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Old 07-08-2014, 10:47 PM   #1
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2005 31' Classic
Tucson , Arizona
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Making the Airstream decision

I am new to the Airstream world and this is my first post. My husband and I have been researching TTs and have always been intrigued by the AS -- partly because of the nostalgic design but also because we've read and heard so much about the high quality of AS trailers. That is until I stumbled on this blog: Living Stingy: Search results for airstream, which raises a number of issues, including high cost of repairs, easily dented aluminum shell, peeling clearcoat and leaks! Please say it isn't so. I realize I'm talking to the converted, but we are trying to make a decision to purchase either a 2005 Classic 31ft or a 2004 Classic 30ft slideout, both appear in excellent condition and both would sleep our tall family of 4. I realize that maintenance and repairs are a package deal with any TT, but is AS the moneypit the blogger claims or is he extremely misinformed?

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Old 07-09-2014, 06:09 AM   #2
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Peeling clearcoat is not a problem with late model Airstreams (since 1999) but some surface (filiform) corrosion is for Airstreams exposed to coastal salt in the air, and northern road salt. You will not have that problem in Arizona, but should apply anti-corrosion protective product when traveling to these areas.

Leaks are a problem with most rv's. You need to check the plywood subfloor with a moisture detection meter regularly (quarterly?), as part of routine maintenance.

Aluminum dents easy. Rv repairs are expensive for any of them.

Airstreams are wonderful trailers but require regular inspections and maintenance to keep them in top condition. Taking care of them, they can last a long time. Not taking care of them will lead to disappointment. Tucson is a very friendly environment for most rv's, especially Airstream in you can find covered storage to keep it out of the summer sun. Ours spends much of the winter there each year.

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Old 07-09-2014, 06:10 AM   #3
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All travel trailers are subject to stresses and strains going down the road that will test any construction method. All travel trailers will require periodic maintenance of the components (e.g., fridge, furnace, electrical systems, etc..) all are subject to dings if you back into a tree or picnic table and all are subject to leaks if you don't maintain the exterior caulking and sealing. Airstreams are hardly unique in this.

There are several reasons that you see a lot of discussion on this forum about Airstream maintenance related issues:

1. Generally, we all own Airstreams and not other brands so we tend to discuss issues with the trailers we actually own.

2. This is an Airstream forum. I'm sure if you went to a Jayco forum, you'd see a lot of discussion about Jayco maintenance issues.

3. Airstreams tend to last a lot longer than the other brands so they get old while the others simply disintegrate (notice how 80 year olds have more health issues than 20 year olds?)

For every dissatisfied Airstream owner on this forum, there are a thousand delighted owners. I hope you will become one of them!

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Old 07-09-2014, 06:22 AM   #4
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All tt need attention but not many 40 year old campers can sell for more than they cost new it happens all the time with Airstreams. I like the higher quailty inside and out.
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Old 07-09-2014, 06:40 AM   #5
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My 50 year old Airstream was built by craftsmen. They were built with care and attention to detail. I am not sure that can be said about new Airstreams. That said, if I could afford a new Airstream I would buy one in a heart beat knowing full well of the current issues.
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:17 AM   #6
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Buy the trailer you like the best and want to camp in. Do not sweat the "small stuff".
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:23 AM   #7
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Thanks all. Really appreciate the quick responses. I'll let you know what we end up purchasing!
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Old 07-09-2014, 09:09 AM   #8
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Something that most other brand trailer owners do not know about is Airstreams superior handling and tow ability. At there is one section that shows these two things. That video is the main reason I bought our 1987 Airstream. I would rather tow an older Airstream than any other new or old travel trailer.
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Old 07-09-2014, 09:12 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by cniccum View Post
I stumbled on this blog: Living Stingy: Search results for airstream, which raises a number of issues, including high cost of repairs, easily dented aluminum shell, peeling clearcoat and leaks! Please say it isn't so. ...I realize that maintenance and repairs are a package deal with any TT, but is AS the moneypit the blogger claims or is he extremely misinformed?
When listening to anyone else's opinion, it's important to see if their criteria match your own. What do they want or expect from a trailer? What do you want or expect?

