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Old 02-20-2015, 09:30 PM   #1
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New member, no trailer, long post...

Hello all!

Thanks for all the good info here! I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on a 28 foot International Serenity/Signature. Lots of questions have been answered and lots more to come, I'm sure.

Two main areas of questions at the moment. First is the usual, probably, "I'm thinking about XXX Airstream, what else should I be thinking about..." The second is more of a work/business question. Maybe for the "Workamping" forum.

I'll set the stage here, and if the consensus is that the question(s) would be better asked in their respective forums, I'll move/rephrase them there.

So, WRT item #1. I have always been intrigued by Airstream trailers but have negligible experience. I like to hike, bicycle, tent camp, car camp, drive around and see the sights, drive cross country, etc. My sole AS experience is a several hour walk around at Lazydays in Tucson on one of the X-country trips. However, I'm thinking about going all in due to my current situation which may not last for too long, so I need to take advantage of it while I can. I am retired from the Navy and currently working part time 400 miles from home. The company I work for pays to put me up in a hotel every other week -- works out to 16 nights per month. I confirmed with them that they are fine paying the hotel or paying me the money to put towards an alternative living arrangement -- apartment, room rental or yes, an Airstream. So, for the short term, I think the cash from that arrangement would pay for a monthly RV site rental and cover the monthly payment and then some. Hate to pass that up. If my circumstances change or I just don't care for it, I can always sell it 6-12 months down the road and break even, take a relatively smaller hit or maybe even come out slightly ahead. If I love it, someone else footed the initial part of the bill... So, long story longer, 28 foot seems a bit bigger than I want to spend a lot of time towing (at least until I become comfortable with it) but a good size for a week at a time living arrangement for mostly one person with my wife and dog joining me sometimes...

All that being said, back to that first question. I'm thinking 28 foot Serenity/Signature with propane stove and inverter so that I can boondock and cook on occasion without killing the batteries, and a 2nd AC unit and additional awnings because my part time locale is Central Valley CA and can hover around 100 in the summers. I can't get comfortable at night when it is hot, and could sleep comfortably in a meat locker with a warm comforter... I'm interested in an eventual upgrade to solar, but it seems the consensus is that I can do better than the factory standard and it will come prewired for future solar upgrades. Any big mistakes there? I recognize that a used trailer would be fine to test the waters, but since the current situation may not last too long, to be able to take advantage of it, I want to be in a trailer sooner rather than later and the trailer needs to be up and running from day one. When/if the situation changes, it would presumably be for a better paying job close to home. Although I wouldn't need the AS for lodging, I would still take advantage of it for vacationing, and the job change should cover the payments I would still be making. If that job doesn't appear, the current situation could go on indefinitely.

2nd question is for the business/"work out of my AS" folks. Since this is going to be a business expense, any recommendations on how to best structure this? Seems there are two main options. Have the business (me as the sole-proprietor) buy it for lodging purposes, and then depreciate it as part of the business. For business purposes, I suspect I can depreciate it to nothing on some schedule -- 7 years or so. That can offset some of my business income. Downside is that it probably isn't considered a 2nd home and I can't deduct the interest on my personal taxres. Alternative thought is to buy it with my personal finances and then lease it to me, the business. This gives me a legitimate receipt I can hand to my parent company every month. I hand over my reimbursement check to me, the individual, to pay the monthly Airstream mortgage and RV site rental, but I can take the loan interest as a personal tax deduction. I lose out on the option to depreciate it...

Way more info than anyone wanted this late at night, and I promise to keep financial issues out of it in the future once I make it happen! Much more interested in the fun, the camraderie, etc. But I have to make the leap first, in order to fully experience that, and sadly, I must consider the expenses of this endeavor as part of becoming involved. Unless, of course, someone has a spare 28 foot that they want to send my way...

On a totally unrelated note, I have a Ural, a Ukrainian motorcycle with a sidecar, and would be interested in hearing from anyone about their Ural/AS experiences. I get the sense that it is a similar community!

If you made it this far, I owe you!



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Old 02-21-2015, 06:11 AM   #2
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My thoughts and my thoughts alone. Lets start with the economical side, although I am NOT an accountant. Using the trailer for business is fine, depreciating is fine but you are being reimbursed for the sites you use etc. Trust me on this one, any business expense claimed by an individual these days is an audit flag. You may not get audited, but it's a flag. On depreciation, if you do so, when you sell the unit my understanding is the amount you've depreciated needs to be calculated back into the sale if you make a profit. Thats not likely but possible. Also, if the payments you receive pay part of the monthly payment then that is income to you, not business expense, unless you depreciate in which case if this is a major factor I'd contact a good CPA.

