To get your commercial driver’s license (CDL), aspiring drivers go to CDL school so they can best prepare for the license test and learn everything they need to know about operating a huge truck! While you can get the license in only three to four weeks, you may have to come up with a decent amount of cash quickly to pay for the schooling.
Why are CDL schools so expensive? CDL schools are typically most expensive when they are operated by private companies. These are businesses that aim to make money in addition to getting you the education and training for a CDL. Classes vary in cost based on the type and quality of training you receive, the license you are working toward, and the location.
CDL schools vary in both cost and quality, with most classes running at thousands of dollars. There are options to make this schooling cheaper, including scholarship and grant programs, employer programs, and different licensing that will impact the price. Let this article be your guide to finding the best options for finding ways to pay for school without breaking the bank.
What Makes CDL School So Expensive?
There are multiple factors that contribute to the high price tag of CDL school. In many situations, the schools will want you to fork over an average of $3,000 – $9,000 up front, which can be difficult for many people to come up with when starting their driving careers or switching industries. Private schools are going to be on the higher end of that scale.
These prices vary greatly, but this is based on the fact that there are many different CDL schools depending on the type of license and training you are looking for. We will dive into some of these factors in this next section.
CDL school pricing is dependent on a variety of factors:
- Type of license you aim to get
- Quality of the course
- Private vs. public schools
- Geographical location
Type of License
There are different types of commercial driver’s licenses that you can obtain and train for in CDL school. These licenses give you the ability to drive different types of vehicles across a variety of industries. Obtaining a specific license will require specific classes in CDL school, and these will fluctuate in pricing.
These are the different types of CDL licenses you can obtain:
- Class A: This license is the most comprehensive and gives you the ability to drive the most vehicles. It gives you the ability to drive vehicles that exceed 26,001 or more pounds (with a towed vehicle of at least 10,000 pounds). This includes your big rigs, tractor-trailers, tanks, flatbeds, and livestock vehicles. You will be able to drive most Class B and Class C vehicles.
- Class B: This is obtained to drive a single vehicle that can exceed 26,001 pounds, but the attached towing vehicle must be under 10,000 pounds. You may also need additional endorsements, but a Class B license gives you the ability to drive passenger buses, straight trucks, segmented buses, dump trucks, smaller tractor-trailers, and dump trucks.
- Class C: This is one of the more specific driver’s licenses that are required to carry 16 passengers or more or to carry hazardous materials. This license can give you the ability to operate small HazMat vehicles, passenger vehicles, and other vehicles that are not covered by Class A and B licenses.
These licenses will vary by state, and some types of vehicles and licenses may require specific endorsements. The Class A license is typically the most expensive for schooling because it requires the most extensive training to operate the largest vehicles. When you are working towards your license, there are certain endorsements you may need for your job.
There are six primary endorsements that you may want to apply for along with your commercial driver’s license depending on your job. This will often drive the costs of schooling up as you may need specific training to operate these vehicles. These laws and regulations may fluctuate from state to state.
The six primary endorsements include:
- Passenger Transport (P): This is required for any vehicle over 16 passengers.
- School Bus / Passenger Transport (S): A specific endorsement is necessary to operate a school bus; the passenger transport endorsement is also required.
- Double / Triples (T): This is for double to triple trailers.
- Tanker and Hazardous Materials (X): You will need to have education on the types of materials you are transporting from state to state.
- Tank Vehicle (N): Tanks require their own endorsement for operation.
- Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT): These are similar to an X endorsement but have their own requirements.
Applying for these additional endorsements will drive the cost up of schooling beyond the license training as it requires mastery of specific knowledge. You will need behind-the-wheel practical training for the specific vehicles you plan to drive. Being behind the wheel of these large vehicles is the best way to get the experience you will need on the job.
There are also specific tests you will need to take beyond the traditional class licenses for your CDL. Some of these endorsements will require a certain class license as well as additional documentation and both written and road tests. For those working with children, background checks and criminal record checks may be necessary.
Quality of the Course
Pricing of a CDL school may be a determinant of the quality of a course or school. This is not always true, but more expensive schools should not be discounted as they may provide important features or benefits that make the additional cost worth it. Private schools typically cost more and should be thoroughly researched if you are considering them.
At the same time, some courses are not worth the price tag, and you should do research on the top schools and your needs for the courses. You will want to make sure you are receiving the best training for the price. The comprehensiveness of the class can dictate the pricing as different courses will give you varying amounts of driving time, classroom time, and range time.
Courses with greater reputations are going to be more expensive, but this could also lead to greater job placement and opportunities after training. The quality and age of the equipment may also have an impact on the cost. Schools may have state of the art equipment, and you can decide whether or not this is an important to your education.
You will also want to look at programs that offer job placement after you receive your license. The entire purpose of getting the CDL is so that you can get a job driving, and these schools will often place you or put you in front of trucking companies who could use your services.
Prices of CDL schooling may also fluctuate based on where they are located. Just like many other products and services, pricing will vary from state to state. A CDL school in a big city may be more expensive than one in a rural location. This is something to be considered in deciding where to achieve your license training.
All aspects of achieving your license and its cost could vary depending on the state with different fees, endorsements, and protocols. You will need to check with your specific state to find the pricing of schooling.
