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Do you need an RV buyer’s inspection? Here’s how to find one

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Since we began our RV Consumer Support section, we’ve heard from plenty of you. Some have asked for help – and we’re working on several cases now. But a lot of you just wanted to have a “get it off your chest” moment. As one RV dealer put it, “Pathetic quality” sums up the stuff that’s coming off most RV manufacturing lines. When you buy an RV, do you need an RV buyer’s inspection? Here are just a few comments from readers.

“Act of Congress” needed

“If the airline industry had the track record of the RV industry we would all be driving, riding the train, and taking ships!” storms Janet K. Her new, Grand Design 380RK model makes her think she’s been the victim of a stick-up. Well, rather, as she puts it, the rig has “Two windows that take an Act of Congress to get open.” Guess the windows are the real stick-up. When Janet brought the matter to the dealer, she was told it would take two weeks for them to “assess” the problem. Then add on at least two more weeks – or more – to fix the windows.

“There is no way these should have passed QC in the factory. We didn’t even think to check that every window opened properly,” Janet adds. “Lesson learned there. Personally, I don’t even think they [the dealership] want to bother and are just being off-putting bullies.”

Furnace follies

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While Janet can’t get the cool air in, Susan M. can’t keep warm. Back in 2019, she bought a new 2020 Jayco Jay Feather and parked it in an RV park. She bought the bird in the summertime, so she didn’t need any heat until December. Sad to say, during the walk-through, nobody demonstrated how well the furnace worked. A chilly December proved too well that it DIDN’T work. “We had an RV repairman come out to check it out,” Susan recalls. “Come to find out, the problem was the sail switch. He did not replace it, he ‘fixed’ it. $60 labor.”

The furnace faulted again the next year, and Susan’s husband was able to fix it. Fast forward to this month. Sure enough, the fractious furnace foils them again. Susan and hubby are awaiting a new sail switch. They hear-tell it could be a while, as their neighbor needs a switch, too, and she’s been waiting for it for weeks. Janet hopes those sail switches are sailing on a cruise – in a container ship waiting for landfall.

More than the kitchen sink

While Janet and Susan are dealing with annoying, single issue problems, it’s not the same for Stephen T. Just last month he bought a new Thor Windsport 35M. The family loved the features, the look and feel. But on their first trip, problems started cropping up. Window screens started falling out. With the slide-outs out, the daylight comes in – where it shouldn’t. Driving down the road, the breeze Stephen gets behind the wheel isn’t from the air conditioning – it’s a from a leaky windshield seal. Never mind the electrical outlet that’s dead, or the cracked gel coat.

“Not happy with the manufacturer,” sums up Stephen. He adds, “The list goes on.” His dealer, he says is, “very polite and concerned. But we shall see when I pick it up for our long road trip.”

Sad to say, for many RV buyers, the “punch list” of things wrong with a new rig is usually more like Stephen’s – long and frustrating. If those issues had been caught before acceptance and fixed, life would be much easier. So do you need an RV buyer’s inspection? Some readers seem to think so, and they ask us where they can find an inspector.

Independent inspectors you can hire

An organization of RV inspectors, the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA) may be one outfit that can help. The group requires members to meet a high standard of excellence, and to take continuing education in the field. RV buyer’s inspections are the central focus of the group.

What can you expect from a NRVIA member inspection? A visit to the organization’s website puts it down in great detail. From the roof, to the walls, floors, appliances, plumbing, electrical – basically every function and aspect of the RV is included. Mind you, as the group clearly states, these “apply to a visual inspection of those areas, components and systems that are readily accessible to determine at the time of inspection that they are performing their intended function without regard to life expectancy.” Inspectors won’t tear out partitions, rip up carpet, or delve into hidden “dead-spaces,” but will inspect what they can.

What are does an inspector look for? “The purpose of the RV inspection is to identify visible and operational defects as permitted by the current conditions that in the judgment of the RV Inspector will adversely affect the function or integrity of the items, components and systems of the Recreational Vehicle.”

Inspectors around the country

Once on their website, you’ll be able to find a member inspector near you. And if you’re in some far-flung area of the country where no inspector is normally present, the group can also refer you to traveling inspectors. When you hire an inspector, you’re not hiring the organization; your dealing is with an individual, independent member.

Since you’re dealing with an independent inspector, you’ll need to ask plenty of questions before you hire. How much? Across the RV inspection industry, you could pay anywhere from $150 for a simple look-over, to as much as $1,200 for a thorough inspection of a high-end and complicated rig. That may sound like a lot of money for an RV buyer’s inspection, but consider how much that cost is as a percentage of the buying price of the rig.

What they won’t do

And keep in mind, most RV inspectors are not going to tell you: “This is a good rig to buy,” or “No, this is NOT a good rig to buy.” A good RV inspector should tell you what the problems are in a rig. It’s up to you as a buyer to apply that information. Use it as leverage in negotiating a price? Use it as a “punch list” for holding the dealer’s feet to the fire before handing over a check? Or use it to walk away? That’s up to you.

And keep in mind, no matter how experienced an RV inspector is, they’re imperfect. They might miss something that later comes back to make itself known. But if you hire a professional, your chances are far greater that you’ll know the faults that you could be walking into.

Got an RV consumer issue or question? Use the form to contact us—we’ll do our best to help out.

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Bill T
1 month ago

Since a lot of the “punch list” items don’t really present themselves until after the first trip or two, doing a thorough visual and system operational PDI inspection is a good way to check for obvious problems like, cracked gel coats, loose hinges, sticky windows, etc. Also plug into water and electricity, check to make sure all the appliances work, fridges and water heaters work on both gas and electric, if applicable. Pressurize the water system to see if there are obvious leaks and that the water pump primes and works properly. If the pump continuously runs or starts and stops frequently, after the lines are pressurized there is a problem. Check the battery(s) for cleanliness, function of resting and charging voltages. As the buyer you need to be reasonably sure of serviceability before signing. This is especially true for newbie buyers. Do your own research and take the time to learn about your new RV before you sign for it. Learn something new and save some cash in the process.