Planning to use an RV on your next trip? Then make sure you have the proper licence to drive the type of RV you want to use because there is no “one size fits all” driver’s licence. And driving to another state may mean you’ll need another licence. So read on to see what you need to know:
What type of licence do I need to drive an RV?
First things first. There’s no driver licence that is exclusive for RVs. Australian driver licences are categorised based on the vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), seating capacity and the number of axles. Hence, you need to match these parameters to the type of RV you are to use (e.g. caravan, 5th wheel, campervan, motorhome, coach) so you won’t have to secure another class of licence.
If, for example, you want to take your family of five on a 1-month trip to various tourist spots – then you would most likely need a motorhome driveable under an LR class licence, based on the vehicle’s ability to:
- Have enough seats for your family
- Carry your family’s one-month worth of belongings (e.g. luggage, surfboard, bike, skates, camping equipment, etc.)
Alternatively, you can use your 5-seater car (class C licence) to tow a caravan at the expense of bringing fewer belongings.
What are the classes of driver licence in Australia?
RV users must have either of the licence classes below, in accordance with the type of RV they are to drive.
|LICENCE CLASS||VEHICLES THAT CAN BE DRIVEN||ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS|
|Car (C)||Motor vehicle
||VIC/ACT – You can tow a caravan of GVM ≤9t or to the manufacturer’s specifications (whichever is less).
|Light Rigid (LR)||Motor vehicle/truck/bus
– You can tow a >9t GVM caravan
WA – You can tow a caravan whose maximum GVM is as per the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 or the tow vehicle manufacturer’s specs
|Medium Rigid (MR)||Motor vehicle/truck/bus
||VIC – Vehicles driveable by LR & C licences can be combined
– You can tow a >9t GVM caravan
|Heavy Rigid (HR)||Motor vehicle/truck/bus (articulated or not)
||VIC – Vehicles driveable by MR, LR & C licences can be combined
– You can tow a >9t GVM caravan
|Heavy Combination (HC)||Prime mover + >9t GVM single semi-trailer + optional unladen converter dolly; or
>9t GVM motor vehicle + caravan + optional unladen converter dolly
|SA – Low loader dolly may replace any converter dolly
VIC – Vehicles driveable by HR, MR, LR & C licences can be combined
– You can tow an additional caravan (i.e. 2 total caravans)
- Camper trailers are caravans. Consequently, caravans are considered as trailers.
- A driver with a higher licence class may drive any vehicle driveable by any lower class. For example, an MR licence holder can also drive vehicles driveable by LR licence, but not of the HC class.
- When towing caravans in SA, you must comply with the Road Traffic Act 1961 or the Heavy Vehicle National Law, as applicable. Plus, follow the gross combination mass limit of the towing vehicle.
How do I know if I am qualified to hold a specific licence class?
Aside from the tests and courses needed to be passed or completed, these are some general credentials required when applying for a driver licence:
|≥ 16 years old||≥ 15yr. + 9mo. old|
|Light Rigid (LR)
||C licence holder for ≥ 1 year|
|≥ 19 years old||Have held a P licence|
|Medium Rigid (MR)||C licence holder for ≥ 1 year|
|≥ 19 years old||Alternative: LR licence holder for ≥ 1 year||Alternative: LR licence holder for ≥ 1 year|
|Heavy Rigid (HR)||C licence holder for ≥ 2 years|
|Also a LR or MR licence holder for ≥ 1 year||Alternative: LR or MR licence holder for ≥ 1 year||Alternative: LR or MR licence holder for ≥ 1 year|
|Alternate option to C, LR and MR licence requirements: Have completed an approved training course||Not a P licence holder|
|Heavy Combination (HC)||MR or HR licence holder for ≥ 1 year|
|Alternative: Have completed an approved training course||C licence holder for ≥ 2 years||C licence holder for ≥ 3 years||Including a P licence|
- P licence means “provisional licence”.
- There are exemptions in TAS to the qualifications indicated above.
How can I apply for a driver licence or upgrade my existing licence?
If you haven’t had a driver licence ever, the main gateway is to apply for a learner’s permit so that you can drive a car (C licence). From there you can upgrade to a provisional licence, open licence and then finally a full licence –ranging from light vehicles to heavier vehicles.
Being a learner licence holder does not mean you can hit the road freely.
- Never drive without the supervision of a full licence holder.
- Never use a mobile phone even if it’s hands-free
- Always clearly display your L plate in the vehicle front and rear
- Fill up your logbook documenting your (≥50-hr) driving experience, plus (except in TAS) ≥10-hr night driving – signed by your supervisor
- Not drive in Parramatta Park or Centennial Park (Sydney).
- Not tow any vehicle/trailer
- Have ZERO alcohol in your body system while driving
- Limit your speed to 90kph (NSW) or 80kph (NT) even if the road allows a higher speed (but any lower road speed limit shall prevail)
Procedures for applying and upgrading your licence:
Also, there are condition codes applied to enforce special restrictions such as driving:
- on automatic transmission vehicles only,
- on vehicles with an interlocking device only,
- only while wearing glasses/contact lenses,
- based on special conditions for elderly drivers
If I travel to another state, will I have to acquire another licence?
You do not need to if your stay is:
- up to 3 months in NSW or NT,
- less than 3 months in SA, or
- less than 6 months in VIC
If you plan to extend beyond those limits, apply for a licence to your destination state. The NT though allows an extension of up to 12 months if approved by the Department.
Other important points to remember are:
- Your licence must be current & valid during your entire stay
- Use your most relevant licence. For instance, if you have QLD, VIC and SA driver licences and plan to take your RV to VIC – then use your VIC licence ONLY.
- Driver etiquette of course! Follow the road rules of your vacation destination.
What if I am a foreigner who’s only visiting Australia?
If you are a foreigner planning to import your RV during your visit to the wonderful Land Down Under, you must secure certain permits. And as a law-abiding driver, you must always carry all of your relevant documents because the police may ask you to pull over for random inspection.
- overseas driver licence (in English), or
- international driving permit + overseas driver licence, or
- overseas driver licence (not in English) + its official English translation from the NAATI or any AUSIT-accredited translator
The same stay period, extension provisions and important points mentioned for interstate visitors apply as well to visitors from overseas.
In NSW you can extend your stay by applying for an NSW licence as a temporary overseas visitor.
Application procedure and provisions for visitors from overseas:
The details might seem complicated but in short:
The applicability of your existing Aussie/NZ driver licence (if any) does not change. So just choose an RV that fits the driving scope of your licence and you won’t have to break a sweat. Or if you need an excuse you can now apply to get the new heavy vehicle licence you always wanted.