Have you ever wanted to just hop in your car and drive, living life on the open road?
If the 2020 RV sales numbers are any indication, a lot of people share that impulse.
The new and used RV markets are booming, and that market is likely to increase further as more baby boomers retire and opt to spend their golden years traveling in comfort. And since a full motorhome can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000, these buyers are likely eager to protect their investment with a quality pre-sale RV inspection, the same way they would a standard residential property.
What does this mean for you? Becoming an NRVIA-certified RV inspector might just be one of the best business decisions you’ll make.
In this post, we’ll take a look at what a certified RV inspector does, and whether there’s a long-term market for RV inspections. Then, we’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of becoming an NRVIA-certified RV inspector (or adding RV inspections to your current inspection business).
What is a certified RV inspector?
A certified RV inspector is a professional who is qualified to conduct a detailed inspection of the current condition of recreational vehicles (RVs).
As you might expect, inspecting an RV is essentially a combination of inspecting a house and inspecting a car, and it means that an RV inspector needs to have a working knowledge of both. In order to be an effective RV inspector, you must have experience and knowledge of the following components:
- RV interiors, including facilities, upholstery, furnishings, and cabinets
- RV exterior body and underbody (looking for things like rust and dents)
- RV air and heating systems and furnace
- Propane systems
- DC and AC electrical systems
- Plumbing and water systems
- RV refrigerator, generator, and other appliances
- Tire and wheel condition, along with 4-wheel and all-wheel systems
- Windows, doors, and roof condition
- Collision or water damage
- RV fire safety
- RV weight regulation
- Engine, transmission, and exhaust
- Braking systems, steering, and suspension
An RV inspector will usually be able to inspect large Class A motorhomes, Class B campers, travel trailers and more. Much like a standard home or commercial property inspection, the inspector is an unbiased third party with no financial stake in the inspection’s outcome.
What happens during an RV inspection?
The most common type of RV inspection is a pre-purchase inspection, which takes place before a sale of the RV is finalized, where the potential buyer hires the inspector to get a good idea of the condition of the motorhome and whether any major repairs are needed.
This kind of inspection typically costs between $150 and $1,200 (or more), depending on the size and condition of the motorhome in question.
A Level 1 inspection is visual and usually takes about three hours to complete. A Level 2 inspection is more detailed and involves sending fluids and other samples to a lab. Because of this step, a Level 2 inspection is usually more time-consuming and expensive.
During the inspection, the inspector conducts a thorough visual inspection of the RV, and if possible, they’ll take the RV for a road test as well. The inspector then completes a detailed inspection report for their client.
This report should include photos and videos of the components that were inspected, along with notations of the status of the various inspected elements. The inspector should point out anything that isn’t up to par and might need to be repaired or replaced.
Mandatory state inspections for RVs
Many states also have mandatory safety and emissions inspections for larger Class A RVs, and emissions inspections for Class B campers. Safety inspections will be focused on checking tires, brakes, lights, and suspension—things that would pose a danger on the road if they were not in proper shape.
State mandatory inspections typically are not as in-depth as pre-purchase inspections, since the state isn’t interested in non-safety components like the condition of the RV’s interior upholstery or A/C system.
Is there a need for RV inspectors?
If you’re already a home or commercial property inspector, you may wonder whether there’s a market for RV inspections. It may seem like a better bet to specialize in other types of inspections, which may have more demand and variety.
However, the RV industry is currently booming. Even after a slight decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the North American recreational vehicle market was valued at $26.7 billion in 2020— and experts predict that the market will be worth $35.7 billion by 2026.
As more baby boomers retire, the demand for recreational vehicles will continue to skyrocket. And since RV buyers are getting younger and younger, there’s no sign that this market upswing will reverse anytime soon. More than 9 million families in the U.S. report owning an RV, and 40 million people in the U.S. go camping yearly.
And with each RV purchase, there’s a need for an inspection.
