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Buying a Damaged or Repo RV from Salvage RV Auctions

By Mike Richards Posted: 11/20/2019

Auctions are a great place to get access to vehicles at much lower prices than the ones offered at your local used vehicle dealership. At auctions, you can find a great variety of vehicles in different conditions, including salvage RVs. Moreover, if you use online auctions, you will be able to take advantage of everything vehicle auctions have to offer without leaving the comfort of your home. 

What is a Salvage RV? What is an RV Salvage Title?

Salvage RVs are RVs that were involved in accidents or were damaged by acts of nature, such as hailstones and floods. RVs that were stolen and found after the insurer has settled the claim are also considered salvage. Once an insurance company estimates that the cost of repairing an RV is beyond a certain percentage (most companies have a threshold of 75%) of the value of the car, it is considered a total loss. The insurer then settles the claim and gets the damaged RV a salvage title.

Insurers consider these vehicles to be a total loss because the cost of repairs is high when compared to the value of the RV. Most insurance companies prefer to replace these vehicles and then sell them as salvage.

Where to Buy a Salvage RV?

New RVs can be quite costly, with some having the same price tag as a small home. If you aim to enjoy the outdoors while having the modern comforts of the indoors, but you cannot afford a new or used RV, you should consider looking for an old RV for sale, and especially a salvage or repo RV.

RVs can be found in salvage auctions. Many public, dealer-only, and online auctions have salvage vehicles for sale, including RVs. Before buying an RV, make sure you find out everything you can about the condition. You don’t want to purchase an RV that you cannot afford to repair. It is best to pick an RV that has cosmetic damage over one that has mechanical damage.

You can search for salvage RVs online at websites hosting online vehicle auctions. Before you start bidding, find out the average price of the RV you would like to buy from various sites. This will guide you on the maximum price of your bid. Remember lot and fuel prices can quickly add up. You are better of choosing an RV you can afford to buy and maintain.

Finding a “Salvage RV Near Me

When you buy an RV at a location that is far from you, the transport costs will increase, sometimes significantly, the total amount of money you spend on the RV. When you’re looking to find RV auctions, there are 2 ways of going about it – those that are closest to you that you can attend, and those online. 

You should first try to find RV auctions near you, and especially RV auctions that are open to the public. If the auctions are only open to dealers, find out if you can use the local dealers as your proxy. For a fee, you will have access to all the RVs dealers do, and at a competitive price. 

You can also check with financial institutions to see if they have repossessed RVs for sale. Some insurance companies also have RV repo auctions and auctions for salvage vehicles. Find out which companies insure recreational vehicles, and if they have any amongst the vehicles on sale. Some RV owners advertise in the classifieds, especially RV salvages they want to get off their hands. If you find one near you, you have the opportunity to inspect it before buying it. Remember to have an expert with you so that you pick a salvage or repo RV in great shape and within your budget.

Online Auctions

As with many online RV sales, online auction sites have many RVs for sale. Unfortunately, because of the large number of vehicles in these sites, it is easy to miss out on great RVs that may be near you. Auto Auction Mall has filters that allow you to search for specific vehicles in various locations. This makes it easier for buyers to identify the cars they want in areas closest to them.

Remember, however, that you cannot just buy a salvage RV and then drive it on the road. Any vehicle, including an RV with a salvage title needs to be repaired, re-registered and insured before it can be driven legally. This can be a lengthy process, and you’ll need to follow the rules in your state very closely.

auction flag

Who is Looking to Buy an RV Online?

The Recreation Vehicle (RV) industry has been growing steadily in recent years. The typical buyers used to be retired people who decided to travel the country after staying in the same place for most of their lives. But this typical profile has changed recently, with many millennials choosing to live and camp in RVs. About nine million American families own RVs. About 89% of RV owners bought them primarily for camping.

Apart from those who choose to live in an RV, about 40 million Americans go RV camping. 38% of these campers are millennials. In 2017, 504,600 RVs were sold in the US. This is the eighth year that the RV market has seen a continuous increase in sales. As more people invest in RVs, the number of salvage or repo RVs for sale has also increased. This improves the chances for people who want to buy repossessed RVs at a lower price.

An RV that has all the comforts of a home can cost between $60,000 and $1,000,000. Some even cost more than a million dollars. Smaller travel trailers are available at a lower price. Besides the price tag, just like any other vehicle, an RV comes with additional expenses, like gas, insurance and maintenance. All of this combined means that many people cannot afford to buy an RV without financing.

Several lenders offer financing for RVs. Some buyers fail to meet their repayment obligations, and the lender repossesses the vehicle. Once the RV is repossessed, it is put up for sale so that the lender can recover their money. Most repossessed cars are in great shape, yet they are sold at a low price because lenders want to recover their money quickly.

