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Old 08-05-2013, 05:40 PM   #1
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Tell us the truth -are we crazy?

My husband and I are looking at going back to school for a total of 4 years between us. These four years will be followed by a few years filled with many moves due to my husband's chosen career. As we think about what the best plan will be for the two of us and the family that we hope to have one day, we're considering moving out of our expensive apartment and in to an Airstream.

If we sell everything of value that we own, we're looking at being able to purchase something in the 3,000-4,000 range. We want to renovate the inside so that it will be comfortable for two people, two cats, and a rabbit (long story) to live in full-time. We're thinking hardwood floors, composting toilet, etc.

Given that we're homebodies who are looking at moving several times in the coming years, we're thinking that it would be ideal if we could invest in a home that we could take with us. Given that our current rent is 1,200 we're thinking that it may even possibly save us money.

We would love to hear from some people with experience--are we crazy? Will this be an energetic and financial drain? Or is the idea actually as good as it sounds?
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:02 PM   #2
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What an adventure! A few things to think about:
1. Even if you are planning on taking the inside aluminum out and putting new insulation in, an Airstream is probably not the warmest place to be in cold winters, unless you can move south for the winter.
2. Do you have someplace to put the trailer while you are working on it?
3. The cheaper the trailer, more than likely the more work you will need to put into it to make it livable. The more work it needs, the more tools and materials you will need, and those costs can quickly add up.
4. If you are both in school with jobs, every spare moment will be taken up by working on your Airstream if you are to finish before your four years of schooling are done. I really mean every spare moment.

So yes, you are probably crazy...but everyone here is a little nuts themselves. It will be an energy and money drain? Big time! Weigh the risk/reward ratio for yourself. For me, living in an Airstream was a major priority and I was willing to make some big sacrifices for it. If it is just a passing fancy and having an Airstream is not as important as saving money, get a white box trailer that is in livable shape for that kind of money.
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahweeks View Post
My husband and I are looking at going back to school for a total of 4 years between us. These four years will be followed by a few years filled with many moves due to my husband's chosen career. As we think about what the best plan will be for the two of us and the family that we hope to have one day, we're considering moving out of our expensive apartment and in to an Airstream.
I am not aware of any stories of people full-timing successfully with young children. In general, there isn't enough space. The people I know who work fair/festival/circus/carnival type circuits, who have kids, don't do it all year, have other parents with kids traveling with them, and generally stay in locations that have some sort of extra space that they can use at least part of the day.

Quote:
If we sell everything of value that we own, we're looking at being able to purchase something in the 3,000-4,000 range.
That's enough to buy a basket case, as long as you already have something to tow it with.

Quote:
We want to renovate the inside so that it will be comfortable for two people, two cats, and a rabbit (long story) to live in full-time. We're thinking hardwood floors, composting toilet, etc.
Typical renovations, starting with basket case $3000-$4000 airstreams, take about a year and cost $20,000.

Composting toilets are a poor fit for Airstreams because of the space they require and the fact that disposal of greywater is usually the most serious wastwater problem when boondocking.

Quote:
Given that we're homebodies who are looking at moving several times in the coming years, we're thinking that it would be ideal if we could invest in a home that we could take with us. Given that our current rent is 1,200 we're thinking that it may even possibly save us money.
Airstreams are many things but they are not an inexpensive lifestyle. Consider tow vehicle purchase and maintenance, fuel, and site rental costs.

In most areas it is not possible to boondock for free for an extended period with there being some exceptions in sparsely populated states well away from population centers and tourist attractions, e.g. parts of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota.


Quote:
We would love to hear from some people with experience--are we crazy? Will this be an energetic and financial drain? Or is the idea actually as good as it sounds?
You don't have the money lined up. With an Airstream the cheapest way to play the game is to look at 1980s-era trailers that have been cared for and kept inside so that they don't require any major work. Those can be picked up fairly easily for $10,000-$20,000. For planning purposes figure on getting a tow vehicle 10 years old or less. Off asphalt you'll need a 3/4 ton 4wd truck, van or Suburban, check prices yourself but in most parts of the country you'll see prices starting around $15,000.
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Old 08-05-2013, 07:09 PM   #4
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Listen to what the Jammer says....

and add the fact that it is almost impossible to live in AS while it is being renovated.

I have renovated a classic motorhome and a 31' trailer (see tags in signature line). I can attest that a rebuild is incredibly expensive and takes a long, long time.

Living space for two is adequate, barely.

I have spent many, many weekends in mine, sometimes with Mary and the pups, sometime by myself. I have also lived in it (mostly by myself) for two three month stints, and currently in Houston for the last six months - alone, but returning to TAHI on most weekends.

It's a great work platform for temporary (and cheap) housing since returning to the Houston work force after retirement.

Life for two in a trailer? It can be done, but you just about HAVE to be in a sewerage dumping environment for full time living....and electricity.

Good luck on your decision, I would suggest you purchase a "livable" unit and try it out for a while. If you purchase wisely you should be able to flip it if it does not work for the two of you without losing too much money.
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Old 08-05-2013, 08:03 PM   #5
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Some of your idea is fine, some is not going to work. On a $4000 budget, you can't buy and refurbish an Airstream realistically. But all is not lost. You can buy a unit that is liveable for that price. Maybe it will be an Airstream, if you have great luck, or maybe it will be some other brand (SOB).

I don't think we should all pour cold water on the idea. It's doable, but not as dreamy as you might like. I think for what you have in mind - "trailer life" might be perfect - at least for the adults. Bringing small babies into a trailer that is small, old, used? I dunno. I'm not a baby guy - never had one. Me, wife and small dog in a 25 footer is about as much as I could handle.

