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Old 05-26-2012, 08:08 PM   #15
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1972 27' Overlander
Penokee , Kansas
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 339
Had a 28 foot 5th a year ago,,, and side winds and over all mpg were off the chart...Just gave up and put my foot to the floor and got fuel... Climbing stairs to get in it,, and more to get up into bed that were steep..

Got our 27 foot Airstream back in Feb and have had it out alot this year already,, Mostly on days with 40 and 50 mph winds... Mpg is 2 times better and no death grip on the steering wheel.. A little loss for elbow room inside but the stableness and safty is worth it,,,

Hitching the 5th was a pain,, as you always had to think,, tail gate up, tail gate down,,, center the ball,,, ba, ba, ba,,

Our Airstream pulls just fine with our 1/2 ton Dodge without any fancy hitch,, I can back it up and be pulling out in less than 4 minutes with a walk around light and safty check... The 5th wheel was a 15 minute battle every time..


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20mpg empty, 14 mpg with 27' Overlander.

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Old 05-26-2012, 08:23 PM   #16
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2006 22' International CCD
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Elk Valley , British Columbia
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An Airstream isn't magic... a lot of the systems inside ANY modern travel trailer are the same... there are light-weight 5th-wheels out there as well, but generally the heavy-weight monsters of the day have to be 5th wheels just because of their extreme weights.

My dad tows a 28' 5th wheel... it isn't easier to back up at all... getting a 5th wheel to change direction backing up requires the truck to pivot a lot... and if you are trying to get into a tight spot, the chances are there isn't going to be a lot of room for a 21 foot long truck to wiggle. It's very heavy, and dropping the 'landing gear' requires it to be on very solid ground or blocked a lot... if it falls, you are in big trouble. See the above photo of when it falls on your truck.

Without good clearance of the bed, you can find yourself getting into trouble on rough terrain... even a steep driveway could bind the bunk into the bed of the truck.

Once your all hooked up though, heavy-weight aside, they are easier to tow... but you loose a lot of that advantage when they get sooo tall they get pushed around in the wind.

If I was looking at that lifestyle myself, I'd probably go with a diesel pusher motorhome and a little tow-behind car. Airstreams are about being efficient and integrating with the environment... I always see lots of outdoor patio stuff around an Airstream... these big 5th wheels everyone runs for the slide-out living room when they get back...

I guess it just depends what you want...

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Old 05-26-2012, 08:25 PM   #17
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Chatham , Ontario
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Watched a 5er coming towards me on the 401 in Ontario today. It absolutely dwarfed the truck that was pulling it and I can't imagine those huge sides and front profile being anything but a liability in even a moderate wind. If you intend to travel about then a TT would be better, in my opinion, even with considerably less room to play with. There's also an issue with steps, as has been mentioned elsewhere; they're a long way off the ground! That said, if you like lots of room and won't be moving about much then maybe a 5er might suit you.
Steve; also known as Mr UK Toad

"You can't tow that with that!"
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:46 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by harrysteven View Post
Wow! Thank you guys! And thanks, Perry. That was a great video. Darn, my head is spinning now! I may have to go back to square one.

I'd like to ask a couple of questions.

1. We plan to sell the house and go full-time. If I want one that will last 15-20 years from now, something we can travel in and then maybe settle down in later, how far back in years can the Airstream be? What's the earliest model year I should consider?

2. Can I get an Airstream under 30' for $30,000 or less?

3. Are they four season, or can they at least be used down to 20 degrees and up to 90 degrees?

I'm glad I asked that question here. You guys have given me a very different perspective than what I've gotten elsewhere.

Again, thanks!

Any model, Airstream or otherwise, is going to require regular care to make it 15+ years. Keeping it out of the elements is the #1 easy way to prolong the life of any trailer. If you were full-timing in one spot, a covered pad would be perfect - even though you loose a bit of the charm of an Airstream. So, anything in good shape can be kept in good shape... I'd shoot for mid 90's and up if you are looking for something that doesn't need a rebuild.

$30K will get you into the 90's for that size...

If you are full-timing in sub-zero (C), you'll want to make sure you've got tank-heaters... the good and bad of the Airstream design is a lot of the plumbing is hidden away and not easy to keep warm... I don't know of any factory Airstream meant for continuous freezing temps... it's hard on everything...
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:47 PM   #19
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1968 28' Ambassador
Cedaredge , Colorado
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To answer one of your questions. AS go back to the 50's. We have a 1968. Problem with the older ones you need to do a lot of work to get them where you want them. I'm on my second remodel this time taking the shell of to fix the frame. Plus they are only 7 ft wide. The later models are 8 to 8.5 feet wide. You could get into an 80's or 90's for $30,000 easy and if you find a nice one , not have to do much to it.

