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Old 08-16-2012, 03:30 PM   #1
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Newbie asks: Hidden Costs of Ownership?

Hello, new to the forum, but an avid fan. We are anticipating purchasing an airstream in the next 12-15 months, probably a new FC 25 Twin, or perhaps late model 25-28 ft range. I have been researching this site and other sources, visiting dealers, but I am wondering what the hidden costs of ownership are. I read about people waxing their trailers, winterizing, maintaining etc. Is there a rule of thumb? Say a percentage of the cost of the trailer? I am pretty handy with household maintenance (carpentry, wiring, plumbing etc.) but sometimes you need to have the expert do the work. How much can be done by a handy person? Also, I live in a sailing community and have lots of experience sailing "OPB" (other people's boats) and you know what they say about boats - hole in the water to throw money in. But boats (perhaps AS trailers too) have unique needs and because boats are "marine", you can multiple the cost x a factor of 10. How about AS's? Fussy? Easy to get along with? What can a person expect to spend on an annual basis to keep their AS in ship-shape fashion? Love to hear the wisdom of the crowd.

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Old 08-16-2012, 03:58 PM   #2
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Yours, is a "how blue is the sky today?" question.

If you've owned a boat for a spell, you can pretty much figure ownership in an AS will pretty much parallel.

Was your boat a Sea Ray or was it one at the opposite end of that spectrum? And as AS's age (just like Sea Ray's), you can expect your list of "projects" to grow.

I'm into my second year of owning a new AS, and am somewhat handy. To the extent that I would probably rather take care of something I know I can repair, rather than taking it to the dealership, even though our AS is still in warranty.

Hope I haven't muddied your waters too much with this answer.

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:00 PM   #3
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Welcome to the AS forum and I hope family. Hidden costs are not really hidden IMHO. If you purchase new, you will have a 2 year factory warranty which will cover any non routine maintenance problems. Routine maintenance is spelled out in the owners manual and includes washing, waxing, inspecting, checking, and what I call "oil can" maintenance. I do all this myself. For the annual running gear inspection and wheel bearing repack, I turn to the AS dealer. Typically this will cost about $125 per axle. After your monthly payment to the bank for the RV loan, the second recurring cost is storage, unless you live on property which has the room for self store, assuming no CCRs that prevent RV storage. Insurance is needed for collision/comprehensive. Your tow vehicle insurance should cover other state vehicular insurance requirement while towing. Insurance is the third recurring monthly cost. Annual license fees for the trailer are needed and will vary by state. Airstreams are not quite "trouble-free" but if you maintain them, trouble is minimized and you realize pride of ownership.
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:05 PM   #4
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I agree...having owed an SOB and an Airstream, I don't think the upkeep needs have been markedly different...that is, if one's sense of pride in ownership is consistent... The systems found in an AS are basically the same as those found in all other RVs...there might be some additional maintenance because it's got an aluminum exterior ... at the same time, SOBs get waxed as well. Vintage Airstreams get polished and that's something you don't see happening to vintage SOBs (if they are still on the road, that is). You have to insure, license, store all RVs, so that's a wash. Our sky is very very blue, though, and we would much rather put our blood, sweat and tears into an Airstream!

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:24 PM   #5
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Here, indoor storage costs about $3,000 a year. That's the single best thing to keep any RV fresh, dry, and clean. That's only $30,000 every 10 years.
Click on the link to see a picture of the Sioux River falls near my home.
Eastern South Dakota is very pretty with hills, rivers, and trees.
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Old 08-16-2012, 06:23 PM   #6
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Let's not forget about "accessorizing" and "upgrading" your rig, including but not limited to:
  • bike racks
  • upgraded tires/wheels
  • chargers/converters/inverters
  • battery systems
  • solar systems
  • Dinosaur board for furnace
  • bedding/mattresses
  • etc., etc.
the list goes on and on. It really becomes a hobby. I estimate I spend almost $1K a year on some new do-dads, excluding ordinary maintenance.
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Old 08-16-2012, 06:43 PM   #7
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No doubt the single best thing to preserve any RV is to store it under cover when not in use, because the biggest upkeep cost over time will be maintaining the shell clear coat, sealants, gaskets, plastic/fiberglass covers and vents, blinds/curtains, and tires. All subject to weathering. Inspect and treat quarterly for corrosion of metal. Wash away dirt and salt spray after using. Keep the interior clean, winterize as needed, watch for mice/insects, tighten loose items, and it will hold up very well.

