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Old 10-28-2015, 01:39 PM   #15
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Posts: 2,265
Nothing can take the place of a thorough in-person inspection.

Now for more unsolicited advice! People selling trailers come in several flavors--if you understand who you are dealing with, then you can manage your expectations for the trailer and the buying experience:

The Ignorant: The trailer has been in their family for 40 years, and they think that since they don't know of any problems (ie., falling right through a rotting floor), there must not be any. These folks have the best of intentions, but you have to verify the condition of the trailer, as they all think their floors are solid. Some diamonds in the rough (bargains) might be found with these sellers, but expect a lot of work.

The Collector/Appraiser: A variant on the Ignorant seller above, all these guys know is that their trailer is old enough to be considered a "collector's item," that the "original interior" should be worth something to a real afficionado, and that Airstream trailers are going for $60-100k these days. Therefore, they are asking a bargain price of $20k for their 40 year old wreck in completely indeterminate condition. Best avoided.

The Ignorant Fixer: This is a seller who thought they were fixing up the trailer adequately, and have no intention of defrauding you. However, their fixes may be sub-par and just a bunch of bandaids hiding real problems. For these guys you have to not only recognise a problem, but understand the spectrum of possible fixes to decide if you want to be repairing their fixes in the coming years. Worse still, their asking price will include a premium for their "investment" in repairs. They also "invest" in peculiar "improvements" that will only be worth money to a very special buyer. I'm talking about replacing the bathtub with a galvanized tin tub (for that "western" feel), or removing all the 12V electrical system (because having a battery seemed like a hassle).

The Flipper: Possibly a variant of the Ignorant Fixer above... This is someone who knowingly puts the minimal amount of money into an already marginal trailer to hide the problems and get a quick sale for maximum $$. Their trailers often have fresh flooring, a shiny exterior, a dorm style 110v only fridge, and new upholstery and soft goods. Often refered to as "polished turds." You will pay a lot for their shiny trailer only to find you have a shell-off waiting for you under the veneer. Avoid these sellers.

The Scavenger/reseller: These are folks like Mr. Ebay, who drives all over the country harvesting the bargains off of Craigslist so that he can resell them on Ebay to the unsuspecting. They don't know the history of the trailer, or even much about its condition, other than they successfully towed it hundreds of miles, so it "must" be ready to camp. Can be identified, as they always have 3-4 field-finds parked next to one another. Whatever they tell you about its condition is speculative or an outright lie. Run from these sellers.

The regular user: This is someone who knows their trailer, camps in it regularly and has a fairly good idea of what is right, what is wrong, and how it all works. These folks are sometimes second owners of rennovated units or more recent model trailers. Buy from this seller, and you will get a fair trailer for a fair price.

The Craftsman/Enthusiast: This seller just spent 3 years rennovating a trailer from the frame up. They have every receipt, have taken pictures of the whole process and have also likely logged everything they did on a Forums thread or Blog. This is as close to a new trailer as you will find, and probably better. If you buy from this seller, and you appreciate all the work that went into the rennovation, then you will get a great trailer despite spending a lot on it--it will still be a deal.

The Dispirited: This seller bought a trailer thinking with a few months and minimal investment, they would be traveling in style or full-timing. They pulled up the old carpet to find a rotting floor and disintegrating frame, and now a year later, they have an empty trailer awaiting a shell-off, and they have lost hope, faith in mankind, and any Airstream dreams. They want that heap out of their driveway and will happily make their problem yours...for a small price.

There may be other variants...

Good luck in your search...and stay away from Ebay...and listen to all the early episodes of The Vintage Airstream Podcast (The VAP), just to help get calibrated (BEFORE buying).

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Old 10-28-2015, 04:41 PM   #16
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1964 26' Overlander
1974 31' Sovereign
Milton , ON
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If you look at a trailer and find it in worse shape than expected don't be afraid to make an offer of what you think it's worth. This means having an idea of what needs to be done to fix the trailer and having an estimate of the price and time it will take. And keep in mind that no one ever said that their Airstream renovation cost less and took less time than they expected. If your offer is turned down then you've perhaps made it easier on the next person who goes to look at the trailer, and at some point maybe you'll be the person who makes a reasonable offer after the seller has been told by several other people that they're asking too much.

