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Old 04-02-2015, 12:21 PM   #1
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Airstream evolution

I'm new to this forum; I'm from Québec city, QB, CAN (forgive our English). We currently have a small enclosed trailer (Aliner cabin A-3 expedition 15 feet by 6.5 feet floor). As I retire next year, I was looking for something a little bigger.

Of all the brands that exist, we are really attracted to the Airstream, International 23fb serenity. We like the quality of the interior, floor plan, design principle.

But from what I read on the forum, these trailers seem to need a lot of care with respect to other more modern design.

They do not seem to have evolved much from manufacturing techniques point of view.

For example: Assembly with rivets - is it really a technique that allows the best seal? Do they add water proofing material on the adjoining parts before rivetting ?
- Mineral wool used for insulation - is it still good compared to rigid insulation that does not hold water in case of leaks?
- Aluminum shell,- there does not seem to be any treatment against moisture and corrosion applied before installation (maaybe just a clear coat on the outside)?
- Non galvanized metal chassis tends to rust; no undercoating seems to be applied un the underbelly?
- Not perfectly balanced caravan with high load on front?
- Floor does not seem manufactured with a treated material against moisture and rot?

Can anyone confirm if of my fears are exaggerated or if I'm on target?
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Old 04-02-2015, 12:37 PM   #2
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Welcome Monigeb. You have been doing your research and have targeted some of the major problems many of us have experienced with our Airstreams. Some people say they have no problems, but not everyone has been so lucky.

If I were buying a travel trailer now, I'd look at other brands and compare. There is a website called something like RV Reviews that has some ratings, but it is not a large sample. Airstream ratings are in the middle, not near the best.

If you are handy you can fix some things yourself. Warranty is for 2 years and if you have a good dealer nearby that is a good thing. Not all Airstream dealers are competent. We ended up going to the factory twice for warranty repairs (1,400 miles on way) because the nearest dealer was pathetic. The factory has a very good repair service center.

But we like the unique design and towability. A lot of other brands are ugly to us and some look like they were designed in the 1950's. You can look for a used one and although that can be frustrating, you can save a lot of money. A recent one should be in good shape and a lot of the initial problems should have been fixed. An older one may need a large investment to bring it up to date and replace things that have worn out.

Your English is fine (better than some native speakers on the Forum). We enjoyed our visit to Quebec more than 10 years ago except for the language issues you have there. Road signs go by too fast to translate them clearly and the anti-English laws do not encourage tourism. But the Quebecois (I think that means Quebec residents, but I never studied French) were all friendly and helpful.

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Old 04-06-2015, 12:45 PM   #3
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The OP would probably like to get more feedback, but this thread apparently got lost in the shuffle.

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Old 04-06-2015, 12:58 PM   #4
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Airstream Evolution

Yes, there are some quirky things about Airstreams. But, a lot of them are still being used and seem to be loved. If one is a DIY person, the maintenance is not so bad, or even if one has a dealer to do some maintenance, it is in general not a lot.

Probably, the storage and care in an ongoing basis is what determines just what type of longevity a unit has, but this is true for all the RV's being made today. And, I suspect, do not have any scientific basis for this, but if one pulls a trailer maybe 20,000 miles in a year, like I might do, a box trailer will not hold up as well as a monocoque Airstream.

And, what I have found is once in an Airstream almost all the other brands of travel trailer pale in comparison as far as the "feeling" and ambiance while nestled inside.

My plans for my current AS are to do some self sealing of the seams on a yearly basis, attempting to avoid any type of water egress.

But, the decision is clearly an individual one, based upon what esthetics one appreciates.

Be well, good luck, and we hope to see you become a part of the folks who have "aluminitis"..
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Old 04-06-2015, 01:49 PM   #5
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We have an Airstream because my wife said I could purchase any trailer I wanted, as long as it was an Airstream.

The look of an Airstream is very appealing for many. The trailer tows very well and it has a lot of positive features. But Airstream doesn't make all of the components, like the fridge, toilet, furnace, stove, etc. Those devices are common to all trailers and each has their own issues.

As for the build, I think if you look at the Airstream line you'll find more old Airstreams on the road than most other brands. The AS has a belly pan and insulation to protect its plumbing and floors from the cold, dual battery configuration and other features lacking in other brands.

Airstreams are fairly easy to sell and tend to hold their value for a long time. The aluminum is lightweight, has a nice retro look and needs only a twice annual polishing. Ours has a plasticoat (clearcoat) but some prefer none. Yes, they can leak but they leak where all the others do, where a hole was created for A/C, vents / fans, windows, etc.

We're in our second year with our AS and we're happy with it. I think any trailer requires a level of maintenance, whether to the exterior or its appliances and hardware. I haven't seen anything else on the road that appeals to us as much as the design of the Airstream. It's Americana
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Old 04-06-2015, 01:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gene View Post
If I were buying a travel trailer now, I'd look at other brands and compare. There is a website called something like RV Reviews that has some ratings, but it is not a large sample. Airstream ratings are in the middle, not near the best.
Gene
I think this is the one you mean? You have to look at the number of people responding to the survey as well as the overall score. Some high scores have only a few respondents.

RV Rating - Customer Survey of RV Makes and Models
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Old 04-06-2015, 02:18 PM   #7
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Something to keep in mind. Even though it sounds like the design and construction of Airstreams hasn't "evolved" that much over the years, look around and see what other brands of trailers are still on the road after 40-50 years. Even with their issues, the basic design is quite well proven and has advantages over the more typical square sided box trailers. Sharks haven't evolved much in the last million years or so either, probably because they don't need to.
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Old 04-09-2015, 01:53 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by richw46 View Post
I think this is the one you mean? You have to look at the number of people responding to the survey as well as the overall score. Some high scores have only a few respondents.

RV Rating - Customer Survey of RV Makes and Models
Yes, that's the one. When you look at the details, Airstream rates highest for design, comfort, safety and towability. Safety is related to towability I presume. The design was created years ago by Wally Byam, so the present manufacturer has contributed little to that. If those are subtracted from the ratings, and maintenance, reliability, support from dealer and manufacturer, overall quality and value were the sole factors, the rating would be lower.

And yes, the small amount of reviewers for some brands, makes this survey one to read with caution, but I haven't found any other RV review website. Thor Industries makes a lot of brands and most of them seem to be rated as mediocre with Airstream slightly above them.

Style counts for a lot to us. This style contributes to important things like towability and comfort. But we have bought many Toyotas because of reliability, not style. I joined the Forum a couple of months before we bought and was somewhat aware of the problems people were having. We had about 60 problems to fix in the first 2 years, but after that, things quieted down. At one point on the way to the factory for warranty work because the closest dealer was terrible, we seriously discussed selling it. We stuck it out and have put 50,000 miles on it. If you keep it for decades, it will last longer than some other brands made of sticks (literally 1 x 2's, not 2 x 4's), so I suppose your life expectancy is a factor too.

If I were to do it again, I would look for a gently used one from 5 years ago or so and save a lot of money. Most things would be fixed (probably). But back in 2007, we knew very little about RV's. I read a few books about them, but having one is the best way to learn. You have to figure out a lot and make quick decisions. The best ones being sold are going to be snapped up fast, so you have to watch the classifieds a lot. If you can fix things yourself, any RV will be a lot better experience for you. RV repair is very expensive and parts are too.

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