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

You may have found your dream RV, but have you had an RV inspection to make sure it’s in good condition? Without a thorough inspection, you could be missing hidden issues or damage. Don’t let the excitement of buying an RV stop you from exercising due diligence.

If you’re unfamiliar with RV inspections, this article explains what they entail 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 because it is mobile.

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 them.

inspecting RV tires
An RV inspection can help you discover structural or mechanical issues before you buy an RV.

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 an RV inspector 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.

Pro Tip: RV life isn’t always a dream. Read more about what to do if Your RV Is On the Recall List.

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, roofs and walls, 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 a camper.

RV inspector under RV
An RV inspection can take a few hours or more.

What Does an RV Inspection Consist 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.

For the RV systems, they’ll inspect the electrical, fresh water 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.

RV inspection
An RV inspector will check everything from your batteries to your slide-outs.

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 drivetrain.

When You Need an RV Inspection

You may think you only need an inspection when buying a used RV, but it’s also useful when buying a new one. 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.

Pro Tip: If you’re buying an RV sight-unseen, here are 7 Red Flags to Watch For.

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.

man inspecting motorhome
Even if you’re buying from a dealership, it’s still a good idea to get an independent 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 on 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’re not comfortable with the systems yourself.

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 problems 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.

Pro Tip: Thinking about purchasing an RV from a dealer? Learn The Pros, the Cons, and the Truth About RV Dealerships.

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.

inspecting camper electrical components
NRVIA-certified inspectors and RV technicians can perform RV inspections.

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 ever had an RV inspection? Share your experience in the comments below.

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Mike

Friday 2nd of June 2023

When I purchased my Winnebago Aspect 2014 I had a NRVIA certified inspector check it out. It cost about $900.00. The best money I ever spent. I was impressed with the thorough 16 page report with pictures and fluid analysis. A defective carburetor on the generator was found and the seller adjusted the selling price to cover the cost to fix it. I would not think of buying an RV without having it inspected. If the seller does not allow it, move on! I have been full time living in mine for going on two years and I have seen many newer RVs come into the park with many problems and some new right from the dealer on its maiden voyage. When I ask them if they had an inspection the usual reply was “didn’t think it needed one it looked in great shape and besides inspections are expensive.” Then I ask them, and what is it going to cost you now to repair everything? My favorite saying is “Inspect what you expect and you won’t end up disappointed “

Grant C.

Friday 2nd of June 2023

I have been a certified NRVIA RV inspector for 6-years now in the great Pacific NW. GCRV Inspections.

I have performed hundreds of inspections at this point, both as an independent inspector and also working with FEMA during disaster-relief efforts. To date, I have yet to perform an inspection on a used or brand new coach where there wasn't something that needed to be addressed. And I would say that roughly 50% of all of my inspections are on brand new coaches. Sometimes it's only minor items, but even on brand new coaches I have found major issues such as propane leaks, trim around a slide out pulled from the sidewall of the coach, sealant issues, just to name a few. And this is AFTER the dealerships have performed their PDI.

So having your coach inspected by an independent inspector such as myself is your first line of defense when purchasing an RV and helping you to protect your investment.

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 24th of June 2023

Gosh its crazy how many things can be wrong on a new rig, we have seen it too!

CT Camper

Tuesday 14th of February 2023

RV roof inspection is an inevitable thing. An RV inspector is a specialized person for this task but I think every person who uses RV must have knowledge and skills about RV inspection and can do it by himself as most of the time and in most places you can’t get an RV inspector.

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.