We recently bought a late 60's Sovereign off Craigslist for about 30% of the asking price. Not 30% off, 30% of. The trailer is in rough shape and will need a lot of work, but we paid a price that allows me to look at it and be excited by the challenge of the project, not feeling ripped off by the amount I paid. If the seller had posted accurate photos I wouldn't even have driven the two hours to look at it. I almost got right back into the truck and drove home but my wife said we should take a closer look and offer what we thought it was worth. Turns out the owner was moving soon, needed it off the property, had recently turned down an offer not much more than ours and was now willing to accept our offer.

Grant Davidson
Milton, ON

1946 Spartan Manor
1954 Va-Ka-Shun-Ette
1964 Overlander
1965 Avion C-10 Truck Camper
1974 Sovereign
2005 F-350 SRW 4x4 crew cab long box
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Old 10-28-2015, 06:52 PM   #17
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
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Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
Nothing can take the place of a thorough in-person inspection.

Now for more unsolicited advice! People selling trailers come in several flavors--if you understand who you are dealing with, then you can manage your expectations for the trailer and the buying experience:


This is one of the most excellent posts I have read in a very long time. It needs a special home someplace. It should be read by anyone buying (and some selling) an Airstream or Argosy.

Thanks for taking the time to write it.
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Old 10-28-2015, 07:56 PM   #18
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1966 17' Caravel
Currently Looking...
Las Cruces , New Mexico
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Congratulations on losing out on that trailer! Your $2K thoughts are still a little high for that one.
1966 Airstream Caravel
2006 Toyota Tacoma
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Old 10-29-2015, 08:06 AM   #19
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1966 26' Overlander
Woodstock , Georgia
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A lot of good info here, but I have to respond to two comments.
First an older refrigerator may be perfectly fine. Mine is a 1967 and works like a champ. I have had two others front the 70s and they were also fine.
Secondly the comment about a trailer with a replaced floor being a red flag? Isn't every trailer, vintage ones especially going to have the floor replaced at some point?
You find a way to check the perimeter for soft spots and use common sense to see how the trailer is presented. If the owner has too many stories, walk away.

Good luck in your search.
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Old 10-29-2015, 08:13 AM   #20
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I should clarify my comment about a replaced floor. If the seller has replaced the floor just before selling the trailer, its a red flag to me. I would think they are hiding something. In general, I feel better if the floor has not been replaced, and in my experience such trailers do exist.
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Old 11-04-2015, 09:47 AM   #21
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1975 31' Sovereign
North Fort Myers , Florida
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 38
I see you're in west Palm. I'm in Fort Myers and there have been quite a few good deals on Craigslist lately. Look at Craigslist, do a search under " for sale" "all" and the word airstream for the search word and many will pop up in Florida.
Be patient , I found a decent 75 Sovereign for $4500. Then as others said, now the appliances work, but do I trust them or replace them. I had to replace about 4 feet of frame in the back and do some rework on the holding tank area. That was the only major floor problem. Replace hot water with on demand propane heater, replaced the univolt with a modern charge that doesn't weigh 60 lbs and doesn't get hot. Pex plumbing throughout. Built my own kitchen cabinet sink stove countertop. Kept the stove and oven after testing. The stove I sandblasted the sprayed high temperature rustoleum on it. Looks great and works great. Things like this stove do not cost much $, but a bit of time cleaning degreasing and you'll never know what you'll find. I found a old gold bracelet in the stove. A gold cross behind the counter when I tore it out. And another gold bracelet in the curbside rear closet next to the univolt fusebox. Putting a cork floor in next to finish up within a month hopefully. If you need an inspection on the west coast, let me know!
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Old 11-04-2015, 10:16 AM   #22
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2012 22' FB Sport
2003 19' Bambi
Port Townsend , Washington
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Posts: 273
Ditto on the praise for Post #15!

I want to do a restore at some point, so for the last six months or so I've been on the hunt.

Here's one more "type", in my opinion the best if you want to avoid some of the heavy lifting:

Someone bought a project trailer. They gutted it, maybe even did a shell off frame restoration. New axles. Polished the exterior. Refinished all the interior walls, redid all the plumbing. Rewired, new batteries, maybe even a solar panel. They have spent one or more years working on this labor of love. For financial or other reasons (wife puts foot down?) they are giving up.

What's left to do is mostly cosmetic/interior cabinets and furniture. I saw two like this, both selling for around the $10,000 mark. I came close on one of them but now is not the right time for me.

