Where RVs Go To Die: Fires, Crashes, Blowouts. What We Learned at an RV Salvage Yard

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – we earn a commission if you make a purchase using our links. We only link to products and companies we use and recommend. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this site and community.

We went shopping at an RV Salvage Yard and left with some hard hitting lessons about RV fires, tire blowouts, accidents and the most common causes of this destruction. And importantly – as responsible, safety conscious RVers – some tips on how we can help prevent situations like this happening to us.

Fair warning… some of the images in this video and blog most may be disturbing to some. That is NOT the intention of this post/video. Sadly, fires, accidents and totaled RVs are a fact of life (as with cars and homes). This was such a unique experience, and an eye opening reminder of the importance of RV safety. So we wanted to share it with you. Also, this post and video are not an endorsement for Visone.

At the end of this post, you will also find some recommendations (and links to reviews) for safety equipment that we use in our RV.You can take a tour for yourself and get a feel for the place and what we experienced in this video.

Here’s the back story.

While searching for some used RV parts for our motorhome, we were recommended to check out a huge RV salvage yard called Visone RV Parks, in Kentucky. We were staying in Tennessee at the time, so it was only a short 2.5 drive. Yes, for people who love to drive, like us, that’s considered a short drive! Heck, we’ve driven that far for dinner!

Why Did We Decide to an RV Salvage Yard?

Most of Visone’s business is by phone, not in person.  But, we were only in the area for a short time, and otherwise had a fast travel pace in the coming weeks.  So we couldn’t have had anything shipped even if they had it in stock. Plus we thought it might be interesting to check out the RV salvage yard in person anyway, definitely something different.

When we arrived, we learned that Visone doesn’t actually let visitors out onto the property for safety reasons. You need to be escorted and they just don’t have the staff for it. Fortunately, they were having a relatively slow day and with a bit of convincing, they agreed to have a couple of their staff show us around. They let us fly the drone and take as much photo and video as we wanted, so we did! And now we are able to share it with you. After all, an RV salvage yard not a place that most will get to visit in person. 

About Visone RV Salvage Yard

Visone RV Parts is massive.  They claim to be the largest motorhome RV salvage yard in the world, focusing primarily on Class A motorhomes. Though we did see a handful of Class C’s and a lone Airstream. They had almost 1,500 motorhomes on their enormous 100 acre property at the time of our visit in May 2019.

Located in East Bernstadt, Kentucky, Visone has been in business for thirty years. But they have only focused on motorhome salvage parts for about 10 years.  With such a large inventory, they are a good place to call when looking for hard to find used parts for your RV.  They have inventory ranging from over twenty years old, to nearly new.  

They purchase damaged (salvage) motorhomes, and haul them to their property to part them out. Engines, batteries, generators, fluids, and some interior parts are removed before putting the remaining chassis out into the yard.  This is better for the environment, and also protects some of the most valuable parts to keep them in the best condition. Motorhomes are are on the more expensive side of RVs, and often have high quality parts.

We share some photos from inside the warehouse further down in the post.. and some footage in the last couple of minutes of the video.

How Do Motorhomes End Up At An RV Salvage Yard

Just like regular cars and homes, motorhomes are often damaged by accidents, fires, and even severe weather like floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.  There are salvage yards for cars all around the country.  If damaged badly enough, after settling with the insured person, an insurance company will auction off the totaled RV.  Visone has multiple semi-trucks to pick up these damaged RVs and transport them to their RV salvage yard. 

When looking around the property, one might start to think that fridge and engine fires are common occurrences in motorhomes. And that’s pretty disconcerting, but that’s where you need to keep it in perspective, instead of allowing the visual shock to take over your emotions. If anything, it’s a powerful and sobering lesson about the importance of bring safe, especially when it comes to RVs.

Remember that there are hundreds of thousands of motorhomes out on the road. And they have been around for decades  Only a small percentage of motorhomes meet their end this way.

What We Learned

Upon touring the property with Visone staff, we had a lot of questions, and they provided us with the answers. Here’s what we learned.

  • Most RVs are used recreationally. And many of them spend significant time in storage. Many RVs get damaged while in storage, whether it be from a fire, or severe weather. And so a large percentage of totaled RVs are not occupied by people at the time of the incident.
  • Some RVs are totaled as the result of fire. The most common causes of RV fires are engine fires, RV fridge fires, air conditioners and faulty electrical.
  • In most instances, if an RV is occupied when a fire breaks out, the occupants are able to exit the RV safely.
  • If an RV catches fire while its being driven – typically an engine fire – then the driver will pull over and passengers can safely exit the vehicle.
  • Not all RV fires are “innocent”. It is suspected that some people cause arson to their own RV.

