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Old 05-13-2014, 10:52 PM   #1
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Volunteer Inspectors and buying long distance

I am exhausted trying to be the first to purchase an older Airstream to renovate; I am beginning to suspect I am loosing out to AS pickers and flippers. First, what is the proper procedure for purchasing long-distance...I have read some of the threads but am a bit confused (possibly from my constant AS internet surfing) and second, do you truly have volunteer inspectors available to assist with checking for at minimum no rust, no rear sag, windows intact, straight body, towability and clear title? I am hoping to find a 1970 or alittle newer, 25 to 27 foot trailer with good bones. I am ready to give up but my 16 year old daughter keeps cheering me on...please help!
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:15 PM   #2
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Yes, there are volunteers that will help you. But if it's a good deal it's going to go fast, and you will probably lose out to someone that knows what to look for. You might need to hire someone to get them to move faster.

There is a shop down here in Portland that's always selling vintage Airstreams, I can look them up if you want. They're legitimate dealers, not flippers/curbstoners.

Finding a great deal is hard and takes time. Look for more realistically priced examples and you can probably have time to negotiate a bit.

Good luck!
Ian Lomax
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nlulay View Post
I am exhausted trying to be the first to purchase an older Airstream to renovate; I am beginning to suspect I am loosing out to AS pickers and flippers. First, what is the proper procedure for purchasing long-distance...I have read some of the threads but am a bit confused (possibly from my constant AS internet surfing) and second, do you truly have volunteer inspectors available to assist with checking for at minimum no rust, no rear sag, windows intact, straight body, towability and clear title? I am hoping to find a 1970 or alittle newer, 25 to 27 foot trailer with good bones. I am ready to give up but my 16 year old daughter keeps cheering me on...please help!
I think that you have to develop a "nose", then eyes for finding older units. About a week ago I noted that quite often I meet Airstream owners who've never joined WBCCI or Airforums - and in fact have never heard of either.

Were I looking for an older Airstream, first I'd look in RV parks that have heavy "full timer" populations. IE- NOT KOA's or other franchises. In Ohio, there are a lot of lakes that have summer cottages and summer RV's that have been on the lots for years. Airstreams don't abound, but I've rarely seen that kind of place that doesn't have one or two. Are there "hunting camps" or "fishing camps" nearby? That's where you start looking.

Another source? Alleys. Literally. In neighborhoods where there are a lot of seniors you'll often find an Airstream in the back yard of people who last camped 10, 20, 30 years ago.

Another useful one - self store, storage yards - Google Earth for a quick look-see, then a personal visit for the ones where you see shiny roofs.

More eyes - ask friends, co-workers, neighbors if they know of any old neglected trailers. Oh, and make good friends with any UPS or Fed-X driver who has a route that isn't heavily urban. They don't focus on old trailers, but if you ask they might notice.

One thing to face is that if it's on the forums, there will be multiple bidders and you better act quickly. But if it's over the fence in a neighborhood of older people, or at a small RV camp... you've probably got a good chance of scooping up a decent deal.

Paula
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Old 05-14-2014, 08:40 AM   #4
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I had your exact same experience when shopping for my trailer. I spent two years running around looking at vintage, unrestored trailers, and concluding that they were not the one for me, either because the price was higher than I wanted to spend, someone snapped them before I could look at them, or they had a floor plan I didn't like or a dent that I didn't want to contend with. I finally found a trailer with the floor plan I wanted, and the price was great. I called up the seller (who was 600 miles away), appealed to him to hold the trailer until the next day when I could be there in person, and promised to buy it for asking price with no haggling, the only condition being that it was not a complete wreck. The seller assured me that the trailer was in decent condition, no rotting floors, safe to tow, no major body work needed.

Bought two new wheels and drove the 600 miles first thing the next day (not recommended). Took a cursory glance at the trailer, walked around inside, and forked over the cash. I have spent the last 2.5 years doing a shell-off as the floors were rotten all around the perimeter, the rear end was separating, and the frame needed serious repairs. I have even replaced a panel and a segment--a job that I was specifically trying to avoid with all my hunting.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would have bought one of the first trailers I looked at, and just gotten started on the shell-off. By now I would be finished. I didn't understand at the time that every trailer that is ~50 years old is going to have lots of rot, rust, critter infestation, etc.. The only vintage trailer that isn't going to take tons of work and money to renovate it is one that has already had the work done. That trailer is not going look like a bargain, and you will have plenty of time to negotiate and inspect because the flipper crowd is going to steer clear of it.

My advice:

-As mentioned above, if you don't want to spend years of your time and thousands of dollars making the trailer "right," raise your expected purchase price dramatically, and start hunting for a trailer that has already had the "heavy lifting" done. If you want a compromise, there are many trailers out there with new floors and no interiors because the renovator lost steam half way through the project. Just don't be taken in by the "polished turd." That is where you can spend a lot of money and still end up with a wreck.

-Don't drive more than a few hundred miles to look at a trailer--it is hard to go home empty handed after driving all day.

-Be willing to drop everything and run for the right trailer. You should be trolling every online sales tool available twice a day (Craigslist, Ebay, RVTrader, Airforums, etc.).

-Scout your local "mini storage" lots. You may see some Airstreams parked there with a "for sale" sign in the window.

