How Much a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Costs and How to Pay for It

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · January 23, 2023 · 6 minute read

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How Much a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Costs and How to Pay for It

If the lure of the open road intrigues you and the idea of spending years in classrooms doesn’t, then becoming a commercial driver may be ideal for you. Before hitting the highway, you’ll need to secure a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which could cost between $3,000 to $10,000 depending on state fees.

This post shares ten ways on how to pay for CDL school, hopefully ones that are just right for you.

Typical Cost of Obtaining a CDL

CDL school costs can vary in part because of the school chosen — which can be private or public — and there may be other costs than what the school charges: application fees, road test fees, CDL skills test fees, and so forth. In general, figure $3,000 to $10,000 and check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see what fees your particular state charges.

The CDL school price will likely account for most of the costs with the DMV able to fill in gaps in information for you. Note that publicly attended CDL schools will likely be cheaper but with potentially longer wait times.

Do You Have to Go to a School to Obtain Your CDL?

If you’re starting after February 7, 2022, then the answer is “yes,” you’ll need to pass minimum training standards to get your CDL license at a registered school or a place that provides the appropriate training. The Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) is not retroactive, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA but holds true for those obtaining their CDL license for the first time. The FMCSA has created an online registry for schools and other training providers to list themselves and state that they meet training requirements, both federal and state.

How to Pay for CDL School

Fortunately, plenty of options exist, similar to paying for beauty school and other types of vocational training. To help, we’ve listed ten ways to pay for your CDL school costs and associated expenses.

1. Workforce Training Funding

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) became law on July 22, 2014, and is designed to help job seekers get the education, training, support, and employment they need.The WIOA requires states to ensure that their workforce development programs are strategically aligned to meet the needs of workers. The WIOA is managed through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in collaboration with numerous partners to get the necessary resources to states and local areas.

Plus, the FMCSA CDL Program Implementation Grant provides financial resources to states.

2. State CDL Training Grants

Each of the states in the United States and the District of Columbia can apply to the federal CDL implementation grant to get funding for relevant programs that assist in their CDL program. Contact the field office of your state or your specific state (links are included in the field office chart) to get information about what’s currently available to cover your CDL school price. Explain that you need financial assistance to get quality CDL training.

3. Local CDL Training Grants

You may find it easier to start your search by contacting a community college, library, or governmental agency in your city or county. You may get directed to state-level or other resources; what’s important is to start your search on how to pay for CDL school.

4. Scholarships

You may be able to find scholarships and grants to cover CDL school costs. As an industry site notes, the past few years have highlighted the importance of commercial truck drivers in our supply chain for food, medicines, and so forth. This adds to the demand for quality truck drivers that already existed before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The result: perhaps more grants and scholarships are available to pay for CDL school costs.

5. Funding for Veterans

If you’re a veteran, you can use your GI benefits to pay the CDL school price. However, there are tax consequences that you’ll likely want to explore before making this move.

Plus, in a 2022 announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) ), the agency announced an award of $3.1 million to community colleges and training institutes. Funds are to be used to help current and former military personnel to get their CDLs. You can find a list of places that received funding and an associated dollar amount here .

6. Federal Student Loans

To qualify for federal loan funding, you must first fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). If a CDL school meets requirements, federal student loan aid may be available. Going this route will also let you know if you qualify for a Pell Grant based on your income; again, make sure that the CDL school is eligible to receive federal funding.

7. Private Student Loans

If grants, scholarships, and federal student loans don’t cover the CDL school costs, then explore private student loans. These loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders to pay for educational expenses. You’ll fill out an application and what you’ll receive typically depends on your credit score and income. Here’s more about what to know about private student loans. You may also find valuable information in our resource about private student loans for undergrads.

8. Trucking Company Tuition Reimbursement

This is when a trucking carrier pays part to all of your CDL school costs. They may do this if, for example, you’re a current employee in another capacity. Or trucking companies may take this route to encourage someone to join their company.

9. Savings

You may discover that you have enough money in your savings account to pay the CDL. Or you may create or continue a savings plan to accrue enough funds to pay for your training. That way, there’s no loans to pay back.

10. Company Sponsored CDL Training

A company in need of drivers may be offering a training program. Just ensure that the program, which is run by the trucking company itself, instead of a training school, is quality. Typically, you’ll need to work for the company offering the training for a certain amount of time; this can be good if you’re looking for a job, eliminating the stress of the job hunt that may follow the completion of a CDL program.

The Takeaway

You may decide that becoming a commercial truck driver is a good way to earn income. If so, you’re probably wondering how to pay for CDL school — and this post shares ten potential ways. If you decide that private student loans are a useful part of the mixture, here’s more information about applying for student loans online.

Community college and other certificate programs aren’t eligible for SoFi’s private student loans. If you’re heading back to school after getting your CDL and are interested in private student loans, consider SoFi’s no fee private student loans. These loans can be used to cover your costs of tuition, books, supplies, and more so you can get on the road as a fully licensed commercial truck driver.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Can you get your CDL without going to school?

As of February 7, 2022, new trainees in a CDL program must attend classes to meet minimum requirements. This post focuses on finding ways to help you pay for CDL school.

Do some trucking companies pay for your CDL training?

Yes, some are willing to help! Reach out to trucking carriers for specifics.

How much does getting your CDL cost?

In general, it costs anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 to get your CDL. Check your school of interest to make sure it’s a quality program and ask what it costs. Also check with your state’s DMV to see what other fees may be involved.

Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade

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