RV Inspection Checklist for New or Used RVs: Before You Buy

RV Inspection Checklist 1

Table of Contents

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This article will discuss the importance of an RV inspection checklist, walk you through the different areas, and provide you with a printable checklist. At the end of the article, I link to RV maintenance, winterizing, and de-winterizing checklists.

Why is an RV Inspection Important?

Whether you’re considering a used RV or a new RV, conducting a thorough inspection is crucial to ensure a trouble-free journey. While lemon laws may not fully cover RVs, a comprehensive inspection helps you identify potential issues in both automotive and living/storage components. 

Even reputable manufacturers and dealerships can overlook details, making self-inspection an essential step in securing your investment. A thorough inspection can uncover major problems and allow them to be addressed.

If you are not confident in your ability to inspect your RV, please have it professionally inspected by an RV inspector to obtain a certified inspection report.

Tools to be Prepared for an Inspection

◾A screwdriver (both flathead and Phillips)

◾Pliers

◾Tire pressure gauge

◾Flashlight

◾Electric outlet tester

◾Multimeter

◾A checklist

◾Pen or Pencil

What Does an RV Inspection Checklist Consist Of?

Your RV inspection primarily involves visual checks, using tools like screwdrivers and flashlights to access essential areas. The electric outlet testers ensure a secure electrical system. The checklist guides you through each step, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation. You will inspect the RV’s exterior, the interior of your RV, and the engine (if this is a motorhome).

Inspection Checklist:

Exterior of the RV

  • Paint and Siding – Walk along the sides of the RV and look down. You are looking for bumps, dips, and signs of delamination of the side wall. The side of your RV should look smooth and have no color variations. 
  • Steps – Inspect the steps. If manual, make sure they are easy to unfold and refold. If you have an automatic step, test and ensure proper and complete function.
  • Tires and Wheels—Inspect your tires for uneven wear, bald spots, and damage. Check the tire pressure and tire valve stem. If there is an after-market Tire Pressure Management System (TPMS), check it and ensure it functions.
  • Roof Ladder (If Equipped) – Inspect the roof ladder to ensure it is stable and safe. Note any significant rusting and visualize the bolts securing the ladder to the RV.
  • RV Hookups – ​Visualize the hookups for signs of damage or wear and tear. 
  • Roof Seals – Gain access to the roof and inspect it for soft spots, tears, and other damage. Inspect the seams, gaskets, and any other place where the roof has been cut to install vents or other items. Inspect the vents, air conditioner, antenna, solar panels, end-caps and any seams. Ensure that there is no cracking, bubbles, nails, or damaging debris. Check for any signs of rust near the roof joint.
  • Roof Vents – Inspect the roof vents. Ensure that the vents are properly covered. Inspect the sealant around the vents for cracking, missing sealant, and debris.
  • Sidewalls and End Caps – Inspect for signs of aging and any damage, discoloration, or delamination. Inspect the sealant used on all seams.
  • Basement Storage Compartments – Ensure access doors operate easily and fully. Open all doors and watch the complete function and make note of any alignment issues. Inspect all hinges, latches, and locks. Each latch should easily secure the door—test for smooth function. Visualize the manufactured wood product for signs of water damage and deterioration.
  • Utility Compartments – Locate the low point drains for the fresh water tank and the water heater. Ensure that these drains have working valves.
  • Wall Vents – Inspect any wall vents for appropriate sealant or caulk. Ensure that the vents are not clogged.
  • Cab and Entry Doors- Inspect the entry door gasket and ensure it is properly adhered and adequately covers the opening.
    • Ensure that the keys easily lock and unlock the doors.
    • Inspect the screen door for any damage to the screen or holes that would allow insects.
    • Ensure that the screen door can separate and function separately from the main door.
    • Ensure that the screen door can successfully attach to the main door. 
    • Inspect around the corners of the door for any light penetration, gaps, or evidence of water leaking.
  • Weatherstripping and Weather Seals – Inspect each door and exterior access panel for weatherstripping or weather seals. Palpate the seals to ensure that they are complete and there is no damage.
  • Outside lighting – If outside lighting is present, turn on the exterior lights and inspect them to ensure proper function.
RV shoreline
  • Power and Electrical – Inspect the shore power cord for signs of damage, including the cord sheathing and the connection ends. Inspect the Automatic Transfer Switch (if equipped) for signs of damage. Ensure no heat damage is present at the RV or either end of the shoreline cable.
    • Remove 120-volt circuit breaker box cover and visually inspect the wire conditions and wire connections. Note any evidence of discoloration due to heat to any wiring or connections.
    • If built in surge protector is present, inspect the unit’s connection points and note any signs of heat damage.
  • House Batteries – Make sure the battery compartment is ventilated unless lithium batteries are present. Determine age and condition of the battery. Inspect the battery cables and ensure they are in good condition, securely attached, and free from corrosion.
RV Battery
  • Propane System– Visually inspect the propane regulator and hoses for signs of damage or wear and tear. Confirm whether a leak test has been performed on the propane tank, regulator, and complete system. Visualize the LP gas tank for signs of rust, corrosion, or damage. 
  • Generator – Determine the amount of operating hours. Check the oil level and determine the last service date. Inspect the hoses and wires.
    • Open the electrical box where the generator cable plugs in. Inspect for signs of heat damage.
    • Turn on the generator under the load of the air conditioner.  Listen for abnormal sounds. Let the generator run for 10 minutes. Air conditioners make the generator work hard, so this is a perfect testing environment.
    • While the generator is running, test the voltage output and frequency. Confirm that the electrical status panel shows the generator’s status and the presence of AC.

