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Old 09-21-2007, 10:26 PM   #1
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Los Angeles , California
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We love airstreams but...

My husband and I have admired airstream trailers for years. I think I've always wanted one but it wasn't until we actually tried trailer camping with our kids that we decided that this just might be for us. (We've tent camped numerous times.) Today we went looking at the new 2008 models. After a lot of looking, note taking and talking to the dealer, we've decided we LOVE the 23' international CCD. It fits two adults and two growing kids. My husband and I love the dark wood, aluminum intererior, chic fabric choices, windows everywhere, and recessed lighting. There is just nothing else out there that can compare (except maybe a restored vintage model!) But they are just so expensive. We are looking at financing around 50 thousand dollars and we are not rich. So I'm asking you experienced airstream travelers, what is best? Should we get a new one or try to find an old one and have it repaired and restored? Is it possible to have a vintage model beautifully restored for less than the new ones? Oh, and is 23' enough for a family of 4? Please advise us! Thanks so much.


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Old 09-21-2007, 10:45 PM   #2
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1963 16' Bambi
Yreka , California
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Welcome to the Forums!

Welcome to the Forums and the love of Airstreams!

You have asked a lot of good questions! Many of the answers will depend on your family and your lifestyle! Lots of different folks will see the responses differently, so consider each one you receive from a individual's own perspective.

If your family wants to get on the road as soon as possible, then purchase an airstream that is ready to go and road-worthy whether it is brand new, barely used, or vintage. Price and availability will likely determine your choice in part.

We have vintage, and if a person does the restoration/renovation themselves and watches their budget they can end up with an Airstream that is less expensive than brand new. Might not have all the cool bells and whistles, however... Most vintage airstreams are a work in progress... never quite finish fiddling with them. The downside, is we figure we wouldn't be able to sell ours for what we have into it... close maybe... but we aren't even considering the 8 months it took for restoration. However, ours is personalized just the way we like it!

I think before you jump into a 50G debt... you might take a hard look at what is available and for what price. Do a little homework first. Check ebay regularly, check Craigslist for your area, the local papers, our classifieds here at the forum, as well as other vintage trailer sites.

I would also consider what kind of camping do you want your family to experience? Boondocking [camping in the "boonies" without power, water, etc.] or at luxury RV parks with all the amenities?

To also help with homework you might check and see if there is a Airstream rally near you some weekend and go during the day (usually a Sat) and walk around and look at the Airstreams and what folks have done to them. You will likely have an opportunity to talk to owners and find out in person what they like/don't like ~ wish they had/did, etc.

Here is a thread you might find helpful. It isn't really long but might give you things to think about:

BTW, buying a vintage airstream and having someone else do the work to completely restore it no matter what the size could run upwards of $100,000... plus. Labor is expensive. I could be off base here on my estimates, but I am confident it would be more than the 50G you are looking at. [Unless you do the work yourselves]

Your question of a 23' big enough for a family of 4. Some folks will say yes, others, no. Depends on your lifestyle! Measure out the size width and length with tape on your driveway or lawn and then layout the interior... get all 4 folks "in there" for a few hours.... see how you do! I would say yes, but we always go small...

Good luck on your search! I am sure others will post their ideas too!

Mrs. NorCal Bambi (traveling in S Tardis)

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Old 09-21-2007, 10:54 PM   #3
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Airstreams are expensive, and even a well restored classic will not be cheap. We went with a new model because we wanted to enjoy using it right away with confidence that we could travel across the US with little fear of breakdowns, and the security of a 2 year warranty. But remember, even brand new units can have little problems, they are noy perfect, but usually they are little issues.

As far as the 23' CCD being large enough for a family of 4, that is a matter of life style and opinion. Personally, we have a 25FB Safari, and chose it over the 23' model because we have two 15 year old daughters (they don't always go with us, you know teenagers). We also thought the bathroom and bed were too small. I would not go smaller than a 25', unless you only do short weekend type trips, then a 23' may work.

If you buy new:

Reading your post, I saw $50,000 of financed purchase. It is not uncommon to get up to 25% discount off MSRP, especially on the out years models, at this time, the 2007 models. Even on a 2008, expect a minimum of 10% off list and make sure they throw in a weight-distribution hitch as part of the deal, installed of course. You would be surprised how a 25' may actually only be a few thousand more than a similarly equipped 23'.

Now thru the end of the year is a great buyers market. Use the forum wisely and you will really benefit prior to purchasing.

Travel is in my blood, adventure is my passport, aluminum is my favorite construction medium, and therefore, an Airstream was my destiny.
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Old 09-21-2007, 11:04 PM   #4
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2007 25' Safari FB SE
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Hello Heather and welcome to the Forums.

Have you considered an Airstream thats several years old?

Now the big question. "is the 23 foot big enough?"