May you have at least one sunny day, and a soft chair to sit in..

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Old 05-26-2012, 08:57 PM   #20
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2005 19' Safari
Phoenix , Arizona
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Hope this isn't too far off topic. Found this Web site and fifth-wheel photos while researching mobile broadband equipment and plans. IF I ever win the lottery, this might be an alternative to our Bambi. However, it would seriously limit boondocking opportunities:

New Horizons RV

Note: For info on mobile broadband, see "Communications" in the menu bar.
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Old 05-26-2012, 11:17 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post
Hope this isn't too far off topic. Found this Web site and fifth-wheel photos while researching mobile broadband equipment and plans. IF I ever win the lottery, this might be an alternative to our Bambi. However, it would seriously limit boondocking opportunities:

New Horizons RV

Note: For info on mobile broadband, see "Communications" in the menu bar.
26,000lbs??? I think you're looking at $400K+ for trailer and truck... maybe more... yikes...
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Old 05-27-2012, 05:08 AM   #22
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1975 31' Sovereign
1980 31' Excella II
Sprung Leak , North Carolina
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I have owned both a 5ver and an Airstream. My Airstream is 37 years old this month...I have yet to see a fifth wheel that old still on the road.

Airstream living isn't for everyone, it requires planning and some serious downsizing. We tow our 1975 with a 1/2t pickup truck. The 5ver required an F350, I saw some last weekend that would require a Class7 truck to tow, that means $$$, plus big trucks are no fun to try and find parking places for if you plan on any sight seeing.

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Old 05-27-2012, 06:35 AM   #23
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1972 27' Overlander
Penokee , Kansas
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For us it boiled down to how they are built to start with.. The 5th we got was used and always seemed to leak only when the AC was on.. Found out someone forgot to hook up the AC drain and it leaked water into the roof and walls.. Ended up replacing wall studs and wall base plates.. All 1"x 1 1/2"...

After seeing how the SOB were built,, with sticks and staples,, I made the "investment" into an Airstream.. Simple for me..

2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman Hemi, 4x4, 6 speed

20mpg empty, 14 mpg with 27' Overlander.

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Old 05-27-2012, 07:19 AM   #24
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Corpus Christi , Texas
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I've pulled them all more miles than I care to mention. For towing and handeling, give me a good quality 5th wheel any day. If you haven't had the opportunity to pull one, you will really be shocked how stable they are compared to an equivalent sized TT.

No, they aren't. This misconception comes about as [is said] 90% of conventional rigs have mal-adjusted hitch rigging (failure to use weight scale values for set up), compounded by cheap hitches with little ability to prevent sway. A VPP hitch (and some custom set-ups) negates the type of hitch between these choices. At that point the enormous disadvantages of a 5'er become apparent. I can run rings around any 5'er with my rig, maneuvers that would put them in the ditch instantly.

If one wants to talk about GN flatbeds, I'm all in favor of bed mounted hitches. But not for TT's . . as the second consideration of "type" is in aerodynamic resistance. Low flat loads are great on a flatbed with a GN hitch, no question.

But tall square boxes allow wind to pile up against them (lack of radiused edges) and this "push" can be severe even with 25-mph winds. Gusts can be worse. Time to get off the road. An aero trailer of the type on these pages allows the winds to roll off of them. Towing in 40-mph constant winds with gusts to 60 is possible (if it is noticed). The difference is in push and pull. A square white box is pushed hard by winds . . the aero TT is "pulled" by the winds having crossed them. A more gentle problem to correct for, and with none of the harshness or abruptness. And of a lower order of magnitude.

Trailer design -- where heaviest components are centered on or near the axles -- is second. The SWB's (conventional or 5'er) may have floorplans that put weight where it isn't wanted (from a safety/performance standpoint).

Next is suspension. A/S trailers feature fully independent suspension, that, like the best road cars, is not upset by tripping hazards (potholes or objects in roadway) in any way comparable to the buggy springs on most SWB's. Coupled to a low center-of-gravity [COG], makes for outstanding handling and braking in comparison. Put one behind a TV with fully independent suspension and see to it that all axles feature disc brakes and one has state-of-the-art towing performance.

