The Importance of an RV Inspection

Certified RV inspectors performing independent RV inspection on Class C motorhome

Why every RV needs an independent RV inspection

Most people realize that a used RV purchase should include a pre-purchase RV inspection and that’s definitely true. But do not assume that brand new RV inspections are unnecessary. RV repairs should be found and fixed BEFORE you drive off the lot.

RV dealerships are very good at downplaying the need for an unbiased, third-party RV inspection. They sweet talk RVers by telling them that the repairs can be done at their RV repair shop. No problem, right?

Private sellers may sound very honest and RV maintenance records to help ease an RV buyer’s mind. Consignment brokers and agents may not recommend RV inspections and assure the potential RV customers that they’ve already gone over the RV with a fine-toothed comb. Sounds legit, right?

Who has your best interest in mind? Here’s a hint – it’s certainly NOT the person or dealership that stands to gain in the sale of the RV. The correct answer is ONLY you! 

Every RV needs an inspection at some point. For example: 

  • You already bought an RV and didn’t realize that pre-purchase RV inspections existed. 
  • You’re nearing the end of your RV warranty period. 
  • You’ve had an RV for a while and would like reassurance that it’s still in good working condition. 
  • You’re getting ready to sell your RV and would like to give potential buyers some reassurance.

Whatever the reason, you can be assured that getting an independent RV inspection will give you an unbiased view of the RV’s current condition.

To cut to the chase, RV inspections should cost anywhere from $400-$1200. This fee can include fluid analysis or there may be additional fees for that service. There may also be fees for the RV inspector to travel to the RV inspection location.

You may think that an average RV inspection cost of $600-$700 is a LOT of money but when you consider the purchase price, how much of a percentage is that RV inspection fee? One percent? Three percent?

More importantly, how much is your time and frustration worth? We’ve all heard the horror stories online. Bob and Sue buy an RV and they are extremely excited and optimistic.

BUT… they have major issues on their very first trip. Maybe the trip was cut short. Maybe the RV spent the next several months out of service while waiting for their place in an RV dealership’s queue. 

It’s not uncommon to wait several weeks to get in for RV repairs. And then have to wait weeks or months for parts to be delivered. Having the RV inspected prior to setting out on that journey could prevent some of those problems.

How far will an RV inspector travel to inspect my RV?

Lots of people typically research RVs online which increases the odds of finding the perfect RV floor plan for their situation. The RV location will likely be an important factor to consider. My RV Resource has listings of qualified RV inspectors all across the United States and even some in Canada!

While most RV inspectors would prefer to perform RV inspections within 50 miles, it’s not uncommon for RV inspectors to travel a few hundred miles to inspect an RV. Some will even consider spending the night in a hotel or campground to provide this critical RV service. 

Typically there are travel charges that may include mileage or hotel and campground fees for the longer distance locations. Once again, when you consider the amount of money, time and frustration that will be saved, it makes perfect sense to incur the cost upfront. Especially because you will receive an unbiased snapshot of the RV condition and be able to plan your purchase budget and repair budget. Trust us – you WILL need both at some point.

So how do I choose an RV inspector or RV inspection company?

First and foremost, you must be sure that the small business owner is an NRVIA certified RV inspector. The National RV Inspectors Association is the only governing body in the US that certifies RV inspectors. RV inspector training is provided by the National RV Training Academy (NRVTA) at Texan RV Park in Athens, TX.

NRVIA inspectors are held to a strict Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics but not all RV inspectors are equal. A smart RV buyer should follow due diligence before entering into a contract with an RV inspector. Ask lots of questions and you’ll be more inclined to trust the RV inspection company.

Lemon Squad vs. Premier vs. We Go Look

We’ve already admitted that not all RV inspectors are created equal. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention other inspection companies that are out there.

Lemon Squad’s tagline says it all… Nationwide Used Car Inspection. They definitely focus on the “car-like” features on the RV. Their inspectors are automobile mechanics and haven’t been trained to uncover issues specific to RVs and RV components. Lemon Squad mechanics appear to only perform inspections on USED motorhomes so if you have (or are considering) a fifth wheel or travel trailer/camper, it doesn’t appear that they can help. The most alarming thing? The Points of Inspection listed on the website clearly states “We examine the interior of the RV for signs of roof leakage. For liability reasons, we do not go on the roof.” If an inspector isn’t getting on the roof, we suggest looking elsewhere immediately.

Premier RV Inspections has nothing on their website about inspecting the roof which we already determined should be deal-breaker. Originally the company was started from a home inspection company. They clearly advertise that they are “the only RV inspection service trusted by the largest direct-to-consumer warranty company in the RV business, Wholesale Warranties. All RVs must pass inspection before they are eligible to get set up with a warranty, and in most cases, Wholesale Warranties will cover the cost of the inspection with the purchase of a policy.” Seems like a conflict of interest to us!

We Go Look doesn’t even try to imply that their subcontractors are RV inspectors. They deal mostly with vehicular subjects and focus on technology to help “Lookers” complete a job or “Look” which basically means taking up to 58 photos. The website clearly states that Looks do NOT include: Mechanical inspection, diagnostic or system checks; Frame and body inspection; Undercarriage inspection or photos. Not hiring this company seems to be a no-brainer!

How long should the RV inspection process take?

