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Old 08-05-2012, 03:05 PM   #1
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how do I not get overwhelmed!?!

My husband and I have decided we would like to buy an airstream. We have a newborn, so we haven't been out this year, but usually we're out tent camping every weekend when the weather permits. We're tired of doing the tent thing though, and we decided that if we get a trailer, we might as well get something awesome.

At this point we don't have a vehicle to tow one with, so we'll need to remedy that situation, and also find ourselves an awesome used AS. Hopefully this will happen by next summer, but the year after that would be okay too.

I'm just here to start the process of learning how to know what to buy etc. We'd like to spend under 10k, so we'll be getting something older. I've been perusing the forums for a while now, and I'm getting pretty overwhelmed with information. I almost feel like I need a guide to all this great info!

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Old 08-05-2012, 03:37 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Airforums! It is overwhelming at first, but that's just because there's so much knowledge and information on the Forums to learn from. It will be OK...just take your time and seek out the information you need at the time... Your quest for your Airstream will be exciting, sometimes disappointing and then finally, exhilarating...and then the real adventure begins! Enjoy it!

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Old 08-05-2012, 04:21 PM   #3
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I'm probably going to get booed and hissed at before this thread is done - that's OK.

Can I ask:
- do you have a place to store the camper and work on it at home
- how mechanically inclined are you
- how much more money (and more importantly time with a newborn) are you willing to invest in a vintage trailer beyond the amount you spend to purchase it

I'm not trying to discourage you but your in exactly the same spot we were in (love to camp - tent - go almost every weekend - newborn) when we bought our first camper. It wasn't a vintage Airstream....

Welcome to Air Forums...!!
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Old 08-05-2012, 04:21 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by TBRich View Post
Welcome to the Airforums! It is overwhelming at first, but that's just because there's so much knowledge and information on the Forums to learn from. It will be OK...just take your time and seek out the information you need at the time... Your quest for your Airstream will be exciting, sometimes disappointing and then finally, exhilarating...and then the real adventure begins! Enjoy it!
Very well said!!! Exactly what happened for us.
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Old 08-05-2012, 04:26 PM   #5
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Welcome! Here's a few thoughts to narrow things down for you:

- Try and go to a few rallies near you. Airstream owners are usually very welcoming and want to show off their trailers. Going in some trailers will help you figure out floor plans and things you like.
- In the same vein, go look at Airstreams at the dealer. Go to an RV show and look at other RVs. Again, you want to get your head around what you want in a trailer.
- You want to do this first, because your choice of tow vehicle partly hinges on how big of a trailer you want.
- Buying vintage puts another wrinkle into the equation because you need to very strongly consider condition. Listen to a few episodes of The Vintage Airstream Podcast, particularly the ones that talk about buying vintage.
- A great resource is - now run by the folks who bring you Airforums, it has piles of pictures of older trailers.
- Also look at the Airstream website - in the Service section they have PDFs of "specifications" of older trailers. Again, it helps you look at floor plans.
- $10k is likely going to buy you a solid vintage trailer that's had some upgrades done. But they all need stuff fixed, like an old house. You need to be patient and handy.

One more thing - it's the experience of camping that counts more than the trailer. Airstreams are awesome, but after owning 3 different trailers (each great in its own way), its the time at the campground that matters. You might want to consider moving up first to a tent trailer or a used Casita (or other fiberglass egg) or a folding hard side trailer like a Chalet or Aliner. You might be able to tow them with what you own, $10k buys you a relatively modern trailer (read: less hassle), and you'd get most of the $$ back on resale when you do find that AS of your dreams.

Good luck and take your time. It took 14 months to find our first Airstream, and each trailer we've owned has taught us lessons on what we like in the next one.

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Old 08-05-2012, 05:04 PM   #6
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Welcome to the Forums Dandylion! It sounds like you have a plan, and by joining the forums, you can research to make sure you don't blindly wander off in a bad direction.

$10k should get you into a fairly nice vintage unit with enough left over to fix the few things the seller, well, may not have known were issues.

words like 'new hardwood floor' can mean there is a problem with the floor (is a structural part in a 'Stream')

'New Shocks and bearings repacked' are not a big selling point. 'New Axles' means the owner knows about 'streams'

'Air blows, not cold, may need freon' translates to 'needs a new AC unit'...

'new fridge' means ask if its 110V only. If so, it's not an RV fridge...

Don't let the folks that fuss about bad quality control turn you off. Most of the componets in an Airstream are the same as an entry level White Box and the high end diesel pushers. It's the cool shape of aluminum that lets you answer "what campsite are you in?" by saying "We are the in the Airstream"
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Old 08-05-2012, 05:26 PM   #7
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Dandylion, we were also long-time tent-campers before we decided we were getting too old for it and tired of packing up a wet tent. The trouble was, we really didn't like the looks of the most of the campers we saw going down the highway. Too big, too boxy, fuel-inefficient, and so on. Then we saw an Airstream Bambi at an I-15 rest area in southern Idaho. It was love at first sight.

Neither one of us had any prior RV experience, or even mechanical-type experience. It was a very steep learning curve!

Some "newbie" recommendations, assuming you don't have mechanical experience yourselves:

1. Do you have a friend who's a mechanic who would go with you to look at a potential purchase? If not, this site has a list of knowledgeable people in different places who will inspect a used Airstream for you and report back. There is also a lot of on-line information in books and on-line about what to check for when buying a used RV.

2. You may have to travel some distance to find exactly what you want.

3. Once you've made your purchase, never be afraid to ask a knowledgeable-looking RVer at your campground for advice or assistance. Esp. if it's a fellow Airstreamer. Most of them are friendly and helpful. You will learn what you need to know, and some guy will feel like a minor hero for helping you out.

