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Why it’s so important to take a certified expert along for your next RV purchase

News stories concerning the quality of the products being shipped from RV manufacturing plants continue to pop up in the media. This week, there was an interesting take on the issue on a news website called Jalopnik.com. The headline was “RV Dealerships Think New Campers Are Pieces of Junk, Too.”

Much of that story was a regurgitation of the story that we ran in RVtravel.com recently regarding RV dealers’ concerns with quality. The Jalopnik.com story also included a link to a 2019 story headlined “The Truth About RVs” that appeared on Curbed.com, as well as a reference to a survey of RV dealers conducted recently by Thompson Research Group and reported by RVNews.com. All of those stories substantiated the dealer comments made in our RVtravel.com story.

So, based on that info, what is a potential RV buyer to do? Be very, very careful – that’s what.

If you’re an RVtravel.com reader who spends time in the “Comments” section at the end of our stories, you’ve likely seen plenty of tales from panicked new owners who aren’t exactly thrilled with the second-largest purchase of their lifetimes.

New RV owner comments included items like, “When we got it home, we realized the slide outs didn’t work!” or “The toilet flush pedal was missing!” or even “The appliances weren’t the same ones that we thought we ordered!”

RV quality issues start to show up shortly after purchase

These problems, of course, materialize just after the newbie has pulled the shiny new rig into their driveway or ­– worse yet – their first campground.

New-to-RVing owners are working on the premise that “brand-new” means “no problems.” After all, you don’t plug a toaster into the wall at Walmart to make sure it heats up before you purchase it. And when was the last time you felt the need to have your brand-new car or truck inspected for issues before you rolled it off the lot? We’ve become a society that expects brand-new things to work as intended – and most of them do. So why would a close look at every screw, every window, and every plumbing and electrical connection be required when your RV just rolled out of the factory?

We don’t know why such a close inspection is required at the dealerships either. But it is.

It appears that new RV buyers are starting to catch on. The National RV Inspector Association (NRVIA) just reported that more than 10,000 people a month are performing searches on the group’s website (NRVIA.org), looking for qualified RV inspectors in their areas.

Stephanie Henson, NRVIA Director of Administration, said she started to notice the increase in August and said some months NRVIA has recorded more than 15,000 search requests on their site.

“When we developed the search function on our website, we hoped it would be a way for inspectors to get an occasional referral from people needing an RV evaluated, but I think 10,000 searches a month is incredible,” Henson said.

Be sure to get a certified inspector

Henson also warned that the popularity of RVs has led many untrained folks to jump on the inspection bandwagon. They’ve heard stories of housing inspectors and even automobile inspectors changing hats to meet the situation and claiming to be “qualified RV inspectors.”

So, there is yet another “buyer beware” area to keep in mind. Just as you don’t want to buy a lemon RV, you don’t want to hire an unqualified RV inspector. These things aren’t the same as the rain gutters on your house. You don’t want a cursory 30-minute walk-through inspection. You want somebody who is going to get into the details of your new rig and provide you with a complete report.

From the editor: To illustrate the points above, here’s a recent comment from one of our RVtravel.com readers: “My RV inspection was $1500. BUT…. The inspector was extremely thorough. He spent more than 8 hours doing the inspection and sent six fluids (engine oil, coolant, transmission, generator oil, and Aqua Hot fluid) to a laboratory for analysis. His report was 156 pages.”

Supply and demand

Here’s a mind-blowing stat. About 1,500 “completed” RVs roll off the assembly lines every day, and 2,000 used RVs are sold every day.

Those figures mean qualified RV inspectors are busy and are becoming as hard to find as qualified RV repair technicians. If you’re in the market for a career change, it seems either of those professions would be worth a look.

NRVIA (NRVIA.org) might be a good place to start your search, but they aren’t the only game in town. There’s also the RV Inspection Connection (rvinspection.com), as well as regional inspection services such as Pioneer RVI in Texas (pioneerrvinspections.com) and Florida RV Inspections (flrvinspections.com) to name a few. The trick is to hire someone you trust who works for you, not the seller.

Now, more than ever, RV buyers should assume nothing. Take the time to find qualified inspectors to help you in your purchasing decisions. Don’t take just anyone’s word for the workmanship on any rig. Do your homework right, and you just might have the RVing experience of your dreams.

##RVT1020

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Bob Amoroso
2 months ago

“IF” I were to purchase a new (or used) RV from a dealer, I would add in a stipulation that the RV will be inspected by a Certified Inspector or MY choosing and paid for by the dealer. If they refuse to pay for it…….I would walk. And, if they did pay for it, I would also add that any faults/issues found would be repaired immediately, and re-inspected. You have to be your advocate to cover your a$$ with the expensive purchases. Any dealer that doesn’t agree to this is really hiding something or knows the RV won’t pass.

I often wondered how these RV are getting to the consumer, without the manufacturer and the dealer noticing any issues and putting the RV on the lot for sale knowing its lacking in build quality. My guess is sell it ($$$$$$) and forget it.

