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Old 02-03-2012, 09:36 AM   #1
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Newport , Ohio
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Help finding an Airstream

Hello,

I am currently searching for an Airstream for myself and family. I have found many nice looking units online, however I would like to get opinions on what I should be looking for on a unit. I know very little about Airstream, and haven't even had a chance to step into a unit yet. Any guidance on what to look for is greatly appreciated, as I'm not sure what kind of problems beyond soft floors etc. to look for.

I will be using the trailer full time instead of renting an apartment. My job requires me to move around occasionally, and I don't want to be tied to an apartment lease. I would be spending winter months in it, most likely in Ohio (central or northern), PA, or WV. Are these trailers 4 season capable? Will I need tank heaters?

I have two young children and a wife that will be staying with me on weekends, I would prefer something in the 30' range and have seen many 70's-80's models available around my area... although most looked well used. My price range is around 10,000, and I need something that is livable now.. with minor work if any necessary.

I have found a nice looking 2 owner 1990 Excella 1000 34' (although it is a very long distance from my home).The owner was kind enough to send me 40 pictures of the interior and exterior all in great detail. She told me it had slight damage to the right of the door, although it looks very minor (barely noticeable). It looks like the panel is slightly shoved in. Other than that I could only see some slight clear coat discoloring toward the top of the roof (although this may have only been dirt or glare and only showed up in one picture). The trailer seems to be very shiny and the blue stripe isn't in bad shape, all lights and brakes supposedly work. Unit has all original awnings installed and in excellent shape. They recently added 4 new tires, the other 2 were already replaced the summer before, It also has a new spare. It is all original except that they have replaced the carpet with wood flooring, and replaced the microwave. They have owned the trailer for around 12 years, and it includes all original paperwork and accessories. They are also including the weight distribution hitch. This is a non smoker unit, and looks to be well loved and taken care of. However I don't want to make in impulse buy on something that is so far away, sight unseen.

What should I look for as common problem area's?

What should I use to pull something this large? ( I will be moving whatever I purchase with my father's 2003 Sierra Crew 3/4 ton Duramax), however I only have a 1995 Silverado 2wd 1/2 ton extended cab, and a 2007 GMC Canyon Crew 5 cyl.

I would love something comfortable enough to live in full time, and still be movable with my daily driven Canyon, but I haven't seen anything newer or older within that size/price range ($10,000ish).

Again, any help is greatly appreciated. I've seen plenty of restorable units around my area...SE Ohio... but I need something that's ready to go. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Nicholas
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Old 02-03-2012, 09:46 AM   #2
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Also, I'm not against buying something that will require a larger tow vehicle when I do move it. I will always have access to the Diesel, and will probably be set up fairly permanent for the most part. I plan on upgrading my wife's equinox to a newer tahoe or yukon in the near future anyways, so I will have a better tow vehicle eventually.

I grew up camping, so i'm not new to trailers.... just airstreams. My parents started in a Viking Pop Up, then we moved up to a HiLo (also made in Ohio), then later a Gulfstream Seahawk, and now a Carriage Cameo 5th wheel. I have thought about going with a regular fiberglass sided trailer, but I would also like to buy something that will retain it's value, not decrease with age. I have noticed that you won't find any typical trailer over 30 years old on craigslist... which is apparently a testament of how great the airstream trailers are.

Again, any and all help is greatly appreciated. I'm hoping to find something within the next 2-3 weeks (i've been looking for months now at various trailers). Also, if this thread needs moved, please feel free to move it. I wasn't sure where to post.

Thank you again,
Nicholas
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Old 02-03-2012, 10:15 AM   #3
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You simply must look at the unit in person or have someone you trust completely to do so for you. Photos are great for a first screening, but in person is the only way to buy one for use like you state you will give it.
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Old 02-03-2012, 10:21 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by idroba View Post
You simply must look at the unit in person or have someone you trust completely to do so for you. Photos are great for a first screening, but in person is the only way to buy one for use like you state you will give it.

I completely agree, and plan on looking at other units that are within a reasonable drive before trying to go after something so far away. The 1990 Excella 1000 is roughly 10-11 hours drive from my house. I would hate to make a long trip, only to be very disappointed.

Just curious, how can I find values for older airstreams? I looked at the NADA and it didn't make any sense to me. It showed a suggested list price, and then average retail and low retail. All three were much different in price.

Thanks again,
Nicholas
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:15 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by nglauer View Post
Hello,

I am currently searching for an Airstream for myself and family. I have found many nice looking units online, however I would like to get opinions on what I should be looking for on a unit. I know very little about Airstream, and haven't even had a chance to step into a unit yet. Any guidance on what to look for is greatly appreciated, as I'm not sure what kind of problems beyond soft floors etc. to look for.

