06-02-2016

Why Buy Salvaged RV Parts?

The term “salvaged parts” likely conjures up images of a dirty, messy wreck yard with parts in conditions that look anything but usable. While some parts of an auto wrecking yard may have some pretty damanged components, there is a lot more to the story.

Most accidents that result in a car being totalled leave a good portion of the vehicle completely intact and untouched. Remember that “totalled” only means that the insurance company has deemed the cost of repairs to be greater than the value of the vehicle. For many cars, trucks and RVs on the road, this really does not have to be that much.

You can easily find many parts for your recreational vehicle that are in like-new condition, with a price tag far below “new”. Many RV salvage yards also offer what is called “surplus” items. These parts are not salvaged at all but may be dealer overstock, discontinued items or parts that were slightly marred (dented or scratched, for example). These brand new parts can be purchased at a fraction of what it would cost from the RV dealer directly.

Buying RV Parts From A Salvage Yard

Maybe you have been in an accident or maybe your RV simply needs some repairs. Either way, you will no doubt need some new parts for the job. If you are having the work done at a mechanic&'s shop or an an auto body shop, they typically offer to secure any parts you need. However, you can almost always find and purchase any parts with a lower cost than they can, if you are willing to spend a little bit of time searching for them.

There are few things you will want to keep in mind as you shop for parts from an RV salvage yard. You should plan to start on the Internet to find local yards. Two good sources for some lists of RV salvage yards are http://www.rvresources.com/rvsalvage/ and http://www.myrvparks.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1656.
Once you have located some RV salvage yards, keep these tips in mind as you shop:

  • If possible, get the manufacturer part number for the part you are looking for—this makes it easier for you and the wrecking yard staff to ensure a proper match
  • Try to find sources in your local area to avoid shipping costs
  • Shop and compare prices for the same part at different RV salvage yards to get the best part and price
  • Remember that no two parts wil be identical in terms of condition and that condition directly affects the price
  • Clarify the return policy in the event that the part is not correct or you end up not needing it.
  • While many salvage yard web sites have good search functionality, it is always worth a phone call to see if there are some parts not listed on the site
  • Pay with a credit card instead of cash to ensure you have recourse if need be


Do your initial research online to get an idea of the range of prices available, as well as the general quantity you may be able to choose from. You will be able to narrow down your choices and, from there, take the time to call the top two to four shops to help make your final decision.

Selling Your RV To A Salvage Yard

RV salvage yards are not just great sources for parts when you need to do repairs. They are also viable options for selling your damaged RV when it is no longer saleable as a usable vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, you may be looking to sell your RV directly to a wrecking yard or there may be an insurance company involved.

If you are selling your RV directly with no insurance company involvement, you likely have more negotiating power. It is well worth your time to get quotes from multiple RV salvage yards and to bargain with them, ensuring that you get the highest sale price possible. Before you begin contacting the salvage yards, you can get a good sense of the value of your used and damaged RV by looking it up at the Kelly Blue Book web site (www.kbb.com). Values for damaged vehicles will be lower than what is stated there for a vehicle in “poor” condition.

As part of your agreement, you will want to make sure that the salvage yard you choose to work with will tow your RV away at no additional cost. Additionally, some RV salvage yards are non-profit organizations and your receipt can be used for a tax deduction so be sure to obtain a professional receipt and save it for that purpose.

If your RV has been deemed “totalled” by an insurance company and the salvage sale is part of an insurance settlement, your negotiations will be with the insurer directly rather than with the salvage yard. You should still do your research on Kelly Blue Book as your starting point for making sure you get the maximum value possible.

Making The Best Use Of A Salvage Yard

Whether buying from or selling to a salvage yard, there are some simple ways that you can get the best deals possible. Some salvage yards are RV specific while others handle all types of vehicles from small cars to RVs. If your RV is a relatively standard or popular make and model, you are likely just as well served by a “generic” salvage yard as you are by one specializing in RVs. If you have a less popular or rarer RV make and model, you should focus your energies on RV-only wrecking yards.

Taking just a little bit of time to shop around can save you money when buying parts or help make you that “little extra” when selling your salvaged RV.