I don't even need to read between the lines for this blog. I can use his own words: "We all want to have the baddest or best whatever-on-wheels to show off our implied wealth and sophistication."

He likes the convenience and weight of his Casita, and they are awesome trailers. He's trying to talk himself out of feeling "less than" for not owning the "baddest."

We bought an old Airstream for reasons the blog doesn't even mention. It is lighter than comparable sized other trailers. It tows far better than a box. Even with the curves, it has plenty of storage for the two of us, and we sometimes spend a weeks at a time living in ours. It is recyclable when it gets to the end of its life or dies a premature death.

Other problems he mentions are common to most trailers. The Casita has fewer seams than most, but all seams have the potential to leak. Trailers with wood in them have to be watched for rot.

We were not concerned about "perfection" or depreciation or resale. Our heirs can decide what they want to do with ours. We had no compunctions about replacing the plastic interior with real wood. Ours didn't have a dinette, we built two into ours, one of which has turned into our full time double bed which doubles as a couch/lounge if we're ever stuck inside by rain.

A non-restoration remodel may lower or raise the resale value, depending on the quality and general appeal of the work that was done. If you might want to change the interior, don't buy a mint condition rare Airstream. There are plenty of other 1971 Tradewinds out on the road for someone to restore to original condition. Ours isn't one of them.

Yup, our trailer is dented (and we didn't have to experience the anguish of causing the first one), but it is still structurally sound. The clear coat is peeling. I like the surprise element of the slightly scruffy outside leading to the shiny new birch interior we've put in.

Yes, older trailer can take a fair amount of work and it's expensive it you're not handy and have to hire someone to do the work. I'm glad our major overhaul is done, but it was a deeply satisfying cooperative project for us. Your mileage may vary.
Our travel and renovation blog:
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Old 07-09-2014, 10:34 AM   #10
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I checked out that article and the author has a Casita. I had a Casita before I purchased my 2008 25fb Classic last year. Many of the points are true. We wanted something bigger than our Casita but not too big so we could still get into National Parks. To get the same items on our check list; queen bed, dinette, 2nd sitting area, nothing over 26ft was difficut with SOB trailers. Many are 28 ft and above and have large slide outs. I was thinking of the possiblity of improved gas mileage towing an AS vs SOB.

So after a year what are my impressions of my AS.
Despite my AS being hardly used when I bought it there were numerous issues I discovered once I started using it. I used the AS Forums inspection service and the person who helped me inspect the unit knew what he was doing but it was a cold and rainy day. The unit appeared to be water tight with no evidence of leaks or moisture registered with a moisture meter. All RVs can leak.

The first problem was the converter wasn't charging the batteries. We should've put a test meter on the outputs of the converter. It was an excuse to upgrade to a 4 stage converter from This could happend to a Casita, not AS specific

The shower door leaked. Running water along the flashing and see if you see water seep out from underneath the shower frame to the hallway floor. This could happen to any RV with a glass shower door.

Black water flush on way valve leaked the first time I used the black water flush. I replaced it with and elbow fitting. The one way valves are junk and they will break again.

The fridge wouldn't stay cold during travel. I had the Dometic recall for fire issue performed. The procedure adds extra flashing around the burner. The side affect it prevents the flame from being blown out by the wind or passing trucks. Since the recall the fridge maintains its temperature while towing. Not really AS specific

The AC leaked on the hallway floor. I applied some caulking around the drain tube where it exits the drain pain. I checked the drain tube was clear. So far so good on that one. AS specific. Most RVs vent condensation to the roof.

Small leak in connector on pressure side of water pump. The water leaked down the access hole above the water tank. As water dripped onto the water tank is flowed down into the rotocast outside cover visiable from under the trailer and leaked out the small weep holes. I thought I had a leaking water tank. Once the connection was repaired it has been fine. Leak not AS specific

Running AC, electric hot water hear will trip the 30 amp fuse eventually especially if one more electric item used. I moved the AC wires around my panel to move the AC away from the main breaker. I may replace that 30/20 breaker as its tripped alot now.

