Risks of Buying a Salvage RV

If you’ve decided that you’d like to start driving an RV or need to replace your existing one, then you’re not alone. There are over half a million RVs being driven in the US today. They are a fantastic way to travel and see the country without having to pay for flights and hotel rooms. 

But buying an RV can be expensive, especially if you are looking for a certain standard of interior or driving features. Add to this the everyday costs involved in keep it taxed, insured, and fueled, then you could soon find yourself blowing through your budget. 

Yet there are a number of options that let you get your hands on an RV for a cheaper price, and one of these is to buy a salvage title RV. 

In this article, we’re going to take you through the ins and outs of buying a salvage title RV and the pros and cons of doing so. 

What Does Salvage Title Mean? 

When a vehicle has sustained damage, usually in an accident of some kind, the owner’s insurance company will assess the level of damage to the vehicle and decide if it will be cheaper to repair the RV or simply pay to have it replaced. The damaged RV is then usually sold to dealers or scrap yards you will usually strip it and sell any salvageable parts. 

Yet not all RVs that are classed as ‘totaled’ by the insurance companies are beyond repair, it’s just less hassle to do so. So if a dealer or scrap yard knows what they’re doing they’ll repair the RV and sell it on. This is what’s known as a salvage title RV. 

So What’s a Rebuilt Title RV? 

So you might be thinking that a salvage title and a rebuilt title are the same things. Not quite. A salvage title RV is an RV that has been classed as totaled but can be repaired and a rebuilt title RV is an RV that has been repaired and is now deemed legal to drive on the roads. 

When you buy a salvage title RV, you will have to arrange for the repairs to be made to it. A rebuilt title might be a good idea for you if you want to reduce costs but don’t have any experience with vehicle repair or connections to those that do. You’ll need to be confident that the repairs have been carried out to an acceptable level. 

The Potential Risks of Buying a Salvage Title RV

There are a number of circumstances where buying an RV in this condition makes total sense and can save you a lot of money, but there is an element of risk attached too. 

Insuring your RV

You won’t be able to insure your RV until it is deemed roadworthy. Even then, a lot of insurance companies won’t insure vehicles that have previously been classed as totaled by another insurance firm. They deem it too much of a risk. You could also find that your premiums are much higher too, which when taken across the life of the vehicle, could end up costing you more than buying a used RV that has not been totaled. For more info, read about how to insure a vehicle with a salvage title.

Poor Resale Value

Even if you repair every inch of your RV and make it roadworthy, it will always be recorded that it was a write-off and you won’t be able to sell it on for a great deal of money unless you’ve managed to buy and repair it for next to nothing, or you’ve suddenly found yourself with a classic. 

Higher than Expected Repair Bills

When you buy a salvage title RV, you should already have some idea how much it is going to cost to repair, that’s how you can assess whether it worth doing versus buying a new or used one. 

Even if you have a professional mechanic give the RV a once-over to assess the damage and estimate repair costs, there could still be some nasty surprises hiding under the hood. Unexpected costs can quickly erode any savings you’d hoped to make. 

A Limited Number of Vehicles to Choose From

By choosing to look for a salvage title RV, you are really limiting the choice you have. Not only do you need to find a suitable vehicle that has been deemed totaled, but you also need to find one that is suitable for repair. 

Reliability Issues

Heavily repair, older vehicles can have issues with reliability. You could be looking at more breakdowns and repair costs, not to mention potential safety issues. 

The Advantages of Buying a Salvage Title RV

While there are a number of potential risks to buying an RV, camper, caravan, or travel trailer in this way, there is also the opportunity to get a great vehicle at a fantastic price. You could soon be enjoying RV trips across the country for a fraction of the price. 

If know your way around an RV and have experience fixing cars, then you can cut the cost of repairs dramatically (though you’ll still need a professional to declare it roadworthy). For more info, check out tips for buying a salvage title vehicle.

Where to Look for your Salvage Title RV

There are a number of ways you can get your hands on one of these vehicles. Most of these kinds of insurance write-offs are sold at salvage auctions or independently by salvage yards

Some dealers have vehicles listed online or you could put some calls into local salvage yards and ask them to keep a lookout for the type of RV you’re looking for. 

Is it Worth the Risk? 

As you can see from this article, buying a salvage title RV can be risky for the inexperienced.  The potential for extra costs and poor reliability is high. Plus, the value of the vehicle will be difficult to increase, no matter how much time and money you throw at it. 

However, there are people who can spot the diamond in the rough when it comes to salvage titles and secure themselves an RV that they can drive safely for years to come. 


James is an avid junkyarder and mechanic. He has visited Junkyards in every US state and has restored over 30 makes and models of vehicles. He has several automotive and recycling related blogs that generate over 150K views a month.