Give it good care and you will greatly reduce maintenance costs.

doug k
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:04 PM   #8
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excellent points made above...
but (in addition to) our 'hidden costs' were the frequency we camped

when you own an Airstream, camping in it is like an addiction
winter, spring, summer or fall, all you got to do is- hook it up and go...

(apologies to James Taylor)
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:07 PM   #9
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I'm finding all kinds of hidden costs -

A large increase in BBQ and beer spending because my buddies are demanding I bring the trailer to games as home base for tailgating season.

A similar increase in interior restoration fees - they want ice makers, direct TV, high def televisions, blenders, etc whereas my priorities had tended more to camping.

I'm also noticing an increase in park entry fees, fuel, and mileage on our SUV - we're spending much more time on family vacation now that it's so easy to go.

So I've got the good kind of hidden costs - all related to the fact we are actually using the trailer...
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:11 PM   #10
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2002 ASCL 31 Foot Maintenance Expenses

The following are my expenses since purchase of my 2002 ASCL 31 Foot travel trailer in June of 2001, a total of 11 years and over 35,000 miles. Included in the expenses are some related to the onboard Onan Microquiet genset which would not be a part of a "normal" Airstream. The coach has been stored outside since purchase.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Airstream Maintenance Through 08-16-12.pdf (19.3 KB, 275 views)
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:16 PM   #11
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Hidden cost? A drop to 65% usual fuel efficiency on the tow vehicle when towing... though that would be more expensive on a SOB trailer

I live in a sailing community...(Bristol, Rhode Island)
I see a hidden cost: Living near the water on a spit of land on a Bay with an outdoor parked airstream...

Salt spray, the micro-droplets off saltwater foam that has most of the water evaporated out of it will carry on the wind pretty far inland and drop out in, and, or get activated by the morning & evening dews on large cool metal surfaces. Now compound that by 500 repetitions every year with the brine getting condensed in the nooks and crannies. Oh - combine that with acid rain and we've locked in a dew problems in the future (aside from filliform corrosion, etc.) but that is probably for a future owner. Just saying, for your locale that is a hidden cost.

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Old 08-16-2012, 07:17 PM   #12
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Your biggest cost for the first two years of ownership of a "new out of the factory" Airstream will be the depreciation. That is why I would recommend you buy a 2 year old unit that has been well cared for or little used. Many people with little camping experience buy them and then have a change of heart or health and sell them at very reasonable prices. The next best thing would be to buy a left over from last year that has not been titled. You still get the warren-tee but save one year's depreciation. Depending on the area you are living, outdoor storage could cost you $75 to $200 per month. Winterizing it each year can be cheap if you do it yourself.
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Old 08-16-2012, 08:59 PM   #13
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I was going to say that storage fees are the "worst" hidden cost. But it is well worthwhile having the TT under cover and with electrical (I use a dehumidifier here along the Gulf Coast). Building an enclosed shelter at the house is a good idea, especially if one can combine that with garaging the cars. They'll all last longer with a great deal less work (and $$$).

Great addition withidl . . there's just nothing like hard numbers to work from.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:50 AM   #14
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Hidden costs- thanks!

Many thanks to all who replied. I am going to search out some storage options locally. Happened to be in Phoenix recently and saw a large RV shed storage facility out by Local Motors (my buddy's desert rally car company) and Bondurant raceway. I am thinking part of the year it would be in storage out west, part of the year here on the east coast. Great advice, keep sending out the good info. regards/steve

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