RV Salvage Yards: More Cons Than Pros – Read Why

RV Salvage Yards

Even if I am dedicated to repair and manufacture RVs and selling RV parts, I feel I have to let you know about the possibility of purchasing cheaper accessories and parts in RV salvage yards.

If you are the DIY type of person, you can find very cheap parts and accessories and install them yourself in the RV afterward. You can also buy online in RV salvage yards, so this can be your place to go.

However, RV salvage yards reports should not be completely trusted and you have to perform your own due diligence, requesting a report from AutoCheck and DMV.

This report will inform you of the status of the vehicle and its legal annotations. Some of these recreational vehicles found in RV salvage yards just suffered hail, others were completely destroyed in road accidents, but you can carve out all kinds of spare parts, appliances, and accessories. RV salvage yards buy them from RV insurance companies and resell it to people like you and me.

rv salvage yards

Pros Of RV Salvage Yards

  • Lower price: Actually, there is only one major pro of purchasing salvage parts in RV salvage yards, and it is the price. However, this “pro” is very important. As I said before, if you are into this “do it yourself”, you can install the spare parts acquired in your own recreational vehicle. Pay attention, that insurance companies total out RVs for financial reasons, and not because they are completely beyond repair. In some niche RV insurance companies, the salvage title pre-evaluation is done by an insurance agent that understands quite little about RVs. So here, you and me, we have a great advantage.
  • Find spare parts that are not manufactured anymore: In many cases, you can find in these RV salvage yards some spare parts or appliances of RVs that are not manufactured anymore. If you want to purchase spare parts for a Cortez motorhome, a fifth wheel from Skyline, or a travel trailer from Award RV, your only possibility is one of these yards. If the company still exists, probably the company has some of these old spare parts or a specialized dealer might have them as well.
  • Salvage title does not include the RV appliances: Even if you purchase a totaled out camper or travel trailer in these yards, the appliances, furniture, amenities, and devices included, can be extracted from the affected vehicle. These aforementioned pieces, do not inherit the salvaged condition of the RV. Once extracted, these are simply used RV parts that can be sold in the market.

Cons Of RV Salvage Yards

  • Salvage title cannot be reverted: At the moment that the RV is annotated as “salvage”, this annotation will remain in the recreation vehicle even in the case that you repair it and remodel it until it has a normal condition again. 

The Department of Motor Vehicle can inspect the RV after your repair and refurbishment through a registered garage or licensed rebuilder. In that case a new annotation will be introduced as “Rebuilt”. Therefore, despite all the money spent, work and effort performed in the RV, the selling price will be severely capped in virtue of these annotations. Vehicles in the RV salvage yards are normally RVs with a “salvage” registration. 

Remember that even if the car was repaired or restored by the best of the specialists, if it was customized to perform better than the original vehicle, it still remains titled as rebuilt. You cannot erase or hide this fact, as it is a criminal offense. Anyone looking at the documents can say that the RV was once a salvage. It means that if you decide to sell it, you will not obtain a high price. 

Logically, the only reason why anyone would consider buying such an RV is the cost factor. You can save big on such a vehicle. It could be a real bargain. However, you need to understand all the risks involved in buying it. Remember that you are trying to buy an RV that was damaged severely, and insurers decided to write off.

  • Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage are impossible to obtain: RV insurance companies will clearly reject to insure vehicles from RV salvage yards branded as “salvage” or even annotated as “Rebuilt”. They reject it because they cannot determine which extent of the damage is caused as a consequence of the current collision and which is a consequence of the “rebuilt” status of the recreational vehicle. 

Before you decide to restore your salvage-titled RV or buy a rebuilt unit, you should start by knowing the insurance costs. Remember that most of the insurance companies are not ready to write a policy for such RVs. Insurance companies regard it as a high-risk deal. If the car breaks down, there is no way to say whether it happened by chance or due to poor quality spare parts. Even if an insurance company agrees, it will charge a lot more than usual.

  • Liability insurance difficult to obtain: Whereas collision and comprehensive coverage are impossible to obtain, some niche RV insurance companies can write policies for liability insurance to you for your rebuilt RV, once the DMV approves to annotate the “rebuilt” status. As they consider that there is a high risk to produce liabilities with rebuilt RVs, this insurance policies will be very expensive, or may not extend fully to cover all the consequences of judicial claims you may have.

