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What Is an RV Inspection (and When Do You Need One)

What Is an RV Inspection (and When Do You Need One)

You’ve found your ideal RV, but have you had an RV inspection to make sure it’s in good condition? Find out what this inspection entails and why you might want to consider one before purchasing your RV. Let’s dive in!

What Is An RV Inspection?

An RV inspection is an objective evaluation of an RV’s condition and components by a qualified third party. Similar to a home inspection when buying a house, an RV inspection looks over all the structural and mechanical systems of an RV. In some ways, an RV is even more complicated than a home as it is basically a home on wheels.

With an inspection, you’ll get a detailed report along with several photos that document anything found during the process. Sometimes you can accompany the inspector and learn about the RV systems as they go through it.

RV inspector

Some states require safety inspections on drivable RVs or motorhomes before you buy them. And some extended warranty companies may require an inspection before they approve the contract. Still, these aren’t the same as hiring a thorough inspection to look for signs of damage or malfunction.

How Much Does an RV Inspection Cost?

The price varies depending on the type of inspection and the size and type of RV inspected. You can expect to pay anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1,000.

Inspections on drivable RVs will often cost more since more work and time are involved in reviewing the engine and drivetrain components. Towable RVs, on the other hand, will usually take less time and be less expensive.

Who Performs an RV Inspection?

Your first thought may be to hire a vehicle mechanic to inspect the RV. However, they likely won’t know about RV components. Slide-outs, roof/walls, or HVAC and sewer systems are all unique to an RV. Instead, you’ll need to hire a qualified RV inspector who’s trained to perform an inspection on an RV.

RV inspector under RV

What an RV Inspection Consists Of

An RV inspection is part home inspection and part vehicle inspection because of the versatile way RVs work for both traveling and living. It will take a few hours or more, depending on the size and type of RV.

Outside, the inspector will review the RV’s exterior and check over the sidewalls for signs of damage or delamination. They’ll inspect the roof for leaks or damage and look at the joints and seals. They’ll test the slideout assemblies and RV windows as well. 

The inspector will look at the wheel assemblies, frame, axles, leaf springs, ball joints, steering components and hangers on the underside. They’ll test the leveling and stabilizing systems to make sure they’re working correctly and look at the towing and hitching equipment.

RV inspection checklist

For the RV systems, they’ll inspect the electrical, freshwater and waste, heating and cooling, and propane systems. And, they’ll review the safety devices, RV batteries, and any inverters on board. If there’s a generator, they’ll inspect it and analyze its oil, coolant, and fuel.

The inspector will ensure all appliances and entertainment electronics are in working order. And they’ll inspect the interior, furniture, and any electronics that come with the RV.

For drivable RVs, your inspector likely won’t drive the motorhome due to insurance liability. But they will inspect the engine components, like the engine fluid, hoses, belts, batteries, and filters. They can also take an analysis of engine fluids, including the oil and coolant. These fluid analysis reports are usually an additional cost but can give you an idea of the overall health of the engine and or drivetrain.

When You Need an RV Inspection

You may think you only need an inspection when buying a used RV, but it also comes in useful when buying new. In addition, you can opt to get an inspection before selling your RV. The inspection can help communicate your RV’s value and give buyers confidence in their purchase. Plus, having that inspection report in hand can help you sell your RV quickly and easily.

And although we don’t recommend purchasing an RV sight-unseen, it happens. If you buy a unit that you can’t look at yourself, a full inspection from a reputable RV inspector can save you thousands on hidden repairs.

When Buying a Used RV

Whether buying a used RV from an individual or a dealership, a third-party inspection alerts you of any issues before taking the RV home. Even if the owner has a detailed maintenance record, you still can’t be sure that everything is in working order. And even if the dealership has performed an inspection, it’s still wise to get your own.

Used RV inspection

When Buying a New RV

RV manufacturers typically perform a pre-delivery inspection (PDI) before shipping an RV to a dealership. In addition, most dealerships will perform a PDI in their lot before the buyer takes possession of the RV. Then, repairs get completed at both facilities before passing the RV on to the new owner.

With both of these safety checks, you’d think you wouldn’t need to inspect a new RV. But unfortunately, there are many instances where new RVs leave the dealership with unaddressed issues. It may be wise to get an RV inspection of a new RV if you are not comfortable with the systems yourself.

Pro Tip: Taking a course like our RV Buyers Bootcamp can help you learn what to look for.

Why Get an RV Inspected?

Do you know how to look for signs of a leaky roof, water damage, or mold? What about signs of delamination to the exterior? Do you know how to check for slide issues or do a propane pressure leak check? And do you know how to check for structural issues in the frame or drivetrain issues? If these things are a little more than you bargained for, hire an unbiased, third-party inspector. 

You’re going to spend thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands, on a new-to-you RV. Feel more confident with your purchase by opting for an inspection. Plus, an RV inspection may save you from costly issues right off the bat if something major is wrong with your RV.

If something major shows up on the inspection report, it can give you negotiating power as well. If you’re buying from a private individual, use the report to ask for repairs before taking the RV home. Or negotiate a lower price. If you’re buying from a dealership, the inspection can give you a list of things that need fixing before you leave the lot.

How to Find Qualified RV Inspectors Near You

The best place to look for RV inspectors is through The National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA), whose mission is to train individuals to inspect RVs. They have a special tool that helps you locate certified inspectors in your area. From there, you can review the individual’s website and contact them to see if you’d like to hire them for an inspection.

If you can’t find an NRVIA-certified inspector, you can contact a local certified RV technician to ask if they offer pre-purchase inspections. You can also look for mobile RV repair mechanics who may be able to perform the inspection.

Working on RV

Is Getting an RV Inspected Worth It?

In short: Yes. There are so many components that go into an RV. It’s in your best interest to get them inspected before you get stuck with an RV that has significant damage. No one looks forward to paying for an RV only to let it sit idle because it needs repairs. Worse yet, you could need to shell out thousands of dollars for surprise RV repairs.

If you’re getting ready to buy an RV, consider paying for an inspection before signing on that dotted line. It’ll afford you peace of mind when you drive away knowing you made a smart and secure purchase. Have you gotten an RV inspected recently?

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Adrienne

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

We bought a new 2021 CrossRoads travel trailer from a well-reviewed and highly rated RV dealership. I had no idea until the notification for this post showed up in my inbox that we should have had a third party RV inspection from a licensed inspector.

While there were only a couple things that needed tweaking (all tanks show 2/3 full when actually full, some electrical connections needed tightening, etc), I did find out that only one of the team of a half dozen “inspectors” at that dealership are actually licensed. So. The more you know and all. Thanks for this timely post!!

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 13th of June 2021

Glad you found the post helpful. We always recommend RV inspections for both new and used RV purchases.

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