Buying brand new parts can be one of the more expensive parts of fixing or replacing parts of your RV.
But if you’re a skilled DIYer and you’re already saving money by avoiding the high costs of labor at most RV repair and maintenance shops, you can save even more by sourcing used parts from RV salvage yards.
If you own an older rig or you’re converting a school bus or van into a recreational vehicle, salvage RV yards can also be a great place to find all the components you need to install the critical systems for RV living.
And they can help you complete your project for less than if you bought everything brand new.
What Is An RV Salvage Yard?
An RV salvage yard also known as rv junkyard is basically a large parking lot filled with old RVs, travel trailers, 5th wheels, popup campers, and other mobile homes.
Many of the rigs in a salvage yard are there because they have been in some kind of accident or suffered major mechanical damage that has rendered them unfit for life on the road.
But many of these rigs still contain functional parts that may not have anything to do with why they can’t perform their duties as recreational vehicles any longer.
As an RV owner, you can go to a salvage yard and source parts to replace components on your RV that are old or worn out.
In many cases, an RV salvage yard can be a great place to get quality parts at cheap prices.
Because of the way some insurance companies evaluate damage claims, some RVs that wind up in salvage yards will actually contain many parts and accessories that are almost brand new.
Why You Should Use RV Salvage Yards To Buy Used Camper Parts?
If you need to repair or replace certain mechanical parts or interior accessories in your RV or travel trailer, you might consider heading to a salvage yard to search for parts that are in good condition before you buy them brand new.
Here are a few advantages of using RV salvage yards to find salvage parts for your rig:
Helps You Save Money
As we mentioned above, RV salvage yards will typically charge you much less for parts than you’d pay if you bought them new from a manufacturer or through your local RV repair shop.
Because you’ll have to pull the parts off an older RV that has been wrecked, there’s simply no way for a salvage yard to charge you as much as if you bought the part new.
You’ll Support A Local Business
It’s rare to find an RV salvage yard or wreck lot that’s owned by a huge national conglomerate.
And while there are benefits to buying directly from the manufacturer, sourcing parts from a salvage yard near your town is a great way to repair or upgrade your rig while also supporting a local business.
If you live in a particularly small town, you also might not have access to an RV parts store within reasonable driving distance.
If this is true for you, you’ll also be able to save money on shipping costs by supporting your local salvage yard.
Producing new RV parts requires additional resources. In many cases, these resources need to be mined or otherwise harvested from the environment.
As we all should know, continuous harvesting of non-renewabe resources can have a significant negative impact on the environment and our global climate.
But the parts in an RV salvage yard have already gone through the manufacturing process.
The resources needed to produce them have already been harvested. So, instead of utilizing more resources by buying new parts, supporting an RV salvage yard is a great way to recycle parts and reduce our overall environmental impact.
It’s Like A Scavenger Hunt
A trip to the RV salvage yard can even be fun for the whole family! And even if your family members aren’t quite into it, you can get some of your buddies together and spend an afternoon scavenging for used parts that are still in excellent condition.
In many cases, the employees of your local salvage yard may not even really know what kinds of treasures are sitting right under their noses.
And some salvage yard scavengers make a living out of finding parts in excellent condition and then reselling them to others that might not have the time to search for parts on their own.
So, if you know what you’re looking for, a trip to the RV salvage yard can not only help you remodel your RV on the cheap, but it may also allow you to make a little extra money on the side for your efforts.
Cons Of Buying RV Parts From A Salvage Yard
As with anything, there are also a few disadvantages of sourcing used parts from an RV salvage yard.
If you’re considering whether this is the right path for you to find the components or accessories you need to repair or upgrade your rig, please consider these downsides before hopping in the car and making a trip to your local salvage lot.
The first con of RV salvage lots is that you’ll need to be well-versed in evaluating the condition of RV and automotive parts.
If you aren’t skilled or experienced with RV repairs, you might end up paying for a part, spending the time to install it, and then find out that the part was in disrepair or on its last legs when you bought it.
In addition, most RV salvage yards require you to remove parts from old RVs on your own.
This means you’ll need to have the right tools and expertise to remove parts so that you can take them home and install them in your rig.
So, if you don’t have the skills to evaluate parts and the expertise to remove them without breaking them, sourcing from a salvage lot might not be the best choice for you.