My vinyl floor is buckling in a couple of places now the trailer is exposed to really cold weather in winter since moving to Missouri from Texas (DFW)

The Casita is a simple trailer, the AS is complex in comparison

My concerns with future ownership of my Airstream
I'm deathly afraid of hail. I keep my AS stored in outside covered storage. Cost is $115/mo. I probably won't go out if the forecast is a chance of severe weather. The SOB fiberglass siding and rubber/TPO roofs are much more resistant and easier to repair. There is also the chance of other damage. My brother in laws 5th wheel was run into by a turning 5th wheel in storage and it was not that difficult to get it repaired. I wouldn't trust an AS repair to the local dealer. I'm not sure if the RV repair company he took his 5th wheel to can repair AS. I'll check. They do excellent work.

The AC is noisy. I've looked at several SOB with ducted air and I'm envious.

The ZIP Dee awning is a pain to deploy. My wife can't deploy it or retract if I'm not around. SOBs have easier to use electric awnings.

The rounded sides cause storage challenges. Luckily our AS has a pull out pantry that that helps. Half the end cabinet over the rear dinette is taken up by the radio system. No cabinets over the side couch due to the oval port holes. For some reason Classics do not have a storage cabinet over the fridge and don't have a pull out drawer under the dinette seat closest to the entry door like FC or Intl models.

The Classic has one advantage in the pull out rear bumper tray. I can store electric cables, water hoses etc in the tray. However it does get water in it sometimes and it started to get white rust and red rust so I've had to clean off the rust and spary with cold galvanizing spray. I looking into an addition coating of some sort.

Would I buy an AS again? Probably not. Its a lot of money to tow around and worry if you hit a low branch or you get rear ended. Despite buying used it still cost me about twices as much as a new SOB about 27-28ft in length that offers more storage, more room, easier maintance and less costly repairs. Even if the SOB doesn't last 25 years it will last a good 10 to 15 years if maintained properly and by that time I'll be close to 80 years old and then I could still sell if for a few thousand dollars and if healty buy another SOB and still come out cheaper than one AS of similar size. One thing I'm confident of is the resale demand of the AS is better than an SOB. Like my Casita I could probably sell my AS faster than an SOB.

If you are going to still look at AS then look at FC or Internationals rather than a Classic. The wood work is nice but they are a heavier AS to tow. The dinette table is heavy to take up and down and there is less interior storage as explained above. But the vinyl ceiling and covered walls are nice vs bare aluminum becasue not cold to the touch.

Good luck and enjoy whatever you buy.

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Old 07-09-2014, 12:36 PM   #11
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Airstreams are not perfect, but they are the best travel trailers.

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Old 07-09-2014, 12:54 PM   #12
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I am on my third Airstream. I still love the look, feel, and overall durability compared to SOB's. When you see a SOB wreck, normally it simply dissolves into it's component parts - plus a zillion toothpicks.

I might consider buying and reconditioning an older Avion for a BIG trailer. They're heavy, but were better built than Airstreams. Of course that brand priced itself out of business.

Today, if I wanted something in a 22 foot length, I'd buy an Oliver. The people who manufacture this also do walk in tubs, and they've finally made a fiberglass trailer with a true "boat hull" design. Two layers of fiberglass with insulation sandwiched between. Absolute seal.

This company is going to give Thor a major headache over time. It's like a big Casita, and like Casita you have to go to the factory to pick one up.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 07-10-2014, 11:38 AM   #13
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I had never heard of the Oliver trailer so did little googling. Nice Airstream like exterior, but it sure is ugly on the inside. Reminds me of a Hunter sailboat interior. All molded plastic with no character. Seems the company had some major production QC issues and just recently restarted production back up. Starting prices at 45k.
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Old 07-10-2014, 11:52 AM   #14
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My trailer is 45 years old, and for an Airstream that doesn't even make it an oddity. That's all I need to know about Airstream quality. If you take care of it you can have it for a lifetime. Sure they leak, or can be dented, or their finish may wear. but other trailers have other issues, or similar issues, and there's a reason you don't find 45 year old SOBs for sale - they all fell apart years ago.

Of course outside of the quality of the trailer comes the amazing community of AS owners. I have to say I've never had as much fun camping as when I'm with our AS family. They just know how to have a good time. And nobody lords it over anyone else about how big their trailer is or how much it costs. We just have potlucks and catch up on life and talk about that time things went horribly astray at the dump station. good times


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