Many salvage yards have a range of surplus makes and models that can be scavenged for parts and furnishings. By working closely with the salvage yard, it can be fairly easy to find the exact part or piece you need for your RV repair.

Many people turn to RV salvage yards because of the many parts and pieces that can be found in mint condition for a fraction of the cost.

Why Do RVs End-Up In The Salvage Yard In The First Place?

For anyone who is skeptical of trying a RV surplus salvage shop for their repairs and upgrades to a current RV, a common concern might be, “why was this RV salvaged in the first place?” Some RVs are sold to a salvage yard by the owner due to the lack of funds or motivation to fix or replace certain parts. Some RV owners find that they don&'t use their RV as often as they would like, and that the cost of repair and maintenance is not worth it to them. You don&'t always need to be leery of buying parts from a surplus or salvaged parts shop. Often times parts are in perfect mechanical condition by other parts of the RV were damaged.

Some RVs may be salvaged due to things like burglary, a road accident, or flood damage. In these cases many parts or furnishings may have been ruined beyond the previous owner&'s desire or means to fix the entire RV. In such cases, owners may find that they come out ahead by putting the RV up for auction and having the insurance cover the other costs. Some insurance companies will deem an RV “totaled” after such accidents or natural disasters, and try to get some money back by selling the damaged vehicle to a salvage shop. Good salvage shops know that there are still good working parts in those damaged RVs and in the end, the consumer can save money by getting those good working pieces at a discounted rate.

Is It Okay To Buy Mechanical Parts From A Salvaged RV?

Before replacing things such as a transmission, engine, heater, air conditioning unit, or other mechanical or electrical part, you will want to talk to the RV surplus salvage yard about the condition of the RV when it was brought onto the salvage lot. For instance, an RV that has been flooded or undergone a fire may still have parts such as refrigerators or generators that appear to be in perfect condition. Always look into the history of the parts before buying something electrical or mechanical that may have suffered these kinds of damages.

Some RV surplus salvage yards will even guarantee their parts should they not be in the working condition expected or promised upon purchase. Talk to your salvage yard about return and exchange policies before buying any parts or pieces you may be unsure of. That being said, many RV owners find that they save hundreds of dollars by finding their replacement mechanical components through surplus or salvage shops. Some owners have RVs that are no longer on the market, meaning the parts or furnishings they need are no longer being made by the manufacturer. Such cases are perfect times to check out an RV surplus salvage shop for comparable pieces or exact matches. Not only can you save money by buying these parts from a salvaged RV, but you may even get something in “like-new” condition that works just as well.

How Can An RV Owner Be Sure To Find The Exact Part They Need?

If your RV stands in need of repairs, talk with a certified RV mechanic about the parts that would be required to get the job done right. Some mechanics will allow you to take a picture of the parts or give you a part number to bring with you to the salvage shop so you can be sure to find the part you need. Before getting the pieces needed, ask your mechanic if they would be willing to do the labor even if you bring in your own parts for repair. Usually a mechanic does not have a problem with this set-up as long as you pay them their required rate for the time spent on labor.

If you are trying to fix a mechanical part on your own and discover you don&'t have all the parts you need but are unsure what is missing, you may also want to consider bringing the pieces with you to your local RV surplus salvage yard. As long as you know the make and model of your RV, a trained employee there may be able to help you find what it is you are looking for.

What Are Some Commonly Replaced Mechanical RV Parts?

Any range of mechanical part can usually be found at an RV surplus salvage yard. From minor fixes for comfort and convenience, to essential mechanical parts that keep the RV running smoothly and efficiently, you can usually find the part you need at a salvage or surplus re-sale spot. Just like a car, an RV is made up of many mechanical components that help it to keep you safe and comfortable when out on the road. Along with regular inspection and registration, occasional maintenance and repair are just part of being an RV owner.

For a large repair such as the replacement of an RV transmission or engine, a mechanic is going to charge you their cost for new parts, plus a little more for their time and effort. If you can find equivalent parts for these repairs in an RV salvage yard, you will likely be able to purchase the part for much less than the cost of a new part anywhere else. While the part may not be new, you can often find something that will do the job right for much less money. Whether your repair and replacement needs are large or small, an RV surplus salvage yard may have the quality parts you need for a fraction of the cost.

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