Buying a RV can happen in what feels like a moment. You fall in love with some features and amenities, as well as the freedom to travel where want, almost whenever you want. A pre delivery inspection of an RV helps you learn more about the vehicle you want to own, and might bring some reality back into the picture.
A pre delivery inspection is a thorough look through of everything in the RV before you sign papers and buy it. If you’ve ever had a frustrating moment where a switch that should work doesn’t work right after you buy, and you have no recourse but to spend money fixing it – this checklist is for you!
While we can’t get into every detail about what’s in the checklist in this paragraph, we’ll offer below many of the things you should look out for in your RV. This is a really good time to learn more about what your RV does and what features are a bit hidden. We will offer explanations for some items, too.
Why do a pre delivery inspection?
RVs can have issues. Issues that neither your eyes catch when you first set eyes upon the vehicle, and one’s that even mechanics overlook. If you are buying a pre-owned RV, this is especially important because it’s possible that the previous owner overlooked some problems, and might not say anything about them.
Inspection is an easy way of saying “check everything”.
If you are doing the inspection yourself, you should bring several tools
- Flathead and Phillips screwdriver
- Hoses for water tanks
- Potentially a ladder
- Tape measure
- A cup for the microwave
- A water, at least a couple bottles
- Tire Pressure Gauge
The outside of the RV
Amongst the most important features on the exterior to check are..
Make sure the ladder is properly fastened. Take a look at the screws or bolts that hold the ladder in place and ensure they are tight and not sticking out. Don’t try to climb the ladder unless you have taken a look first. The last thing you want is a fall during your pre delivery inspection.
Once on the roof, check all the seams and seals. A good RV shouldn’t have water leaking through and seams should be consistent with no signs of breaking.
Also, ensure that any covers for items like the air conditioner are properly sealed, aren’t loose, and don’t have cracks or breaks.
If the roof is rubber, check for any signs of hardware like screws or bolts poking through. It shouldn’t be lumpy.
Sealed and aligned windows are important. There should be very little to no gap between the window and the frame – it should be quite tight to prevent rain or wind from coming in. Open and close windows that are openable and ensure they open and close properly.
Gaskets and seals around the door should be solid, just like the roof.
Also, the door should be aligned correctly not appear at any sort of angle. An angled door is more difficult to close and can damage the door frame.
Here’s the fun part! These tanks hold your critical fresh water, your drain water, and your toilet water.
One of the best ways to actually test these beyond a visual inspection is to pour something into the toilet and a sink. Come out and try to test the valves and see if water comes out.
Verify they are empty with the current owner first – and bring your hose.
The tanks should be free or cracks and deformities.
If there is a propane compartment or carrier, ensure all screws and bolts are tight.
Check the regulator and ensure it has no obvious problems.
Take the time to find the shut off valve for the propane system, too. It will be difficult to ensure this works without active propane, but at least locate it.
Paint and Siding
Just like you would a car, take a close look the paint across the entire RV.
You want to look for scratches, bubbles, and wear.
In addition, try to find any depressions or dents you might see in the side paneling. Dents in the side paneling are also indicators of other damage. Dents can be popped out, but don’t do it right now.
This is pretty important. Learn what tire pressure should be present in the tires. Use your tire gauge to verify that they tires are currently at that pressure. There isn’t a good way to check for a slow leak, but you can look at the side walls and treads for any signs of wear beyond the normal.
A tire depth gauge or penny can help here too. A penny inserted vertically into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down – if you can see his whole head, the tread is too low. This is not a scientific method and we suggest using an actual tire gauge too. Anything less than 2/32 of an inch needs to be replaced.
Awnings are usually supported by extending bars, springs, and locks. Extend the awning out and inspect all of the above for wear and tear as well as noise. The awning might be a little bouncy, but this should be from the springs and not the locks working improperly.
Using your flashlight, take a look at air and hydraulic lines to see if they have cracks or are leaking.
Consider getting underneath your RV if physically able. If not, you should probably have someone else do it, because these are important parts!
Slideouts and Compartments
Slideouts and compartments should be relatively simple and easy. Ensure that all compartments are properly sealed. You can do this part by seeing if there are any holes in the seals – water damage inside would also be an indicator.
