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Old 11-11-2012, 08:37 PM   #1
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Exclamation Living permanently in a stationary Airstream

As a California gal I have been paying far too much for rent, and after a few calculations here and there I have decided that purchasing an Airstream trailer (28' and up) and living in it would be the best (and cheapest) housing situation for me. (I prefer small spaces and have little to no possessions I care about.)

That being said, I don't know much about Airstreams and what is required to permanently (three years, possibly more) live in one. I do not want to move around campground to campground, space to space. BUT I don't know where to find a park or private land where I can live and have all my necessary hook-ups. Showering, cooking, toileting, and everything else. (Heating is not necessary where I'll be living, the Los Angeles area.) My family lives in the area and I can use their address for the DMV, mail, etc. I want to be settled by August 2013.

While it seems like a great idea and I'm planning on buying an older, cheaper trailer, I don't know too much about what the requirements are to live in an Airstream. Will the utilities cost an arm and a leg? And clearly I cannot purchase my own land and just park the thing on it and start living! I know it's more involved than that. So is anyone else doing this - living permanently for a year or more - in an Airstream trailer (not RV)? If so, do you have any advice/help, stories, etc.? Good idea? Bad idea? Either/or with reservations? Thank you all so much. (New poster here.)
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Old 11-11-2012, 09:18 PM   #2
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Why not just buy a park model and live in a trailer park?
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Old 11-11-2012, 10:15 PM   #3
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Why not just buy a park model and live in a trailer park?
Very true. The difference in headroom and the straight vertical walls make for a much roomier feeling.

And in general, the only advantage of an AS is in travelling in it. Park it and you're further ahead with a square trailer.
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Old 11-11-2012, 10:29 PM   #4
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Yup!!

Totally agree with prior posters. Airstreams are expensive, and do require maintenance to prevent leaks, etc. Their whole forte is travel... they travel better than any other RV out there.

You might want to look at Tumbleweed Tiny House Company for tiny houses - which have a cool factor of their own.

A park model home and RV's all have one big unpredictable future. That is the ever increasing cost of energy and the tax burden of park owners. Most RV's including Airstream aren't built primarily for energy efficiency, so heating, cooling and utility costs will continue to escalate. What happens with the "zoning wonks" is another big deal too.

Of course if you got a tiny house/engineered home on your own land you could help cut costs and conserve energy by simple things like washing dishes without running a gallon of water, taking boondocking showers (bucket of soapy water, scrub thoroughly, rinse), insulating properly and using shade to effectively avoid (or capture) thermal gain, using natural light whenever possible, using LCD lights, and on and on.

Good luck whatever you do.

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Old 11-11-2012, 10:33 PM   #5
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I think Lindsay already said that she wanted to live in an AIRSTREAM, not some other RV.

Stick with it Lindsay. There are people with imaginations here and they will show up sooner or later. They might have real world experience too.

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Old 11-11-2012, 11:04 PM   #6
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Airstream or park model

For what you are planning the park model may be the best option. Much less maintenace and upkeep than an Airstream, also less investment. The park model has house type plumbing, no tanks, just hook up the water hose, elec. cable, and sewer line and you are ready to go. I use a 40' Idle Time park model for my job, I live in it half the time and it is quite comfortable. Dual air & heat, 220 volt, electric cook stove, large bath room, all very efficient. In the Texas / Louisiana area the ex-Fema trailers are still available, the park models were selling in the 5 to 7000 dollar range, not sure now. You can google fema trailer for sale, it may give you an idea.
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Old 11-12-2012, 12:30 AM   #7
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Hello all,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I thought that purchasing a used Airstream trailer (in 'great' or 'excellent' condition) would be best for me because the costs seem so much lesser than were I to purchase a house or rent a house/apartment.

In the LA area, mobile homes are near the same price as single-family homes (and town houses, condos, etc.). I was hoping to own something of my own and for not too much. In Los Angeles, a basic house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in a "good" area starts around $450,000; out of my budget. A one-bedroom apartment in a "good" area starts around $1,500/month; my budget, but wasteful. (The cost of housing were I to rent an apartment for the three years I am - signed, sealed, delivered! - committed to Los Angeles will be over $54,000.)