Chassis or Underbelly

RV underbelly
  • Inspect underneath for damage, rust, wiring, and any place wiring could rub.
  • Inspect exhaust pipe (motorhome).
  • Inspect frame and axles, springs, and rims for signs of damage or rust.
  • Inspect the RV tires for correct air pressure, signs of decay, and overall condition.
  • Inspect brakes and pads for signs of excessive wear and tear.
  • Inspect suspension.
  • Inspect underbelly material for signs of damage or leaking (if equipped).
  • Check for any leaking fluids.

Motorhome Engine

  • Check the oil level, do an oil analysis, and do an oil pressure reading.
  • Inspect for oil leaks.
  • Check all fluid levels.
  • Inspect Engine Drive Belt.
  • Inspect the radiator, coolant reservoir, and hoses.
  • Check transmission fluid level.
  • Check brake fluid levels.
  • Inspect steering for damage or hydraulic leaks.
  • Test all lights and turn signals.
  • Start the engine and listen for issues or noises while running.
  • Inspect hitch for damage and secure bolts.
  • Inspect the 7-pin connector.
  • Inspect the gas exhaust system.

Hitch (for Towable RV or Travel Trailer)

RV connector
  • Inspect the rear receiver and electric connector (7, 6, or 5 pin connector).
  • Inspect front hitch/kingpin for damage or extensive rust.
  • Inspect safety chains.
  • Inspect sway bars.
  • Inspect and operate the tongue jack.
  • Inspect umbilical cord and test DOT lights.

Slide-Outs

RV Slideout Seam

Exterior Inspection

  • Check seals, retraction, and slide topper (if equipped).
  • Operate slides.
  • Inspect slide roof and awning (if equipped).
  • Inspect wiring underneath slide.

Interior Inspection

  • Operate slides and confirm smooth operation.
  • Check for signs of water leaks around slide.
  • Check for light shining through seals (or airflow).
  • Inspect the attached harness and wiring to ensure operation doesn’t cut into floor.

Awning

RV awning control
  • Open and Close the awning.
  • Inspect for bent arms.
  • Inspect for torn fabric.
  • Inspect that the manual crank operates.

Leveling System

  • Inspect for smooth operation by extending and retracting.
  • Inspect for hydraulic leaks or damage.