The worst-handling & braking TV (pickup) followed by the most top-heavy, wind-resistant trailer type (5'er) is a very long way from being "stable". A cheaply made square white box on leaf springs with ridiculous ground clearance is barely compensated by hitch method. Make no mistake that the square edged, enormous sail area, weight, bad floorplan and high COG put 5'ers at the very bottom of the list for "stability". (A problem masked for most owners by the insensitive steering on pickups, especially 4WD, which also contributes to the idea of 5'er stability.)

An A/S can be pulled by quite a few other vehicles than a pickup, reducing initial and operating expenses (if that matters), or one can have a high-end Euro turbodiesel SUV for the highest performance. Examples of all of these around here with some reading.


For the OP: I am a Vintage Kin owner (one of the out-of-production aerodynamic all-aluminum trailers) and I am looking for a "new" one:

1973 or later (as both black & gray water tanks became mandatory) is the primary consideration for me.

From here it comes down to condition. There are many fine Streamline, Avion, and Silver Streak trailers out there in the dozens versus the thousands of Airstreams. Keep your eyes out for CL listings, and read up around here on these alternatives.

As for length of service these trailer types cannot be beaten.

1990 35' Silver Streak Sterling; 9k GVWR.
2004 DODGE Cummins 305/555; 6-manual; 9k GVWR.
Hensley Arrow. 10-cpm solo, 18-cpm towing
Sold: Silver Streak Model 3411
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Old 05-27-2012, 07:34 AM   #25
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clovis , California
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What we need is more objective analysis. Airstreams are much cooler!
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Old 05-27-2012, 08:37 AM   #26
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Grand Junction , Colorado
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Since Rednax has a lot experience with all types of trucks and trailers, what he has to say about towing should be considered seriously.

As for Airstreams as a 4 season trailer, they are not unless you want to take serious precautions—heated water hoses, skirting, insulating windows with something like Reflectix. Below 20˚ F, the furnace will have difficulty keeping up to keep the tanks warm enough. You'll use a lot of propane. Traveling to the warmer states you may have to keep the furnace running or drain the water system before the temps get well up into the 20's. In hot states in the summer, the trailer will get really hot and it will take a lot of A/C to get it down to comfortable temps. Move with the weather and seasons.

If you buy a '90's model now in 20 years it will be 30-40 years old and will need constant maintenance (they all do, but age increases the possibility for more expensive things like axles, appliances, etc.). There is no cheap way out of this, but because of depreciation of new ones, going back several years into the '00's may prevent or delay some future problems down the road. But coming up with a big bunch of money at the front end may be difficult and paying it out over years by buying an older one and gradually fixing things is appealing. Any way you go, it is expensive. If you want to sell your house, you avoid the house maintenance, so that may be cheaper. If you can get a lot of equity out of the house, investing it may pay for maintenance on a trailer, but it is difficult now to get sufficient returns on investments.

Some people try full timing and find it doesn't work for them after a few years, so be prepared for the possibility of that. None of the options make for easy decisions. Downsizing is not easy and storing your stuff for a few years instead of selling it might be a good decision if full timing is not for you after some experience with it. We love traveling and our trailer selection works well for us, but we sure do like coming home too. But maintaining a house and a trailer (like a small house with wheels) is a lot of work too.

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Old 05-27-2012, 10:26 AM   #27
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Houston , Texas
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You guys have given me a lot to think about. I realize I have to look into this more deeply and no longer assume that a 5th Wheel is the way to go. I was only getting one side of the story before I posted here. Thanks! Airstream is now on my “must consider” list.

Rednax: You made some interesting points but I’m not familiar with three of the acronyms you used: VPP, GN, SWB

Gene: Would it be expensive to retrofit an Airstream to use it in the winter in say, Pennsylvania or Massachusetts? Also, with regard to maintenance, my house was bought new more than 20 years ago. In the last few years I’ve had to spend between 2k and 5k in such costs. Do you think an older Airstream would cost more than 2-3 grand a year in maintenance?

Thanks, everyone!

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Old 05-27-2012, 10:59 AM   #28
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Fraser Valley , British Columbia
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As far as the AS' lack of storage space - who wants to store a lot of stuff anyways? Isn't this the point of FT living/downsizing?

Someone already mentioned the access challenges with a fifth wheel. Something to consider with a retirement trailer. This was really hammered home after attending the last RV show. Some mountaineering experience would come in handy with most of those Class A motor homes and fifth wheels....and I am years away from retirement age!

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