I decided the first RV I purchased would be a used one. Since I was buying used, I knew it would need to be thoroughly inspected before I bought it.
Even a used RV is an expensive purchase and I didn’t want to waste money on an RV that wasn’t in decent shape.
How much does an RV inspection cost? An RV inspection starts off at around $39 and can go all the way up to $1,000. This depends on the purpose of the inspection as well as the type of vehicle. Mandatory state inspections usually cost less money but are not sufficient enough to replace pre-purchase inspections. A pre-purchase inspection will average $600.
Types of RV Inspections
There are a few different types of RV inspections to consider.
The first type that many people think about is the pre-purchase inspection. This can be done on just the mechanical parts or on the entire interior and exterior of the RV.
The next type of inspection is the mandatory state inspection. Different types of RVs will be subject to different types of inspections. For example, a motorhome may only be subject to a state safety and emissions inspection.
A heavy camper may be subject to a trailer inspection and a lightweight camper may not be subject to any sort of inspection process at all.
Pre-purchase inspections are the most expensive types of inspections you can get on an RV.
Most mechanics will charge around $150 just to inspect a small motorhome’s mechanical systems. This includes a trip to the site of the motorhome and a basic check for previous damage, mechanical issues, and safety issues.
Smaller motorhomes can also be taken into a shop where they can be put up on a lift to more thoroughly inspect the underside of the vehicle.
These mechanics specialize in doing vehicle inspections and will not be able to inspect the parts of the vehicle that make it a motorhome. For example, they will not check the motorhome’s plumbing to see if it is functioning.
Most shops will not inspect larger motorhomes at all.
Class A motorhomes are built on large truck platforms and they often run off of diesel. If you want a mechanic to inspect your Class A RV, you’ll need to find one that specializes in diesel trucks.
Inspecting a camper or the interior of a motorhome usually costs more than inspecting the mechanical parts of a motorhome. Companies like the RV inspector charge $350 just to do a safety check.
This type of inspection makes sure everything camper related is working properly and that the trailer is safe to tow. If you have a motorhome or tow vehicle, you’ll have to get the mechanical parts inspected separately.
The National RV Inspector’s Association is a great place to find an inspector for your RV. This organization will put you in contact with inspectors that have been thoroughly trained to inspect RVs.
You can order level 1 inspections or level 2 inspections from these inspectors.
Level 1 inspections
A level 1 inspection will make sure your RV is safe to use.
It takes about 3 hours to complete and it ensures that the RV is roadworthy and that there aren’t any safety issues. The technician may also walk the owner through the use of the different systems of the RV.
Level 1 inspections will cost anywhere from $200.00 – $500.00. The price will vary based off the technician’s experience level as well as the local market.
For instance, an inspection done in Los Angelos will probably cost more than one done in Pittsburgh.
Level 2 inspections
A level 2 inspection is more involved.
It takes up to 8 hours and lab work is done on the vehicle’s fluids. The lab work can take over a week to get back, so people looking to make a quick purchase may not be able to get all of the results of their inspection before making their purchase.
These inspections will cost anywhere from $500 – $1,000.
Again, prices will vary based on the location and the technician’s level of experience. The size, age, and type of RV being inspected will also have a direct impact on the price of the inspection as well.
Mandatory Inspections for RVs
Mandatory inspections can be done periodically or only when the RV is first sold.
Most parts of the United States have mandatory inspections that must be completed each year for all vehicles. Motorhomes are considered to be vehicles, so they must be tagged, inspected, and insured. This being said, states like NJ only require a vehicle undergo a smog test every two years. You can read more about their process at dmv.com/nj/new-jersey/emissions-testing
A mandatory vehicle inspection will consist of a safety check as well as a vehicle emissions check.
In some parts of the country, the vehicle emissions check may be called a smog test. This essentially checks to make sure the vehicle is not putting out too much pollution.
If the vehicle was driven less than 5,000 miles over the past year, it may be exempt from emissions testing.
The safety check will check the lights, the brakes, the tires, and even the suspension system. These inspections are great for determining the current safety level of the vehicle but are not as thorough as a pre-purchase inspection. The reason for this is that the inspector will not be evaluating the vehicle for any future problems that may arise.
For example, a pre-purchase inspector may look at all of the hoses and belts and let you know that they may only last another year or two.
Armed with this information, you can decide whether or not it is worth purchasing a motorhome that will need to have its hoses and belts replaced soon.
Replacing a timing belt can cost several hundred dollars and more often than not, it’s a good idea to replace the water pump at the same time. This would have been missed during a mandatory inspection.
Special Mandatory Inspections for Campers
Another type of mandatory inspection may be applied to campers.
There is usually a weight limit assigned to this type of inspection. For example, a camper that weighs over 3,000 pounds may need to be inspected each year.
The reason for this is that these trailers must have brakes on them. Inspectors will check the frame of the trailer as well as the trailer’s brakes during their inspection.
4 Actual Cost Examples
- A Pennsylvania state motor vehicle inspection costs $39.
This is set by the state and mechanics must legally abide by this price. They make their money when you pay them to fix problems they have found during the inspection process.
- Different states will have different prices, but you can expect to pay less than $100 for this type of inspection.
- A pre-purchase inspection on a vehicle will cost between $150 to $300. This type of inspection can be done on smaller class B or class C motorhomes.
It can also be done on class A motorhomes, but you can expect to pay more for this type of RV inspection.
- Professional RV inspections that focus on the camper will cost even more.
You can expect to pay between $300 – $1,000 depending on the RV, the location of the RV, the experience of the inspector, and the number of elements that will be inspected.
Should I Do My Own Pre-purchase Inspection?
An RV owner cannot do their own mandatory inspection, but they can do their own pre-purchase inspection. There are a few plusses and minuses of doing these types of inspections yourself.
Advantages of Doing Your Own Pre-purchase Inspection
- Potential cost savings.
When you do your own pre-purchase inspection, you’ll know that the inspection was completed to the best of your ability. This is not always true with outside inspectors.
For example, you may find a dishonest inspector who hides some of his findings in order to help the RV company make the sale. You could also find an inept or lazy inspector who just doesn’t do a very good job.
You’ll pay money regardless of whether or not the inspection was a good one or a bad one. Inspect the RV yourself and you won’t have to pay anyone.
Disadvantages of Doing Your Own Pre-purchase Inspection
- Your level of experience is lower than an inspector’s level of experience.
- You take on full liability.
The main disadvantage to inspecting an RV yourself is that you most likely do not have the level of experience that an inspector has. An inspector who sees several RVs a week will have a much better idea of what to look for.
He or she may have inspected hundreds of RVs over their lifetime and they’ll see problems that you may have missed.
Not only this, but you may be able to sue an inspector over a poor inspection. When you miss something during an inspection, you’ll only have yourself to blame.
…So the best option is probably to have it done professionally by an inspector you trust!
Before buying an RV it is a good idea to get an inspection.
To do it correctly, you’ll have to spend somewhere between $300 – $1.000. You may also have to complete annual inspections to legally operate your RV.
Always check to see what your state requires so that you can comply with your state’s laws.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.