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Old 07-22-2013, 07:06 AM   #1
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Kennesaw , Georgia
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Gee, WHIZ - another newbee asking the same old questions!

Greetings all ...

About us: We are empty nester pre-retirement grandparents. We are experienced with folding tent trailers. I sold my last one disgusted with quality level. It seems like everything in the infrastructure was cheaply made and prone to breaking. I dumped our Fleetwood FTT when it was orphaned. Bought it new and took a bit of a fiscal flogging (which was to be expected)

What I am seeking: I need to find “Airstream 101” or “Airstreams For Dummies” sticky thread on this website . I know there is one somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet. I am seeking a resource that tells me:
  • Airstreams have an almost cult like following – why?
  • If I join the cult, what do I havta do to get the secret handshake and decoder ring?
  • So I hear Airstream are heads and shoulders better than anything else... Is this hype or fact? – I'd like to see some kind of empirical evidence as opposed to emotional gushing.
  • Compare & contrast product families (ie Excella vs Classic)
  • What to seek and what to avoid in a used Airstream.
The tee up: I will be looking for a “gateway drug” – meaning USED between $15k - $20k. Considering the ante for a new unit obviously I understand this is in "used" range. We want a larger bed and something big enough for us plus another couple or or 2 adult kids plus 2 grandkids. I saw a 33ft “widebody?” advertised that looked like it would work. There is a nice campground a couple of hours away where I can park it year round. I am aware that my 97 Ford F150 what probably can’t pull the 33ft trailer.

The wind up: I am aware this is rambling, but I have to go back to work. Your two bits are welcome. Your FOUR bits appreciated. EIGHT bit contributors will receive a special VIP tour and "Patron" status. Your user name will be permently written on a sheet of cardboard and placed in one of my drawers full of homeless keys, dead AAA batteries and unknown flashlight bulbs.

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Old 07-22-2013, 07:15 AM   #2
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Hillsboro , Texas
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Welcome aboard!

Airstreams are like love-n-marriage. You are either in love or you ain't. That about explains "cult" I figure.

Airstreams were built on the wandering, dreaming gene by a fellow named Wally... Sure draws you in doesn't it?

Dreamers seek other dreamers and we appreciate each others collective wisdom... Lose the lumps, not the lesson.

We started with a 1999 Excella 34' Beauty. She was hurting, but has repaid our kindness.

More later..

Peace and Blessings..
WBCCI# 30676
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:32 AM   #3
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Hi, and welcome to the Forums!

My two cents are below:

There is endless material on the Forums. There is a thread that is called something like "Tips for newbies" that has lots of advice for folks new to Airstreaming. Not aware of anything that is a "101," but there are a couple of books that have been published (History of the Land Yacht, and Wanderlust)that describe the history of the trailers, and the differences in the genres, and you can get a lot of good information there that will help you to understand the "cult."

To really understand the Cult, spend some time reading the forums, I doubt if any one thread defines it, but it is a combination of history, community, the look and feel of an Airstream, pride of ownership, and masochism. To really get it, go to an Airstream rally.

To join the cult, just become an enthusiast, a fanatic, a believer, and finally and owner!

You will find no empirical evidence that Airstreams are head and shoulders better than anything else. You will hear claims that 70% of all the Airstreams ever built are still on the road and the like, but most of these claims are hard to prove. There are thousands of rivets, many seams, and a lot of doors, windows and hatches in an Airstream. They take a lot of hand labor to create, which drives up the price and allows lots of opportunities for leaks/workmanship errors. We go for Airstreams because we don't want to camp in a white box like everybody else. It really boils down to a matter of taste and preference. A squared off trailer probably makes better use of space (over the footprint). A molded fiberglass trailer is going to have less opportunities for leaks.

A good comparision/contrast of products can come from the Airstream website. You can even look at floor plans for vintage trailers back to the 60's.

As far as what to avoid, there are some recent models that have had problems with cracked/broken frames. Do a search for these terms and you will find lots of discussions. If you don't want to do a renovation project prior to use, then arm yourself with an inspection checklist (also to be found on the forums with a little searching). Any trailer can have a rusted frame, leaking shell, rotten floor, and shell separating from the frame. If you buy a trailer that someone claims to have "restored," insist on seeing pictures, receipts, etc., that document all the work that has been done. People define restoration rather arbitrarily.

Good luck!
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:35 AM   #4
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Welcome aboard. Your sense of humor fits right in here!

The search feature can help narrow the focus to articles of interest. There are some threads (tire and tow vehcile discussions come to mind) where your eye balls will feel like the wheels in a Las Vegas slot machine from all the reading.

Occasionally there will be actual data, but opinions abound, and as they say, everyone has one. The reader gets to determine those results that align with their thinking.

The Vintage threads may go too far back in time for your preferences, but are informative about serious issues (floor rotting comes to mind) that can quickly deflate even a generous wallet.

After some serious time on the forum, the reader can determine those threads that are relevant and see some folks doing serious restorations and the time elements involved.