Stabilizer Jacks

  • Extend and retract fully and inspect for smooth function.
  • Operate with the manual jack.
  • Inspect for leaking hydraulic fluid.

House Systems

Electrical System

  • AC and DC Panels, fuses, and circuit breakers.
  • Ensure loads are correctly labeled.
  • Test 110V outlets with an outlet tester, and inspect GFI and the condition of the wiring.

Solar System

RV Solar Controller
  • Inspect the components, including solar panels on roof.
  • Inspect the solar power panel to ensure panels are charging.
  • Determine type and age of solar batteries.

Inverter

  • Inspect the inverter for signs of damage.
  • Ensure the inverter works.
  • Test the outlets powered by the inverter.

Water Pump and City Water

RV Faucets
  • Fill the fresh water tank and engage the water pump.
  • Once the pump pressurizes and shuts off, run water inside to ensure the pump engages.
  • Listen to the pump for any abnormal sounds.
  • Turn off water pump and hookup the city water connection.
  • Inspect the city water connection for leaks.
  • Ensure all faucets operate appropriately.

Water Heater

  • Inspect the water heater for any blockages, nesting, or debris.
  • Ensure the pilot light is operational (if equipped). 
  • Test function of water heater on both propane and electrical.
  • Inspect for the presence of a bypass valve for winterization.
  • Inspect for drainplug and ensure it is functioning.
  • Review specific unit manual for operation testing.

Furnace

RV thermostat
  • Turn the heater on and set the thermostat at least 10 degrees higher than current inside     temperature.
  • The furnace fan should turn on in less than 10 seconds.
  • You should hear the igniter make a clicking sound and the fan should engage.
  • All floor vents should have hot air coming out of them.
  • Note any abnormal sounds or vibrations caused by furnace operation.
  • Inspect furnace intake area for pest infestation or debris.
  • Note any smells indicating material is getting too hot.

Air Conditioner

RV Air conditioner Air filters
  • Inspect the AC shroud.
  • Inspect the wiring.
  • Inspect the intake and coils.
  • Inspect the interior air filters.
  • Turn on the AC and ensure that cold air is blowing from all vents.

Refrigerator

  • Test refrigerator on propane (if equipped). Do this by turning on the unit, closing the door, and waiting for unit to cool.
  • Turn the refrigerator off and open the door allowing the unit to return to ambient temperature.
  • When the unit is at ambient temperature, turn on the unit using electrical power (if equipped).
  • Close the door and wait for the unit to cool.
  • Ensure that the hot air from the refrigerator is properly vented.
  • Turn the refrigerator off and inspect the door frame, gaskets, shelving, drawer function, and light function.

Microwave

Furrion Microwave
  • Inspect the microwave for damage.
  • Ensure that the tray is present and can move appropriately.
  • Heat a cup of water for a couple of minutes to ensure proper function.
  • Note any strange sounds present when microwave is functioning.

Stove/Oven

RV stove top
  • Turn on all burners to ensure function and adequate propane flow.
  • Test oven function and ensure the pilot light stays lit.
  • Turn on the exhaust fan above the stove and ensure it functions.
  • Inspect any filters in the exhaust fan.
  • Inspect any induction stove or outside cooking appliances.

TV and Entertainment System

  • Turn on TV and inspect for screen damage.
  • Adjust antenna for improved television picture (if equipped).
  • Ensure all remotes function.
  • Test the different inputs to ensure function.
  • Ensure any radio, dvd, or satellite systems function.
  • Test any speakers connected to the entertainment center (if equipped).

Windows and Hatches

  • Ensure all windows and hatches open and close completely.
  • Ensure window and hatches lock appropriately.
  • Ensure any emergency windows operate appropriately.
  • Inspect each window for signs of damage.
  • Inspect screens for signs of damage.
  • Inspect corners of windows for signs of water leaks.
  • Inspect the window seals to ensure they are in place.
  • Ensure all window shades function appropriately.

Ceiling and Molding

  • Inspect the ceiling for signs of water damage.
  • Inspect the ceiling for discoloration.
  • Inspect for bowing, sagging, or any other signs of damage.

