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Old 01-19-2003, 08:13 PM   #1
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Looking for an Airstream

Hello,
We are looking for a good used Airstream and have noticed that there are 2 '78 Airstream 31-footers for sale in the Houston, TX area. We do not know what model or floor plan either of them are, but they are priced $7500-7900, so we are wondering if this is a good price or not, and what we should look for in terms of wear and tear. Also, we have a 1999 Ford Expedition that we could use as a tow vehicle, but it has the small (4.6L) engine, and from what I've read so far, it doesn't look like this is going to be adequate. Since it is a lease, we are not going to base our RV choice on whether or not we can use this vehicle for towing, but we want to find out what we will be facing as far as getting another tow vehicle. Hopefully, since we are a little over 3 years into our 5-year lease, we can trade it for something that will work. Any suggestions?

We are both consultants and have to travel quite a bit for our jobs, so we are going to use the RV instead of the commercial airlines for this purpose, so whatever we buy will probably have lots of miles put on it, and we will be living in it for weeks at a time. Is it a wise decision for us to buy a used model this old, or should we look for a new (or newer) model? We will have to tow in all kinds of weather on all kinds of terrain, as our schedule will be somewhat dictated by our work, so we need to make the best choices up front as to RV and tow vehicle. We have 2 small dogs that will travel with us, and we also have 1-2 motorcycles that we may decide to take along at times (not sure about this yet, but it's probable that we will want to do this eventually).

In our search to hit the road we have researched Class A motorhomes, bus conversions, 5th wheels, and have now landed on Airstream. We went to a dealership in the Houston area yesterday and looked at some new ones, and we're hooked!!! Any advice from those of you who are experienced RVers will be greatly appreciated. We have previously owned a number of RVs (all with engines, and we didn't use them very often), so this will be our first experience with a towable.

Thanks a bunch, and we look forward to hearing from all of you!
Cheryl from Texas
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Old 01-20-2003, 07:13 PM   #2
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If time and logistics permit, I would suggest getting the trailer you want first, then buy a vehicle that will do the job. That said, a 3/4 ton chassis (van, Suburban, pickup) should pull any Airstream ever made, providing it has the right drivetrain. One of the real nice things about an Airstream is you have a choice of tow vehicles - you are not limited to just a pickup.

You have raised rather a lot of issues, and it is kind of daunting to tackle them all. Perhaps you should look through some of the various forums found on this site to discover some of the problem areas to watch out for. Rear frame sag (uncommon in the late '70s, but can still occur, I understand), polybutylene plumbing (not sure they used that until up in the 80's), floor rot (can affect any model year), weak torsion axles, fogged vista view windows, and of course worn out appliances are all issues you will want to understand before you go shopping. These topics have all been covered extensively elsewhere in these forums.

Price. I would expect rather a lot for that money, but I am no expert. Check the prices on VAC (airstream.org), rvtradersonline, wbcci (wbcci.org), and some other sites I am probably forgetting right now. And remember these are always ASKING prices.

And do not forget to come back here and ask specific questions.

Yours,

Mark
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Old 01-20-2003, 08:31 PM   #3
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Looking for an Airstream

Greetings Cheryl!

As much as I love my Vintage Airstream, with your busy lifestyle, you might be better satisfied with a later model that is less likely to need major restoration or appliance replacement. The '64 Overlander was my dream Airstream, and it didn't matter to me that is needed a fair amount of work over a period of time. It also didn't disturb me that I might end up investing more than its maket value in the restoration. In my case, using mostly professional services as I don't have the skills nor the desire to do my own restoration work, my investment in a total restoration has been approximately $25,000 over and above the purchase price. This has included the following new appliances: 3-way RV Refrigerator, furnace, water heater, PAR water pump, water tank, power inverter, 3 solar panels, Coleman Air Conditioner, power tongue jack, and television antenna. Additional services included refinishing the bathroom fixtures, new bath and kitchen faucets, new upholstery, drapes, wall finishes, floor coverings, refinished cabinetry, rebuilt brakes, exterior polish and new PlastiCoat.

My fully restored (with the exception of the axles) has been as trouble free as most new units, but for my total investment I could have had a coach that was less than 10 years old - - but I wouldn't have had the history with that coach that I do with the 1964.

I can't comment too much about your Expedition as a tow vehicle as I am not familiar with Ford products. I would, however, have reservations about the 4.6 liter motor - - I have never felt secure towing my Overlander (26') unless the vehicle had at least a 6.0 liter V8 with 4.10 differential gears. I will admit that I am unwilling to white-knuckle it in the mountains at less than 45 MPH in the truck lane which is why I insist upon the large V8 and numerically high differential gearing for my tow vehicle.