To put it very simply, a full and thorough RV inspection should take a minimum of 4-5 hours and in some cases much longer. The RV inspection company should answer any/all questions regarding the Motorhome Points of Inspection or Towable Points of Inspection that they have provided to the RV customer before the inspection. 

Be wary if someone tells you that the inspection will last less than 3 hours and the report will be available before the inspector leaves the inspection location. If either of those things are the case, you can be assured that things will be missed, overlooked or not tested and inspected. I don’t know about you, but I want my RV inspector to spend as much time as needed to give me the most thorough RV inspection report possible, especially when I’m paying the average several hundred dollars.

Are there different Levels of Inspection for a smaller fee?

Even though there are RV inspector teams out there, most RV inspection companies are  separate small businesses with one or two inspectors. These businesses set their own pricing, guidelines for travel fees and other differences in working operations including their Points of Inspection.

Some NRVIA inspectors may offer different levels of inspection called Basic, Essential and Premier. Some inspectors also have a smaller “Safety” inspection which focuses mainly on Life Safety items like LP/CO/Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, emergency exit windows and water heater grommets. 

In reality, it’s best to request a thorough and full RV inspection. After all, if the smoke detector works but the refrigerator doesn’t get cold, the fridge is a much bigger expense. If there is water damage or the tires are out of date, it’s going to be much more expensive to repair or replace those items – possibly way more expensive than the RV inspection itself!

In addition to inquiring about different RV inspection levels, be sure to ask for a detailed Points of Inspection list from any potential RV inspection company while doing your research.

How long does it take to get an RV inspection report back?

Just like all RV inspection companies are different, so are the reports they offer. Some include photos and a checklist, some include a Word document with a folder of pictures and the most informative RV inspection reports use specialized software. 

Of the RV inspection reports that are compiled using RV inspection software programs, some are interactive – meaning they include videos and 360-degree photos that can be enlarged and panned around. These types of reports are best viewed on a laptop or desktop computer but may also be mobile friendly.

Be sure to inquire about what to expect once the inspection is over, how long it will take and how you can expect to receive the RV inspection report.

What can I do to ensure the RV is ready for an RV inspection?

The RV inspector will guide you with specific requirements based on experiences in their region of the country. If it’s a pre-purchase RV inspection, there will be different expectations depending on whether it’s a private seller or through an RV dealership. 

If you are trying to sell your RV or want a warranty RV inspection on a unit you already own, the requirements will probably be similar. The more hookups that are accessible, the more thorough the RV inspection will be.

Two very important things to consider when booking an RV inspection are adequate space and appropriate power supply. Not only should there be enough space to extend all RV slideout rooms and RV awnings, there should also be enough space for the RV inspector to move his or her ladder safely around the entire RV.

One other necessity is the appropriate RV shore power supply. If the RV is 30 Amps, there should be a 30 Amp receptacle. If the rig is 50 Amps, there should be a 50 Amps receptacle. RV components may be damaged when hooked up to 15 Amp house-type power. Not only is 15 Amps not enough to start some RV appliances, it doesn’t allow for full testing by running multiple RV components at one time.

There are many other guidelines and most reputable RV inspectors have an RV inspection checklist readily available to send to potential clients. Check out this article for a more detailed look at Pre Inspection Checklists for current RV owners/private sellers.

No matter if you are buying brand new or used, refer to this article with information about Pre Inspection Checklists for RV dealerships/RV Consignment sales.

Scheduling, Signing Agreements and Paying for RV Inspections

You’ve done all the research and found the right RV inspector. Now it’s time to schedule the RV appointment, sign the RV inspection contract and pay for the RV inspection invoice to be sure your RV appointment is guaranteed.

These processes will vary from company to company and situation to situation. If you already own the motorhome or towable RV, then you’ll most likely work directly with the RV inspector for scheduling and availability of hookups like power, water, sewer, propane and fuel (if applicable).

If you are buying the recreational vehicle, most trustworthy RV inspectors prefer that the buyer and seller (or RV consignment dealer) communicate with each other to decide on a date for inspection. The buyer should share the expectations and requirements with the seller or salesperson. 

This is critical to ensure a truly unbiased experience – so that the buyer is comfortable that the inspector and seller haven’t had discussions prior to or during the inspection.

Final Thoughts about the Importance of Hiring an RV Professional

We cannot stress enough how important it is to hire a competent RV inspector. RVs are expensive and are being slapped quickly at the manufacturer. The typical RV is only 80% complete when it arrives at the dealership. The dealerships will try to get away with doing as little as possible to help their bottom line, even at the expense of the paying (and trusting) customer.

Private sellers may offer maintenance records in the hopes of gaining a potential buyer’s trust. But most RV owners don’t understand how to properly maintain an RV over the years and in different climates. Chances are, they haven’t been on the roof in years and don’t realize that LP (propane) detectors have a lifespan of only 5 years.

Seasonal RV inspections or Pre-trip inspections can save you time, headaches and frustration when you’re heading out for your next adventure. Nothing is worse than having to cut your trip short because a component fails. 

Lisa Carletti

Lisa Carletti

Lisa and Jason are NRVIA certified Level 2 inspectors and RVDA/RVIA registered technicians who run My RV Inspection based in Tampa, FL. They also built My RV Resource which is a map based directory as a resource to help consumers find RV related services like RV inspections, RV repair shops and mobile technicians, RV towing and transport companies as well as RV storage lots.
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