Beginner's RV inspection checklist

Beginner’s RV Inspection Checklist for Travel Trailers or Motorhomes

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Buying an RV for the first time is an exciting and scary experience. You’ve finally reached that dream, but the realities of it can feel heavy. There are so many choices, things to look for, and you’re not totally sure what’s a good deal or not.

If you’ve decided to buy a used RV, you’re taking advantage of the fact that RVs depreciate each year. In the first year, new RVs depreciate about 20%. Finding a well-kept RV at a good price ( more information in our article: “Buying an RV: 10 Ways to Get a Good Deal” ) isn’t that difficult if you know what to look for.

We’ve created a detailed checklist for you to inspect the RV you’re interested in. Feel free to print it out and bring it with you when you go for your walkthrough. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time on a complete inspection.

Why It’s Important to Do Your Own Inspection

RV inspection by man

Completing your own inspection does a number of things for you. It gives you a complete picture of the RV. You’ll know the current condition, what your repair list will be, and won’t be surprised by any unknown X-factors.

Dealerships do there best to go through the RVs they receive from trade-ins or auctions they plan to sell on their used lot. Their inspection checklist goes through a lot of the coach. Their reviews and repairs may focus on common issues.

Private sellers may not know the whole picture. The RV they’re selling could be sitting for a while. New issues may arise on the coach that they’re unaware of.

The bottom line is, once you sign all of the paperwork, any problems with the coach become your problems. Taking the extra time to thoroughly walk through the RV before you sign anything may be annoying, but finding those problems could save you in the long run. Even if you don’t find anything, at least you have the peace of mind knowing all of the facts.

Come Prepared

You’ll want to put together a toolbox of inspection items. Most of these items you probably have lying around your home already. Others you can pick up online or at your local hardware store for under $20 each.

The multimeter should a standard-issue item in your RV toolbox. You’ll need it in the future to test your batteries, electrical system, and almost anything concerning electricity. The outlet testers will show you if any of them are not working.

The liquid soap and water will help you find leaks in pressurized hoses. There are colored dyes you can buy that do the same thing. Putting soapy water around connections will show you if there’s a leak or not.

We recommend at least two pens of different colors. When you’re making your notes, having a pen color that stands out from the other will help you differentiate urgent matters from relative issues. A missing refrigerator shelf isn’t as important of an issue as a window that won’t open.

Issues to Look for Throughout the RV

Travel trailer camping spot

As you inspect the RV, there are some common problems to look for. They can occur regardless of the section. These are issues that can happen to any RV.

Edges are sealed with caulking and putty. Look for any gaps, cracking, or any of it not adhering. This type of inspection should be apart of your annual preventive maintenance and is fixed with a strip of silicone caulk.

Water damage or staining is a result of a leak somewhere. It may not be an exterior leak. There are sections in the wall or in cabinets you can access to hunt down the leak source to determine how serious the problem is.

Rotting wood, mold, and mildew are serious problems. Depending on where the wood is, it could be replaced and the mildew can be scrubbed clean. If you have black mold, cleaning it out correctly is expensive and toxic.

Rubber seals and the roof can become dry and flaky. This dry rot can be restored or replaced. If you have soft spots on the roof, this means that it needs replacing.

Insects, small reptiles, and rodents like to find there way into dormant RVs. Light infestations can be resolved through pest control strategies. Heavier infestations can involve severe damage to the structure of the coach itself.

Many who live the RV lifestyle will make needed repairs themselves. If done correctly, they’re just as good as professional jobs. Inspect any repair work that was done by the previous owner to see if it was done correctly and completed safely.

Used RV Inspection Checklist

RV Year:__________ RV Make: __________ RV Model: __________

Asking Price: $__________ Seller: __________

The Nervous Systems of the RV

Engine and Generator

  • (Motorhome) Engine battery is charged and in good condition
  • (Motorhome) Automotive fuses don’t show any burnt residue and none of them are popped
  • (Motorhome) Check the various engine belts for excessive wear
  • (Motorhome) Automotive fluids are at the proper levels
  1. Engine Oil
  2. Date of last oil change
  3. Brake Fluid
  4. Transmission Fluid
  5. Windshield Wiper Fluid
  6. Jack Fluid
  7. Radiator/Antifreeze Coolant
  • Generator oil is at the proper level
  • Date of last oil change
  • The generator starts up with no problem