Floors

  • Inspect floors for damage due to a slide not functioning properly.
  • Ensure any floor coverings are secured in each corner. 
  • Inspect for signs of water damage.

Heat ducts

  • Inspect each heat duct for signs of damage, mold, significant dust, or blockages.

Counter tops

RV countertops
  • Ensure counter tops are fastened and aligned appropriately.
  • Inspect caulking around counter tops.
  • Inspect for water damage.
  • Inspect the sink installation.

Cabinets and closet space

  • Test each cabinet door for proper function.
  • Inspect that hardware is appropriately attached.
  • Ensure that the cabinet doors shut and latch completely.
  • Inspect all closet spaces for signs of damage.

Drawers

  • Ensure all drawers open and close completely and smoothly.
  • Ensure all drawers are installed on their tracks.

Doors

  • Open and shut each door completely.
  • Ensure smooth operation.
  • Ensure all hardware is attached.
  • Ensure any doors on slides are attached and operate.

Lighting

  • Ensure all lighting works appropriately.

Interior Appearance

  • Inspect all ceilings, walls, and floors for signs of water or surface damage.
  • Note whether there are any missing components.
  • Ensure all trims and valances are secure and matching.
  • Inspect drapes and shades.

Furniture

  • Inspect furniture for fabric damage, delamination, discoloration, and signs of excess wear and tear.
  • Inspect dinette and ensure all pieces are present and function appropriately.

Beds

  • Inspect mattresses for condition and staining. 
  • Lift up mattresses and inspect the underside for staining and signs of mold
  • Inspect any storage areas beneath the bunks and ensure they open correctly and are accessible.

Shower

  • Inspect the shower panels and door/curtains for signs of damage.
  • Inspect the seals around the shower for any signs of leaks.
  • Inspect for mildew/mold and mineral build-up.
  • Inspect the head, hose, and knobs for leaks and proper function.
  • Open up the access panel beneath the shower and inspect for signs of water leaks.

Toilet

  • Ensure that the toilet is securely attached to the floor. 
  • Inspect the bowl for stains, mold, and/or signs of leaks.
  • Ensure that the flush pedal works appropriately.
  • Ensure that the toilet bowl seal can hold water.
  • Inspect the toilet area for any bad odors.
  • Inspect the base of the toilet for signs of water leaks.

Sinks

  • Inspect the sink for cracks in the wash basin.
  • Inspect the caulk around the sink and fixtures.
  • Ensure that the stopper functions appropriately.
  • Ensure that the water drains from the sink appropriately.
  • Turn on the water and ensure that both the hot and cold water connections work.
  • Open the access panel beneath the sink and inspect for signs of water leaks.
  • Inspect water connections under the sink and ensure they are tight and not leaking. 

LED Fireplace or Other Supplemental Electric Heater

RV fireplace
  • Inspect the unit for signs of damage.
  • Turn on the unit and ensure that it functions properly.
  • Increase the thermostat on the unit and ensure that it blows hot air.
  • Ensure all controls function properly.

Fresh Water Tank

  • Ensure City Connection works and does not leak.
  • Fill fresh water tank and inspect for leaks.
  • Inspect and operate the pump system.
  • Test all fresh water fixtures (both inside and outside) under pump pressure.
  • Run water in all sinks, toilets, and showers (do not forget outdoor showers).
  • Inspect all sinks, toilets, and showers for leaks and inspect the water connections.
  • Inspect water filters (if equipped).
  • Determine whether fresh water tank was adequately sanitized.

Waste Water Black and Gray Tanks

  • Identify each tank and drain valve/dump outlet.
  • Inspect rubber connections of the dump outlets.
  • Ensure drain valves will not leak.
  • Open and close drain valves and ensure smooth and complete operation.
  • Inspect, connect, and operate the black tank flush (if equipped).
  • Ensure the black tank flush operates appropriately.
  • Drain each tank after testing water flow from each faucet.
  • Ensure the recreational vehicle drain cap is in place.