Open and close all compartments to ensure they are aligned properly and lock when open or down, if they have this feature.
Open and close all kitchen cabinets and storage cabinets. The purpose is to ensure hinges work properly. You can also rattle them a bit to simulate
Look at any cabinet linings to make sure they are fastened securely.
Cabinets can also give access to water pipes. Check for water leaks and loose connections back here.
Molding and Trim
If your RV has molding or trim, check all doors and cabinets that do. See if it’s attached properly.
Flip every switch! Verify that every light is currently working. A non working light is not something you should fix right now – let the current owner do it then reverify. The potential hidden issue is that the lighting wires might have problems.
Open and close closet doors to make sure that the connectors and hinges work properly. Squeaking can happen.
Attempt to lift furniture to make sure the bolts holding it down work properly, assuming you are keeping the furniture.
Look for stains, rips, and tears in the furniture too.
Many RV’s have blinds, and some have curtains. Learn how to use the blinds – withdrawing them and returning them to the top.
Blinds are also a bit finicky – ensure that all of them are straight. Blinds that are out of alignmen can cause headaches down the road.
Just like a regular kitchen, check the countertops for proper fasteners. You could grab the ends of a countertop and attempt to lift. Screws or glue should be doing a good job of preventing you from moving anything.
Faucets and Sink installations
Faucets and sinks should be tightly sealed often with caulking.
The easiest way to try a faucet or sink is to turn it on, if there is water in the freshwater tank, which there should be for a test.
This isn’t in the same are as most sinks, but testing your faucets and sinks is a good time to test the water pump. Do you hear the water pump come on to build up more pressure after you turn off the sink?
Is it exceedingly loud? Try to turn on the water again, especially if you hear nothing, to see if the water pressure from the first round is maintained.
Connect shore or external power to your RV. Try to turn something on to ensure it runs.
For outlets, use an outlet tester. You should also push the test button on any GFCI plugs.
Plug in the converter. Check it’s operation by turning on and off several lights to see if it can handle a load of power.
Assuming someone is with you who knows, ask about what else the converter or surge protector do.
Turn off the water pump. Connect city or local water via a hose. Check the ports to make sure they work. Turn on a faucet to see if water comes out.
Have the person with you walk you through starting the water heater. You’ll want to check back on this to check the heat level and turn the water on later.
Inspect the bypass valves and pressure relief for cracks or problems.
Fire up the heater! Understand the operation too. Use your nose to sniff out any smells and check the RV vents or ports for heat actually coming out. Try to raise and lower the temperature too.
While this is usually on the roof, turn the thermostat to a temperature lower than the current ambient temperature. The air conditioner should start up right away. Check the vents and ports for air temperature – it should be cooler than your RV. The thermostat should also shut this off eventually.
Your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are a small but important safety device. Touch the test buttons to make them beep.
Assuming you are keeping the fridge, check the exterior seals for wear and issues.
Turn the fridge on if it’s not, and see if it’s currently cool.
Look at the back of the fridge for any signs of excess dust or debris in the exhaust vents.
For a propane fridge, take a whiff and smell for ammonia.
Check the propane connection to make sure it’s on. Turn the stove burners on one at a time to check operation.
Look at the pilot light and check for excess debris or wear. Turn off the stove when done.
For your most basic check, put a cup of water in the microwave and let it run on high power for 5 minutes. The water should boil and some of it should evaporate – the microwave has demonstrated that it can build and contain heat.
Flush the toilet (if it’s not a compost toilet) and see if it drains quickly and completely. There should be no leaks coming out of the bottom or sides.
Now that you’ve used a few things inside the RV, try to drain the tanks on the exterior. This was mentioned in passing before – but now you can learn how to hook up the hose to a receptacle and actually do it. Not much will come out, but it’s a good time to learn.
A pre delivery inspection is your last chance to either ask the previous owner to make fixes to an RV, or decide if you want to buy it. Dealers will often do an inspection and provide it, but do one anyway so you can learn more about operation. The dealer can also miss things and not have the same standard as you.
A PDI can save you money from having to make fixes yourself – or help you avoid buying an RV that has more problems than you want to deal with.
You can also hire a mechanic for a PDI and give them this list as a checklist to complete.