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Old 02-17-2014, 11:28 AM   #1
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Fast Eddie & Kool Karen's Decision Process To Date (long)

I just thought I’d post as to how our RV decision is going so far. I’m sure its a process others have gone through or may be going through right now.

Karen and I road trip well together. We even camp out at BMW motorcycle rallies from time to time. In 2008 we did a long trip up through Canada in our Honda Element with our (then) three dogs. We camped a handful of times, and spent the rest of the time staying with friends and a couple nights in motels.

It was doable, and fun, but it left us hankerin’ for some kind of an RV down the road

Decision 1 came after selling a second home, right near our current home, that we had planned on renting. After investing most of the proceeds, we figured we could earmark about $60,000 towards some sort of RV. In truth, we could go a little more if the perfect setup came along.

Decision 2 was whether to go with a motor home or a tow vehicle/trailer combo. Pros and cons for each, naturally. We went to the RV show in Tampa about a month ago with an open mind. We left more confused than ever, but pretty much decided on the tow vehicle/trailer combo. Main reasons were that, in truth, whatever we got would only be used a handful of times per year, and having a tow vehicle to use when not traveling would be more practical than just having a motor home sit. Plus, we have plans to travel with a total of six people (kids and grandkids) and getting them all safely belted into an RV seemed difficult.

Decision 3 was what to do about a tow vehicle. We owned a 1993 Toyota Land Cruiser (just sold) that would have worked, but at 21 years of age and needing some minor repairs we were not sure we’d trust it on long trips any more. As beginners, we wanted to limit ourselves to a relatively small and light trailer, at least to start. We eliminated pickups since we would be traveling with either 4 dogs or family, and thought even an extended crew cab would be tight. We considered an MB Sprinter, a Ford Expedition, and a Toyota Sequoia. Partially due to posts about the Sprinter and its transmission on this site, we figured a more conventional vehicle would be more practical and reliable, and ended up pretty much zeroing in on a Ford Flex, which I’ve posted about elsewhere. In any case, its a 2011 Limited with EcoBoost and factory tow package, so it was set up pretty much exactly as we wanted. Towing capacity is 4,500 lbs. At $26k, it nominally leaves us with about $34k for a trailer, though as I said we could stretch that a bit.

Decision 4 is where we are right now: what kind of travel trailer do we want?

We’re on this site because of the appeal of the Airstream. It’s iconic Americana. It’s long term durability is unquestionable. It’s “cool”. And having an online community like this to bond with is a real plus as well.

We looked at two used 19’ Airstreams at Bates RV in Naples, FL prior to the RV show, and took a long look at the various models at the RV show. We also looked at a couple recently, including a new Flying Cloud 20, at Chilhowee RV in Louisville, TN - our nearest dealer.

Impressions so far are mixed. The first and most obvious hurdle is price. That 20’ FC was listing in excess of $60k. We could swing that if it was just perfect for us, but we did not care for the E/W sleeping arrangement in the nose of the trailer. I’m 6’1” and would just fit, but whoever slept on the “inside” would have to climb over the other person to get into or out of bed. When we stayed in a friend’s trailer in Lake Placid on the same trip, having the bed as an “island” seemed to be a much better floor plan. In addition, I saw what appeared to be the dreaded “filiform” corrosion already forming on the door handle of a brand new unit. I rubbed it hard with my thumb and most was just on the surface - but not all.

And that leads me to a large negative in our view. This is a wonderful site, and we’re aware of how problems spring to the forefront and get emphasized - people with zero problems are far less likely to post about it.

But still, seeing pictures of rotted flooring and people chasing down multiple leaks on relatively new Airstreams (2007 and 2008 for example) is cause for concern. And then there’s the corrosion. I don’t want something that will turn into a project in just 6 or 7 years - at least not at Airstream prices. The apparent lack of quality control and iffy customer support also give us pause.

In Googling “aluminum travel trailers” we did come across the CampLite series by LivinLite. They boast no wood used in their construction. After looking at maybe a dozen photos of rotted wooden floors, this for us was a major selling point:

Admittedly, we have not seen one in person. It looks like the 21BHS “Bunkhouse” model would suit our needs nicely - at about half the cost of a new Airstream. Can sleep six and has an “island” bed and with a dry weight of around 3,500 lbs the Flex should tow it nicely, I think.