I will be using the trailer full time instead of renting an apartment. My job requires me to move around occasionally, and I don't want to be tied to an apartment lease. I would be spending winter months in it, most likely in Ohio (central or northern), PA, or WV. Are these trailers 4 season capable? Will I need tank heaters?

I have two young children and a wife that will be staying with me on weekends, I would prefer something in the 30' range and have seen many 70's-80's models available around my area... although most looked well used. My price range is around 10,000, and I need something that is livable now.. with minor work if any necessary.

I have found a nice looking 2 owner 1990 Excella 1000 34' (although it is a very long distance from my home).The owner was kind enough to send me 40 pictures of the interior and exterior all in great detail. She told me it had slight damage to the right of the door, although it looks very minor (barely noticeable). It looks like the panel is slightly shoved in. Other than that I could only see some slight clear coat discoloring toward the top of the roof (although this may have only been dirt or glare and only showed up in one picture). The trailer seems to be very shiny and the blue stripe isn't in bad shape, all lights and brakes supposedly work. Unit has all original awnings installed and in excellent shape. They recently added 4 new tires, the other 2 were already replaced the summer before, It also has a new spare. It is all original except that they have replaced the carpet with wood flooring, and replaced the microwave. They have owned the trailer for around 12 years, and it includes all original paperwork and accessories. They are also including the weight distribution hitch. This is a non smoker unit, and looks to be well loved and taken care of. However I don't want to make in impulse buy on something that is so far away, sight unseen.

What should I look for as common problem area's?

What should I use to pull something this large? ( I will be moving whatever I purchase with my father's 2003 Sierra Crew 3/4 ton Duramax), however I only have a 1995 Silverado 2wd 1/2 ton extended cab, and a 2007 GMC Canyon Crew 5 cyl.

I would love something comfortable enough to live in full time, and still be movable with my daily driven Canyon, but I haven't seen anything newer or older within that size/price range ($10,000ish).

Again, any help is greatly appreciated. I've seen plenty of restorable units around my area...SE Ohio... but I need something that's ready to go. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Nicholas
Hi Nicolas and welcome to the forums.
I'll try to address some of your questions and give you some general tips about Airstreams and trailers in general.
Probably the biggest problem with an older Airstream is something called Rear End Seperation. There is a basic design flaw with the door(cover) over the rear bumper storage compartment. It tends to allow water to flow in against the back of the trailer. This causes the floor to get wet and rot. Once water gets in it flows down into the belly pan(aluminium bottom) of the trailer. The belly is insulated with fiberglass insulation. When it gets wet it tends to trap the water and will lead to premature rusting out of frame components. So once the floor rots and the frame rusts the shell (body) of the trailer will seperate from the frame. To check for this condition jump up and down on the back bumper and watch for movement between the shell and the bumper.
Now some time in the 90's the 34 ftrs also suffer from Front End Seperation. The same effect but from different causes. Both the front and rear of the trailers have a "holddown plate" inside the walls. airstream eliminated this front plate some time in the 90's. look for two rows of rivets below the front window a few inches above the bottom of the shell. If you see those rivtets the plate is there. The front battery compartments tend to leak as well and if the batteries ever failed in the past, battery acid may have leaked into the trailer which can cause the floor to rot.
Probably the next biggest concern will be the condition of the axles. airstream uses "torsion axles". This type of axle does not have springs but uses rubber rods inside the axle case for suspension travel. The easiest way to check for axle condition is to observe the ride height. There should be a couple of inches between the top of the rim and the bottom of the wheelwell of the trailer. You can also jack up the trailer and watch for travel in the axle. The wheel should drop down as you jack the trailer up off the wheels. New axles can run you anywhere from $500 to $750 each depending on weight rating and the vendor you select.
Now you should confirm that all the appliances are in good working order. if you need to replace all the appliances it can cost between $2500 to $3500 to do so.
So about winter living. I actually lived in my 73 31fter for 8yrs in Canada. It can be done and it's my opinion that airstreams are better suited for this that most other trailers. Special considerations need to be taken to do so. The water and sewer line must have line heat attached and they must be insulated to keep them from freezing.
It is also adviseable to skirt in the bottom of the trailer to keep the cold out from below. The hiolding tanks actually receive heat from the furnace to keep them from freezing.
The only difficulty I had was one weak spot where the water line went into the belly and on occasion where it was extremely cold it would freeze.
You state that you will be full timing and have two children. In that case look for a unit with a center bath. That way in the middle of the night while you are your wife are sleeping in the rear bedroom the children can still get at the bathroom without disturbing you.
To live in it full time especially in the winter you will need full hookups, water, 30 amp power and of course a sewer connection.
Your father's truck can pull the 34fter for short hauls but a 1 ton would be better. Your trucks are too small to be a safe choice of tow vehicle. The older the trailer is the lighter it will be, IE: a 50's is lighter than a 60's, and a 60's is lighter than a 70's and so on.