This growing market provides a great opportunity for thousands of RV inspectors to meet the needs of new RV buyers, who may not know what to look for when determining if their purchase is a wise one. RV inspectors can help provide peace of mind and ease the buying process for new RV owners.
How do I become an NRVIA-certified RV inspector?
Much like the standard inspector certification process, there is no universal requirement across all 50 states of the U.S. Each state has different requirements, and some states don’t even require a license to practice inspections.
But if you’re interested in becoming an RV inspector, it’s a good idea to be as thorough and legitimate as possible. The best way to get started as an RV inspector is to become certified with the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA).
Step 1: NRVTA certification course
Whether you’re new to the RV inspection business or simply want to level up your service and charge higher prices for your services, the best first step is to take the only RV inspection certification course in the industry.
The NRVIA partnered with the National RV Training Academy to create a certification course that takes about three weeks (or 128 hours) to complete. This course is made up of three 40-hour sections:
- Fundamentals training—covers DC electrical systems, AC electrical systems, propane systems, plumbing systems, RV refrigerator, air conditioner, water heater, and furnace.
- Principles of an RV inspection—covers assessment skills and diagnostic analysis of RV systems to deliver thorough inspection reports. This course focuses on hands-on inspection training and requires the student to complete two full RV Inspections.
- Advanced RV inspector training—covers application of industry-specific software and hardware. The course also advances existing inspection skills, methods, and techniques and prepares the student to perform federal contractor inspections such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security inspections.
After completing the three-week course, you can attend the RV Inspector exam review. This day-long “study day” reviews all the important components of RV inspections and helps students prepare to take and pass the certification test, typically taken the next day.
Step 2: NRVIA membership
The NRVIA is a relatively new organization founded in 2014 to standardize the RV inspection industry. They provide a code of ethics as well as an extensive standards of practice document, and they partnered with the NRVTA to create the certification course mentioned above.
NRVIA membership comes with:
- Member-exclusive continuing education and advanced training
- Networking opportunities
- Sample report sheets, agreements, and other documents for your business
- National marketing promotion and a Public Inspector directory to help more clients find you
Once you’ve passed the NRVTA certification exam, simply pay the NRVIA annual fee and meet their ongoing education requirements to remain a member in good standing.
Step 3: Decide on your business structure
If you’re an established home inspector or commercial inspector, you can likely skip this step. But if you’re new to inspections, you need to decide the best business structure for you.
If running a business isn’t something you’re interested in, you may be able to join an established inspection team in your area. But if you’d like to start your own company, you’ll have to decide between sole proprietorship, partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or a corporation.
Choosing a business structure can be a difficult decision, and every situation is different. We recommend considering your management style, your business goals, and the kinds of risks you’re comfortable with taking on. For more information, check out our article: What’s the Best Business Structure for Your Home Inspection Company?
Step 4: Invest in software and digital tools to manage and promote your business
As a home inspector, it’s essential to have an attractive and user-friendly website. Ensure that you follow SEO best practices to drive more visitors to your website when potential customers search for an RV inspector in your area.
And don’t forget the software you’ll need to conduct RV inspections! HomeGauge partners with the NRVIA to offer our RV inspection report writing software with a special NRVIA-specific template to their certified inspectors and trainees.
This software comes free with your HomeGauge subscription and includes the latest templates, comments, and report styles we designed in collaboration with the NRVIA to meet their standards and remain compliant with best practices.
With the right software, you’ll be able to spend less time customizing report software to your specialized needs and more time doing what you love—inspecting!
Become an RV inspector with HomeGauge by your side
Launching your career as an NRVIA-certified RV inspector may take some work (including additional training, hands-on experience, and business and marketing investments), but the RV inspection industry is a relatively untapped market with impressive potential for growth.
Whether you’re looking to start a brand new career as an RV inspector or include RV inspections as an additional service offered by your inspecting business, the right training and business tools will ensure you’re set up for success in the long term.