Electrical

  • House batteries are charged and in good condition
  • Coach breakers and fuses are in good working order
  • Electric converter runs and the fuse in it is good
  • The electric inverter (if applicable) and fuses work properly

Water Lines

Man in the RVs kitchen
  • The freshwater lines are flexible, show no signs of cracking, and all connections are tight (run water through the lines)
  • The water pump (when powered on) activates and deactivates correctly for:
  1. Kitchen sink
  2. All bathroom sinks (if more than one)
  3. Showers
  4. Toilets
  5. Dishwasher
  6. Clothes washer
  7. Exterior shower
  8. Outdoor kitchen sink

Propane

  • Propane lines are flexible and don’t leak
  • Propane line connections are secure and don’t leak (use soapy water around the outside of the connections to see if they bubble or not)
  • The propane tanks sit securely in their trays and lock-in securely
  • Propane tank valves loosen and tighten correctly
  • Permanent propane tank doesn’t show significant rusting
  • Propane gauge works accurately

Holding Tanks

  • The fresh water tank doesn’t leak and all of the water lines are in good condition
  • The fresh water tank drain valve works properly
  • The grey and black holding tanks and plumbing don’t leak
  • The sewer tank valves open and close smoothly
  • The black water flush system isn’t blocked or broken

Outside of the RV

Sidewalls

  • The sidewalls don’t show any significant damage to the walls, decals, or paint
  • The front cap doesn’t show significant damage or non-professional repair work
  • (Motorhome) The hood panel opens/closes smoothly and fits in place correctly
  • The back cap is in good condition without any major concerns
  • The roof ladder is secured tightly against the RV and the sealant around the brackets are in good condition
  • All hatches/panels are accounted for, open/close, and are clean inside:
  1. Fuel
  2. Fresh water fill
  3. Furnace
  4. Hot water heater
  5. refrigerator/freezer
  6. Clothes dryer exhaust vent
  7. Stove hood exhaust vent
  • Exterior Lights work properly
  1. Front automotive lights
  2. Rear automotive lights
  3. Roof clearance lights
  4. Sidewall clearance lights
  5. Porch lights
  6. Step light
  7. Awning lights
  • Steps deploy and set in place correctly
  • (Motorhome) Motorized steps deploy open/close with door
  • (Motorhome) Motorized steps lock in place with toggle switch
  • The awning opens/closes well
  • There aren’t any tears in the awning fabric
  • There isn’t any mold, mildew, or evidence of either on the awning fabric

Storage and Utility Bay

  • Storage bay doors are in good condition
  1. Open/Close
  2. Handles are not loose
  3. Door holders hold the weight of the door to keep them open
  4. Lock/unlock
  5. Seals are pliable and secured tightly to the sidewall
  6. Storage lights work
  7. There isn’t any water damage, insect/rodent evidence, or other damage inside
  • Holding tank piping doesn’t leak when water is poured down
  • Electric shore power cord
  1. Fits securely to RV
  2. Inner wiring isn’t exposed
  3. The prongs aren’t bent, burnt, or melted
  • City water connection rubber gaskets are in good working order

Roof and Air Conditioner

  • No dry rot
  • No gaps in the seals
  • Vent covers and skylight aren’t cracked and fit well
  • Satellite and/or antenna deploy up/down well and fit in their cradle
  • Seals around air conditioner(s) are good
  • No wiring is exposed
  • A/C cover(s) is secure
  • Intake filter, insulation, coils are clean
  • The compressor gets cold after 5-10 minutes of running
  • Exhaust fan spins well (test by using your finger to spin it when its turned off. If it doesn’t spin, something may be blocking it or the motor may have burnt out)

Hitch

  • (Motorhome) Receiver is in fair shape and electronic connector is 7 pin (modern)
  • Hitch on trailer only shows light rusting or better
  • All safety chains are provided and are in working condition
  • All sway control parts are present and look good
  • Tongue jack cranks/moves up and down smoothly
  • Electronic tongue jack works well
  • Fifth wheel hitch is original and is in good working order

Slideouts

  • All slideouts deploy smoothly on their tracks
  • Slideout awnings deploy tight and without any tears
  • Slideout seals don’t show dry rot and aren’t loose
  • Slideout side windows aren’t cracked, sealed well, and open/close
  • No evidence of water damage or leaking