Not all schools offer every CDL license type, so you may have to travel further distances to get your desired training. If the school is the only one to offer the services in the area, this may drive the cost up as there is not much competition to pull the students elsewhere. You may also have to consider funding for lodging and transportation if far from home.
Can A Trucking Company Pay for Training?
The factors mentioned above that drive the cost up do not have to stop you from pursuing your CDL. There are multiple situations in which a trucking company will pay for your training, which is a great solution for those looking to find a job quickly and avoid these high fees!
Trucking companies are looking for qualified and dedicated drivers who will be loyal to the trucking company. If the company is willing to pay for your CDL school, they will expect you to give them your time and service. They also realize that there is a need for drivers as many are retiring, and those new to the workforce are looking for work in other industries.
These are the different ways that a trucking company will pay for your training:
- Set work contracts: In exchange for paying for your CDL school, you will have to sign a contract that commits you to working for the company for a certain number of years. This is a great option because it requires no school costs, and you have a secured job after you receive your CDL. Some programs will even hire you beforehand and pay you while you go through schooling.
- Reimbursement: Some trucking companies will reimburse you for schooling if you are a recent graduate. These payments are often distributed on a schedule over time and are a way to incentivize new drivers to look at driving for their company.
Opting for these paid CDL school choices and accepting a position with a company is often a smarter financial decision than being stuck with a bunch of debt right out of school. Having job security from the beginning is attractive, even if you do not plan on having a career with this company. Company sponsored schooling is typically the least expensive way to pay for school.
Make sure you fully understand the contract or the offer that the company is making you. You want to make sure that they are not only paying for schooling but will also be offering you a solid deal once you start working for the company. Some risks may include lower salaries at the entry level so they can compensate for the paid schooling.
Ways to Keep CDL School Costs Down
Beyond company sponsored contracts, there are other ways that you can potentially drive down the cost of your CDL schooling. Looking into these other options can save you some major money without committing to a trucking company. This is also a strong strategy if you do not have many options in the form of company sponsored schooling.
Here are some options for making CDL school cheaper:
- Financial Aid: Some schools will allow you to pay for schooling in installments or after you finish so that you do not have to pay significant upfront costs. Some of the aid you receive may not have to be paid back or have interest paid if you qualify.
- Scholarships and Grants: Schools as well as outside sources may be able to fund your schooling if you can show merit or finance-based needs. This could be in the form of state and federal grants or through funded programs, including VA education benefits.
- Financing: If you do not have the money and do not qualify for financial aid, scholarships, or grants, you may want to consider a small loan. This may mean interest payments and large sums due in the future, bu it t may be beneficial if this is your chosen career. This is one of the riskier avenues to take for making school cheaper in the event that you cannot pay it back in the future.
You should look into these options for keeping costs down as they are legitimate and oftentimes lucrative ways to avoid paying for CDL school (or at least making it cheaper). If you can work towards getting some of it paid for, it can set you up for greater initial financial success going into a career in the trucking industry.
Things to Avoid When Trying to Pay for CDL School
There are many different ways to get CDL school paid for, and some of these include options that you should try and avoid. Many of these are related to risky financing that can put you in a bad or uncomfortable position when you try to pay it back later. Investing in trucking school should be a look toward your future that should not set you back financially.
Try to avoid these options when attempting to finance CDL school:
- High interest loans: Because there are so many other ways to pay for CDL school, a high interest loan will end up costing you much more in the long run, especially if you are unable to pay it back.
- Collateral: Avoid putting up valuables such as a house or car to pay for CDL school. This is a risky financial decision that has severe consequences in the event that you do not find a job right away to pay it back.
- Luring ads: There will be many schools that may promise funding or give unclear information that may trap you into a large tuition payment without your knowledge. Make sure you do your research on the schools to find that they are reputable, and you understand the costs.
- High risks: While some risk may pay out in the long run, try to avoid very risky financing because of the major consequences it may have on your future savings and financial stability.
Because there are so many ways to pay for CDL school, you will need to do some hefty research into your options if it comes down to more risky financing to further pursue your career in professional driving.
High CDL School Cost vs. Benefit
While you will have to hand over upwards of $5,000 or higher from the get-go when you are financing CDL school, this investment (especially if you find one of the ways to make these schools cheaper) can be incredibly lucrative in the long run. Depending on where you get a job, the company may be able to quickly pay back your tuition or your salary can cover it shortly.
Compared to many other schooling options, such as an associate’s degree, you can get your CDL school and training done at a much lower price in way less time. CDL school typically lasts three to four weeks versus a more formal degree that can take upwards of two years to complete.
Getting the training and going to school is not required to obtain the license, but it is the most effective way to get the training and behind-the-wheel experience. You will not be able to pass the CDL test if you do not have the proper training or knowledge. We definitely recommend taking the class as having access to these resources on your own is quite difficult.
While CDL school looks like a hefty cost up front (which it is), the variety of ways we have suggested cutting back costs are plentiful and available. Check out the financial aid options for the individual schools or start talking to potential employers about their ability to cover your school costs. With the rise in demand for drivers, opportunities for aid have increased!