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Old 09-26-2010, 01:53 PM   #1
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Santa Ana , California
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Airstream Wanna-newbie

Hi all, my name is Pat and I'm an artist who is finishing Grad school this semester and teaching undergrad classes. Right now I am at a transition point in my life and I've decided I want to invest my time and money into restoring a classic Airstream trailer to live in for the following reasons: Right now I live in a small apartment but have a very large studio, and I'd like to keep that space ratio going, and it seems having an airstream would allow me to spend the vast majority of my rent money on studio space rather than living space. I'm looking for college teaching jobs for Fall 2011, and I anticipate having to move from Southern California, my current location. Usually it takes me 2-3 years to get my apartment just the way I like it, and having an Airstream would allow me to move around, but still have a living space that stays the same. Plus Airstream trailers are just awesome, they're classy and quirky, retro and futuristic, basically all around neato.

I went to a new Airstream dealership and I found a Flying Cloud that would suit my needs perfectly, but unfortunately the $60,000 asking price is WAY out of my price range. However, it seems vintage Airstreams in the 23-30 something foot range that perhaps need some restoration are available for $3000-$6000.

I'm a painter and until recently wasn't very handy, but I've been living with sculptors recently and now I feel pretty competent working in the woodshop and using tools. Still, I'm sure the restoration will be a huge learning process, but luckily there seem to be many resources online.

I'd like to ask if anyone knows what to look for while I'm buying, particularly which kinds of repairs are the most difficult, because I'd like to find a trailer whose difficult-to-repair features are working. I'm assuming plumbing is probably at the top of that list.

Thanks, I envy you all and hope to one day be a fellow Airstream owner.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:04 PM   #2
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Hey Pat, there is a great check list somewhere in the forum that has everything you need to look at and check out, It's in the How-To Forum. We bought a used airstream, not to old, and it has been problem free, and a joy to camp in. Good luck on your search.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:53 PM   #3
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Vintage vs. Used

Vintage is always a HUGE gamble. Unrestored requires at least $10,000-$12000 in systems and parts PLUS hundreds and hundreds of hours of dirty hard labor - and you won't be living in it while you're doing the work.

Buying "restored and ready to go" - unless you are REALLY qualified to review, double check and verify (or hire someone like Area 51 to evaluate) - it's easy to get a cosmetically pleasing unit with a rotten floor, worn out axles and electrical & propane systems held together with chewing gum and hope.

Buying "gently used" while not foolproof, may be your smartest move. Someone else takes the big chunk of depreciation and you get a unit that basically may need new tires, but is road ready.

Oh, and in California - campgrounds are not all that inexpensive. AND you'll need something to tow your Airstream hither, thither and yon. So if you want to go for it, do so AFTER investing a week or two checking other "Newbie" and "Full Monte" threads. Visiting an Airforums Rally would also be a GREAT idea. Nowhere else will you see a better distribution of new, nearly new and true vintage. Learn!

WELCOME here. You'll get data overload, but lots to think about before you pop your wallet open. Oh as a fulltimer, IF you can get a unit financed you can deduct the interest - like a home. IF YOU FULLTIME.

Paula
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Old 09-26-2010, 03:17 PM   #4
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Pat', sounds like you need to finish graduate work which may mean a Ph.D and comprehensive exams and a dissertation, but maybe you are really done. Perhaps you are completing an MFA. And also you need to teach full time to support yourself. All of this is demanding and teaching at the entry level doesn't pay well. Liberal arts jobs are scarce these days.

Restoring a trailer is also demanding and expensive. You have to learn many skills similar to auto mechanic and house remodeler as adapted to the RV world, Airstream division. RV repairs and parts are expensive. Even newer ones may need work. You have to park it somewhere with water, electric and sewer and probably internet access and that can cost.

Living in the trailer is a good thing and some can do it. Boondocker lived in his at times while teaching at a college. If what you teach requires a lot of travel, a trailer may make economic sense, but you have to figure the numbers carefully and it may take quite a few years to even out.

I admire your desire to do something different and think you should check out all the costs and benefits carefully. You may have to get more established in your profession before this is possible, but maybe not.

Gene
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Old 09-26-2010, 03:43 PM   #5
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Unless federal tax laws have changed on this, you may be able to deduct the interest on an RV or boat as a "second home". We have done this on both a cabin cruiser and our Airstream. If I recall correctly, to qualify as a second home, the RV or boat has to have cooking, sleeping and toilet facilities; and you have to live in it part of the year (vacations and weekend getaways qualify). Therefore, you might not have to be a full-timer to qualify. However, you should check with your tax advisor or IRS on your specific situation.
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Old 09-26-2010, 04:24 PM   #6
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My understanding is a trailer is a home, first or second, and mortgage interest is deductible. If you need a studio for your profession, rent, utilities, may be deductible as a business expense. If it's an avocation, maybe not.

Gene
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Old 09-26-2010, 05:15 PM   #7
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+1 = what Paula wrote.
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Old 09-26-2010, 05:25 PM   #8
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As a student living in an airstream, let me tell you the glamor wears off quickly, but it is still (so far) a rewarding experience and I dont have a desire to go back to an apartment. We will see if I feel the same way after i meet my first big repair...but good luck to you.
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