You can do a member search from the members area and select a person who will inspect a trailer for you and give you their opinion on it's condition.
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:32 AM   #6
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Newport Ohio

There are several "Newports" in Ohio - so I don't know how far you are from Jackson Center Ohio. Even if you're in N.E. Ohio I'd heartily recommend that you go on a tour of the factory. Fridays are good this time of the year because they often aren't actively working on the line and you can get a good long peek inside some new ones.

I know you don't want new - but size and floor plans vary a lot. You won't really appreciate what is right for you until you actually look at the airstreams in person.

I hate to say it, but for $10K you're unlikely to find something truly road ready. There may be some which have been stored inside for 10 years and are now up on an estate sale, but not very many.

IMHO (and it's just an opinion) if you need road ready, buy gently used - 5 years old or newer. I also agree that a center bath will be better if your wife and kids are visiting most weekends. You might also check with P&S trailers in Helena. They refurbish old Airstreams and from time to time sell them on our classifieds or ebay. Not in the 10K range, but nicely done.

The estimate that you need a 3500 - one ton for a 34' unit. You need a 3/4 ton diesel, but most people say that the 25 ft models and below can be safely towed with a 1/2 ton. But a 34 is a lotta trailer.

You are very welcome here, Paula Ford
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Old 02-04-2012, 07:33 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by nglauer View Post
I completely agree, and plan on looking at other units that are within a reasonable drive before trying to go after something so far away. The 1990 Excella 1000 is roughly 10-11 hours drive from my house. I would hate to make a long trip, only to be very disappointed.

Just curious, how can I find values for older airstreams? I looked at the NADA and it didn't make any sense to me. It showed a suggested list price, and then average retail and low retail. All three were much different in price.

Thanks again,
Nicholas
After nearly a year of searching in the PA, OH, NY, WV, MD area for a ready to go used Airstream, I have come up with nothing but frustration. Nearly all that I have looked at have had major floor rot and/or seperation. I've made several long drives to look at these things only to find out that they are in need of quite a bit of work before they could be used. In several of the cases, I'm sure that the individual selling the trailer knew darn well how soft they were and flat out lied to me when I asked the question on the phone. Others most likely didn't know or understand what I was talking about until I showed them the problems myself. I understand that the floor rot issues are not unique to this area of the country, but it just seem that the ones around here are excessively bad. I'm to the point of thinking that I am either going to have buy new or go to a completely different region of the country to find one remotely close to what I am after.

There are a couple of really nice units available on the forum here down south that I would be all over if they weren't 1000+ miles away. If you have the time to make the drive, it may well be worth your time.
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Old 02-04-2012, 10:36 AM   #8
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I am sad to say it, but the 1990 34' excella 1000 I found sold within 24 hours of the couple posting it. I honestly think that the trailer (without inspection in person) was one of those rare finds. The couple was in their 70's and had owned the trailer for over 12 years, it was the 4th airstream they had owned over a 50 year span. She was very knowledgeable and actually called and told me their trailer sold the next morning. She said that I could call and ask her any questions about these trailers as I continue my search. She mentioned that I should look for some of the problems areas's stated above when looking at a unit. She said their trailer did not suffer from any of these problems, except for an axle that had been replaced. Hopefully you'll see a new forum member with a 34' excella 1000 show up lol. Wish I could say it was me... but until I find something else I probably won't be back with to many questions.

However I do have one big questions... why does this site promote using cars and small suv's and mini vans as tow vehicles?

Can-Am RV :: Towing

I am almost dumbfounded watching these video's. Especially the 25' airstream being towed by a Buick Rendezvous.


I just thought this was a weird combo. I tow our boat with our 2005 Equinox AWD, 3.4L V6 which has a 3500lb tow rating. It tugs the boat along just fine.. but it did need some air bags to help the rear suspension. By no means would I plan on grabbing a hold of something and towing it with my GMC Canyon. I just can't believe that the 3/4 ton GMC Sierra Crew, with Duramax Diesel and Allison Transmission that I would be borrowing would be unstable or unsafe. My parents tow a large and heavy Carriage Cameo with it, and have for years (granted I know their is a difference between a 5th wheel and travel trailer). I guess my point is... if some feel that the 34' excella would be to much for the 3/4 ton... then what are your thoughts on canamrv? (Personally these videos amaze and scare me?)

Thank you again for all of the help. I will be back as I find other units. I would love to have a late 90's early 2000 model in the 25'-28' range.. but so far i've seen nothing, and what I have found go well above the maximum I would like to spend (which is 18,000). Ideally I would like to stay in the 10,500 range. Again, thank you for all the help.