I thought spending $30,000 or so on an Airstream (not including the cost of land/space & utilities/hook-ups) would be much better. I am not ready to commit to one place "forever", hence the mobility of an Airstream (clearly more mobile than a mobile home). I am also not going to live in it for more than five years, max. After my three-year commitment is up, I want to travel around the US. I also considered an Airstream for that reason.

I do have people in my life who could assist were repairs to come up, and family in the area in case of any Airstream crises, and so on. I could learn what I can, read books, tinker around...

I simply want to know if it's feasible, life in an Airstream. Could I find someone with a lot of land in the LA area and park it out back? Do I need some sort of foundation? Certainly I could just live in a long, flat, cement driveway. What hookups ARE required? I know toilets are issues on RV's, buses, etc., but I could set up a compost toilet system. I just need a bit of advice; a story, book, blog, what-have-you that could point me in the right direction. If you truly think there's a better alternative, do let me know. If you think this is a decent idea, do let me know, even if you can't assist much further than that (it would boost my confidence in my search for answers!) Thank you for all your help!
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Old 11-12-2012, 12:57 AM   #8
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Lindsay,
My wife and I live full-time in our '27FB. Due to my job, we'll be in northern California (near San Francisco) for a few years and quickly tired of the steep housing costs in Silicon Valley. As it as, we had been shopping Alirstreams for a while, so we decided to buy in early July. We are parked in an RV park and are fully hooked-up when not traveling.

By comparison, the cost of living is much cheaper versus renting. I pay a monthly "rent" which includes full hook-ups (water, sewer, electric) and cable TV. Beyond rent , I pay only for dedicated high speed internet through Comcast.

This type of living is not for everyone, so be sure you will be ok with mall spaces. I'd be happy to elaborate on anything or answer any questions you might have - send me a PM anytime.

Good luck.

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Old 11-12-2012, 04:36 AM   #9
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Go for it

I agree with SmokeLess Joe. Anybody can have a park model. But we are a special breed (cooler ) and probably dream in color and 3D. So go for it. You'll learn-as-you-go. Sal
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Old 11-12-2012, 07:53 AM   #10
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I would look at an Arctic Fox or Nash travel trailer. You can buy a new unit for what you would pay for a used A$.
They have double pain windows and are more suitable for full time living than the A$. IMHO
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Old 11-12-2012, 09:50 AM   #11
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Lindsay,

Yes, you can live life in an Airstream. We (a family of three) are doing that now. We do spend most of our time on the road, but when you get right down to it, the only difference with what you're looking at is that our scenery changes.

Are some other RVs (and for that matter houses, apartments, and yurts) better for what you want? Maybe. With everything, there is a tradeoff. What is it that you want? What is important to you?

We could easily have a lot more of both living and storage space than we do now if we had chosen a fifth wheel or class A with slides and basement storage. We could have better insulation. Or we could have stayed in our sticks & bricks house and kept all our stuff.

But the Airstream makes us happy. We enjoy being in it, and we enjoy being on the road with it. Why would you spend your time and money on something that doesn't make you happy? If an Airstream does it for you, then it is a good choice for you. Maybe not for anyone else, but it is a good one for you.

As I said above, I don't really see your desired lifestyle as fundamentally different than any other fulltimer. You're just sitting in one spot for a long period of time. Checking out the blogs of those who do live in our Airstreams will give you an idea of what it is like. The Chinese Buffalo and Weaselmouth are, I think, the ones closest to what you want to do. From there, go read some others.

Go to a dealership and spend a few hours in one (or more) Airstream(s). "Try out" living in one, go in the shower, try out the bed, figure out where you would keep your various items. Does it work? Will you be happy? If so, go for it. If it doesn't work, there is always a market for Airstreams. So you'll get at least a good part of your money back out of it. Can you say that for renting?

