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Old 08-25-2013, 05:50 PM   #1
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Iíve been thinking about starting a part time business refurbishing AS trailers. I have good electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills along with decent mechanical skills. However, my experience in repairing and refitting RVs is limited to two SOB motorhomes and 1 airstream trailer; the one I currently use. Iíve enjoyed the work Iíve done in the past and think airstreams are the quintessential RV and worth specializing in. Has anyone on the forum had experience in this type of part time business and if so, what is your advice?
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:23 PM   #2
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Forgot to mention - I'm fond of the 34' AS and think this is a good type to focus on... thoughts on this too?
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:41 PM   #3
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That is a hard row to hoe. These things cost so much to refurb in terms of time and money that it would be hard to make a profit that way. As long as you have customers that know that a rebuilt trailer is going to cost about as much as a new one then your ok.

Perry
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Old 08-26-2013, 10:16 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by perryg114 View Post
That is a hard row to hoe. These things cost so much to refurb in terms of time and money that it would be hard to make a profit that way. As long as you have customers that know that a rebuilt trailer is going to cost about as much as a new one then your ok.

Perry
Perhaps a way to minimize costs would be to work on 34' trailers manufactured within a range of years, say 1986 - 1993. I understand these trailers have a more robust design (more rivets) than other years but I may be misinformed on that point Also avoid obvious disasters like extensive floor rot. Thanks for your point -I may wind up working for a negative profit margin.
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Old 08-26-2013, 11:01 AM   #5
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I would recommend doing a little market research, ie., try to figure out the geographic distribution of AS owners (or possibly AirForum members), and then make a guess at how far someone will be willing to tow their trailer to get help with a refurb/repair. Maybe you are in the right place, maybe not. You might also be able to figure out how many other professional restorers there are in your area, again, if you are in a highly competitive, market with well established competitors, then you have a tough time ahead of you.

Finally, focus on the stuff that most owners are not keen to do, ie., literally the heavy lifting. I would hazard a guess that most folks that get excited about buying a vintage trailer think that their efforts will be mostly above the subfloor. They gut the trailer with visions of how they are going to redo the floor, curtains, upholstery, and walls, only to find rear-end separation, rotting floors, and disintegrating frames. I would say that this is where you have a market. Specialize in the work beneath the subfloor, and you might find a real need, and steady work. Yeah, its not sexy, but it is manly!
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:09 PM   #6
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Many folks are ignorant and go ahead and remodel an ailing trailer and then they end up here doing a shell off or they just bought one of these hidden disasters. You will get better at fixing trailers the more you do. It may take a while before you get to a profitable point. You could also become an inspector for hire or a professional trailer finder.

Perry

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I would recommend doing a little market research, ie., try to figure out the geographic distribution of AS owners (or possibly AirForum members), and then make a guess at how far someone will be willing to tow their trailer to get help with a refurb/repair. Maybe you are in the right place, maybe not. You might also be able to figure out how many other professional restorers there are in your area, again, if you are in a highly competitive, market with well established competitors, then you have a tough time ahead of you.

Finally, focus on the stuff that most owners are not keen to do, ie., literally the heavy lifting. I would hazard a guess that most folks that get excited about buying a vintage trailer think that their efforts will be mostly above the subfloor. They gut the trailer with visions of how they are going to redo the floor, curtains, upholstery, and walls, only to find rear-end separation, rotting floors, and disintegrating frames. I would say that this is where you have a market. Specialize in the work beneath the subfloor, and you might find a real need, and steady work. Yeah, its not sexy, but it is manly!
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:08 PM   #7
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"I would say that this is where you have a market. Specialize in the work beneath the subfloor, and you might find a real need, and steady work. Yeah, its not sexy, but it is manly!"

You may have a point. Would trailers gutted to the frame inside with leaks fixed and sub floor repaired have a market? Just the empty shell/ frame ready for the complete redo; no interior skin.
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:22 PM   #8
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You would bear the burden of educating potential buyers of why your gutted trailers are any better than another gutted trailer. For a while I started refurbishing clairinets that I got off ebay. Well I found out that you can rebuild a clairinet and you can sell if for what you paid for it.

Perry
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Old 08-27-2013, 08:17 AM   #9
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I don't think you would want to buy trailers, do the sub-floor work, and then try to sell them at a profit, rather, you would offer the "foundation refurb" as a service, and let your customers bring their rotting trailers to you. This way, you have someone who has already admitted that the job is too much for them to tackle, and they have typically already come to understand what is needed to implement the needed repairs.

If you buy a trailer, do a bunch of work, and then try to sell it gutted as a "blank canvas," the potential customers will always see that as something less than a complete Airstream.

I also see a lot of posts by people who have trailers built before grey tanks were installed at the factory. They don't want to do a major rebuild, and they don't know where to start on retrofitting the grey tanks. This might be another niche you could work in. Again, anyone who has fiddled with a Blue Boy a few times will begin to understand the value of having installed grey tanks. Rather than specializing in trailers of certain years, develop a specialty in certain services.
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