In any case, there’s a dealer with one just west of Knoxville and we have a Knoxville trip planned next weekend, so we plan on checking it out.

Like I say, we’re still undecided at this point, and are open to input from any source. We live right where GA/TN/NC all come together, and would love to get together with any Airstream owners in the area who might want to chat about them.

Thank you for your patience if you managed to wade through this to the end!

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Old 02-17-2014, 12:04 PM   #2
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Well, it really looks like you are thinking this through. A few comments:

The longevity/durability of the Airstream is in its shell alone, and it is the vintage shells that were made of 2024 T3 Alclad that are the real survivors. As you have noted, rotting floors and corrosion (to some extent) are common on practically all years of Airstream.

All trailers/RVs are high maintenance, will leak, and share many of the same appliances, etc. regardless of the manufacturer of the trailer. I'll go out on a limb here and propose that for every report of corrosion or rotting floors, there are dozens of complaints about dripping air conditioners, non-cooling refrigerators, non-flushing toilets, etc. that are all "third party" items you will find in any trailer out there.

It sounds like your decision comes down to a matter of taste, budget, and practicality.

My taste and that of most of the participants on this forum favors the aesthetic of an Airstream over any of the competing products--if your love of the art form isn't enough to help you turn a blind eye to some of the short-comings, then maybe an AS isn't what you want.

As for budget, you might be surprised what you can buy in an AS that isn't brand new. You might be able to find something in the 80's or 90's vintage that is well below your budget threshold, and still in fine shape (or can be repaired and still stay well below your budget).

Practicality is going to trump taste. As you mention, there are other light trailers out there made with aluminum frames and floors, or fiberglass shells, that rival the durability of an AS shell. You will probably also find that the squared off conventional trailers can more efficiently sleep ~6 people without going to a very long AS. I suppose it is similar to any other "classic" car. There are the guys who want to drive a 60's vintage Ford Mustang because that is their taste, and they are willing to forego the safety and reliability of a modern vehicle, and there are those who drive Toyotas almost entirely based on their reputation for reliability.

good luck!

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Old 02-17-2014, 12:08 PM   #3
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Like I'm sure you've seen here before, I'd suggest you watch the Forum's Rally Schedule (as well as find out where your nearest WBCCI unit is located) and attend one or two of their rallys. You'll get good answers to any questions you may have. Wish you good luck in your search, and as always, please continue to submit your search experiences and eventual decision.

An RV is exactly like a hobbyist's boat or airplane - they will all need attention & repairs.
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Old 02-17-2014, 01:32 PM   #4
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Fast Eddie & Kool Karen's Decision Process To Date (long)

I own a 40 year old A$ product. I expected to do some serious work to it. Simply because of it's age.
When I read the problems that people are having with A$ that are less than 10 years old and some less than 5 years.
I have to ask myself. Would I buy a new or nearly new A$?
The answer for new would be NO!
While used, relatively new units drop in price significantly when compared to new. They are still pricy.
We have had our coach for 4 years and it has worked OK for us. Would there be things I would look for that I don't have in this coach. Certainly, but that would be the case with any unit you buy.
Going to a Rally of any sort, be it antique cars, RV's etc.. In my opinion you will only get input from people who love what ever it is. Cars, motorcycles, travel trailers. They all say the same thing. "They own it because it's the best thing". Whatever the 'best thing" is.
I think you are smart to have done the research.
Good Luck in your quest.
Knowledge: "A gift to be shared. A treasure to receive."
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Old 02-17-2014, 03:08 PM   #5
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Thanks for the feedback so far.

Yes, we have a couple of Airstream rallies penciled in, even if we just show up with our Element or Flex and a tent. Ones coming up in N GA and SC come to mind.

Like I said, we've gone back and forth. Spent many hours perusing the classifieds, looking at Airstreams all over the country.

whitsend mentioned other hobbies. We have several motorcycles, including a BMW with a sidecar, none newer than an '05. And 4+ acres of wooded property.

And this:

So, in spite of being retired, its not like we're in dire need of another time consuming hobby.

So something requiring a lot of maintenance and/or restoration is probably not what we're looking for. At least not right now.