Getting an old timer to help inspect your proposed purchase trailer can save you big expensive surprises.

Good luck on your journey! It is a lot of fun and sure expanded my knowledge base.
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:49 AM   #5
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Most of us here are biased

I think that Airstreams are beautiful works of art. I have read about a test study, that demonstrated that Airstreams are cheaper to tow in regards to MPG.They tested trailers that were the same weight.
I do believe that Airstreams last longer. I have the oldest camper in my camping club, full of " some other brands ".
Downside? I think that Airstreams are harder to work on. And I don't like polishing.
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:51 AM   #6
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1999 34' Excella
NE Central , Kansas
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Welcome to the Forums!


I don't have all the answers your seek, but others will surely point you in the right direction.
  • Cult following: In my opinion, it is a disease, Aluminitus, not a cult. Very infectious.
  • Decoder Ring and Secret Handshake: When you become a supporting member of the Air Forums, you will receive a fancy 'AIR' sticker so you can display your new status proudly. I didn't receive a decoder ring, but maybe it will arrive when I renew my support.
  • "So I hear Airstream are heads and shoulders better than anything else... Is this hype or fact? – I'd like to see some kind of empirical evidence as opposed to emotional gushing." We all gush a bit, I'm sure.Your empirical evidence, however, can be seen on the highways every day. How many vintage SOB's do you see still on the road after 50 years (or more) of service? Yes, Airstreams have their issues (floor rot, for example), but most can be mitigated with good maintenance.
  • Product Families: (Excella vs. Classic) Excella morphed into Classic after 2001. My '99 is an 'Excella 1000' on one end, and "Excella Classic" on the other. In general, Classics have most of the bells and whistles offered, and are heavier. As you do your research, you will find the differences in décor and comfort that differentiate the branches. They all come from the same tree, however.
  • What to seek and what to avoid: What to seek is to subjective, depending on what makes your salivary glands begin to function. When you find one that looks good, find an inspector and have it gone over top to bottom. There are moisture meters that can warn of potential floor rot, for example. A lot of items depend on where the Airstream has lived. In the Southwest, all of the exterior plastic (vents & Skylights) will need to be replaced unless the unit has been stored under cover. The tires might look good, but make sure you check their age. There are loads of tire debates (and hitch debates) in the Forums. Have fun!
Tee up: For the money you have budgeted, you should be able to find a nice 90's vintage 34'. Be aware that Airstream used OSB for flooring in the early 90's, so there might be hidden issues under that carpet.

Have fun! enjoy the search, and welcome to the Forums!
AIR 57698, TAC NM-9.
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:00 AM   #7
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The biggest thing about owning an Airstream, for us, is IT"S AN AIRSTREAM! There's a pride and prestige that's hard to explain. They don't look like box trailers, and not everyone has one. The fact that they tow like an absolute dream would probably be lost on you since it sounds like you're planning on parking it, but that part, for travelers is very important. We owned SOBs (some other brand) for many years, and would never EVER go back. The Airstream community is astounding!
Older trailers like ours, do take a lot of upkeep (and in our case a total renovation). There are more places for them to leak. The exterior will need ongoing care and many things are more expensive to provide for an Airstream (like awnings, due to the funky curve). But they are KOOL, MAN!

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Old 07-22-2013, 08:06 AM   #8
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Hoover , Alabama
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"emperical evidence"

no, many areas as consumers we do not have such data to know how x product compares to y product.

I think as it relates to reliability over time, problem areas, even consumer reports and such is a meta review of basic surveys. This data is inherently flawed to a large degree as well....

From my reading on this site (and I have done alot of it), 99.9% of "data" you will see is anecdotal. Nothing wrong with that, but falling short of I think of what people think of as "empirical".

Having said that, I think there is a huge wealth of anecdotal reports on this forum that are of huge help to folks.

Ill be interested to see how people respond to your size desires and numbers that you seem to want to sleep.

You said 4 adults and a few kids....

I am not an experienced travel trailer person...but I am actually curious about people's experiences in AS's sleeping 4 adults...and 4 adults and a couple kids....not sure if these requirements will make a different TT "better" for *you*? I have no idea, I am just throwing that up there.

Important to get in one of these I imagine and see what you think of course for yourself.

My understanding is that AS is preferred for a great number of reasons - foremost being the aesthetic, the towability, the community following, and the longevity....

"Is it a hype or fact" is....if you see this in person...set in them...and other trailers just fail to tickle the same may be developing the prodrome phase of the disease "aluminitus".

We looked at everything and made our choice...size, storage, aesthetic, longevity....evaluate for yourself and good luck in your decision.
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them...We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

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Old 07-22-2013, 08:15 AM   #9
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Someone else can jump in here and correct me but I think there were some issues with the 90's Airstreams and specifically a couple of things on the 34' units. First the later 90's era was known for Airstream's problems with the clear coat and EPA. There were reformulations done to stay within EPA guidelines which led to early clear coat failure or peeling on this decade's trailers. Airstream got out of clear coating at the factory with the newer trailers being built with precoated Alcoa finished aluminum. Secondly there were problems with the glue that attached the ceiling material. I've been in a few of the 34's built in the 90's that exhibit what is called ceiling droop. Finally, technology at that time only provided a 13.5K btu air conditioner and again from my experience a single 13.5K unit is woefully inadequate on a 34' trailer. Dependent upon where you camp, you need a 15K ac unit and what is even better, a second ac unit in the bedroom. As others noted, the mandatory check for leaks and floor integrity which are general Airstream checks.