As to size, in my opinion if going to 28', I'd go 30'. I just don't see much towing difference in the two feet, but do see the living difference. Also, if heat is an issue with you I would suggest two A/C units, you won't be hot.

Thanks for your service and good luck.



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Old 02-21-2015, 06:19 AM   #3
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Welcome aboard.

For tax advice see an accountant, preferably one who used to work for the IRS. Advice from an amateur on taxes - AAAG! Pay for professional advice!

About towing. You learn. Don't fear going big because you haven't done a lot before. Many companies that train potential truck drivers for the CDL also offer an RV towing course. Wish I'd known that before I got my first A/S. It's a great confidence builder and a lot cheaper than paying for even relatively minor damage to an Airstream - because you failed to cut a corner widely enough or backed into a sapling.

About your first Airstream - it's hard to go wrong with a 28, but I'd sort of agree that a 30 might be better. Truly - you'll be happy with either.

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Old 02-21-2015, 07:52 AM   #4
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Good info -- thanks! Definitely going to have an accountant, tax person, etc. help me with making a legitimate business scenario. The above was just my general thoughts on the possibilities -- professional advice definitely needed.

From my walk-arounds of the various layouts, I already took the "go one size larger" advice to get to the 28 foot. Maybe I take it again...

Good idea about the RV towing course -- I'll have to look into that.

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Old 02-21-2015, 08:22 AM   #5
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Don't let the towing fear change your plans and length of trailer is not an issue after a little experience. Start gently..go gently...stop gently. Your convex mirrors will be your best friend...bigger mirror the better. Make sure your tow vehicle is MORE than adequate and hitched properly. After a little while towing will become natural. Always remember that going faster in tow is not being cool. Not having an accident in hundreds of thousands of miles is very cool. So if the numbers work, get that AS and you will love life. Those are simple general rules but backed by 40 yrs ov camper pulling and many thousand miles in my 18 wheeler. Gentle is the rule.
Enjoy !
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:08 AM   #6
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Almost anything that you can cook in, sleep in, and poop in can be considered a second home, and you can deduct the interest.

I've been doing that for years with boats and campers.

Also, I bought a rather expensive airplane many years ago and charged my company for my travel in it. (Business purposes only, of course) Basically, I ran it as a small business.

Interest, repairs, upgrades, and fuel were all deductible. If you trade such an item for another one for the same purpose, you simply carry all deductions over to the new one.

Bad news is when you finally sell said item, and get out of it for good, then you will probably owe some back tax money. However, it's well worth it.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:38 AM   #7
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Welcome to the forums. You obviously think things through then take action. As a result, I think you'll enjoy the forums. Their are many very experienced "streamers" willing to share their experience, knowledge and often wisdom.

Thank you very much for your service to this great nation, the sacrifices you and your wife have made are truly appreciated.

Your plan to let your current work situation help pay a portion of the cost of your new A/S is excellent. I agree with the recommendation to seek professional tax advice. It can be a relatively low cost financial risk reducer. You may already be an LLC for the work you're doing and that may help tie everything together.

I personally like the 28 ft and, if I were buying new, that's the model I'd choose. No disrespect to the 30 ft, just a little less trailer and initial cost, unless you're contemplating a larger family in the future. The bedroom layout where you can each get out on your own side of the bed is a winner. Unfortunately, it becomes even more desirable later in life (when crawling over each other in the middle of the night isn't as much fun as it should be...)

We wish you luck in your decision making and purchase and, again, thank you for making the Navy your first career.

Roy and Marie
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Old 02-21-2015, 10:20 AM   #8
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I think the only good reason for buying an Airstream, tow vehicle, and it's associated equipment is for travel, about the country or to weekend and vacation retreats. And with the intention and experience to keep and use it for a long time. They are expensive, require on-going maintenance and repairs, and although the resale value is pretty good compared to other RV's, you will probably take a financial beating if selling it soon and after using it little and only as temporary housing. The tax scheme is out of my league.

With that in mind, the Airstream is a wonderful retirement or vacation camper, providing all the comforts but not necessarily all the luxuries of home. They last if maintained well, and never go out of style. They are all small but comfortable. Many of us spend several weeks or months a year traveling and vacationing in our Airstreams.