Good luck and please let us know what you decide and how it works for you.
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:47 AM   #12
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Airstreams or any other brand with wheels would be doable BUT getting a movable home is easier than parking it. Find a good location, check per month cost of lot and who supplies utilities. Check zoning, permanent living is usually controlled in all incorporated areas, farmland or rural usually less control but not necessarily safe.
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:48 AM   #13
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Kyle is right, first find out what you think you'd be comfortable in and then plan on the next largest model (people usually do). Once that's done before you buy, hunt down RV parks convienant to where you want to live and visit them, talk to the folks living there, check out full timers. Once settled you can have your RV delivered to the site and if you want to move it, there is always someone who can, or you can rent a truck to do so to the next stop. You may find that you'll be addicted and get your own tow vehicle and start a migration here and there, the world is your oyster, you be the pearl.

Best of luck
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:22 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by LindsayStove View Post
Hello all,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I thought that purchasing a used Airstream trailer (in 'great' or 'excellent' condition) would be best for me because the costs seem so much lesser than were I to purchase a house or rent a house/apartment.
Thanks for clarifying your goals and plans, Lindsay. And, to answer your question, yes, if carefully chosen you will most certainly get a wonderful Airstream for $30,000. One that, as you can see from the responses, many people can and do live in.

But in your place, I would first explore to confirm that there is real estate available where you can legally park, and hook up with power, water, and sanitary sewer, in what you call a "nice" section.

I for one will be interested to hear about exactly what is available to do that in LA. I'm guessing it will have to be in a trailer park, since most residential areas won't allow trailers "permanently" connected as an abode.

Good luck, and "see you down the road"!
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:42 AM   #15
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The biggest factor for you is to find a place to park it. Finding and buying a unit will then be easier. We stay in our Airstream 3 months of the year in a park in Florida. I do not like the park models much. Lots of people in our camp ground do. I would rather stay in an Airstream. And I think Airstreams are easier to resell than park models if you want to. We lease a space by the year. I will not say how much because compared to CA it will probably make you cry. If we decide we do not like the park or want to go somewhere else we can hook it up and move it. Water is in the lease and we pay electricity and propane. Have not turned the AC on so not sure how much a steady diet of AC would cost.
Heating may not be a problem in LA, but cooling will. A shady parking place, a covered space, or awnings all around help. If you end up with a older unit you might want to paint the roof white.
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Old 11-12-2012, 02:03 PM   #16
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I've lived in my 25' Safari for almost two years and having done the math; it's the least expensive way to live.
I live in rural WA so I've no zoning restrictions. That's the #1 issue you will face. #2 is "waste management" but all you need is acces to a septic field. #3 is electric service for your AC/micro wave....you'll need 30amp 110v RV plug-in. Propane you fill at a gas station as you use it and of course a water hose you must have.
At first I thought it a bit cramped but now I can't understand why anyone would want to burry a ton in cash/mortgage/rent with all that stress when life can be much simpler and kinder on the environment. Taxes are nominal compared to a standard abode and insurance costs will depend on where and how you intend to use it. I negotiated a lesser rate as my TT does'ent move and sits on blocks (to save the tires and stabilize the TT rock solid.)
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Old 11-12-2012, 02:19 PM   #17
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To give you an idea of the base rates at a nice RV park in San Dimas, it's $780 - $1,040 per month (depending on the view). East Shore RV Park Rates

>>(Heating is not necessary where I'll be living, the Los Angeles area.)

You're a hearty soul! In many areas of L.A. it can get into the low 30's during winter.
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Old 11-12-2012, 02:55 PM   #18
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I lived in a 27 ft 5th wheel in college for 2 yrs. It is doable with any trailer. If you end up getting an Airstream, try to get someone local to inspect it for you. There are folks on here that do that for free. There are a lot of hidden problems with older trailers that can cost you time and money. However, if you have $30k to spend on one you should be able to get a relatively new one. Some of the new ones have problems as well. I would do some research on here for a couple months before I even start looking. You can park in a drive way if there are no restrictions on RV's. Maybe even your folks driveway or yard depending on local regulations. There may also be some folks on here that will let you stay in their yard. I would take some time to familiarize yourself with RV's in general and how all the systems function. Appliances are common to all brands so anyone that has an RV can show you the ropes. I don't know about LA but here in the south there are lots of inexpensive trailer parks, some of these might not be safe. The biggest problem I had in college was living next door to a dumpy trailer and having to put up with drunks etc.

