Can You Register a Camper With a Salvage Title? (Hard Truth)

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No, you can not register a camper with a salvage title, as it has been deemed a total loss and unfit for public roads. That said, in many instances, a camper with a salvage title can be repaired, retitled, and registered.

But I want to stop you right there!

Before you read any more opinions on this matter from an online search or RV forum today, here’s the only thing you need to know:

The only way to fully understand how to navigate the registration process for a camper with a salvage title is to talk to your local DMV in your STATE! Each state has its own Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency that handles vehicle registration, including campers and RVs. And every state has its own registration requirements with legal repercussions if not followed!

Don’t listen to opinions. Go straight to the source for the facts. We included links to every state DMV at the bottom of this article. Just choose your state from the dropdown.

That said, I want to highlight some important considerations when dealing with RV salvage titles – from insurance to resale value – that you need to understand.

What Does a Salvage Title Mean for a Camper?

One term that often raises questions is “salvage title,” especially regarding campers. Let’s clarify what a salvage title means and under what conditions a vehicle is considered wrecked or salvaged.

Definition of a Salvage Title

A salvage title is a legal document that indicates a vehicle has been severely damaged or deemed a total loss by an insurance company. When a vehicle has a salvage title, it means that the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds a certain percentage of its fair market value. This percentage varies by jurisdiction but is often around 75% to 80%.

Types of Damages That Can Lead to a Salvage Title

Several types of damages can result in a vehicle receiving a salvage title:

  • Collision Damage: The most common reason, usually resulting from a severe accident.
  • Flood Damage: Water damage can severely impact the vehicle’s electrical system and engine.
  • Fire Damage: Extensive damage due to fire can make a vehicle unsafe for use.
  • Theft Recovery: If a vehicle is recovered after being stolen and has sustained significant damage.
  • Vandalism: Sometimes, vandalism can be extensive enough to result in a salvage title.
  • Hail Damage: In some cases, severe hail damage can lead to a salvage title.

When is a Vehicle Considered Wrecked or Salvaged?

The criteria for a vehicle to be considered wrecked or salvaged vary by state and insurance company policies. However, some general guidelines are commonly followed:

Criteria for a Vehicle to be Considered Salvaged

  • Cost of Repairs: As mentioned earlier, if the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds a certain percentage of its fair market value, it is often considered salvaged.
  • Inoperability: A vehicle that is no longer operable due to extensive damage may be considered for a salvage title.
  • Safety Concerns: If the vehicle is deemed unsafe for road use by a certified inspector, it may receive a salvage title.

Legal Definitions and Thresholds

The legal definitions and thresholds for what constitutes a “salvaged” vehicle can differ from one jurisdiction to another. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations governing salvage titles. Some states use the term “rebuilt” or “reconstructed” for vehicles that have been repaired and inspected after receiving a salvage title. The percentage of the fair market value used to determine a total loss also varies but is often between 75-80%.

Understanding the specifics of what a salvage title means and when a vehicle is considered wrecked or salvaged is essential for anyone involved in purchasing, selling, or owning an RV or camper.

This knowledge can significantly impact your decisions and how you navigate insurance, repairs, and other aspects of RV ownership.

How to Register a Camper With a Salvage Title

To give you an idea of how to register a camper with a salvage certificate of title, we’ll walk you step-by-step through the process using Iowa as an example.

We’ll cover how to convert a salvage title to a rebuilt title and what you need to know about registering a camper that has a rebuilt title.

Important: This step-by-step process is for Iowa only and is accurate at the time of publishing this article. Please contact your local DMV for the exact process for your state.

Converting a Salvage Title to a Rebuilt Title

The first step to getting your camper titled in Iowa is to convert the salvage title to a rebuilt title. This is necessary to make the vehicle road-legal and eligible for registration.

Steps to Convert a Salvage Title to a Rebuilt Title

  1. Repair the Camper: Before anything else, repair the camper to meet all safety and roadworthiness standards.
  2. Gather Documentation: Collect all receipts, invoices, and documentation for parts used in the repair process. This is essential for the inspection.
  3. Schedule an Inspection: In Iowa, the law mandates that the vehicle be physically examined by a peace officer certified by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
  4. Undergo Inspection: The officer will conduct a thorough examination, which typically takes around 45 minutes but can extend to several hours if there are issues with vehicle identification numbers or ownership documents.
  5. Pay the Inspection Fee: The cost for this inspection in Iowa is $53.
  6. Receive Authentication: If the inspection is successful, the officer will authenticate the vehicle as being rebuilt, verifying that no stolen parts were used.