Good luck with your quest for the ideal Airstream and tow vehicle combination.

Kevin
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Old 01-20-2003, 09:12 PM   #4
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Airstream shopping

Thanks for the feedback on shopping for an A/S, tow vehicle, etc. We went and looked at a couple of used ones today, a '67 and a '78, and both were in pretty dismal shape. Since neither of us is in ANY way handy, other than we can swing a scrub brush, we felt that buying a really old one, even if it has been refurbished, might be more than we can handle. We will keep looking, of course, but we are leaning more toward a later model. We found an ad today for a '99 Safari 26-footer for $18,000 that sounds like a dream...only used twice and has been stored inside at all times. This price includes the weight distribution hitch. We believe that since the Safaris are made to be lighter than the classics, we can safely tow this model with our Expedition. We have the heavy duty tow package on the Ford, and the weight of the Safari is within the mfg. limits in our owner's manual, although just barely. Is this a good price for this model? Any other advice is greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,
Cheryl & Carl
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Old 01-20-2003, 09:17 PM   #5
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C,

I'm with OV64, sounds like you would be better off with something just a few years old. I have seen some beautiful late model larger units for sale, triple axle 34's and smaller tens of thousands less than new. Let someone else take the hit on depreciation!! With your fulltime careers I don't think you would have the time or patience to endure the amount of work the older ones sometimes require, which I truly believe is a labor of love. Sound like you are on track with the tow vehicle and may I recommend 3/4 ton diesel power? The only thing that really concerns me is your desire to possibly carry a couple of motorcycles around. Not really sure how that could be done if you are pulling an A/S? Possibly you could use a pickup as a tow vehicle and put them in the back? I am not a rider so maybe someone else can give some pointers on that aspect. Good luck in your search!

Chas
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Old 01-20-2003, 09:23 PM   #6
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IN READING YOUR POST I WOULD SUGGEST AN NEWER AIRSTREAM AND A NEW CHEVROLET DURAMAX PICKUP TO HAUL YOUR CYCLES. YOU WILL BE IN HOG HEAVEN//
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Old 01-20-2003, 09:27 PM   #7
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Airstream search...

Chas,

Thanks for the feedback. We looked at a couple of older models today and came to the same conclusion...we don't have the time, talent, or inclination at this stage in our lives to deal with a fixer-upper. The main appeal of an older one was price, especially since we will probably have to spring for a tow vehicle. We've been taking a closer look at the Safari models, as they are supposed to be lighter than the Classics, and if we can find a good deal on a newer one we can probably get by with our Expedition for another couple of years until our lease is up; then, we will definitely get something with a larger engine, most likely a 4x4 diesel. We called a guy this afternoon on a '99 Safari that is listed for $18,000. It's 26' long and we believe it falls within the towing limits of our Ford. We need to do some checking to see if this is a good price or not, and also if we can really tow it with the Expedition, but if so, this may be the way to go for us. Any advice?

Appreciate your feedback,
Cheryl & Carl (Montgomery, TX)
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Old 01-20-2003, 09:31 PM   #8
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In response to wb13798...we ride rice burners (can't afford Harleys, but we love our V-Stars!), but your suggestion sounds like a winner!!! Actually, mine (Cheryl's) is a year old, and I had so much business travel last year that I've only put 100 miles on it!!! Another good reason for us to start traveling with wheels on the ground, instead of on Continental Airlines!!! Carl didn't have to travel so much, so he's ridden his a lot and now claims it is faster than mine, so I'm going to have to prove him wrong!

Thanks,
Cheryl & Carl
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Old 01-20-2003, 09:47 PM   #9
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I have towed my 31 foot Soveriegn a lot of miles with a 1999 Ford F150 2 wheel drive with a 4.6 engine. It worked just fine over the north side of the Great Lakes which is very hilly. Mind you it slows down a bit uphill but nothing serious.

People are towing 34 foot Airstreams with Windstars and Chrysler Concords.
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Old 01-21-2003, 03:49 AM   #10
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Towing

Gordon,

I appreciate the information. We will be using a load equalizing hitch and plan to put heavy duty shocks on the Expedition. We have decided to look for a shorter model, probably something around 26', in order to cut down on the weight.

Thanks,
Cheryl & Carl
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Old 01-21-2003, 07:38 AM   #11
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The Safari 25' would be a nice unit in a late model. It is the wide body and has a regular bed, separate shower and toilet, and comfortable seating area in front. These are pretty sought after on the used market, so finding one may be difficult.

