After all the weeks searching the internet, visiting dealers and walking in and out of countless RV’s, you have finally decided on one! The exterior color is perfect. The interior décor is gorgeous. The amenities-forget about it! This baby has everything! What happens next? PDI.
What is a Pre-Delivery Inspection, (PDI)? This inspection, performed at most RV dealerships, ensures that the rig is ready to go. They will test all the systems, HVAC, plumbing, cooking, even the TV. They will test drive it if it is a motorhome. They will check the brakes and lights on a travel trailer or fifth wheel, and in all cases, they will check the LP system to ensure that there are no LP leaks. PDI’s are completed on everything from pop up trailers to Prevost monster class A’s.
If you are buying a used unit from a dealer or from a private seller, you may not be offered a PDI. If the unit is new, a PDI should be part of the deal, sort of like “dealer prep” when buying a new car. Why do I need a PDI? The answer is the same for a new unit or used, you need an inspection! Here is why.
First, some RV statistics. There are 8.9 million US households who own an RV. It is estimated that owners sell their RV every 4 years. That is approximately 2.25 million RV sales annually. Of those units sold, only 675,000 are sold through dealerships. The remaining RV sales, 1.5 million are through private transactions.
An independent 3rd party inspector has no financial interest in the unit being sold. NRVIA Certified inspectors are held to certain guidelines and have agreed to a code of ethics. While A dealer may only provide 2 hours for an inspection, in actuality, an inspection can take up to 4 hours. An independent inspector is not working under time constraints.
You must get an inspection when buying from a private seller-period! There are owners who are “tinkerers”, they modify, to suit their needs, everything from plumbing to electrical. I have seen 120 volt electrical circuits added with out circuit breaker protection, holes drilled into the body to run cable tv wiring, and in a recent Facebook owner’s group post, an owner ran a flexible duct line from the furnace exhaust to heat the underbelly of his trailer using the carbon monoxide laden exhaust-a tragic accident waiting to happen.
Finance companies and Bank and Lending institution loan officers are increasing their requests for a professional non-biased inspection on equipment they are considering as collateral for a loan. The inspection provides not only peace of mind to the buyer, but also the lender who has proof that the borrower is not purchasing a lemon that they may grow tired of dumping money into and abandon the loan.
As the marine industry has experienced for years, when a loan on a boat over a certain price point is requested, the lender requires a survey be provided. This is just another name for inspection and is very similar in scope. It provides the lender with assurance that they are not loaning money on a potential problem. 1
Insurance, Insurance Underwriters have expressed a desire over the years to have more information regarding the RV’s condition they are insuring. Our industry association continues to develop relationships with Insurance companies who desire to know more about the condition of prospective client’s equipment before insuring. I suspect many extended warranty companies may do the same in the future.
Over the coming years it is projected that many insurance underwriters will require at least a Basic RV Inspection be accomplished before they will cover the equipment. What may sound like another hoop the customer has to jump through can and will become a benefit to the insurance customer as rates improve due to reduced risk to the insurance companies. Clients experience more competitive rates when the negative claims experience improves.1
Engine/Transmission/Generator. A private seller will tell you that all of the maintenance is up to date, and that it drives and runs just fine, but is that true? All three of these require lubricant to operate properly. Lubricants can tell you a lot about the condition of a given machine. Engines and in some cases, generators, also use coolant to keep things working properly. It is highly recommended that a fluid analysis be performed on all used RV’s. It couldn’t hurt on a new unit either. A testing lab will identify fluid break down and foreign materials in the fluid. If there are metal fragments in the fluid for instance, this is a sign of engine damage or wear. If there is coolant in the engine oil, this is a sign of an engine block problem.
So, what is included in an inspection?
My inspections begin with photos of the exterior. I take photos of all 4 sides, the VIN tag, RVIA tag and other identifying markings.
Next, I walk around the exterior. I am looking for anomalies in the skin of the unit, windows, doors, compartment doors, etc.
Then I gear up and crawl underneath. Here I am looking at the structural components of the frame, looking for damage, excess rusting, modifications, exposed wiring and plumbing, and if visible the holding tanks. If it is a motorhome, I look at the condition of the bushings and seals, steering components, bottom of the engine looking for excess oil. Axles are inspected as well as the inside of the tires.
I next look at the tires and check for manufacture dates and the outside of the tire. I am looking for cracks, checking and unusual wear.
I then head up to the roof and walk every inch. I am looking for soft spots, general roof condition, roof needs, such as self leveling sealant, vent covers, etc.
The inside is next. First, I perform a LP Timed Pressure Drop Test. This test, will identify any LP leaks. If no leaks are present, we can start testing appliances. Everything is tested to the best of our ability. In certain circumstances, we can not test the furnace or air conditioner. Usually this is because the ambient temperature prohibits the thermostat from calling for heat or cooling. There are some cheats that I use though!
I walk on every available section of floor, looking for defects, and using a flashlight, I look into and behind every door, drawer and cubby, looking for signs of water damage, rodent or insect infestation and for “tinkering”.
If the unit is motorized, it is given a short test drive to make sure all the components work properly. If it is a trailer, power is applied to the umbilical cord to check for brake operation.
Then it is back to the office to prepare the written report. The report will include a narrative and photos of any issue that was observed as well as a check sheet to indicate that everything was indeed inspected. The report is then mailed to you to use as you see fit. Most customers use it as a negotiation tool.