I think if you only use it sitting on a site as temporary housing, you may be disappointed by what you have for what you spent. But if you travel with it, hook up on weekends or vacations and go somewhere interesting, and plan to travel extensively after retirement, it is an excellent choice as a way to enjoy those years to the fullest.

And Welcome Aboard! from a couple of fellow Navy retirees.
Doug and Cheryl
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Old 02-21-2015, 11:42 AM   #9
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If you aren't going to be a long term owner, buying a new Airstream probably isn't your best choice financially. Going with a lower cost SOB trailer will probably justify itself when resale time comes. Those early years of depreciation are substantial and that really is why a lower cost SOB makes more sense if you aren't committed to long term ownership.

The inverse is that with proper care you will get more years of service from your Airstream than an SOB. I've owned SOB's prior to my Airstream and quite honestly as much as you read about the problems that some have, consider how many 15+ year old SOB's that you see on the road. The numbers speak for themselves.

Finally from a tax situation, here's a link to an article written in 2013. Laws are still the same so the information here is pertinent. Is the Purchase of an RV As a Second Home With IRA Funds a Tax Deduction? | Finance - Zacks

Jack Canavera
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:28 PM   #10
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OP, nice to see the thinking laid out so well. I agree that the current situation in which you find yourself is an excellent way to leverage yourself into a TT and TV that can be more than just a vacation pair, but a true home on the road.

I also agree about the 30' over the 28', but am most pleased you are already on the fringe of trailer sizes best for full time use. I solo in a vintage kin Silver Streak 35' in length. I could move down to a TT 28' without too much trouble. With a rearmost bedroom, this TT is the right type and size for two people where some individual privacy is the luxury afforded by the longest types. So I would add the 34' to your list. More space is not a handicap going down the road.

As that size is not currently in production it dovetails with the suggestion to buy used. Up to about ten years for the depreciated vs needs little work graph crossings.

A 34' A/S pulls more easily than a 30' or even a 28'. Lower tongue weight as well. For a fulltimer one is already at the TT size where a 3/4 or 1T truck is best. The Dodge 3/4T with air ride, long bed and Highway Products Pickup Pack, bed slide and aftermarket extended range fuel tank is about as state of the art as it gets.

ProPride hitch and TUSON antilock trailer disc brakes + electronic antisway covers that end. 16" tires and premium LT tires. Cover all these costs in your pencilled figuring at the outset. Do them first is the strong advice.

I don't know that anyone ever breaks even, per se, much less profits. One will need to account for vacations, etc, to come up with numbers that are comfortable. The divisor is nights aboard over a calendar year.

Cost of use is higher due to ground rent and utility cost versus a standard rental property. Higher personal miles as one needs re-supply more often. Etc. Its more the perceived aggravation at this level. The start up costs are higher as you are not transitioning from another RV. Call that learning curve expense.

Insurance isn't bad, but I'd sure recommend a certified appraisal. Investigate stated versus agreed value policies.

As to tax advantages and per diem subsidization I still think it would make it easier to offset the first year learning curve costs and purchases more than as a true underwriting. But this is not to be discounted. Your first paragraph says it best about desire. That is how to get across the stream.

I would look to do the proposed for about three years to feel best in regards a set of figures. And, yes, you need a CPA already conversant with your particulars. I work as a truck driver now and would never consider a tax advisor not steeped in the minutiae of that set of situations.

Good luck.
1990 35' Silver Streak Sterling; 9k GVWR.
2004 DODGE Cummins 305/555; 6-manual; 9k GVWR.
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Old 02-26-2015, 08:02 PM   #11
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Great insight from everyone -- thanks for the welcome aboard!

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Old 03-01-2015, 08:05 AM   #12
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Welcome aboard. Buying a new coach for your first RV is a good way to spend a lot of money. Few people buy the right coach the first time, and trading that coach in a year or less will result in a huge depreciation hit. I'd suggest that you buy a used Airstream to start with. The payments will be less, and with the arrangement you have with your employer, you should be able to bank at least part of the payment. That will help cover the eventual repairs/upgrades you will need/want and maybe start to build some money towards the next coach.

As for size, spend an hour or more "living" in the coach. Sit and "watch" tv for a while, "wash" dishes, "take" a shower, etc. Then take some time to figure out where things will go. Do this for a couple of coaches with different layouts, and you will soon figure out what will and won't work for you.

David Lininger, kb0zke
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