How Much Does It Cost to Get A CDL?


Thinking about starting a career as a commercial driver? Well, you’ll need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to kick things off. But before you dive in, it’s crucial to understand the financial commitment involved. From training costs to licensing fees, let’s break down everything you need to know about the costs associated with getting a CDL in the U.S.

What is a CDL and Why is it Necessary?

A CDL allows you to operate large vehicles, like semi-trucks and buses, which regular driver’s licenses don’t cover. There are three main classes of CDLs—Class A, B, and C—each qualifying you for different types of vehicles. Not just truckers, anyone aiming to drive any commercial heavy vehicles needs this license, making it a gateway to numerous job opportunities in various sectors. Read more about the CDL.

Overview of CDL Training Costs

The road to a CDL starts with Entry Level Driver Training, which can be obtained through private driving schools, community colleges, or company-sponsored programs. The program must be listed on the FMCSA Training Provide Registry. The costs can vary wildly:

Private school CDL training tuition is between $3,000 and $7,000 for a comprehensive course.

Community colleges could offer more affordable options at around $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the length and depth of the training. However, the length of time to complete may be longer.

Company-sponsored training could be “free,” though it often comes with a commitment to work for the company for a specified period. Read more about paid vs. free CDL training.

Examination and Licensing Fees

In order to get a CDL, you need to pass both written and skills tests. Here’s what you might spend:

Written exams typically cost about $5 to $20 per attempt.

Skills testing can range from $30 to $100.

– If you’re adding endorsements, such as for hazardous materials or tankers, expect to pay additional fees for each endorsement test.

Additional Costs to Get a CDL

Beyond training and testing, there are a few more expenses:

Medical examinations and drug screening** can cost anywhere from $50 to $150.

Driving record checks and background checks** are also required, which might add an extra $10 to $40.

Financial Assistance Options For CDL Training

Worried about costs? There are ways to mitigate them:

Scholarships and grants for CDL training  are available through many schools and organizations.

-Company-sponsored programs may pay for your training upfront, requiring you to stay with the company for a time after getting your CDL.

State and federal aid programs may also be available to help cover training costs.

Long-term Investment vs. Immediate Costs

While the initial costs might seem steep, obtaining a CDL is a significant investment in your future. The average salary for truck drivers can range widely but often falls between $69,00 and $85,000 per year,* depending on experience, location, and the company you work for.

When compared to the financial and time commitments required by traditional four-year college degrees, the picture starts to look significantly different.

Cost Comparison: CDL vs. Four-Year Degree

CDL Training Costs: As previously mentioned, the cost for CDL training varies, but even at the high end, it’s significantly less than the average cost of college tuition.

Four-Year College Degree: According to the College Board, the average annual cost of tuition and fees for a four-year institution hovers around $10,560 for state residents at public colleges and leaps to $37,650 at private colleges. Over four years, that’s about $42,240 to $150,600 — a substantial financial burden.

Time to Start Earning:

CDL: CDL training programs can last from as little as three weeks to about three months. This means you could potentially start earning within just four weeks of beginning your training. Truck drivers can earn an average starting salary ranging from $69,000 to $85,000* per year, with growth potential depending on factors like endorsements, experience, and routes.

Four-Year Degree: In contrast, a college degree takes four years to complete, during which time students might accumulate debt without a guarantee of immediate employment upon graduation.

Getting a CDL is a Good Return on Investment

The ROI of obtaining a CDL can be quite attractive. For instance, if you invest approximately $7,000 in your CDL training and start with a salary of $69,000, your initial training costs are recouped within a fraction of your first year’s earnings. Learn more about truck driving job opportunities. In contrast, the ROI for a college degree can vary significantly based on the field of study and the job market, and it often takes several years to break even on this investment due to higher debt loads and variable starting salaries.

Now that you’re familiar with all the costs involved in getting a CDL, it’s time to weigh these against the potential earnings and career opportunities. If commercial driving seems like your road to success, start planning your budget and get ready to hit the books and then the road! Fill out our form or give us a call today!


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