Legal Requirements

  • Ownership of Salvage Title: You must have the salvage title in your name or have the title assigned to you to undergo the inspection process.
  • Verification of Parts: The inspecting officer will need to verify the source of parts used, ensuring that no stolen parts were used to rebuild the vehicle. Therefore, maintaining all documentation for parts used is mandatory.

How to Register a Camper With a Rebuilt Title

Once you have successfully converted your salvage title to a rebuilt title, you can proceed with the registration process.

Steps for Registration

  1. Visit the Local DMV: Take your rebuilt title and any other required documents to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  2. Complete the Application: Fill out the necessary forms for vehicle registration. These forms vary by state but generally include information about the vehicle and the owner.
  3. Pay Registration Fees: The fees for registering a camper with a rebuilt title can vary. It’s advisable to check the specific fee structure in your jurisdiction.
  4. Receive Plates and Registration: Once all forms are completed and fees are paid, you will receive your registration plates and documentation, making your camper road legal.

Fees and Associated Costs

  • Registration Fees: These are mandatory and vary by state and the type of vehicle.
  • Inspection Fee: As mentioned earlier, in Iowa, the inspection fee is $53, but will vary by state.
  • Additional Costs: There may be other costs, such as emissions testing fees, depending on your jurisdiction.

Important Considerations

If you’re considering purchasing a camper with a salvaged title, run away! Fast!

Seriously though, there are a few important things you will want to consider, including:

  1. Insurance: Insuring a camper with a salvage or rebuilt title can be more challenging and potentially more expensive. Some insurance companies may refuse to provide comprehensive or collision coverage.
  2. Resale Value: Vehicles with a salvage or rebuilt title generally have a lower resale value.
  3. Legal Restrictions: Some states have restrictions on selling vehicles with salvage or rebuilt titles.
  4. Loan Eligibility: It may be more difficult to secure financing for a camper with a salvage or rebuilt title.
  5. State-to-State Variability: If you move to another state, you’ll need to go through that state’s registration process, which may have different requirements for salvage titles.
  6. Quality of Repairs: The repairs made to bring the camper to a roadworthy condition can vary. It’s advisable to have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic.
  7. Legal Compliance: Failure to properly register a rebuilt camper could result in fines, penalties, or even vehicle confiscation.

Before proceeding, consult your local DMV or equivalent agency for the most accurate and current information.

State DMV Resources

We’ve stressed time and time again the importance of contacting your state Department of Motor Vehicle office for their registration requirements. So, choose your state from the dropdown below to jump to their DMV website. There, you should be able to find their requirements for dealing with salvage titles.

Tip: Government websites aren’t always the easiest to navigate. Simply call or fill out their contact form to talk to an actual person for the details.

If your camper is missing its certificate of title and you can’t find it, check out our guide on how to get a title for a camper for the step-by-step process.


Should I Buy a Travel Trailer With a Salvage Title?

Buying a travel trailer with a salvage title comes with both pros and cons, and the decision ultimately depends on various factors, such as your risk tolerance, expertise in vehicle repairs, and intended use of the trailer.


  • Lower Cost: Salvage title trailers are generally much cheaper than those with clean titles.
  • Potential for Savings: If you’re skilled at repairs, you can potentially save money by fixing the trailer yourself.


  • Insurance Challenges: Many insurance companies are hesitant to offer comprehensive coverage for salvage title vehicles.
  • Resale Value: A salvage title significantly reduces the trailer’s resale value.
  • Uncertain Condition: The extent of damage that led to the salvage title may not be fully known, posing a risk of hidden issues.

How Much Does a Salvage Title Devalue a Camper?

The devaluation of a camper with a salvage title can be significant, often ranging from 20% to 50% less than the fair market value of a similar camper with a clean title. The exact amount can vary based on several factors:

  • Extent of Damage: More severe damage generally leads to greater devaluation.
  • Age and Model: Newer, more desirable models may retain more value even with a salvage title.
  • Quality of Repairs: Well-executed repairs can mitigate some of the devaluation.

Will I Have a Clean Title Once It Passes the Inspection?

No, passing the inspection does not result in a clean title. Instead, the salvage title is typically converted to a “rebuilt title” or “reconstructed title.” While this allows you to legally register and insure the vehicle, future buyers will still be able to see its history, which can impact its resale value. The term “clean title” specifically refers to a title without any history of significant damage or total loss, and a rebuilt vehicle title does not meet this criterion.

2 thoughts on “Can You Register a Camper With a Salvage Title? (Hard Truth)”

    • Most reputable insurance companies will require the camper to have a rebuilt tile before they will insure it. Some won’t even insure it with a rebuilt title. The only way to know for sure though is to check with your insurance company.


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