Perry
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Old 11-12-2012, 04:48 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindsayStove View Post
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I thought that purchasing a used Airstream trailer (in 'great' or 'excellent' condition) would be best for me because the costs seem so much lesser than were I to purchase a house or rent a house/apartment.
You'll have to find out what lot rent costs in the areas you're considering. The suburban campgrounds that are open year 'round in my area charge around $800 a month plus utilities. Some have restrictions on how long you can stay, sometimes because of zoning. I would suggest that you start there.

Quote:
I simply want to know if it's feasible, life in an Airstream.
It seems to work out for single people and sometimes, couples. For a family it's not enough room.

Quote:
Could I find someone with a lot of land in the LA area and park it out back?
Zoning regulations and city/state ordinances are the main barrier. In some areas you could pull it off.


Quote:
Do I need some sort of foundation?
No.

Quote:
What hookups ARE required? I know toilets are issues on RV's, buses, etc., but I could set up a compost toilet system.
As a practical matter, you need water, electricity, and sewer hookups. Of these, sewer hookups pose the most serious practical challenge and also pose the largest regulatory compliance problem; it's difficult to get something workable installed in someone's back yard (though it can be done). Established campgrounds with seasonal (long-term) sites have these hookups available.

I have not seen any success stories involving composting toilets in RVs. In general there isn't enough room, and even in larger structures, they do not work especially well. There are also code compliance problems in many jurisdictions.

Quote:
I just need a bit of advice; a story, book, blog, what-have-you that could point me in the right direction. If you truly think there's a better alternative, do let me know.
Start by traveling in one, or at least taking a week-long trip in a rented RV even it it's a different make. It will help you decide what's important.
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Old 11-12-2012, 08:45 PM   #20
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Lindsay,

You are starting to get some replies that will bolster your confidence. Yes, you can live for long periods of time in an Airstream. Many people have done it and are doing it right now. They call themselves “full timers”. Many travel but I suspect that some are semi-permanently moored too.

Neither do you need to be parked in a conventional “trailer park”.

Your main requirements are water, electricity and what Del Gurney called waste management.

When I “contemporized” my 1976 Argosy by Airstream 5 years ago, one of my most important and useful additions was a Waste Management Compartment. You can see it at post # 526 on my main thread, here:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f227...tml#post609016

Why do I so often call it the best single thing I did in the remodel? Because it gives flexibility: you are not tied to a trailer park.

You can be parked out in an orchard, behind someone’s big red barn. Or in a vineyard. Or shipyard. Or on somebody’s driveway. The possibilities are endless so long as you can access water, power and a place to dispose of sewage. This can be a sewer, a septic tank, a clean out stack, even a nearby toilet if you have a macerator.

When I’m not traveling I keep my trailer under 3 giant shade trees at a Fairgrounds in the middle of a small Ontario town. It’s secluded and private yet I am but minutes from the main shopping street and the other resources that you accumulate in a smaller place.

The water and sewer are 100 feet away, the power about half that. The macerator easily pumps sewage that distance through a 1” hose – and it’s slightly uphill.

When I’m on the road – I’m just back from a 93-day trip and I’ve been out for as long as 171 days- I stay at conventional campgrounds only about half the time. The rest is unconventional overnight (and sometimes longer) parking roadside, gypsy style. I’ve parked not just at shopping centers but at marinas, alongside bays, brooks and inlets, oceanside, next to a waterfall, in a pine grove next to an old Baptist church, lakeside on the campus of Louisiana State University – you get the picture.

All these beautiful spots are free and they brought my average accommodation cost down to $20.12 per night on the last long trip.

I recognize that I had the luxury of custom building something like a Waste Management Compartment, since I had gutted an old trailer and was starting anew.

But you can achieve the exact same thing without a permanent install. See the options here:

Sani-Con System

If you manage to get an Airstream, this can be the next best $500 you’ll spend. It also makes one of the most unpleasant parts of trailer life just another easy to-do-task. Especially in the middle of a semi-private California orange grove.


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