Most adventures are made possible by human will. It can be done.
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Old 08-05-2013, 08:27 PM   #6
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You'd have to be extremely lucky to find an Airstream for $4000 that's not a complete disaster. However, if you'd be able to up your budget to perhaps $16-20, then this could become a possibility. As Jammer said above, look for trailer from the 1980's. We bought our 1984 34' International for $19,000. Even though it was in excellent condition, no leaks, everything working, we still spent another $12k on renovating it. New floors, new upholstery, new beds, painting the interior. Unless you can do most of the work yourself, it soon adds up.

Composting toilets work extremely well these days and hardly use any more space than a regular toilet - we'll be installing one in our trailer next spring. Check out Nature's Head for details. However, keep in mind that a composting toilet alone will set you back $1000, including installation.

Winter living, there are a number of people on this forum who live in their trailer all year, in cold climes - one up in Alaska. It can be done, but it takes preparation and a willingness to put up with certain restrictions. You might, for example, not have running water in the trailer and shower at the gym. Condensation is another issue living in an aluminum tube during cold weather. If your travels take you to northern climes a heavily insulated white box trailer might just be the better option.

For full time living, keep in mind that in most places you can't just park a trailer in a friend's driveway of backyard and call it home - there's typically ordinances about that kind of thing. Which leaves you with either paying park fees, boondocking which is mostly very out of the way, or hoping you won't get caught if you do have a friend who's willing to let you park at the bottom of the garden. Of course, all of this is easier in a rural environment.

Think it through, up your budget and see where it takes you. There are many people out there successfully fulltiming, there are also families with thriving kids.

I hope it works out for you guys.
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Old 08-05-2013, 08:29 PM   #7
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If it were me. I would look for an Arctic Fox or Nash trailer. Used of course. They are more suited for living in the colder climates as well as warmer ones.
I know it's an SOB. Even if you had to make payments. There are a lot of RV parks around, especially in the southern part of the country. Where you can rent a FULL HOOKUP space for $500 or less a month. Given that you are now paying $1,200. There could be room for a modest payment on a better trailer.
All RV's are what I would consider HIGH maintenance. Especially if they are moved around a lot.
Also there is the TV.
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Old 08-05-2013, 08:36 PM   #8
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Will this be an energetic and financial drain?
Yes.
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:08 PM   #9
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....snip........

we're thinking that it may even possibly save us money.
"Save us money" and "RV" often ( usually ) do not go together, when you look at the overall picture.
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:44 PM   #10
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You are crazy :-)

My wife and I have 2 large dogs and 1 cat. I am finishing off my Doctoral degree here in Colorado Springs, and she just finished her BSN (Nursing). We don't have kids....yet. And we just purchased a 2012 27FB Airstream- newer, as School / work / Family take up all our time. I did the COMPLETE renovation thing on our last home- not a good thing while working, school, family, fulltime.

As another poster mentioned jokingly but true- "Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time." Not saying you need to buy a new. But when you buy your airstream, you have to have funds for: Taxes, Insurance, Tow Vehicle, Hitches, AS stock, pans, gas, propane, ladder, septic stuff, surge protector, electric cables, etc. And this is before you even start to fix it up!!!

With this all said, my wife and I are going to try full-timing here within the next month. I have an opportunity where my work will be remote from home, so why not live and work out of the airstream for awhile. Not sure it will work, but we are going to keep our rental home short-term and see. We are fortunate enough right now in our lives to be financially able to try this adventure.

Jason
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:51 PM   #11
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If you are going to be in one place for several months at a time you might be better off with something like a 5th wheel. If you are going to be moving every week or so then I would consider an Airstream. Airstreams are in their element when on the road. I lived in a 27 ft 5th wheel in college. My 31 ft Airstream is about the same size though. But there was just me and no cats. The times in the 5th wheel were some of the worst times of my life because it was a cheap run down trailer park with scary neighboors. Make sure you find a nice trailer park. You would be better to find a private lot somewhere and stay away from parks. By parks I mean the trashy type and not the resort type parks.


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Old 08-05-2013, 10:04 PM   #12
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Yep. Crazy.

You've romanticized an idea that is very problematic in a practical sense. Forgo the aethetic for now and focus on cheap.

Good luck on re-organizing your life! Downsizing is definitely in order considering the info you've given us, but I'd do it in a more practical (and cheaper) way, as others have suggested. Good luck!
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Old 08-05-2013, 10:08 PM   #13
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Adding to the above, an Airstream is a three season trailer. It will not work for extended periods below freezing temps. The plumbing will freeze up, the windows will condense moisture and drip inside the walls to rot the wood floor, the heater isn't adequate to to keep you warm when the temp drops.

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Old 08-05-2013, 10:08 PM   #14
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Wow! Thanks everybody for all of your responses! I want to clarify a few points, in case it will change the rest of your answers from this point out.

I don't think we'll be raising children in the unit, I was just thinking that might possibly be better for our financial future if we weren't paying rent for the next 5-7 years. A couple of people said that it is not an inexpensive way to go, but would it be less expensive than living in an apartment, once everything was put together to a point that we could live in it?

I think that more stationary units are not a consideration for us, based on the fact that we want to be able to tow it with us when we move from place to place. And as far as mobile units go, I'm in love with the look of the Airstream. I'm an artist, and aesthetics are extremely important to me. I want to be able to love coming home every day, especially if we're going to challenge ourselves by living in cramped quarters.

We do already have a towing vehicle, for the time being at least.
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