Well having had a similar corner bed/bath design before I can tell you that we hated it. For us the bed was too small and there was not enough room in the bath. No we're not basketball players my wife is 5-2 and I'm 6-2.

We traded up to a 25 Safari FB. Lots of room and the extra 2 feet really opened the trailer up.

It is all too common for first time Airstream buyers to get a larger model within a year or two.

Please go back to the dealership and instead of looking try sitting, lying and moving around inside. See if it is large enough.

There are two dealerships to the South and another in Paso Robles. You may have to go to all three to see all the models that interest you.

Some Members here in Ca. buy many States away and have the trailer delivered and save money in the process. Just something to consider.

Colonial Airstream in New Jersey has a fantastic website with lots of pictures check out all the models there for a broader view. Your going to be spending a lot of moola so get the perfect trailer.

The California Streamers is a SoCal. group of people that throw rallies about six times a year. You are invited to join us in Nov. If you don't have a trailer by then you are still invited to come on up to Kernville and join us in the potluck and look at the trailers. We'll feed you and show you 15 different trailers and answer all your questions. Bring lawn chairs. All our events are children and pets welcome.

On the home page on the left side you'll see where you can click on "upcoming rllies" Click on the CalStreamers Fall Rally. I hope you'll join as a camper or a visitor.
I'd rather be boon docking in the desert.

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Old 09-21-2007, 11:06 PM   #5
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2004 16' International CCD
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Hi Heather and welcome to the Forums,,, an idea that you might consider is about a ten year old or so trailer,,, reasonably priced,,, usually not much to repair,,, then you can recover the sofa and decorate to make it your own,,, i have one and have enjoyed it very much,,, make sure and get a tow vehicle to match your trailer purchase in towability,,, be safe,,, finding your perfect trailer is great fun,, you will know it immediately,,, good luck and happy trails,, donna
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Old 09-21-2007, 11:27 PM   #6
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Thumbs up Thoughts to consider.

Welcome to the forum~!
While it's possible to find a vintage unit, and restore it. There are several things you might want to considered.
The very first thing is: The floor plan of the unit, and how it fits in with your family's needs.
As a former Airstream Salesperson, all too often folks will buy a unit based upon price or a particular style: Only to find ot after taking the unit camping a few times that there's something about the floor plan that prevents them from enjoying the unit to it fullest.
The best thing to try is..After kicking the salesperson out..Shut the unit's door, and try to imagine how the unit will fit you while camping. Move around in it, etc.
Prices on a vintage unit can be all over the price spectrum and, a false economy if you end up spending huge amounts more restoring it than what it's ever gonna be worth. Remembering this, the better the condition, the more the vintage unit is gonna cost you. It's not uncommon for a highly sought after restored vintage unit to cost as much a new unit. BTW, the going labor rate at most RV shops is around 85$ to 90$ per hour~! Depending on the section of the country, etc..
Every once in a "Blue Moon", someone finds an older unit that's been used infrequent in the past, and stored inside for many years. These are rare event, and require alot of hard search with a pitch of luck.
I am not against buying vintage. The fact of the matter, the last 2 Airstreams unit's I've owned were vintage models. The current unit comes under the "Blue Moon" catagory.
One way to look at the purchase of a new unit is: It's like buying a second home for use as your vacation home and as such, the interest paid can be filed on your income tax.
Secondly, the unit should last you thru many, many years of camping use. Even to the point of passing it on to your children when you are finally finis camping. You'd be surprised how many Airstreams units are passed on to the second generation~!
Pros and Cons..
The new unit is ready to go camping RIGHT NOW..
Depending on the work needed for a vintage unit, it could take weeks or months for it to be fully ready for use. You could be very lucky, and find one that's been well taken care of and is ready to go camping now.
Just don't lose sight of finding the floor plan that works for you and your family.
I wish you all the luck in whichever way your search takes you.
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Old 09-22-2007, 06:04 AM   #7
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I bought new in 2004, but wished I had bought slightly used, to save a few thousand bucks. My neighbor (a former Airstreamer) came back to the fold by recently buying a 1986 29' Sovereign for only $5K. New fridge, stove and water heater included. It's in pretty good shape and could be used "as is" right now, even though he's going to make a few small upgrades.
Try looking at on-line classifieds (beware of eBay) to try to find an Airstream in the condition, size, floorplan that you'd like. Also know your tow vehicle limitations before hand. You can even ask fellow forum Airstreamers in your area to inspect it for you.

We have a 22' CCD with 2 adults and 2 teenagers. It can get cozy, but my oldest likes to pitch her tent under our awning for "her own space", which gives us a little more room inside.