Large RV insurance companies will instead reject to write an insurance policy in this case. They will only insure recreation vehicles with a clean certificate title without annotations and that has never been acquired in RV salvage yards.

  • No warranty and no returns: In RV salvage yards, all spare parts and RVs are sold “as is”, without warranty. Likewise, all sales are regarded as final. You do not have the right to return the units purchased. When you purchase new spare parts online, this is completely different. So as you can see, “buyer beware” applies when purchasing in RV salvage yards. Once you know the scale of damage, you can decide if the car is right for you.

However, remember that there is no way to know how well the car was repaired. Quite often accidental cars would be revived by using old spare parts, by cutting metals and welding them together. Such cars many continually have some or another kind of technical problem. RV salvage yards know this and they avoid furnishing warranties to their prospective customers.

“Salvage vehicle” is a status given to any vehicle in the US that is not road worthy. Moreover, the insurance company thinks that it has lost its total value. It means that the car should either be scrapped or completely rebuilt. “Salvage” is a kind of legal status. A vehicle with such status cannot be driven on the roads, even if it can move. Such a vehicle is a safety threat for others too.

Cases of Salvage Status

The vehicle may be given a “salvage vehicle” status for various reasons:

  • Total loss– it means that for any reason vehicle is damaged so severely that the cost of repair would exceed 65 percent of its market value. The market value it has before the damage occurred. However, it must be understood that US law differs in every state. 65% is the limit in Nevada. In some states, it may be a bit less, while in others it might be more. There is nothing like a fixed percentage nationwide.
  • Flood-damaged– if the vehicle has been damaged due to natural calamities like flood and water has entered the saloon, in the engine compartment, it would probably be given salvage status. As in such case motor, electrical systems, interiors are damaged severely.
  • Non-repairable– be if due to the accident, aging, or fire. It is a vehicle that is generally thought to be damaged beyond repairs. In many cases, such an automobile would be sold for spare parts and would be even downgraded to “scrap.”

When we are talking about the term “Salvage” in the vehicle’s status, we are surely discussing a vehicle that is damaged beyond repair, or it has to be rebuilt.

Once the vehicle is titled Salvage, two things may happen with it in the future, revival or death. Thus there are two other terms associated with a salvage vehicle, “Rebuilt” or “Scrap.”

As the name says rebuilt or rebuilt salvage vehicle is that which has been repaired and made road-ready again. On the other hand, scrap is just for disposing or selling as a spare part. So unfortunately due to calamities like a flood or severe road crash your vehicle is damaged. The starting point should be getting the salvage status. It does not matter whether you plan to rebuild it later or not. The starting point is getting the status quicky, as it is a legal need.

RV Insurance Coverage And The Salvage Status

Do you have complete and comprehensive RV insurance coverage?

If yes, then it is up to your insurance company to decide whether the vehicle should be repaired or it should be titled as salvage. In such a case insurance company would assist you to get the status. Furthermore, the vehicle may be transferred to rebuilders or DMV-licensed salvage pool, or it may be auctioned, or given to an automobile wrecker. In some cases, the insurance company may also agree to provide you with a replacement vehicle.

What to do if you do not have comprehensive RV insurance coverage?

If you do not have collision insurance, then you are left to your devices. In such a case two scenarios may exist. One that you still owe for a vehicle, and there is a lienholder.

Alternatively, there is no lienholder or insurance company at all. If the lienholder is involved, you must inform the party within ten days of damage to the vehicle, so that they can start the process of applying for a salvage title.

The lienholder must do it within 30 days. Please note that these dates may vary from state to state. If you are the owner, and there is no insurance company or lienholder involved, everything is up to you. You have the full right to retain the vehicle, but you have to fulfill all the legal obligations within 30 days of such damage. You fill the application for a salvage title and submit to the bodies.

You have multiple options in your hand like selling the vehicle to rebuilders, auction it, pass it on to automobile wreckers, or sell it to DMV- licensed salvage pool. Generally, DMV will provide the status of salvage vehicle or non-repairable vehicle within two working days.