I think your budget is too low. Double down on your savings and wait. Figure $15,000 or more total for a fantastic classic that will serve you well.
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Old 11-04-2015, 10:24 AM   #23
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2012 22' FB Sport
2003 19' Bambi
Port Townsend , Washington
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For example, this one for $7,000:

1957 Airstream Caravanner 22 - Connecticut

Not saying this is a good bad or indifferent deal. Just an example of what I had been looking for.
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Old 11-04-2015, 10:39 AM   #24
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Virginia Beach , Virginia
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CRAZY poster here!

I have a very good credit rating. Generally it's because I abhor paying interest so I pay off the credit card every month and pay off anything else I finance in about 1/4 of the normal term.

I had a perfectly good Ford F-150 EcoBoost, that I bought as a better "daily driver and tow vehicle" but I missed the oomph and the engine braking of my old 2500 Silverado - especially after a trip out west. Enter "snow white" the new GMC 2500 Diesel that I planned to pay cash for. Was offered an interest rate of 2%.... 2% my head nearly exploded so I didn't cash in the CD and just took the loan, which I'm making double or triple payments on every month.

Borrowing is generally not a good thing since you could lose a job and have to struggle, and it's more true than ever that the banks want to lend money only to people who don't need it, but you MIGHT want to consider getting a loan and buying a gently used one from a dealer. With a gently used one you can generally sell it in a couple of years at only a small loss.

Most dedicated airstreamers will eventually say "Well, when the new........... came out it was just perfect so I traded in the 4 year old .............."
We should run a poll here and see how many members are on their second, third or fourth Airstreams. (When I had a wreck and totaled my 2nd one, several members here offered to lend me their "spare-streams" because they own two or more!)

I'm on the other end of the spectrum from you - heading for retirement. The things that will ultimately get me out of traveling in the Airstream are:
  1. health problems, especially anything that affects eyesight or reaction time - At my age I'm not likely to die in a skydiving accident after all!
  2. money - I think I've saved enough to see me out and perhaps even leave a bit of cash to the niece/nephews, BUT inflation? global warming? killer asteroid? political insurrections?
  3. getting fed up with doing (or paying for) the constant maintenance Airstreams require.

Truth is the third one might get me first. I have an Avion I'm getting refurbished. It's a huge mother (10 meter rear bedroom) and I'm planning on parking it somewhere in the southwest and only moving it 2 or 3 times a year. I'd still like to take short hops for a week or two, and frankly both the Casita and Oliver travel trailers speak to me for that kind of travel. Both are fiberglass hulls which are more durable and easier to repair from scratches and dings. Both are small - CAMPERS not rolling homes - and can be towed by the average small SUV. The Oliver particularly is a four season camper. I've already got the EB, so I may keep that as my weekender, but there is the lower maintenance issue with any riveted aluminum trailer - so a little fiberglass one has it's appeal. If I trade in the EB, I've already got the name for the trailer "the dinghy." I may remain here on the forum only as a "vintage kin" owner.

My first trailer was an Airstream. It was a great experience. Many here started with other brands and graduated to Airstreams - and most had a great experience doing it that way, too. You might want to stay an "aspiring Airstreamer" but still enjoy camping with a small "canned ham" or vintage kin or any of the little egg shaped fiberglass trailers. Get a bumper sticker that says, "my next trailer will be an Airstream" (The first owner of my current Airstream found out he hated camping - AFTER buying a new Eddie Bauer. If you were to find out the same thing wouldn't it be better to realize it after buying a $10K camper instead of a $70K one?)

Happy hunting, AND don't underestimate the yard finds that may be lurking within 20 miles of your home. Once I bought one I started to see them EVERYWHERE! Go cruising with Google Earth or just drive in the suburbs slowly. "Grandpa died 2 years ago, and we just haven't gotten around to deciding what to do with his old camper!"

Happy hunting, Paula
Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 11-08-2015, 08:34 PM   #25
1 Rivet Member
Seattle , Washington
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 6
We bought our 24ft 1974 last year from a guy in MN. It was on the classifieds on this site and was exactly what we were looking for. Dinette, bunk beds, 24ft. From he pictures it looked all original and from talking with him on the phone everything seemed good (he even said it was barn stored). So I drove across country sight unseen and paid 8K for it.
We love it but I have put around 3K+ into it over the past year (plus a ton of time).
New Electrical
Trailer brakes didn't work
Lots of elbow grease
Soft spot in the front corner floor
Furnace Repair
Hot water heater repair
water pump and plumbing lines

Still, all said I feel like it was a fair transaction. The trailer buffed out to a shine, and now we have a super solid trailer that we pulled 3K miles this summer up and down the west coast.

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