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Old 08-07-2006, 10:52 PM   #1
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Old Versus New for young family

I hope no one is bothered by this question as I am sure it has been asked many times. My husband and I grew up tent camping but now have two very young children and would very much love an Airstream to camp with our children. My first instinct was to look for a "vintage" model, but after doing much research am wondering about maintenance. My husband works overseas a great deal and I am often alone and may even want to camp with my children and parents alone and am worried about it breaking down. As a result we have begun to think about new ones. Does anyone have any advice for a family where the Dad is not home much and the trailer is going to be used to relax and share quality time with our children.
Also, I am finding there are few "vintage" models that sleep more than four. Are there a select few that sleep more? Thank you so much for your help and time. I have been reading this site for several hours and am so impressed with the groups dedication to Airstream and members thoughtful comments. Wonderful site!

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Old 08-07-2006, 10:58 PM   #2
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My suggestion would be to split the difference and go used but not vintage. We bought a 97 Excella last year. It took some work to get it the way we want it but we are very happy with it.

Steve Heywood
Waddell, AZ
1999 19' Bambi (SOLD)
1997 30' Excella (SOLD)
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Old 08-07-2006, 11:05 PM   #3
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Yreka , California
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I would check out the thread, "Considerations when buying an Airstream" it will give you lots of things to think about. The thread is about newer 'streams, but many of the considerations are the same.

Welcome to the forums! This is a great place to ask questions and find answers about Airstreams. Good luck on your search!

Mrs. NorCal Bambi (traveling in S Tardis)
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Old 08-08-2006, 07:03 AM   #4
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We were in the same situation when we searched for our unit. Even though our kids are older (15, 12), the accomodation/reliability issues are similar. We decided to go recent/used. To us, that seemed to be the best price point. We selected the 27' due to its' rear twin set-up, which affords the kids their own private quarters. We devised a way to convert the front guacho into a full-sized queen with no physical modification to the trailer. The prices above 25' seem to flatten out, or even go down per linear foot. The 27' is just the right size for the 4 of us.
'00 Safari 27' Rear Twin
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Old 08-08-2006, 07:06 AM   #5
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This is a very good question, new v. old for a young family.

We started with older and quickly moved to new. After the first summer with our '76 Safari 23' we found that maintenance alone was taking up what little time we have to spend with the kids. Looking around the forums you see everyone doing wonderful things and it looks so do-able, but unless you have a lot of patience and time for finding parts, and the do-it-yourself skills for vintage RV repairs, it can become a bit much.

I agree with Steve Heywood that if you can find the size you want slightly used, that's a good way to go. The thing that amazed us most about the new Airstream vs. the older one was the little conveniences -- the fantastic fan, lighting the gas water heater by the push of a button from inside rather than with a flame on the outside of the trailer, a refrigerator that automatically switches between electric and gas, systems monitor that really works and doesn't take up the space of an entire overhead cupboard...

Someday I'd like to get a small vintage unit again just for a long-term project because I think they're just so neat! But for an operable family camper, I would go with the latest model you can afford, and the smallest size you think you can get by with.

One other note -- we went from 23' to 19' and we feel like we have more space in the 19' because of the better layout and added width in the newer models. The 19' is fine for us with 2 small kids, and I'm more comfortable with handling the smaller trailer when my husband can't be along.

Good luck with your decision!

Doug & Jamie, AIR #650
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Old 08-08-2006, 07:38 AM   #6
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My advise would be to buy as new as you can afford.The most important thing you can do, if you decide to buy used is to have ALL systems checked to see that they are operating as they should be... don't take anyones word for it. Have everything demonstrated. No matter how well kept over the years, an older Airstream rquires work.. and sometimes a lot of it.
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Old 08-08-2006, 08:14 AM   #7
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carhart---lots of good advise in the previous replys. Kids ,even the best behaved are just naturally hard on things. Having raised 2 boys I can attest that. That said, purchasing a new AS would probably drive you crazy trying to "protect it". At the same time camping with kids in a pristine vintage restored AS would scare me even more! Keep in mind with the prices increases we've seen the past few years in the new you can expect to pay a premium price for a good dependable late model but like the others I think this would be best. Good luck in you search.-------Pieman
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Old 08-08-2006, 08:18 AM   #8
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I love my '63 but it has taken a lot of my time and money to get it to where it can really be enjoyed. I'm still not finished and probably never will be but I enjoy the work almost as much as camping in it.

In your situation I think would go for something newer so you can truly enjoy the Airstream . The dealer in our area rents out units, maybe there is a dealer in your area that does the same and you can try one out to see what you really like and need.

Good luck in your search. Nothing more fun than hitting the road in any kind of Airstream.
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Old 08-08-2006, 09:08 AM   #9
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Old Versus New for young family

Greetings carhart!

Welcome to the Forums!

One alternate way to look at the old vs. new for your situation is from the aesthetic -- which coaches appeal to you the most? I approached my initial purchase from this standpoint back in 1995. After spending six months shopping comparing everything from brand new to 40 year old coaches, my '64 Overlander found me. It was everything that I wanted in a coach, and has been comparatively trouble-free when traveling.