Wheels and Underbelly

  • Tires have the correct air pressure
  • Tires don’t have soft spots or dry rot
  • Rims aren’t bent to compromise the seal of the tire
  • Brake pads are still thick enough
  • Date pads were replaced/inspected
  • Brake mechanisms are in good working order
  • (Pop-ups)Wheel bearings are properly greased and have been maintained yearly
  • The suspension is secure and in working order
  • Axles aren’t bent or in need of repair
  • Automotive lights and electronics work when plugged into a tow vehicle
  • Underbelly seal isn’t ripped or loose (if a factory feature or installed aftermarket)
  • (Motorhome) Other automotive parts are in good working order

Stabilizer Jacks

  • Jacks deploy up/down smoothly
  • Jacks are secured tightly to the chassis of the RV
  • Electronic jack system works correctly
  • The auto-leveling feature works and is accurate
  • (Motorhome)When jacks are left down for 20-30 minutes, they stay down and don’t leak fluid (interior rubber gasket issue)

Interior

RV interior

Ceiling

  • Cloth ceiling doesn’t have staining from water damage or tears
  • All interior lights work
  • All A/C intakes are secure against the ceiling and have filters
  • Decorative molding is in good shape
  • Ceiling mirrors are not cracked
  • Ceiling fans work
  • All air conditioner ducting vent panels are in place and functional

Flooring

  • The vinyl flooring/carpet doesn’t have loose sections
  • There isn’t any stains, mold growth, or water damage
  • The flooring doesn’t have inconsistent pieces to it
  • Heating ducts panels are in place and functional

Windows

  • Window valances are secure and aren’t torn
  • All day and nightshades work
  • There isn’t any water damage around any windows
  • None of the outer rubber seals are shrinking around the windows
  • You don’t feel any air coming through closed windows or the edges
  • The seals around frameless windows are pliable and make a tight seal
  • None of the windows are cracked
  • (Motorhome) The windshield isn’t cracked or has spider cracks in it (RV insurance doesn’t fully cover this like auto insurance covers car windshields)

Door

  • The doors and screen doors are not loose on their hinges
  • All the doors close securely without slamming them
  • The screen doors aren’t torn
  • All seals are secured to the sidewalls and in good condition
  • The driver’s side utility door and window work properly

Walls, Cabinetry, and Dashboard

  • The interior walls don’t show water damage, holes, cracks, or wallpaper peeling
  • Cabinet doors and cabinets uniformly match each other
  • The caulking between the cabinetry and walls are in good condition
  • The cabinets are tight against the walls
  • None of the drawers are off their tracks
  • Hinges and knobs aren’t loose
  • None of the drawers are stuck
  • Privacy doors and accordion walls move on their tracks and fold away well
  • There isn’t any evidence of rot, growth, or pest issues inside
  • (Motorhome) The dashboard is secure in place
  • (Motorhome) The instruments and gauges work correctly
  • (Motorhome) The backup camera monitor works and has a clear picture
  • (Motorhome) The instrument panel lights up with the headlights
  • (Motorhome) You understand the function of every control in the pilot section

Furniture and Driver’s Seats

  • The furniture has all pieces accounted for
  • There aren’t any tears, stains, or peeling on any of the furniture
  • All mechanisms and electronics work correctly
  • The dinette(s) and sofa(s) fold-down/out well
  • The master bed platform lifts up and the hydraulics keep it up
  • All of the mattresses are in good condition
  • The bunk bed features work correctly
  • It’s easy to access the bottom bunk storage area

Electronics and Kitchen appliances

  • The TV(s) and stereo work well
  • The stove and oven work
  • The stove igniter lights the pilot light (these usually stop working within 6 months on older models)
  • The microwave works and its display work properly
  • Every electric outlet and USB charging station are hot
  • The refrigerator gets cold after 20 minutes
  • The air conditioner gets cold after 10 minutes
  • The furnace gets hot after 5 minutes
  • The thermostat works correctly
  • The RVs control panel and levels indicator works properly (holding tank levels may not be accurate due to dirty sensors)
  • Sink and shower water is hot after the water heater is on for 10-15 minutes
  • The fireplace LEDs all light up and produces heat
  • All safety equipment and alarms test successfully

Paperwork

  • The RV paperwork folder is available to you
  • All owner’s manuals for the RV and amenities are within the folder
  • Updated feature manuals are in the folder (a replaced TV, new microwave, etc.)
  • A copy of the original sales agreement is in the folder
  • The signed title and registration will come with the closing of the sale
  • Warranty documentation is in the folder
  • Any other relevant documentation is identified and in the folder

You can find more information in our article: “18 Items to Check Before You Buy a Used RV”.

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