Anyway, keep the suggestions coming. We're in no hurry, but want to be all set up by this summer for a cross country adventure.
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Old 02-17-2014, 04:57 PM   #6
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There are several simple facts one must understand.

All brands of rv's leak.

All brands of rv's have other issues.

All brands of rv's take more care and feeding than a simple exterior wash and vacuuming the floors before dropping them off at the uncovered lot for 4 months of out of sight and out of mind storage.

One can find many more stories of roof leaks and delaminated foam walls of SOB rvs on the web than all the stories here combined.

My favorite thing to say is "ain't nobody, no where remodeling a 40 year old fiberglass sided trailer. "

They are all in the landfill, aluminum frame or not.

All that being said, Airstreams are not for everyone. The have a small feel, they have a lot a storage but it is not the same as the "basement" space of a fifth wheel. They are just different.

Look at all the rv trailers you can find. If you even think an Airstream is what you want, look at every single one you can get inside of.

The right rv will speak to you, as hokey as that sounds.

But, if you think smaller trailer just feels cute and just right, buy the next bigger size.

Trust me.


Jeff & Cindy
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Old 02-17-2014, 05:34 PM   #7
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Some of this might have been covered in your tow vehicle thread (I stay out of there for various reasons, as you'll see below) so I might be reiterating things here:

I've towed with the Flex Ecoboost. To use a cliche, it pulls like a train. I would talk to Andy Thomson ( or Andrew_T on the forums) and find out what you need to do to reinforce the hitch. Then I'd go out and get a late-model used 23' or 25' Airstream with a more comfortable bed arrangement.

Yes, you'd be towing over the tow rating. But an Airstream is a very stable towing trailer with great aerodynamics (probably easier to pull than the lighter Camplite) and the Flex has the wheelbase, power, and brakes to do it. Also, given your choice of plane, I'm pretty confident that you're comfortable assessing risk and perhaps thinking outside the box.

If you're considering non-Airstreams, look at an Evergreen Element. They stopped making them because they sold poorly (near-Airstream prices) but are very light, aerodynamic, all-composite, and have better floor plans for your wants.

Now: 2007 Safari SE 23' "Anne" towed by 2011 Dodge Durango "Herman"
Before: Argosy Minuet and T@B, towed by various Honda Odysseys
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Old 02-17-2014, 06:22 PM   #8
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Evergreen was interesting but is gone, it has no history as Airstream of about 80 years now, and no warranty will be available. Same w all the white boxes. See if you can find one in as good a condition as an Airstream 10-15 years old more or less 50-60 years old. Regarding your TV and pulling a '23 or '25 of any brand, I would be extremely careful. Keep in mind your TV has a rating for a reason and if you go over it you ay put yourselves in danger and if something does happen you may not have any warranty as you violated the warranty when you went over the max load limits. Along with a great product that does last almost forever, you get a community dedicated to keeping them on the road and helping one another. You will also get lots of new friends and be able to join in great gatherings from coast to coast and more. We have had three and are on our fourth. Loved them all. We are going smaller, had a 29, '30, '28 and now a '25. Sure it will need maintenance, what rig doesn't. You are welcomed to any of our rallies anytime. Good luck.
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:15 PM   #9
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Hey Eddie and Karen,
It is true that there are issues with streams, and, as others pointed out, the brand does not stand alone to problems. I will say that you can get a used 5-6 year old Airstream for about the price of a "higher end" SOB. My shopping 2010-2012 led me to Airstream- and then to a used model. I believe I shared with you about the "roof difference" and about fiberglass and metal as the best for longevity. I do not know what your intent, if it be to go camping and have the camper 20 years, etc., My opinion is that most all campers are designed to last about 20 years (the structure) with minimal travel. Airstreams seem to have a design that is good for ongoing travel. My thought as to why Airstream outlasts other trailers is because they cost more and people tend to take better care of them and the 10yr roof replacement ($3-10K) on SOB trailers must signal the end of life (willingness for financial outlay?) whereas the Airstream just needs more Acryl-R! Ironically the "RV features" like fridge, AC, etc last about 10 years. I have an '06 that was put into service in '07 and the fridge was going out this year. The dealer said that 7-10 years is average now for those as the corrosive inhibitor was regulated out of production by the EPA. The point is that RVs are definitely maintenance items. Buying new has a grand premium. Before learning about leaking Airstreams I saw several SOB fifths and trailers that had leaked in the walls. Neither is good but I am not sure what you can do with walls like I saw. The floor is at least replaceable in parts if need be.