-Manage your expectations on what is acceptable condition for a vintage trailer. They all leak, they all have rot, they all have rust. If you aren't ready for a major project then see the first point above. Realize that the purchase price of the trailer is just the down payment. I am sure that the materials I have purchased during my renovation have exceeded the price I paid for the trailer, and I am just starting to put things back together.

-If you get to the point of giving up, then buy from a flipper. Yes, they get to make a couple bills as a "finding fee," but again, even though that price isn't a bargain, if the trailer still needs restoration, you will have a lot of expenses still coming.

good luck!
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Old 05-14-2014, 10:23 AM   #5
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A 70's vintage with no rear sag and no rust, that might be a tall order unless you are willing to pay a bit more than a bottom feeder price. Generally they will all have some type of rust or rot unless they have been stored inside for the majority of their existence. Also the 25 to 27 foot models are going to be more desirable than their larger 29 to 30+ foot cousins (though not as much as the 22' and under ones) since the smaller trailers command the biggest prices.

And if you are in Washington state, that is a fairly wet climate so any trailer that has lived up there for all its time is also going to have more problems too. So it might behoove you to go south and look for something, just like folks look for sun belt used cars over the northern rust belt ilk.

As for volunteer inspectors, I would suggest if you find a trailer that spikes your interest, call the owner and talk at length to get the generalities and then post a message here looking for an inspector nearby whatever city the trailer is in. While it is not required, an offer of some money to cover gas and/or time cant hurt either. I think eventually you will find a good trailer, but as everyone else has said, you have to be willing to act fairly quickly, though don't buy one that you don't have real good feelings on for its condition. There have been several threads recently about folks buying a trailer that looked good on the top only to find out the frame and floor were long gone. Its probably better to find one that has had the majority of the appliances upgraded and the frame and axles recently maintained even if it costs you an extra 5-8k over one in as found condition. You'll probably end up putting in that money anyway.
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Old 05-14-2014, 12:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nlulay View Post
I am exhausted trying to be the first to purchase an older Airstream to renovate; I am beginning to suspect I am loosing out to AS pickers and flippers.
How much are you willing to spend? There are great trailers out there being sold by legit sellers who are easy to work with but they are going to want top dollar.

By way of focusing the conversation there's a seller a couple hundred miles from me that has your dream trailer for sale for $10,500.

Airstream Ambassador 1972 29'

Are you willing to pay that? If not, well, chances are you're going to be outbid, because it's really tough to negotiate a better price when the seller realizes that you're committed enough to travel halfway across the country.

Quote:
First, what is the proper procedure for purchasing long-distance...I have read some of the threads but am a bit confused (possibly from my constant AS internet surfing)
There is no one "proper procedure." I have purchased long distance, and here's what I did when I bought my Cayo C-11. With an Airstream I'd do the same thing.

1) Find a camper of interest by searching Craigslist, TCT, Airforums classifieds, and other resources.
2) Review the ad closely including any photos.
3) Contact the seller. Ask for more photos. Ask the usual specific questions about leaks, floor rot, missing pieces, accessibility for removal, and roadworthiness. Find out about the situation and try to judge whether the sale is legitimate and whether the seller is reliable and trustworthy enough to risk long-distance travel.
4) Consider arranging for a volunteer inspector if the situation warrants. I did on one sale that ultimately fell through and skipped this step on the one that worked out. While this takes time and adds to the risk of the unit ending up being sold before you can get it, it allows you to confirm that the trailer exists and find out something more about its condition before spending time and money on travel.
5) Make a deal realizing that you're simply not going to be in a strong position to ask for price concessions if you're traveling a long way. It is a judgment call whether to send a down payment in advance or not as the risks of a prior sale vs. fraud have to be balanced. It is best to choose a specific pickup day and time IMO at this point.
6) Show up and buy the trailer. Most sellers will expect cash. Bring with you those things that you will need to get the trailer on the road and to bring it home safely. If at this point the trailer is in considerably worse shape that you expected you can try to back out but you are going to lose your time and travel costs and you might lose your deposit.

Quote:
second, do you truly have volunteer inspectors available to assist with checking for at minimum no rust, no rear sag, windows intact, straight body, towability and clear title?
There are many forum members who can and will do this if the trailer is nearby them.

Quote:
I am hoping to find a 1970 or alittle newer, 25 to 27 foot trailer with good bones. I am ready to give up but my 16 year old daughter keeps cheering me on...please help!
They are out there but may cost more than you expect.
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Old 05-15-2014, 12:15 AM   #7
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A couple other thoughts.

If you expand your search outside Airstreams, you might find a Silver Streak, Streamline, Avion, Boles Aero or other aircraft style trailers that are a bit cheaper due to lower demand, but just as cool.

After seeing the asking prices for Airstreams that were trashed, that's what we did.

The Streamline we finally found was reasonably priced (under $5k), and we got it for a little under asking because it was on the coast in Tillamook, Oregon. Just far enough away from the big cities so demand was low.

It was also in great shape because it had been stored indoors for 25 years. It was obvious based on the stuff surrounding it that it had been stored for a while. And sure enough, we haven't found a soft spot on the floor.

The same day we bought our Streamline a Silver Streak popped up here in Portland, for half the price. Unfortunately it had sat outside with no cover for 16 years, and would need a total gut. The drive was totally worth it, but we also talked to the owner 3 times over a week before driving out.

Good luck!
Ian
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