Bill T
2 months ago

It’s been my experience that the true build quality of an RV only shows itself after you have driven it on a few trips. The wind driven rain and constant “earthquake” shaking and banging on roads will expose issues not visible during a static inspection. Yes the electrical systems and seals will be functional at the time of inspection, but wait until those poorly clamped wire connections, particle board cabinet door hinges, poorly mounted appliances and thinly sealed windows and roof seam cracks, appear after a month long trip. With a brand new rig regardless of the attention given to a prior to purchase inspection, in the end, all we can do is hope for the best and be handy enough to fix issues without paying for our RV to sit on a dealer lot for months awaiting repair.

Irene
2 months ago

Gotta love the people who say they inspect it themselves – why can’t everyone do it? Most of us in the “newbie” arena wouldn’t know where to begin, or have the tools to do so.
Definitely if I was buying a high cost unit I would want it inspected and would pay extra to be there & have the inspector show me any issues, how things work, and what to do if there is a problem.
In my case, my unit was not one of the high end ones during the beginning of Covid, and the dealer couldn’t even do an inspection to get everything ready for a couple of months. Rather than have my trailer tied up for months during prime RV season, I figured I would use it, and if anything needed work I’d bring it in during off season to get things fixed. Or fix it myself. Plus I could see from my very small list of fairly easy things that needed repair that it was going to be a PATS to go back and forth with the dealer, so just doing it myself and learning as I go along.

Alex
2 months ago

We purchased a new Forest River Class C on a Sprinter Chassis. After the driving 150 miles home, found the inner dual tires were at 20 lbs; dealer tech removed the slide out fuse AFTER the PDI demo, presumably to fix another customer’s issue; our purchase “packet” included a bill of sale ONLY – no transport permit or registration. Have to wonder how much detail inspectors typically examine. Also, how does one locate a reliable (meaning, not in cahoots with dealerships) inspector? In the real estate business, inspectors who find faults that jeopardize a sale are shunned. Is this also prevalent in the RV business?

Ron Yanuszewski
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex

In the article it mentions the search function on the NRVIA website to find a certified inspector who is governed by standards of practice and a code of ethics, which is why many dealerships are doing all they can to keep these inspectors off their lots. If your dealer tries to put the kibosh on an inspection you might want to keep shopping.

Alex
2 months ago

Thanks! Insight appreciated. From life lessons I stay off dealer lots too. Prefer to shop for next used RV for sale by owner.

Drew
2 months ago

It’s been said many times that an rv is not like a car…and very far away from a toaster. Boats have been sold many times but not without a survey being done before hand. Boats like rv’s are complicated- they have many systems that need to work correctly. It seems an rv inspection would be a logical step before buying one. If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone. I had my Father-in-Law with me who was a mechanic and rv’er. A paid-for inspection is money and time well invested in something you’ll have a lot of time enjoying.

Donald N Wright
2 months ago

I wish I had known there were RV inspectors when I bought my Aliner. I doubt if the RV dealership would of let him/her enter the property.

Grant Carroll (GCRV Inspections, LLC)
2 months ago

I have been a certified NRVIA RV Inspector for over four years. I have performed inspections at dealerships, with private parties and have worked with FEMA during disaster relief efforts. I have inspected hundreds of RVs and, whether new or used, I have yet to send a report to a client that didn’t have something that needed to be addressed. At dealerships, this is typically AFTER their PDI. Unfortunately, quality has suffered. Manufacturers are trying to keep up with the demand, so quantity is taking precedence over quality. And dealerships don’t have the manpower to inspect all the coaches to the extent that we are trained to do which is why an inspection can take 6-10 or more hours to complete. Can someone perform their own inspection? Sure. But do they know how to properly test 12v and 120v electrical systems, perform a propane leak test, know what to look for with sealant issues, etc.? Probably not. Are we perfect? Not at all. No one is. But like everyone else we do our best.

Bob 3Miller
2 months ago

Well written

G13
2 months ago

$1500, for an inspection? A 156 page report at $187.50 p/hr. That says a lot on the build quality of RV’s/TT’s and credence to dealerships concerns on this matter.

Mike Whelan
2 months ago

Wow! This article is so true. Our last purchase of a very slightly used Class A that had 5000 miles was a good example. We purchased it from a reputable dealer, hired a certified RV inspection company and still had issues after we took delivery that should have been caught by the two inspections. Yes, two different sets of inspectors missed seemingly easy to find items. The issue of bad coach batteries was enough to cause a delay in the first camping trip. Fortunately the dealer who is over 100 miles away made arrangements for local repair immediately. So a reliable dealer is as important as a reliable inspector. Workmanship on today’s coaches, even top of the line coaches, is not what it was so the buyer and the inspector need to be vigilant.

Bill T
2 months ago

Is there anything stopping a buyer from closely inspecting an RV before they purchase it? I personally checked under, over and around my new MH, roof, windows, doors etc, and checked all the systems for proper operation before I signed. With a lot of panels and covers “stapled” into place these days, I doubt a dealer would let anyone, certified or not, pull off these panels and covers for a look see behind them. Do “certified inspector” reports carry more weight with a dealer to get things repaired? Unless your physically unable to inspect a rig before purchase, spending hundreds of dollars, especially if you need to inspect more than one rig can get expensive.

Wren Grace
2 months ago

Thanks for the inspection websites. I read your newsletter every day…and give a small amount each month to support it! I actually started reading it after hearing Chuck speak at the first RVillage rally in Elkhardt, IN about 4 years ago.