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The Dream

Their dream was to be able to do things the way they wanted to, but they were played like a fine violin, and they paid for the pleasure.

Each day we look at where we would prefer to be and inevitably it isn’t where we are. We want to experience adventure, freedom from our daily grind, and most of all, we want to do it in a manner we feel in control; and of course, it can’t be unbearably expensive.

So many things have befallen us in the last year, ultimately limiting our ability to do as we wish. You shouldn’t fly, the cruises are out of the question, and worst of all don’t congregate with others.

A lot of people just needed solutions for family and sanity, and it had to be practical.

A large number of people found an island of hope in our world of confusion, “Let’s buy an RV”. A sizable number of preowned units were available in the market, but it did come up, what condition is the unit you are looking at? Perhaps you don’t know enough (or anything) about RV systems to safely size one up. Recreational vehicle manufacturers answered the call and produced new units at record numbers.

The families with healthcare professionals were able to purchase RVs to give their loved ones a practical and respectful place to spend off-hours, while possibly maintaining medical isolation or providing socially distanced visitation with loved ones. A laudable function of a shelter, but one which needs to be provided with minimal side effects. When restrictions had not even started to come down, many families chose to see the United States by road travel in lieu of air or ship travel. An RV provided that alternative.


Knowledge Required

As to the knowledge required for recreational vehicles, many did venture into units without prior experience. Many people purchased or attempted to purchase units across state boundaries making the decision process difficult and, in some cases, strained by lack of facts.

With purchases of minor items, we tend to rely on our own best judgment. But when we are involved in tens of thousands of dollars, possibly committing to loans and many years of entitlement a buyer better be well versed in the subject or have the team who does. You should be able to measure information with detachment and rely on more than just yourself for an accurate decision. You might go on what the Seller tells you about the unit you are looking to purchase; of course, they have no reason to conceal information. If it is a newly manufactured unit, it should be without flaws, right? it is new after all.

Well, the stark truth is some Sellers don’t know enough about the RV they are selling to tell you what is right or wrong with it. Some private Sellers have conducted repairs of their own. These repairs may be imperfectly done with non-standard materials or the proverbial “chewing gum and bailing wire” fix.

Dealers have their own motivations. Each day a unit spends on the lot may be costing them money in interest payments. Repairs to used units may possibly be able to be passed on to the buyer, a source of revenues to the dealer. While new units are best received in prime condition, they often times aren’t. Revenue to the dealership is possible with warranty repairs paid by the manufacturer, but only after the unit is sold to the end buyer.


The Result

As the result, the Buyer needs to know what condition the perspective RV is in before the purchase is executed. Ask yourself, how do you negotiate after you are heading home after handing over the family cow and you have the so-called magic beans of your future and a few promises as to the only things in your possession. The bare fact, the Seller wants the check and a signed bill of sale or contract. Once that is done you generally have lost most of your negotiating power. Take note, after the sale is done any required repairs are done at the Sellers schedule and availability. What is the comparable cost of your lost time?

A prime concern in any inspection is the safety of the persons who will be occupying it. Testing for gas system integrity, testing for electrical issues such as “Hot skin” and damaged wiring including neutral wiring terminations, GFCI testing and not to be forgotten, Life Safety alarm testing, and date codes.

Assessing an RV’s condition really requires more than just the basic review of the visual sighting, basic operational tests, and a collection of information from online information sources. Testing of various systems such as the Propane (LP) supply, electrical components (both 120 VAC and 12 VDC), and water supply and waste systems would be involved. The review of exterior joint sealants, roof surface condition, and accessories such as awnings should be included. The operation and condition of all appliances such as the furnace, water heater, refrigerator, stove, and air conditioning units need to be assessed for a proper decision to be supported. Load ratings of axles and tires should be compared as well as tire age and condition. Fluid analysis of oils and antifreeze can act as the blood test of a Motorhome or give conditions in generators. Typical samples would be engine oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant, and similar items of the generator.


Help is Available

For assistance to those who just don’t know if they can assess an RV properly or just are not in the same area of the RV there is help available. Recreational Vehicle inspections are an expanding industry headlined by the existence of the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association ( the originators of certified, trained inspectors, where a perspective client can locate a certified inspector in the nearest location.

There are individuals and other companies offering what they term RV inspections, but the testing or scope will vary from the specifically trained inspectors available. It is a home inspection of an RV; it needs specific talents and training. NRVIA inspections focus on systems and issues of the coach and are not to be confused to include chassis mechanical inspections which is a separate specific skill set.

There are those Sellers and representatives that tell buyers that an inspection is not necessary. Some may say they do a full pre-delivery inspection or offer their own inspection for an extra charge. Some have compared this form of inspection a little like the fox watching the hen house. They are not motivated for unbiased reporting.

Please don’t get the wrong impression, inspections are not meant to find the only fault in a unit. The inspection report should give an image of the RV in question and allow the buyer to view what might be, then decide if it is what they want to purchase. “Pictures say a thousand words”. Also, a third-party inspection can increase buyer confidence in their dealer. Fair and honest treatment equals returning customers.

If you want to get a third-party inspection with an objective outlook, hire an inspector. The price of inspection may pay for itself in negotiated return. But what price does a sour experience equal?

Full disclosure, the author is operating as a certified level 2 NRVIA Inspector and is an RVTI (RVDA/RVIA) level 2 certified repair technician as well. The opinions expressed are his own and not related to the RVTI or NRVIA organizations.

RV Onsite Services provides RV inspections and services to customers in the Raleigh and NC Triangle area. Contact us to schedule an inspection.