Kind regards,
Nicholas
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Old 02-04-2012, 12:55 PM   #9
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I am currently wintering in Traverlers rest resort in Florida. Used to be a Airstream park but now not. There are generally 3-6 airstreams for sale here. 30 to 34 feet and prices from 8000 up. I have seen several trailers in the mid 80's for around 9500 that looked okay from the outside. Neighbor just said yesterday that they want to sell their 83, 32 footer. Looks very nice outside, but I have not been in it. I think if you keep looking and look in the right places you will find something you can use. The older, longer trailers are generally cheaper than the shorter trailers.Airsteam sold many, many units in the 80's. Most of those people are old now and selling their trailer. I think axle problems are less frequent with the 80's trailers, but some of the 70's models are nicer inside.
Airstreams are not good for prolonged cold weather. You can do it, but you will need to rent a big propane tank. One inch of fiberglass between aluminum panels with aluminum ribs is not much insulation. They are set up so that if you run the furnace the water and pipes will not freeze. The policy is "propane is cheaper than plumbing"
Buying a used trailer is sort of a risk. I have done it twice and ended up spending more on repairs than I thought I would both times. But both trailers are now servicable.
Look at the traverlers rest website for the newsletter that has classifieds. Look at the classifieds on the WBCCI site and the Blue Beret. Work on Airstreams is pretty expensive. If you find one that is nice for a bit more than you want to spend that is probably a better buy than getting it cheaper and then trying to fix it. 10,000 is probably doable, but 14,000 or so opens up a much larger market. However the difference may be more cosmetic that actual. good looking Airstreams are easier to sell and more fun than ugly ones.
I use a 3/4 ton to pull my trailers. Can-am seems to know what they are doing. I went on a caravan with a couple pulling a 34 footer with a Buick SUV and he seemed to be doing fine. We covered some 10 mile, 10% grades and he went both up and down as well as anybody. He also seemed to be an expert driver and good with the brakes. But I would not try it. And I saw a lot of other experienced trailer pullers quitly shaking their head and looking that way.
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Old 02-04-2012, 01:19 PM   #10
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Airstreams can be lived in during winter, but it takes a lot of preparation and lots of propane. They have single pane windows (some were made with double pane many years ago, but they seem to have not worked very well) and only 2" of fiberglass insulation. If there have been leaks (probable) the fiberglass may have clumped from the water flowing between the inner and outer walls and then it becomes useless in that area.

There are better insulated trailers for winter use. The aptly named Arctic Fox is one of them. You can do it, but be prepared for hassles with sealing the trailer at the bottom and keeping water and sewer hoses from freezing. Heated hoses are not cheap, use a fair amount of electricity and a campground will likely have an electric meter for your spot—so you'll be paying for all the electricity you use plus propane.

I think you need to look at a lot of Airstreams to learn more—you can go to the factory and a dealer to look at new ones. Older ones can be seen at rallies and people are always glad to show you their babies. Good ones do go fast and you have to be ready to travel far—it makes sense that trailers in the south and west may have less chance of water damage and road salt damage. Reading as much as you can on the Forum will also be a good education. From what I read, getting a trailer in good condition at a low price is not easy, but it can be done. That one that went in 24 hours may have been one, but there will be more. Plenty of people keep them in good shape, but we all get old and sell them some day. The ones that have been sitting in back for 10 or more years without being used are the ones to be especially suspicious of unless you want a major rehab job.

As for a tow vehicle, older trailer are generally lighter. We tow an '08 25' beast that weighs 7,300 lbs. when fully loaded and an '07 Tundra 1/2 ton does fine. Gas engines can tow really heavy trailers; they are much more powerful than they used to be, if if you have to get used, diesel may be a better option. First decide on what you are looking for and then decide what size truck can handle it.

I'll attach a list showing weights for many years back. Not until the 1980's are there trailers that weigh as much as the last decade. That 1990 Excella's dry weight was 7,100 lbs. For a 34', add about one ton for gross vehicle weight rating.

Gene
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Old 02-04-2012, 01:26 PM   #11
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The CanAm thing - I'm a client. CanAm reinforces the hitch and are experts at setting up weight distribution - something the boat trailer probably lacked - to get proper weight transfer on all four wheels of the tow vehicle. The combinations they set up aren't random either; they're based on analysis of the vehicle and, often, the experience of 100s of other clients. In other words, you can't just take a Buick Enclave from the dealer and hitch it up to a 31' trailer...there's more to it than that.

Your 3/4-ton would likely work fine with the trailers you're discussing - not so much the Canyon, as you said.

$10k is tight for something that is usable; a lot more options open up with your higher limit. There were some nice looking 25' center bath mid-late-80s trailers in the Classifieds in your budget...

Tom
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Old 02-04-2012, 04:06 PM   #12
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This attachment might help if you don't already have it.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/atta...1&d=1300735380
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