Safety Items

RV CO detector
  • Test all GCFI circuits (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).
  • Test wall outlets for polarity and proper grounding using an outlet tester.
  • Test exterior RV exterior skin for hot skin (risk of electric shock).
  • Test smoke detectors and ensure batteries are present if needed.
  • Test each carbon monoxide detector and check for expiration date.
  • If there is a separate propane gas detector, test it and check for the expiration date. (Many CO detectors also include propane leak sensors, so inspect each unit to ensure complete safety protection.)
  • Locate RV windows and especially all emergency exit windows and ensure they are all operational. 
  • Inspect the fire extinguisher and check the date.
  • Inspect the propane line to the water heater for the rubber grommet.

Ensure the following documents are included and accessible. These should be a staple for all recreational vehicles:

  • Manual Binder (to put all documents in)
  • Owner’s Manuals
  • Updated Manuals
  • Sales Documentation
  • Title and Registration
  • Warranty Documents
  • Other Paperwork

Test Drive (Motorhome Checklist)

  • Complete vehicle walk-around and inspect for damage.
  • Turn ignition, but do not turn on the vehicle. Familiarize yourself with all status and warning lights that display.
  • Watch for ‘wait to start’ light to go out (if equipped), and then turn ignition on. Engine should easily start within a couple of seconds. Observe that oil pressure is present immediately. If there is no oil pressure, shut down the engine, and do not continue the test drive.
  • Once the engine is started, observe for any warning lights on the dash. There should be none.
  • Turn on and ensure the wiper blades work at each speed.
  • Turn on and ensure function of all running lights, turn signals, and hazard lights. Walk around and inspect their function.
  • Have someone standing at the back of the rig to visualize the brake lights. Pump the brakes while in park to ensure the brake lights work.
  • Turn on cab’s entertainment system and ensure it functions and the speakers do not crackle and sound appropriate.
  • View all dashboard instrument gauges during the test.
  • Turn on the A/C and ensure that the system blows both hot and cold air.
  • Adjust side mirrors, rear view mirrors, and seats.
  • Adjust the rear view camera controls to toggle to day or night (if equipped).
  • Put on your seatbelt.
  • Now it’s time for a Road Test on a variety of road surfaces and conditions and hills.
  • Start slow and get comfortable with the way the coach maneuvers and execute both right- and left-handed turns.
  • Check for brake responsiveness. 
  • Increase speeds by driving on a highway or interstate. Ensure that the coach accelerates smoothly and steadily.
  • Listen for any abnormal sounds like grinding or whining. Pay attention to wind noise from the doors, slides, awnings, or other parts of the motorhome.
  • When reaching the speed limit, ensure the gauges still read normal levels. 
  • Pay attention to the steering wheel, how responsive it is, and how much effort it takes to keep the coach going straight. If the coach requires too much steering to ensure a straight path, the wheels could be out of alignment.
  • Drive at least 5 miles before turning around. Test the cruise control for proper function. Note any shaking or wobbling that presents itself at faster speeds.
  • Once you have left the interstate/highway, find an empty concrete road or parking lot.
  • Apply the emergency brake, shift the gear into “drive,” and apply some pressure to the accelerator. The coach should not move.
  • Release the Emergency Brake and start driving at approximately 10 mph and apply hard pressure on the brake pedal. The coach should come to a complete stop without screeching or pulling to a side.
  • While in the parking lot, shift the coach into reverse and ensure no issues with that gear. Listen for safety reverse alarms (if equipped).

Printable Checklists

Checklists make everything so much easier. Click here for printable checklists for this process. RV Inspection Checklist PDF.

If you still are unsure about how to get started getting into the RV life, there is plenty of information that would be helpful for you. There are many steps to starting the RV life, including downsizing and learning the different types of RVs. In addition to that, be sure to check my RV maintenance checklist, RV winterizing checklist, and my RV de-winterizing checklist. These will help you keep your RV in great condition.

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out our disclosure for more information.

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