It Can Be Time Consuming
Now that you know the responsibility to evaluate the condition of parts and then remove them safely falls on you, you can probably already imagine how a trip to your local salvage yard can be a time-consuming affair.
On trips we’ve made in the past, we’ve usually set aside a full day to search for parts and leave enough time to remove them safely.
So, if you’re more interested in getting the repair done as quickly as possible, then you’ll probably be better off buying a new part directly from the manufacturer or an RV repair shop.
You’ll Have To Negotiate
You’re not going to drive or walk through an RV salvage yard and see small price tags hanging off of every little part and accessory on tens or hundreds or wrecked RVs.
This is simply not feasible for salvage yard owners to do because almost anything from a large air conditioner down to the smallest installation screws can be repurposed.
What this means is that you’ll have to negotiate prices with salvage yard staff before checking out.
Prices can fluctuate based on the vehicle they came from, the condition of the parts, and several other factors.
So, again, this is a good reason why you need to know what you’re looking at when evaluating parts at an RV salvage yard.
The more you know about what a part should look like, the more leverage you’ll have when it comes time to negotiate the price.
Where To Find RV Salvage Yards Near You
If you live in a small town, you might already know where your local salvage lot is located.
And if you keep passing by a parking area that’s packed with RVs and wondering what the deal is with that property, there’s a good chance that the person that owns it is in the salvage business.
But if you don’t know where to find RV salvage yards in your area, the best way to start is with a simple Google search.
Typically, entering terms like ‘RV salvage yard near me’ or ‘RV salvage yard in [insert your city or town name]’ will turn up a few locations for you to visit.
Fortunately, there are also a few online databases that are specifically dedicated to providing information on salvage yards on a state-by-state basis.
In fact, this article provides a great list of places to find used RV parts and salvage yards by state.
Nowadays, there are also several online salvage yards that you can peruse for used RV parts.
And a website like SalvageBid even provides the opportunity to bid on an entire wrecked or totaled travel trailer or motorhome for cheap prices.
That being said, the downside of shopping for salvage parts online is the inability to see parts in person and truly evaluate their condition.
So, while it’s pretty cool that there are online databases for almost anything these days, we’d stress the benefits of being able to evaluate used RV parts in person before you spend money on them.
How To Negotiate Prices At An RV Salvage Yard
When you identify a used part at a salvage yard that you’re interested in, you’ll have to negotiate to get it for a price that you’re willing to pay.
And there can be a little bit of nuance to that process if you’ve never done it before.
For starters, we’d recommend never spending the time to remove any part of RV accessory before you locate a salvage yard staff member and agree on the final sale price.
Otherwise, you could waste time removing a part that you think you’ll spend $100 on and find out at the door that they won’t let you out of the lot with it for less than $200.
Secondly, it’s always good to research the parts (or parts) you need thoroughly before you go to your local salvage lot.
You should have a thorough understanding of how much that part will cost if it were brand new.
And you should also research a few used parts store to see what they’re charging for the same part with a few years of use.
This will give you more leverage when negotiating with salvage yard staff and it will also give you a better understanding of the range of prices you can expect to pay to get the part you need.
Finally, one of the best negotiation tactics you can use is to demonstrate a willingness to walk away from the deal if you aren’t offered the price you want.
In many cases, salvage yard owners are more than willing to make a deal because they’ll be well aware of the work you’ll need to put in to remove the part.
But, if they can’t offer you a fair price on your first trip, you can always leave without the part and do more research to see if you can find it at a better price elsewhere.
You’ll always be able to return for the part (provided no one else has taken it) if you’re not able to find a better price at another salvage yard or used RV parts store.
Please keep in mind that sourcing parts at an RV salvage yard will require that you know how to find parts that are still in good condition.
And, as we mentioned earlier, the best way to save as much money as possible is to perform the repairs or installations yourself once you have the replacement parts in hand.
That being said, some RV repair and maintenance shops will work with used parts that you source from a salvage yard.
There can, however, be issues with liability resulting from work that a mechanic has done using salvaged parts, so we always recommend checking with your repair shop before just bringing in the parts you’ve salvaged and asking them to perform a repair.
For owners of RVs, travel trailers, 5th wheels, and other mobile homes that are a few years old, RV salvage yards often provide a treasure trove of parts and accessories that you can upgrade your rig.
So, we hope you have learned more about the benefits and downsides of these salvage yards and we wish you nothing but the best of luck repairing or upgrading your rig!