Best of luck in your search.
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Old 09-22-2007, 06:20 AM   #8
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Something else to consider

When looking for a trailer also consider what you will be towing it with. Your profile lists your TV as a 2005 Nissan Frontier. Unless you are planning to upgrade to a larger unit, you will be limited on what you can get. The towing numbers on the Frontier are not that large and I doubt that it can handle the 23 that you are looking at. The salesman may say that it is fine, but his job is to sell trailers.


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Old 09-22-2007, 06:28 AM   #9
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1993 21' Sovereign
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If you want to go camping right away, you should take a look at new or nearly new units, and as things gradually wear out or break, you can learn how to perform the work yourself. We bought a vintage trailer in very good condition, and then proceeded to jack up the air conditioner, and replace the trailer, one piece at a time. We are still replacing pieces.
For a family, probably 25' would be better, the newer versions of that length are a bit wider, adding more usable space. The 23' and shorter trailers are narrower.
If, however, you want to take your trailer apart, and see what makes it tick before using it, and are fairly mechanically inclined, and do most of the work yourself, you can save a bunch of money buying an older unit that is in good shape.
It all depends on what you want to wind up with, and how much you are willing to spend on it, time and money-wise.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 09-22-2007, 07:20 AM   #10
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Heather, my wife and I had no previous RV experience either - Airstream's CCD and SE models with their interiors and shiny liners won us over immediately and we bought one. On the first trip we looked at each other and said how much we wish we'd bought it when the kids were little.

The new Airstreams have everything you need - just stow your gear and go! Kids will love it! If there is any way you can afford the payments, go for a new one especially if you love the CCD (we understand ) - why spend that precious family time working on the trailer? If the payments are too steep try to find late model used one.

This time of year you can get a significant discount on a new one. Bargain hard and consider remote dealers too. When we were looking, CCDs were especially easy to get end-of-year discounts on. You may even be able to find a leftover 2006 or 2007 CCD. We got $12K off the list price on our FB SE. Check every dealer's website (there are not too many) to get an idea of how low they will go.

Of course you should look at towing capabilites carefully. However don't get scared away by well-intentioned, but sometimes excessive, recommendations to go overboard on your tow vehicle. Just do the calculations. If your Frontier has the V6, you should have a towing capacity of 6000lbs, well within the 4700lb weight of an empty 23'CCD. Then look at the Frontier's cargo capacity and add up what you will put in the truck. Add 2/3 of the CCD's tongue weight to that cargo (according to my Airstream manual, the weight distibution hitch transfers 1/3 of the tongue weight to the trailer). With the 1300 lb leeway on the trailer weight - you could put most of your gear in the trailer. At first glance, it looks like a properly set up and loaded V6 Frontier could work out fine with a 23 foot CCD.

Go for it! Take care of the Airstream and it will last for decades. Looking back at the time you spent with the kids will be more than worth the price!
2006 Safari SE FB
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Old 09-22-2007, 09:10 AM   #11
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23ft for 4 people? That is going to get small on a rainy day. New ones are expensive. Your best bet is a slightly used one. and looking outside southern CA.
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Old 09-22-2007, 09:10 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by fonseca
Is 23' enough for a family of 4? Please advise us!
It all depends on how you expect to use your Airstream. We have a 16' Bambi for our family of 4 and can't imagine needing anything bigger. And we love the flexibility while travelling - we stop at convenience stores, roadside markets, and pretty much almost anywhere we could go with just a car.

But we use our Bambi as a 'Bed and Breakfast' - after we get fed and showered in the morning we are always 'out and about' seeing whatever it is we traveled to see. Others use their airstream more like a vacation home and expect to spend a significant part of each day in their trailer. You need to decide how you want to use your trailer and then (as a number of other posters suggested) actually sit in a number of them to see if the size and floorplan really meets your needs.

As for your Nissan Frontier tow vehicle - keep in mind that almost every under-25' Airstream you'll see on a dealers lot will weigh close to its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 6000 lbs because of all the 'options' (e.g. air conditioning) installed. When you are looking around at Airstreams open up the closet door and read the weight sticker - it will show you the actual weight of the Airstream and the NCC (Net Cargo Capacity) left. Also keep in mind that your Frontier's tow capacity (around 6000lbs - it depends on what kind you have - you should read the capacity printed on your vehicle) assumes one adult driver and no cargo.

But the real answer is 'decide what you want to do', 'pick the airstream that best lets you do it', and then 'pick a tow vehicle for the airstream'.
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Old 09-22-2007, 09:37 AM   #13
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Heather -

Buy a new one and it'll probably need a lot of repairs.

Buy a used one, it'll probably also need some repairs, but you'll save some big bucks in the process.

If you're not into having to do so many repairs, consider another better built brand of travel trailer. If your love of Airsteam's design is blind, by all means get one of them.

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Old 09-22-2007, 09:54 AM   #14
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Everything on our brand new Airstream worked perfectly off the lot. Fit and finish is excellent and we have had zero problems with it.


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