More Learning

  • Some the RVs are damaged by driving accidents. The majority of the accidents (around 95% according to Mike) seem to be caused by tire failures. Tire blowouts. RV tires tend to age out before wearing out.  Your tires might still look OK, especially if they still have good tread on them. But they don’t have the strength of a newer tire. RV tires are generally driven fewer miles, but are often pushed to their limits.  If not properly inflated, or otherwise compromised, tires can fail and may cause an accident.  This is especially true if the front tires fail at highway speeds or narrow roads. Tire blowouts are the most common reason for RV accidents.
  • RV fridge fires have reduced in recent years, as more RVs are being equipped with residential fridges. Plus regular RV fridges can be modified to increase safety.Better education about the dangers of RV fridge fires and how to protect against them has helped.
  • RV fires, accidents and other weather-related incidents are preventable in many cases.

In a nutshell, your (and our) chances of being faced with a situation like this is very low. Especially if you take good care of your RV, your RV tires, and learn how to drive your RV safely.

We cover the topic of RV safety in Chapter 3 of our book “Living the RV Life – Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road“. And in much greater depth in our online courses at RV Success School.

Don't Let This Scare You off RVing!

Since there is lower resistance, lithium batteries can accept a charge up to five times faster than lead acid battAs we shared earlier – and in the video – the goal of this article is not to scare you. It is not intended to frighten you or make you believe that RVing is especially dangerous. If you visited a car salvage yard, would you still continue to drive your vehicle? Of course.

Like anything in life, there are risks. And many reasons why things like this happen. But if you take care of your equipment and operate it safely, you will dramatically reduce the odds of an accident.  

As we shared in the lessons learned above, we can educate and empower ourselves to be safe RVers. And enjoy the lifestyle for all the wonderful things it has to offer.

All that said, it is definitely an eerie and unsettling feeling, being surrounded by so many destroyed RVs. It is especially humbling to walk inside one, smell the charcoal, and see the personal belongings of the previous owners. But we remind ourselves that it most likely happened while the RV was in storage and unoccupied. And the owners were safe.

Did We Find What We Were Looking For?

Yes and No.  They did not have the right size basement door that we needed for our motorhome CC.  Maybe another one will come in sometime down the track. 

But, we definitely appreciated the opportunity of being able to tour the property. And learn more about this little known side of RVing, and the ability to share it with you. 

We definitely left the Visone RV salvage yard with more than what we bargained for. It was a powerful and sobering reminder of a reality of RV life. And one that we hope, with a continued focus on prioritizing safety, we will ALL be able to avoid, or at the very least, minimize.

Remember, keep it all in perspective. And above all, stay safe out there!

What Tire and Fire Safety Gear Do We Use in Our RV?

Since publishing this post and video, we’ve had a lot of people reach out to us and ask what equipment we use in our RV to stay safe. Of course, anything (like fire or a tire failure) can happen to any of us at any time, BUT we can significantly reduce the chances of it occurring, with the right equipment. We will be publishing a separate, more in depth post/video about this soon. In the meantime, we wanted to share with you some links to our favorite RV Safety Gear.

Tire Safety

Marc has always been super diligent about taking care of our RV tires, and we have never had an issue. However, these are two items we wish we had on board our RV from day one.

Viair Air Compressor for proper tire inflation

We did a video review about this on Road Gear Reviews last year. After using a cheap air compressor from Harbor Freight for a couple of years, the Viair is one thing we wish we had spring the extra money for much sooner.

Click here to buy the Viair from Amazon

Click here to buy the Viair from TechnoRV

TST 507 Tire Pressure Monitoring System

We just installed this a few months ago and are loving it. Check out the video review about this on our Road Gear Reviews channel. We have the 507 with 6 flow through and 4 cap sensors, and the color monitor.

The Best Price Available on TST is with our coupon code through Mobile Must Have use coupon code TST10RVL2020

Click to buy the TST system from TechnoRV 

Click to buy the STS system from Amazon

Sign up for our email newsletter with the latest RV park reviews, news and updates.

GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?

Have you experienced an RV fire or accident? Visited an RV salvage yard? Let us know in the comments below.

45 thoughts on “Where RVs Go To Die: Fires, Crashes, Blowouts. What We Learned at an RV Salvage Yard”

  1. This company is the worst! Waited 6 weeks for an RV Fridge that was delivered damaged. It’s replacement was MOLDY and didn’t work-which took another 3 weeks to arrive. After 10 weeks we still don’t have a working fridge and we are out $1,300. AND have to pay to send back the 2nd broken fridge!
    Save yourself the nightmare and purchase your items elsewhere.
    They are thieves.