Big ticket items (or troublesome), verify that all of the appliances work, especially the refrigerator. Run all those appliances (ask for the refrigerator be started early so you can verify it gets cold). Does the refrigerator run on gas and electric? Be sure to check both modes. Put water in the system. If there are leaks, you will find that water pump will run at times when the water outlets are closed. City water tests first, and then the fresh water tank and turn on the water pump. Listen for unnecessary pump cycling. Check for leaks. Look into cabinets. Run the furnace, water heater etc. Tires that are 4-5 or more years old need to be replaced. Ask the owner if he has receipts for any repairs. When did he last replace the brakes and had the wheel bearings repacked?

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'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:59 AM   #10
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2001 30' Excella
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I think you're pricerange will give you a wide range of trailers to consider. Be picky, ask questions. If you feel bad about passing one over there's will always be another so don't loose any sleep over it. If it looks too good to be true then it's time to take a closer look. I don't have any advise about making one stationary. We are wandering vagabonds so like to keep ours on the move. Floor rot is one of the common issues and one of the very costly ones to repair. Lots of places for water to leak and most of them are relatively easy to repair once identified. So early ID is critical. The guidance and advise available here on the forum is priceless so don't be afraid to ask. The only dumb question is the one not asked.

Good luck and enjoy.
Roger in NJ

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Old 07-22-2013, 09:10 AM   #11
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A couple of good resources are:

Rich Luhrs excellent Newbies guide to Airstreaming. The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming eBook: Rich Luhr, Brad Cornelius: Kindle Store

Sean of fame has written a book on purchasing an airstream. How to Buy an Airstream eBook: C.S. Michael: Kindle Store

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Old 07-22-2013, 09:30 AM   #12
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This is So. Cool. Linda and I were at exactly your same place just over two years ago. We know we had about that many dollars to spend, and that we were going to buy used rather than new. We've learned So. Much. here on this forum. Use the classifieds here and don't ignore, which is where we finally found our perfect one. If you are a new owner or are still looking, consider joining us and about 70-80 other owners at The Canopener in January, just a few miles from you.
Linda Heuer. President Shen. Valley Unit
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Old 07-22-2013, 09:57 AM   #13
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Irvine , California
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I do not have much to say about most of your questions, being a newbe (owned used 2006 20' Safari, and currently 2011 23' FB Serenity) myself. I Can share some of my experiences. Almost lost it coming down hill at 70 mph with sudden cross wind. The only thing saved me is the low profile (Center of gravity) and aerodynic shape which lowered the cross wind effect and of course the guy up stair.
And of course every A/S owner will attest to the fact that it is people's dream: in parks, on raod, in city where ever you go they would love to see inside.
One time at a truck stop 50 tourist from China lined up outside the trailer to peek inside. The bus stopped for diesel and the tourist got out to strech. None of them knew english, finally the guide showed up to help me stop the tour. My better half was mad for inviting the first few not realizing that there is a bus load of folks walking around. Also notice that airstream owners are extremely polite among themselves and helpful.
The only part of owning A/S I do not care for is the high visibiliy and people impression that every owner is rich and loaded. I can understand their preception because it is expensive in comparision to SOB and my tow vehicle is Lexus SUV.
Thanks for listening and good luck.
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Old 07-22-2013, 09:59 AM   #14
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Just one guy's $.02

1. If it's just gonna' sit, I'd buy an SOB. You get more cubic feet per dollar, new or used. My view is that Airstreams are made to travel ... that's what the curvature is about ... and curvature takes up interior space.

2. You're talking about a lot of folks for one trailer. Better be good friends or close family. Consider putting up a tent next to the trailer for a couple of these folks or you'll be pretty cheek to jowl.

3. If you're still interested in Airstreams, go to a nearby rally ... this one's in Georgia in October: Airstream Forums - Falluminum in north georgia If you show up on Saturday afternoon, just drop in; there's almost certainly gonna' be a potluck dinner on Saturday evening, with more food than a division of Marines could eat, so the'll be happy to feed you. Really. And almost everyone there will be happy / thrilled / excited to show you their trailers' interiors so you can get a better idea of what "life's really like" in one. Most rallies in fact have an open house time for doing just that. If you want to be even more happily received, just pack a cooler in your F150 with a little cold pop and/or beer to donate to the dinner. This is THE best way to learn the most in the least amount of time.

4. Do spend all the time you can here on the Forums. Just read, absorb, ask questions, etc. I think that is THE best way to learn the most overall.

5. Keep us informed as to how you're doing and what you decide.

Good luck!

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