I chose Airstream because 1) The "big wig" RV guy at the show talked against his own product and told me to get something with a fiberglass roof or metal roof. He made the roof a vital consideration to me; 2) I wanted to buy used if possible and save some money. The AS market was larger than any other metal or fiberglass roof trailer; 3) I knew I would need help learning and dealing with any maintenance issues and needed a support group. I found this forum packed with answers, and too, with concerns- a large support network; 4) I found a used model that had most of what I was looking for at a decent price, and, 5) I have been learning about my Airstream for two years now, adding features, goodies, prepping for travels and taking some trips too. I have outfitted it well and while it is not new, there isn't any feature that I do not have aside from solar or slide outs. It has some battle scars on the skin from the previous owner (the one I left has been fixed!) but it is a great trailer. A coworker bought a new trailer last year. He has had all kinds of problems. I will say that it is a retro design. He told me that he was getting rid of it this weekend if possible at a show and getting something else.

I hope the best for you and your travels. No one can tell you what to buy. I would strongly suggest something used though. Just be aware you may have to work on it or replace things but it will be vastly cheaper than buying new.
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Old 02-18-2014, 05:28 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by StreamNTyme View Post
Evergreen was interesting but is gone, it has no history as Airstream of about 80 years now, and no warranty will be available.
You're thinking of Earthbound. Evergreen is very much alive - in fact, they are again making the Element but in a bigger, less-expensive model. (The one I'm suggesting is the 2011-2012ish single axle 24' model.)

Would that trailer still be going in 60 years? Probably not - but nor will most of us here.

Now: 2007 Safari SE 23' "Anne" towed by 2011 Dodge Durango "Herman"
Before: Argosy Minuet and T@B, towed by various Honda Odysseys
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:31 AM   #11
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Decision made

After much agonizing, we just put a deposit down on a CampLite 21BHS at a dealer in Illinois.

We still love the Airstreams, and there may still be one in our future.

In the CampLite, we really appreciated the lack of any wood - the aluminum floor and frame were especially appealing.

The ability to sleep 6 will be nice for traveling with the grandkids. This is the "bunkhouse" model:

And we like the "island" configuration of the bed:

In any case, it will be a few weeks before we can drive up to tow it home.

And we still hope to remain part of this community - at the very least we are planning to attend the upcoming N GA rally if all goes well.

And we're even have considering a personal tag: "SOB"

Probably already taken.
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:40 AM   #12
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Lack of wood is a good thing, especially for the floor-
I still like wood cabinets, though.
Maybe Airstream will have an aluminum floor one day.
I think Thor has bought Camp Lite recently.
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Old 03-06-2014, 12:52 PM   #13
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Congratulations on your new find! We would love to have you join us for the North Georgia rally. Everyone is welcome with whatever they have or have not to camp in. Looking forward to meeting you and seeing your new camper.

Kathy, Tommy, & Crew, Chattanooga, TN
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Old 03-07-2014, 07:20 AM   #14
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Thanks, guys!

Our Flex is rated to 4,500 lbs and has the factory receiver and 7-wire connector installed. On the advice of a local trailer shop, we had them install a Tekonsha "Voyager", which they felt would be perfectly adequate.

The dealer has quoted us $550 installed for a Reese model #49587:

Trailer Hitches - Reese

I see them on Amazon for around $250, but I don't mind throwing a little the dealer's way to get it installed properly and to instruct us on its use.


1) Do you guys think that's an appropriate WD hitch?

2) Would you recommend a bit extra for something with sway control? If so, "dual cam" or "friction"?

Here are the specs on the trailer and TV:

Dry Weight: 3,499
Hitch Weight: 250
GVWR: 5,000
Flex tow rating: 4,500 with WD hitch
Flex maximum tongue weight: 450 with WD hitch

From the above, am I to assume they don't think a "engine oil cooler" is necessary on the EcoBoost model, which I have? And does the fact that the TV has sway control affect the need for add'l sway control?

Thanks, and I'm hope I'm not imposing on the community in any way.

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