What I can add to the posts that you have received thus far is my experience as a non-do-it-yourselfer who prefers the Vintage coaches. My experience has been that there are Vintage Friendly Airstream dealers out there who can be of tremendous assistance in keeping a Vintage coach road-worthy and fully functional. Basically, I have worked with three vendors in keeping my Overlander and Minuet in excellen condition -- I found a Vintage Friendly Airstream dealer less than a day's drive from my home who handles repairs/replacements/maintenance of all systems, body, frame, etc. Fowler Interiros of Symsonia, KY handled the refurbishment of the interiors on both coaches (the interiors are actually better than new IMHO), retaining all of the original fittings. On the Overlander, P and S Trailer Service in Helena, OH polished and Plasticoated the exterior to its original sheen.

I would not recommend approaching my method of ownership unless you really love the Vintage coach and nothing in a newer model would satisfy as it is not a more economical entry method. For what I have spent on the Overlander's refurbishment, I could have purchased a five to seven year old coach. The aesthetics and floorplan (a floorplan that was not available in newer coaches) as well as the appealing oak cabinetry in the Overlander sold me on the Vintage coach. I wouldn't change my decision, but wouldn't necessarily recommend this path to a new buyer.

What you may want to do is to undertake an active initial search to get a feel for the various eras of Airstreams. Essentially mid-1950s to 1965 have similar feels with varying levels of ameneties, 1966-1968 share a number of unique features, 1969 through the mid-1980s share a number of similarities. Actually seeing the coaches and getting a feel for the aesthetics may help in focusing your search even further.

Good luck with your decision!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 08-08-2006, 09:21 AM   #10
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My 2 cents

Welcome to the forums, you will get lots of great advice here. Now for my 2 cents worth we have a 75 31 ft, we have one 8 year old son and 2 dogs that travel with us. This last vacation my son wanted to take a friend so the boys slept on the front sofa pulled out it was fine for two 8 year olds but I see as my son gets older it will be crowded. We came to the conclusion when he does get older and wants more friends to come along we will just bring the tent out for them.
As stated before vintage trailers are lots of work not to mention money, my advice would be to buy newer since it is just you most of the time there are lots of late 80's models available.
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Old 08-08-2006, 09:26 AM   #11
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Wow...thank you!

I just want to say thank you to all of you that responded. What great responses......what an incredible forum for Airstreams. This really pointed me in the right direction and while my husband and I love to restore things, we really are not at the time in our life to do this. Thank you for your honesty about the time commitment and also about what has worked for your families. We are going to redirect ourselves and look for a slightly used trailer. Thank you again! SCarhart
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Old 08-08-2006, 09:32 AM   #12
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I second that!

I'm pretty new to airstreams too. We purchased a 22ft '67 Safari a couple of months ago to show our youngins (4 and 6) the great outdoors. I loooove my trailer, but it needs a lot of work and TLC. Plastic is brittle, hinges are creaky, and the windows...well, we won't even go there! My husband is an incredible handyman, so if something goes wrong, he's there to tackle it. The kids are naturally curious, they love to whind anything with cranks and open and shut anything with a handle! My advice is to follow your heart, but be ready to choose your battles when it comes to protecting your investment. I also agree that a newer model would probably be best for you since you won't always have your handyman around to work on the special needs of a vintage trailer.

Good luck in your search and welcome to the Forums!
hey you, get off of my flying cloud
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:04 AM   #13
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You will be surprised at the very little cost difference between a lightly used newer trailer and a fixer up. By the time you do the necessary replacements on the fixer-up you will have the same or less money in a newer unit that is ready for the road. Vintage units are fun and a great hobby and I am very glad that there are people out there that enjoy doing it, I've done one and someday might do another. I would elect to go with a newer unit need little if any repair.
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:35 AM   #14
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Another vote for "pre-owned", but not Vintage..


Welcome, and good luck with your quest. You've discovered the magic of the "Search" tab available to registered members, and should try loading in a bunch of search terms and scanning the many threads...

Be aware that among used Airstreams, there was a significant "shift" in 1995 when all modesl got 6" wider and heavier... Pre '95's will be lighter and less expensive per foot of length than '95's and newer.. Don't fear about loss of your "Fixup" opportunities either, as many of the late '80's models and even '90's models have interiors that are not very lovable, and there are many ways to redo floors, countertops, drapes and other trim to make it your own style. This is less expensive and more fun than window and floor and frame rebuilding! You can find a good one in low $ Teens and keep a couple $Thousand in reserve for appliane repairs/replacement and redecorating. You should end up with something nearly as reliable as new, and far less expensive than brand new. One bonus benefit is that you can get most of your investment back if your plans change.

Pricing tends to peak for 22' to 25' trailers as easier to store and tow and maneuver (I'm sure others will join this debate..) than real long ones, and yet offer comfortable sleeping for 4. You could find a 27 or even 30' trailer for no more $$ than a comparable 25' in many cases...

You didn't mention tow vehicle, which is another entire series of threads and feelings and data, but most V8 powered half ton trucks and SUV's can pull a 22' to 25' trailer from lighter era's (including "Safari" line from 1990's on..). That would include Chevy Tahoe/Suburban class or 1500 series truck, or Ford Expedition or F150 versions. Longer would require 3/4 ton and more HP... Happily, the gas prices lately have crashed used truck/SUV pricing, and you can buy a recent (2001-2002) Suburban or equivalent for prices approaching $10K...

John McG


In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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