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Old 12-31-2011, 03:26 PM   #1
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Vernon , Texas
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Where do I start?

Hi! I recently decided to buy a TT to live in, and was hoping I could get some help from you more experienced ones. I have a lot to say in this post, so i'll start with the background of how I came to my decision.

One thing i've learned from reading the forums is that you need to try living in a trailer or motorhome before giving up a house. I don't own or rent so that's not an issue. Plus I know that I could handle it. I lived in a motorhome for 6 months. I just rented it, so I know owning would be different but better, right? I could make the changes that i want to my home, instead of living in someone elses.
The reasons i've decided to full time are the simplicity of living, and while the cost may not be that much cheaper than renting a small apartment, there's no hassle of finding another place to live. If I want to move to California all I have to do is find a place to park it and get there.

With the decision to full time settled, now I have to decide if Airstream is a good fit for me, and that's one of the things I need help with. I found this article when doing research earlier this year. HofArc Airstream Renovation — Architecture-Design -- Better Living Through Design
This is what made me want an airstream. I've always thought they looked really cool on the outside. But this renovated trailer reminds me more of a home than a trailer. I realize that with my skills and finances I won't be able to gut and start from scratch the way he did. But I could get close, and have an inviting home to come to wherever life takes me.

Is there anyone who full times in an airstream and parks for long periods of time at a certain location? I'm talking a year or more. I've also seen that some think it would be better to get a 5th wheel or park model for living in one area, but I don't really like that idea. I guess i'm just stuck on the idea of living in an Airstream. However, if you know of a 5th wheel brand that is quality made, let me know. I'm willing to keep my mind open. Also, i'm not buying new. I want to be able to renovate whatever I buy to my taste. So something structurally sound within the budget of about $5,000. I just need some ideas on where to start my more in depth research.

I appreciate any help I receive. Thanks. Sloan.

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Old 01-02-2012, 07:56 PM   #2
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Sloan, welcome to the forum. I'm sure that there is someone who does or has done what you are considering.

Some things to consider about an Airstream are the construction and storage space. From what I've gathered from my reading here, the polished aluminum skin of an Airstream can make for a hot or cold trailer, depending on the outside temperature. You will probably need to use a dehumidifier for at least part of the year. Storage space is not huge, but if you get a big enough coach it is doable.

You don't say whether you will be completely alone in your Airstream, or whether you have a spouse or pets with you. You also don't indicate whether you will be needing home office space in the Airstream. All of those factors will determine the size of the coach you need.

A fifth-wheel coach will have more living space for the same overall length as a travel trailer, and will have more storage space, too, but at a cost of a taller vehicle and more stairs. An Airstream will have two steps up from the ground to a completely level floor, while a 5'er will have 3-5 steps from the ground to the main floor and three more steps up to the bedroom/bath level. The 5'er will also offer 2-4 slides that can significantly increase the living space, but at the cost of additional maintenance and leak possibility. Cutting large holes in walls also significantly weakens the wall.

A 5'er requires a pickup to pull it, and no shell cap is permitted. An Airstream can be pulled by the same pickup, with or without a shell cap, by a full-size van, or by a full-size SUV. What do you want as your daily driver?

The choice is yours. What fits us probably isn't the best solution for you. One of the best things you can do is to visit an Airstream rally and talk to people. If you have some extra time, go down to PPL in Houston and look at all the coaches they have there.

Enjoy the learning, and then enjoy the hunt for the perfect coach. It is out there, somewhere, just waiting for you to find it.

David Lininger, kb0zke
AIR 54240
Heartland mpg 181 (sold)
1993 Foretravel U300 (for sale)
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Old 01-02-2012, 08:44 PM   #3
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Trailer living

Slo-an, are you aware that you can rent a Airstream from most dealers? That might be the best way for you to judge size and fit of an Airstream in your plans. Ed
1967 Safari Twin "Landshark" w/International trim package
1999 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT
"My tire was thumping, I thought it was flat. When I looked at the tire, I noticed your CAT!" Burma Shave
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Old 01-02-2012, 08:58 PM   #4
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Hey! I know where you are...and we will be back thru there in June if we are lucky...

I've been following a pretty good forum on a couple who full time...

Journal Of Our RV Adventures

They track expenses and other stuff...hope it helps!
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Hi Ho Silver RV! Vernon, Sarah, Mac the Border Collie -
A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
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Old 01-02-2012, 09:13 PM   #5
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Hello again Sloan.

As I suggested when you asked similar questions six months ago, I would suggest that you share more of the specifics of your situation if you want useful help. Whether you are traveling alone or with others, your budget, etc.

