing conversion kit

Motorcycle with a sidecar

3-wheel trike
  1. Complete a motorcycle safety course if you’re under 18.
NOTE: Attending a course means the approved motorcycle training school and other partner local schools issue your permit knowledge and riding tests.
  1. Apply for your motorcycle permit online by selecting the ‘Replace your license or State ID’ tab OR (if your license is expiring in a year) the ‘Renew your license or State ID’ tab.  
  1. Pay the $35 permit fee and get your 2-wheel or 3-wheel motorcycle permit.
NOTE: Remember the following points about your motorcycle permit:

It remains valid for 180 days and is renewable once. 
The WA DOL will only issue one permit and process one renewal in five years
You cannot have passengers or ride at night.
  1. When you’re ready, take another knowledge and riding endorsement test at an approved training school.
  1. Again, Apply for your motorcycle endorsement online by selecting the ‘Replace your license or State ID’ tab OR (if your license is expiring in a year) the ‘Renew your license or State ID’ tab.  
  1. Check your information and update it if necessary. Ensure the summary screen has the correct details. Whatever you see here is what appears on your endorsement.
NOTE: On the New Card section, you should see the following:

For a 2-wheel endorsement – O endorsement with J restriction
For a 3-wheel endorsement – L endorsement with J restriction
  1. Pay the appropriate fee, ranging from $27 to $41.
NOTE: That includes a $25 application fee and $2 each year your license remains valid.
  1. Print a copy of your temporary driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement. You’ll need it until your new one arrives.

And just like that, now you can ride a motorcycle!

If you need more information about the 2-wheel motorcycle endorsement process, you can check here

For a 3-wheel motorcycle endorsement, you can find more information about the application process here. 

The Wrap Up

You made it!


Now you know everything there is to know about the Washington State driver’s license classes. 

You know what each class can operate…

Better yet, you also know the steps on how to get each one!

Now that you have all this information, it’s time to get the credential you need.

Good luck!

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