RV Salvage Annotation: What To Do With The License Plate Of The Motorhome?

RV salvage yards will not provide you with a license plate for road circulation for RVs with salvage status. The options described below refer to cases where your RV has been annotated to “salvage” status. There are many options in your hand:

  • You may transfer it to another vehicle within 30 days
  • You may surrender it to the DMV and may also ask for a registration fee refund. For this, you need to have a salvage title copy.
  • If you return the plate to the department within the specified time, you can get credit towards another number plate.

RV Salvage Status to “Rebuilt” Status:  Rebuilding Your Vehicle

Motorhomes purchased in RV salvage yards can be rebuilt. It is one of the possible options, and many of the technical guys decide to do it sometime later after the acquisition of the salvaged RV. Yes, legally such an opportunity is open.

However, bringing the vehicle back to the road is not that simple. First and foremost, all records regarding restoration or repair must be maintained. After all, you have to prove that the vehicle is safe enough for you and other people around you.

Thus you need to show how airbags, safety belts, and other things were restored. However, things are simpler if restoration is done by a licensed rebuilder.

Once the vehicle is ready, it has to go through the inspection by DMV, to get the certificate. Once the RV has gone through inspection successfully, it may be registered again. It can get the new number plate with the title.

Therefore there will be an annotation in the certificate title of the recreative vehicle to “Rebuilt”. RV salvage yards have also motorhomes with this status available.

However, you must understand that it does not matter that how well you restore the RV, it will still be branded as a rebuilt vehicle. It is something that will be mentioned on the registration certificate. Such branding is not a problem if you intend to use the vehicle. However, it has a negative impact on its resale value.

Rebuilt cars sell much cheaper in comparison to other vehicles. It is vital to know that hiding the title of the vehicle is a criminal offense. So if you try to sell the vehicle by hiding its rebuilt status, you may end up with a jail term, or fines. It is up to the law court to decide about the severity of the offense.

Finally, it must be known that rebuilt status does not necessarily mean that a vehicle met an accident or was damaged in a calamity. It may also be labeled as rebuilt if extensive repairs and modifications were done. Thus restored vehicles may have changed floorplan assembly, roof assembly, frame, complete inner structure, and so on. Laws would vary a bit from state to state.

Tips For Purchasing Rebuilt RVs

  • What was the extent of damage to the frame? If the frame was severely damaged it is difficult to realign; such a car would have numerous issues with suspension, tires, braking, and so on. Even if the metal is realigned, it has a memory that is difficult to erase. Successful DMV inspection does not say that everything is perfect.
  • You can use some independent specialists to inspect such a car before buying it. There are some excellent certification bodies too.
  • Carefully see what other terms are mentioned on the certificate like junk or flood damage. It may give you a clue.

Finding RV Salvage Yards With The Lowest Prices

You can just search “RV salvage yards near me”, but if you want to have more options and variants and therefore increase your chance to find cheaper and better parts, simple check online to find these yards all over the United States and acquire them through the internet.

RV Salvage Yards Conclusions

If you want to buy one of these salvaged RVs, you can get a report about damages from DMV or companies like AutoCheck; it will help you know more.

RV salvage yards reports should not be completely trusted and you have to perform always your own due diligence in companies like AutoCheck, part of the Experian group or in the DMV directly.

Often the type of damage may indicate problems you may face with a car in the future. As an example, if a vehicle was damaged due to flooding, it may still be in quite a good state. It can mean that most engine parts are still original.

On the other hand, a severe accident can indicate damage to almost every part from suspensions to engines. Buying a motorhome in one of these RV salvage yards is only a good option for spare parts or to rebuild them. The RV will not recover its original status as the salvage status cannot be deleted from the certificate annotation.

Generally, restoring an RV or buying a rebuilt RV is a good idea for those who know the technical stuff. It is for those who can carry out small repairs themselves, and understand the technical problems that such RVs can have. For skilled and informed people, purchasing an annotated unit in one of the RV salvage yards, it could be saving money, but at a high cost of opportunity, anyway. For the rest of the people, it could be a big hassle.

Anthony Foxx

I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.