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Love of life on the road sparks Moorhead man's drive to start RV inspection business

“There’s nothing more depressing than to get home and have an RV that doesn’t work,” North Star RV Inspections owner Wade Johnson says.

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Wade Johnson is the owner of North Star RV Inspections. The Moorhead man is seen in front of his own recreation vehicle on Thursday, June 30, 2022
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — If the call of the open road makes you want to buy an RV, Wade Johnson hopes you give him a call before you sign on the dotted line.

Johnson owns and runs North Star RV Inspections, traveling throughout the region to inspect recreational vehicles old and new - mostly for buyers, but some sellers, too.

“There’s nothing more depressing than to get home and have an RV that doesn’t work,” Johnson said Thursday, June 30.

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He’s been in business a year, but he’s been an RVer and camper throughout his life. He and his wife now own their sixth recreational vehicle, a 34-foot fifth-wheel that has pride of place in his south side driveway.

Johnson is a licensed master electrician - his primary career for more than 30 years. But the job was also hard on his knees, leaving it painful for him to walk.

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It got to the point where his choice was a double knee replacement or a wheelchair.

Two years ago, he got the new knees.

Rather than continue as an electrician, and running the risk of needing another knee operation down the line, he opted for a new career, too.

He signed up for classes at the National RV Training Academy in Texas, earning certifications from the National RV Inspectors Association and as an RV technician.

Recreational vehicle inspections are much like home inspections, but given all of the mechanical, electrical and other systems involved, can require six to 10 hours to complete.

Inspection findings are emailed to customers, usually with several videos and a raft of photos.

A printed version of one of his inspections, created for use at outdoors product sales events, runs 178 pages.

He ticks off the reasons to get an inspection: safety; making an informed purchase decision; and his inspection is independent, not done by someone with “skin in the game.”

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He’s willing to travel to do his inspections, and his road trips include Bismarck, Duluth, Minn., Sioux Falls, S.D.

The inspections run $300 to $900, Johnson said.

He offers three levels of inspection: Basic, with up to 40 points of inspection and 15 to 20 photos.

Essential plus for towed and motorized RVs: up to 90 points of inspection, 40 to 80 photos and some video;

Premier: Up to 185 points of inspection, 80-120 photos, and videos of some moving components.

Considering an RV can cost $15,000 to $1 million or more for a high-end machine, he says the cost is a reasonable investment. Inspections save a buyer money, as components that need repair can be fixed before the transaction is final.

“I did it because I enjoy it,” Johnson said of his second career. “Plus, there’s millions of these things running around the country.”

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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