He hailed from Pei 沛 (modern Peixian 沛縣, Jiangsu) and belonged to the local gentry. Liu Bang, at that time a very poor local sub-official, impressed him by his audacity, and Wang Ling supported him. During his campaign against the Qin dynasty 秦 (221-206 BCE), Wang Ling did not follow Liu Bang with his troops but rested his army at Nanyang 南陽. Only when Liu Bang started his war against the hegemonial king Xiang Yu 項羽, Wang Ling joined his forces.
In 201, after the foundation of the dynasty, he was given the title of Marquis of Xiang 襄侯, later as Marquis of Anhuo 安國侯. During the reign of the young Emperor Hui 漢惠帝 (r. 195-188), Wang Ling was appointed right Counsellor-in-chief (you chengxiang 右丞相).
After Emperor Hui's death, when Empress Dowager Lü 呂太后, as female regent, began bestowing territories to her kinsmen, he objected harshly the step to ennoble persons not belonging to the imperial house. The Empress Dowager thereupon appointed him Great Mentor (taifu 太傅), an office without political significance. Wang Ling retired and died shortly before the Empress Dowager. His posthumous title is Marquis Wu 武侯.