How to Find Repossessed Salvage RVs for Sale

The purchase of recreation vehicles in the US strongly depends on the state of the economy. When it is booming, more people purchase RVs. For example, during the financial downturn in 2008, only 237,000 RVs were bought. The number was much lower at 165,700 in 2009. As confidence in the economy grew, financial institutions also showed flexibility in providing auto financing, even for recreation vehicles. In 2017, more than half a million RVs were sold.

RV financing has mainly been responsible for the growing demand for RVs in the US. If lenders were not offering financial support to people interested in RVs, the number of buyers would be low. People who take auto loans do so expecting they’ll be able to make monthly repayments. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Several RV owners fail to meet their payment obligations for various reasons, and they include these reasons:

Why Owners could Default on their RV Loans

  • Failure to acknowledge the associated costs of owning an RV. Besides the loan repayments, there are registration fees, insurance, yearly license, maintenance, fuel, and storage. These are costs you should think about before buying an RV because they can affect your ability to meet your loan repayments.
  • Taking an unaffordable loan. Some RV buyer take the first financing offer they get, usually from a dealer before finding out what other lenders charge for the loan. High interest rates eventually make it impossible for you to pay an RV loan.
  • Unexpected expenses, such as medical costs, can cause you to defer your payments. Unfortunately, your financial constraints may not prevent the financier from repossessing the RV.
  • Loss of income may also affect your ability to pay for the RV. The only outcome is a repossession.

Some lenders organize their auctions to sell the repossessed RVs. However, most of the salvage reclaimed RVs find their way to dealer-only auctions because they sell faster. Banks are mostly interested in recovering their money, so the faster this happens, the better. If you want to quickly find a salvage repossessed RV, the best place to visit in an auction. If it is a dealer only auction, you can use a dealer to represent you.

Should You Buy a Salvage RV to Repair?

Yes, if the estimated cost of repairs is worth the buying price, you should buy the salvage vehicle. When purchasing a salvage RV for repair, you need to ask yourself if you can afford the repairs. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with an RV that you cannot repair because of financial constraints.

Another consideration before buying a wrecked RV for sale, with the aim of repair is the availability of parts. Some of these RVs are old models that are no longer under production. Find out if there are parts that can be used on such RVs, and how easy it is to get them. If you have a difficult time finding parts, it may be best to look for another salvage RV auction.

You should also consider the extent of the damage. RVs are heavy vehicles, but this does not protect the engine from getting damaged significantly during a collision. If the RV was declared a salvage because floods destroyed it, you should reconsider this purchase. This is because water damage can be extensive, and repairs would be costly, and some parts remain problematic even after repairs. Inspect all the corners in the RV for signs of mold, and the impact it has had on the surfaces, and removable parts.

Example of repairing a damaged RV bought from an auction:

Besides the engine, the condition of the RV’s roof is also important. You should look out for cracks, bubbles, and paint splitting on the roof surface. Daily exposure to the heat from the sun eventually affects the roof of the RV. If the roof has not been protected over the years, you may need to replace the roof. You don’t want to wake to a leaking roof when you are out camping.

When looking for a salvage or repo RV, remember the price is low because the condition of the RV and possible cost of repairs have been considered. When going through RVs that have a fixed rate, knowing the average price of a specific brand and model of the RV can serve as a guide so that you can determine if the price is too low or high. If you are bidding for a RV, knowing how much to offer will help you budget for it.

Can You Insure a Salvage RV?

A properly repaired RV with a salvage title functions just as well as one with a clean title. Unfortunately, like with any other vehicle with a salvage title, getting insurance can be an uphill task. Some companies offer insurance for cars with salvage titles, while others don’t.

Insurance companies are generally allowed to operate under their own guidelines, as long as they are consistent with state laws. This is why you’ll find companies that offer comprehensive insurance to salvage titled vehicles, and others don’t even provide liability insurance.

RVs are often categorized as “other types of recreational vehicle” by insurance companies. The best way to find an insurer is to look for one that covers RVs. Specialty insurers tend to offer this type of cover. You may also find some mainstream insurance companies that provide coverage. You are likely to find a company that has an insurance policy for salvage titled RVs amongst those that offer coverage for RVs.

Many insurance companies don’t offer coverage to vehicles with salvage titles because they carry a higher risk than cars with clean titles. However, some large companies offer comprehensive insurance to vehicles with salvage titles because they can afford to take the risk. As you look for companies to insure your RV, consider contacting large ones.

How To Get Started Buying a Salvage RV

Take a look at some of our current auctions here:

RV Salvage Auctions

Use the menu on the left to create an advanced search by filtering condition, model and location. 

Example RV Salvage Auctions

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