    Reply
    • Hi Carissa, oh no! That is terrible! So sorry you had this experience, with not one but 2 bad RV fridges! Just wanted to reiterate that we shared our experience touring around this place, but we have never actually purchased anything – and our video/post is not to be considered an endorsement, so much as a way to show people what can happen to RVs and where the parts go. We have actually – since posting the video – heard of a few other people who also shared a poor experience (yet some others found them to be fine?). It is recommended to ask a lot of questions about condition of used parts from any salvage yard and also ask for photos of the item before you select / they send. And for an RV fridge, maybe it’s better to buy new after all, but we do know they can be expensive. Still from your bad experience it has been both expensive and frustrating! There is another place called Colaws in Missouri, I believe, that is also an RV salvage yard – we have not been there nor purchased from them – but others have told us about it. To be very honest, after your bad experience x 2, I would be inclined to just go buy a new one… but understand it’s difficult after already sinking so much $ on the used one. Really appreciate you sharing your experience with us and for the benefit of others.

      Reply
  2. Great post! What’s up with all the people asking you about specific parts… this is a blog not a salvage yard. Google, people. Anyway, there’s no salvage yards in Texas so I might give them a call about a baggage door and “quarter” panel that have been gouged on my ’00 Newmar if I decide not to learn fiberglass and body work myself.

    Reply
    • Thanks Adam. Agreed… totally weird that people ask about specific parts instead of just reaching out to an actual salvage yard. We ended up doing the fiberglass work on our basement doors (and other) ourselves. Turned out pretty good, hve done some fiberglass work before. But if they happen to have the right baggage door it might be worthwhile for you (depending on how bad your damage is. Wishing you luck.

      Reply
    • This company is the worst! Waited 6 weeks for an RV Fridge that was delivered damaged. It’s replacement was MOLDY and didn’t work-which took another 3 weeks to arrive. After 10 weeks we still don’t have a working fridge and we are out $1,300. AND have to pay to send back the 2nd broken fridge!
      Save yourself the nightmare and purchase your items elsewhere.
      They are thieves.

      Reply
      • Thanks for sharing your experience – left a more details reply on your other comment. So sorry this happened to you and appreciate you sharing your experience for the benefit of / warning to others! Our visit was intended to show what happens to RVs when they are badly damaged – we have no relationship or ongoing contact with this place and our video/post is not intended to be considered an endorsement of them. By sharing your experience, hopefully it will help others be very cautious in their dealings.

        Reply
    • Not sure if you think we can assist with that at our blog post, but your best bet is to reach out to the salvage yard mentioned in the post, or other salvage yards across the country. I would imagine there are quite a few RVs with the part you are looking for, so good chance a salvage yard would have one. Best of luck. -M

      Reply
  3. Looking for a firestone IntelliRider
    Leveling System. Control switch panel.
    Part # fsn i28-3582-6000. Please help.

    Reply
  4. I am looking for a rear axle for a 1984 Country Coach Regent. It is a short rear drive axle about 15″ long. Would appreciate any help. Thanks,Greg

    Reply
  5. Based upon the number of Class A motor homes that have been manufactured over the years there has to be other salvage yards than Visone (Kentucky) and Colaw (Missouri). We own a 1998 Country Coach Allure Rogue. When I am looking for used parts I normally find that the complementary motor homes at Visone and Colaw have already been picked over and the yard has only a couple or three of this model and year at most. Where are all the other “old” motor homes? One would think that there have to be other salvage yards somewhere.

    Reply
  6. I think that if tires are a safety issue, it may be useful to do what race car drivers do. They fill their tires with cheap nitrogen gas at the recommended pressure of air. The tires do not get as hot as nitrogen does not conduct heat like air.

    Reply
  7. Hello there, I was hoping you could help me with a left passenger front windshield. We own an 1986 titan by champion the has the windshield that curves at the outside edge. I will get you the dimensions but wasn’t sure if you dealt with anything from the mid 1980’s any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    JT

    Reply
  8. That was a neat video on Youtube. I myself have built upi an RV Air Conditioner collection, 3 colemans (one non ducted and other 2 are ducted mach 3’s) and a 2 Duo-Therms and one Carrier off a retired BNSF GP38 locomotive (this was the first one I got when I lived in Montana and is the current unit I am using now on my trailer)

    Reply
      • Great Video!

        Anyone know of a Class C junkyard?

        I am in need of a passenger side mirror for my 2016 Jayco Greyhawk.

        Reply
        • Hi Mark, not specifically. We did see a few Class C’s at Visone, not many, Maybe try a place called Colaw’s – I believe they are even bigger and have a wider range of RVs. Hope you find an affordable one. We’ve been shocked by the high prices Visone are asking for the parts that we’ve been after ourselves, so we continue our search around the country. Did you try asking in the forums? Glad you enjoyed the video. All the best!

          Reply
        • You might try Googling RV mirrors in Goshen Indiana there a lot of Manufacturers that City and they Supply the Jayco and Jacob Corporation could probably find you a similar one or tell you where to look for a replacement oh. I find the people in Goshen are very cooperative and there are many repair shops around there so they should be able to find you a mirror next

          Reply
  9. Thank you for sharing this show on RV salvage. We have been searching for these types of places for parts for ours. Even though it’s almost 6hr away. I think we will be giving them a look see!!!

    Reply

Leave a Comment