The next smaller current size is the 22' International - either CCD or AS. Somebody somewhere is probably full timing in one, but I could not do it with two.

You should check and see what the actual out-the-door price of a new ('03 or left over '02) is from a dealer and what financing is available. Expect a substantial discount off of list. You might be surprised vis-a-vis a used late model.

Yours,

Mark
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Old 01-21-2003, 09:01 AM   #12
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Shopping for an Airstream

Mark,
That's a good idea. We were looking at the 22', and even got an out-the-door price on it from a dealer ($34K for an '03); then, decided it was just TOO small for 2 adults, 2 dogs, and our gear when we are on the road and working. We were wondering what kind of discount off of list we might expect on a new one. Our motorhome rating book says they normally sell for around 80% of list.

Thanks,
Cheryl
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Old 01-21-2003, 10:19 AM   #13
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We were at the same point as you a few months ago.Did ALL the research,bought ALL the books.Went to ALL the RV Trade Shows,which Jan. is the month for them.Actually had $$ down on a 5th wheel.To make a long story short..found a 95 31'Classic Limited and bought it on the spot.Having more truck than trailer is a smart idea.Had purchased a Ford F350 dual rear end diesel several months prior due to the idea of a 5th wheel.Now we find we need a 4x4 and the dually is a pain in the --- in the parking lots.Have been stuck on flat ground with our truck.We are shopping for a F250 diesel 4x4.We find a truckbed tool box is essential for all the tools you need. And we are going to put a topper on the bed too.The reason for this is to protect the belongings we seem to have to have in addition to tools. We travel with our profession and are currently wintering in our A/S.See "Winter Living".When we purchased our 95 we also bought an extended warranty.Even though our trailer was taken very good care of and used little,things still go wrong.When you begin looking do one thing..get into the shower and think about it. We use the shower facilities at our resort.If you are tall..go over and pretend to do dishes at the sink.I am fine with the ceiling height..but the hubby creams his head all the time due to the cabinet height.We have one small Boston Terrier with us and it can get tight.Think about this..some camp grounds have rules on pets.As for towing...I just learnt how to kinda back up without jack kniving it.I did however pick up the A/S all by myself and drove 50 miles down a busy interstate. I had to keep looking back because I couldnt believe I had a trailer hooked on.My hubby was proud to say the least.This experience has been good so far.Staying in motels is for the birds.Besides the tax write-offs are a bonus.Good luck.
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Old 01-21-2003, 10:48 AM   #14
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Shopping for an Airstream

Dear Rubyslipper (great handle by the way),
Your feedback is fantastic! Answers a lot of questions we have and covered a few things we hadn't thought of yet. We are both fairly short (5'4" and 5'6"), so the height is okay; however, we were looking seriously at the 22' and after talking about it decided that the bathroom/shower combo just wasn't going to cut it for us. You mention the RV Trade Shows...is that the best place to get a good deal? We are now leaning toward a new/newer model, as we do not have the time or talent for a fixer-upper. The extended warranty sounds like a good idea, no matter what we get. Do you have any recommendations as to vendor/coverages/deductibles? We've heard some horror stories about extended warranties, so want to make sure we get the right one. As far as the tow vehicle goes, we currently have a '99 Ford Expedition 2WD with the 4.6L (small V8). The 25-26' Safari models are just barely within towing specs. Unfortunately, the Ford is a lease that doesn't end until August '04. I called our leasing company yesterday to see if there was a possibility of trading out early for a truck, and the guy said yes but never called back, so it doesn't sound good. That said, we are thinking of just making do with the Expedition for now, staying with something in the 25-26' range, and being smart about how we travel with it (no mountains, extreme winter driving, empty tanks when we're on the road). What kind of profession are you in that you travel with it? We are computer security consultants. What are you able to write off as far as taxes? We are thinking that we may be able to write off quite a bit of our costs whenever we are using it for business travel. It's good to hear that you are able to pick it up by yourself and drive it down the road. We have owned several motorhomes (a '76 Class A 25', and 2 Class C's), and I drove all of them, but had a couple of white knuckle experiences going through the Arizona mountains in a severe dust storm. The Class C's (a '99 25' and a '00 31' w/ slide) were both Fleetwood Tioga's, and they were very fatiguing to drive. How do you feel at the end of a long day's towing with the Airstream? These are factors we have to seriously consider, since our business will oftentimes dictate our travel.

Thanks for the information, and we hope to see you down the road!

Cheryl
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