4. Towing is a whole other issue. Get the safest tow package you can afford, and make sure your vehicle is over-powered for the weight of your AS.

We've since spent many a rainy night in remote parts of Utah, snug in our little AS, congratulating ourselves on our purchase.
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Old 08-05-2012, 05:50 PM   #8
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I started reading posts on the Forum about 2 months before we bought one and it was overwhelming too. Most anyone who is looking at their first RV goes through this. It takes time for your brain to organize the chatter and figure out who is posting bad information and who is posting honest opinions and facts.

Take your time—there are always better deals when the season for RV's is over.

$10,000 will get you a fairly good older trailer, but it is inevitable you'll want to fix some things, upgrade some things and do things to make the trailer feel like home. You will be in better shape if you can fix things yourself—you'll learn about your trailer and save a lot of money on labor costs.

Get this book: woodalls rv owners handbook It tells you how common things work in an RV and how to fix them. Also look for a few books on RV's and read them. You'll get overwhelmed again, but in the end you'll understand what to look for. Start making a list as you research of things to ask about and look for when you start looking for trailers. You can't learn everything, but you can learn a lot.

Having a long term plan (as you do) is a very good approach. Good luck.

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Old 08-05-2012, 05:58 PM   #9
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i was in a parallel boat- solo mom to 2 kids and a dog ( now 2 dogs) i had a vw camper for years and loved it pre kids. once i realized that its nice to not have to break camp to get forgotten items at the store or go on a great hike i set my sights on a trailer. i really wanted an airstream but wanted to check out trailer camping first. i bought a small canned ham, put too much money into fixing it up used it for a summer and decided that trailer camping in the nf and state parks was a good thing. so i started obsessively looking for my airstream. i got lucky and found one that i wanted. i had it restored professionally because i am not handy. i went over budget, which was stressful at first but it was worth it. i love my airstream and its perfect for my family. here's a photo of our trip last weekend to the newberry national monument area in central oregon.
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Old 08-07-2012, 09:34 AM   #10
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Thanks so much for your welcomes and thoughtful responses. I do appreciate "reality checks" as well. We're both pretty mechanically inclined, especially if we have a book or youtube video guiding the way. My husband's brother can pretty much fix anything too, so I'm sure we'll be requesting his help for anything beyond our abilities. We don't really have a place to store one inside, so working on it during the winter will be pretty limited. I think at this point, we both have very different expectations on what we want too. He really wants to gut it and redo it completely, where I just want to find one that's in pretty good shape and give it a minor face lift. We'll obviously have to get on the same page, but I think learning about the money and time involved will help. We also might discover a vintage AS isn't right for us right now, but it's obviously better to figure that out before we buy one!
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Old 08-07-2012, 09:51 AM   #11
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The best advice I can give is to decide what you want to do with your RV and where you want to go in it before you buy anything.
I went to the RV show with my parents, My wife and I were looking for a 20-25 foot trailer to spend long weekends at state and provincial parks, while my parents were looking for a 5th wheel to take to Florida for the winter. I walked in to a 20ft travel trailer that I thought would be perfect for my wife and I. My father's comment was "you couldn't spend the winter in something that small".
My parents 34ft 5th wheel is great for an extended stay in an RV resort, but won't fit in many of the more rustic parks my wife and I like to stay at.

Also look at what you will be doing in on your trips. when we travel we are interested in the outdoors, we never cook in our trailer, so the kitchen is not a primary concern for us, but a well equiped kitchen is a must for many people.

Once you know how you will be using your trailer, you can really narrow down what you will be shopping for.
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:00 AM   #12
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Welcome. My wife and I were in a similar spot several years ago. We loved camping but were getting older and tired of tent camping. I looked for several years on Ebay and Craig's list and one day found my trailer in a field not 10 miles from my house. Point is, you never know when you will find your Airstream. A few thoughts on gutting and completely redoing. It takes lots and lots of time. I always say go multiply the time you think it will take by 4 and multiply the cost by 2 or 3 and you will be close.
Finally, it should not be hard to find someone here on the forums who will help you check over a trailer when you find one.
We love our old Trade Wind. We had a good time bringing it back to service. It sure beats a tent when the thunderstorms roll in at 2 in the morning!
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:27 AM   #13
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If you get an old trailer for $10k you will probably have $20k into it before you get it ready to camp. Everyone says ready to camp no leaks but maybe 1% of those claims are anywhere near true. Most trailers that look good under initial inspection have a lot of hidden problems like floor rot. Unless you want a project don't buy an old airstream without getting someone experienced to inspect the trailer. It takes someone who has purchased a distressed trailer to really know what to look for, (anything over 20yrs old that has been outside is a distressed trailer).

I bought my trailer September last year and I am just now getting close to getting it road worthy. I had to replace the rear floor and belly skin and repair frame rust. There there are all the little things. Tires, brakes, wheel bearings, plumbing, electrical, interior cleaning and R&R. Then there are leaks, leaks, leaks, did I say leaks. AC replacement other appliances that need repair/replace. It is very overwhelming. Getting a center bath trailer is going to make repairs easier to deal with since there is less stress on the frame in the center bath models and you don't have to gut the trailer to get to the rear floor. The worst damage in these old trailers is in the back where it leaks where a plate goes under the back of the trailer. Unless you are lucky you will still be tent camping for a while after buying a used Airstream.

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Old 08-07-2012, 11:20 AM   #14
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We have taken our baby out a few times now... just make sure there is a place that a portable play-pen can be set up for sleeping. We put ours on the dinette when it is folded down. If we have another kid I'm not sure how we'd sort it out... get a bigger trailer I guess...

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