In general most state and national parks impose fairly short maximum stay limits (usually around two weeks) because they believe that it is outside their mission to serve people seeking a longer-term place to live. There are exceptions for employees, like camp hosts, although even then it is difficult to arrange year-round stays.
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Old 01-04-2012, 10:24 PM   #6
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Oops I didn't mean to post something so redundant. Sorry Jammer. But thank you everyone for replying. I'll try to be more specific next time.
Thanks for the link HiHoAgRv. I think that will be really helpful. A lot of reading though.
Ya'll take care!
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Old 01-04-2012, 10:55 PM   #7
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When you say a budget of $5000, you mean just to buy it, right? Not the entire cost of the renovation? Because people tend to spend a LOT of money when they start renovating their vintage trailers, I've noticed.
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Old 01-04-2012, 11:13 PM   #8
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$5000 won't buy much...

If the $5000 figure was a purchase budget, then you may want to reconsider.. That will buy a small older trailer probably in serious need of restoration to make useful even for weekend camping.. While there are stories of exceptions, you'd have to be very persistent and very fortunate to find an Airstream for that price you'd want to live in.. The mid-size (23 28' lengths) with solid shells, frames, appliances and designer interior refurbs are going to be closer to 5 or 10 times that amount..

There are larger liveable trailers in the range of $10K to $15K, primarily because they require a more substantial tow vehicle to pull them... Even they would be at least 15 to 20 years old, and likely with original interiors and potential appliance issues...

As the posts above suggest, Airstreams have relatively less storage capacity for "stuff" than other trailers, and there is a reason a majority of long-term RV residents lean towards 5th wheel trailers. If moving once or twice a year is part of the plan, you can hire trucks to move the trailer for prices in range of $1/mile, and avoid need to buy big heavy pickup truck as tow vehicle...

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 01-07-2012, 09:36 PM   #9
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I did mean that I wanted to spend 5000 on the trailer. But I expected the cost of the trailer, and the work, to come out to 10k - 15k depending on what needed to be done. Just about anything over 5k is more than what I can afford without help from my folks. And if I can help it, I don't want to get in debt. So I thought I could buy a trailer outright for around 5k.(I can easily save it up) I'ld want it to have a good shell and working electrical and plumbing systems. Then, I could use the rest of my paychecks to work on what needed to be done. All while it sits next to my grandparents house. I guess this would only work if nothing major needed to fixed. But does that sound reasonable?
My Dad also thought that what I was wanting to do would cost more than I expected. My parents live in a Nu Wa fifth wheel and have suggested looking in to getting an older model. Mostly because they're ready to live in when bought and made for full time living. Awesome, right?The catch is that if I buy even an older model, for instance a '98, I would have to get a loan from my parents. Not that I don't appreciate their offer to help me, that would be great! But the thought of being stuck with payments for 2 years is a little scary. I don't know why, because I did this when I paid rent for my apartment all last year. Plus, like Condoluminum said, these trailers I've looked up still have the original interiors and I would want to update. I don't know if I could wake up every day to hunter green carpet and bad wall paper.
I'm sorry if I ranted. But I feel this is helping me clear up and organize my thoughts. Thanks!
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Old 01-08-2012, 07:47 AM   #10
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slo-an, you mentioned that you can save the $5000 "easily," so it sounds like you are able to put money aside. With that in mind, I'd suggest that you start saving the money now. While you are doing that, do some serious research on your "mission profile" (as I mentioned above) and visit as many Airstreams as you can, of all vintages. Spend some time with the Classifieds on this site, as well as NADA. Between the two you will soon get a feel for what your $5000 can get you. Remember that a trailer that is $5000 and takes $5000 more to bring up to snuff will not be worth $10,000, but more like $7-8000.

Don't start looking to buy anything until you have at least $5000 in the bank. Then, start your serious searching. It sounds like you have a place to stay now, but you are wanting your own place that maybe can move elsewhere at some point in the future, and a towable RV might be a good way to accomplish that. While you are seriously searching, your bank account will be growing, so you will soon have more than your original $5000 available. That will let you either get a somewhat better trailer or give you a head start on the repairs and renovations.

Have you ever done any renovation work? If not, you are in for a bit of a surprise. One "small" project quickly leads to a somewhat bigger one, which leads to a much bigger one. A friend of mine went to replace the kitchen sink in his house. By the time he was done he had replaced not only the kitchen sink, but all of the plumbing to and from it, back to where the water entered the house and to the main drain pipe.

Good luck with your research and hunting. The right trailer is out there, and will be ready for you at the proper time. Don't be in a hurry. If it doesn't seem right, keep looking. You'll know the right one when you see it.

David Lininger, kb0zke
AIR 54240
Heartland mpg 181 (sold)
1993 Foretravel U300 (for sale)
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