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Old 01-28-2014, 02:06 PM   #1
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Worth it to flip an Airstream?


Considering getting into refurbishing used Airstreams and flipping them. Anyone with any experience who can tell me whether it can be a profitable undertaking? Obviously, I would start with a small trailer, and the bulk of the work I will do myself or with family. Is it worth it? On the verge of scooping up a 67 24-footer but not sure whether to pull the trigger as I can't find info as to profitability. Any thoughts?

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Old 01-28-2014, 02:18 PM   #2
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One of the biggest problems trying resell ("flip") an older refurbished Airstream would be the customers inability to finance it. Also, are you familiar with older Airstreams; they can look pretty nice on the surface but can be structural, running gear, and systems money pits.

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Old 01-28-2014, 02:18 PM   #3
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The following is my opinion and may not be worth any more than you paid for it.

I think the way to make money along those lines is to get people to pay you to renovate their trailers. It's a bit of a truism learned from reading the forums and from my personal experience and those of people I know well that you buy a $3k trailer, spend $12k on it and have a $10k trailer. That's not to say you can never make money... find the right deal on a trailer, take shortcuts in the work, find the right buyer, etc. I just think that there needs to be more involved that just profit for things to work out well.

I know, for example, that I'll spend more on the 28' Argosy I'm working on that it'll ever be worth, but it'll be just what I want when it's done, and I plan to keep it indefinitely and get my investment back in travel days/miles.

Doing one for yourself can be a way to build your portfolio and decide whether it's worth it as a business. I have 2 close friends who have built really nice vintage trailers of their own and have businesses repairing, renovating and upgrading trailers for customers. If I were recommending them to someone (which I often do) I can point out their trailers as an example of the excellent work they do.

A Tradewind is a nice size trailer. If you do it up well you'll certainly be able to sell it, the question is whether or not it'll be enough to compensate you for your financial and time investment.
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Old 01-28-2014, 02:55 PM   #4
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I dont think you will make much if anything trying to flip these trailers. Structural repairs can take a lot of time and effort and won't necessarily show to a new buyer. Cosmetic repairs can also be very involved, those would be more enticing to a new buyer, but the appliances (AC, Fridge, water heater, Stove) can be expensive and what you will probably end up with is a 15K trailer you paid 5K for and put in maybe 5K of parts and materials and can only sell for 10 to 12K. Then you end up working for a buck or two per hour. And you can only be so efficient on your first effort, with succeeding jobs you can get more efficient, but I dont see the money rolling in.

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Old 01-28-2014, 02:55 PM   #5
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The best way to make a small fortune flipping trailers is to start with a large fortune.

Ideally, you would find a 1963 Bambi for $1000, spend $5000 rehabbing it, then sell it for $15000. That does not happen often.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 01-28-2014, 03:12 PM   #6
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I have redone several for my own use. I bought them right and did all the work myself.
I get a great sense of satisfaction from this.
It's good that I do because on resale the time I put in would be worth about minimum wage IN 1970
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:34 PM   #7
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I thank you all for your input and advice. I do see this as a first crack at it, in the hopes of being able to test the waters and make a bit of money off a trailer. If it is a positive experience, then perhaps we move to doing work for customers. It would also be a chance to learn the art of the Airstream and what is involved.

As an aside, what are your takes on grabbing a 1984 model over a 67 and doing some work on it? Do you think the vintages are worth more? I found a 1984 31-footer for $5000, looking to be in great shape. Was thinking it might be worth more even as it stands right now. Perhaps easier to tackle than a vintage model?
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:54 PM   #8
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Part of the problem with either a. 80's or older trailer is that, unless you take it down to the frame and rebuild from ground up, you'll never know the extent of work needing to be done any any issues that come up down the road will be an issue the buyers hold you responsible for. Ultimately your reputation could suffer because of what's unknown. I think you should ask Tim Heintz of Heintz designs , frank yensan and Colin Hyde if they are making a good living. It is my understanding they do this for the love of it , not to get rich.

Doing custom work for clients who hire you for their own projects will make you much more than building something to sell without a buyer in mind. The shorter the better. If you net $5 - $10k from a thousand hours work, is that a
Good profit?
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:58 PM   #9
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Here is another opinion valued at cost equal to those above.. The older you go, the more potential for major expenses, including frame rebuilds, installation of holding tanks and plumbing for those tanks, axles/springs/brakes/wheels and other items before you get to the interior.. Add a few replacement appliances (old fridges, A/C and furnaces not available or repairable in many cases) and by the time you get to the cabinets, upholstery and fabrics, and cosmetics you are pretty far upside down, if goal was to resell it..

From marketing perspective, a later model "narrow body" (anything before 1995..) is going to have one price range, and the "Beatrice Years" (from mid '70's to early 80's when Airstream owned by Beatrice Foods..) have their own price ranges. People who want to use their trailers a lot are often going to look for models after 1960's, when holding tanks and more rugged construction became standard... What you'll also find is looonger trailers (30' and beyond..) have lower values regardless, due to limits on towing vehicles and weight.. There are more people (potential buyers..) able to tow a 23' trailer than a 31' trailer, so prices are higher for same year/condition units shorter than 30'...

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:58 PM   #10
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Airstreams are fragile. Flipping them results in dents and damage.

Not a good idea.

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Old 01-28-2014, 08:15 PM   #11
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And now a word from the flip side( no pun intended) I have no talent in building, repairing, changing, zero, ziltch, nada, aside from less than basic repairs. I would love a vintage sometime down the line, if I ever find one, I would hire someone to do it the right way and way I want it, a ground up job from someone with love of job who knows exactly what they are doing. I would know it would cost me a fair amount of $$$$ but I would rather that than a flipped Airstream.
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Old 01-28-2014, 08:21 PM   #12
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Buy a 1990. It's only a "used" trailer as many define "vintage" as 25 years old. Wait a year then price and sell it as a vintage Airstream.


P.S. Parked in beautiful Barstow on the way to Arizona.
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Old 01-29-2014, 02:45 PM   #13
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One question is what do you mean by "flip?" Yes, I understand you mean to buy low, do some work, and then sell at a profit.

I think we have all seen trailers for sale that are in the process of being flipped, in the most base sense of the expression. That is to say, somebody bought the trailer, put shiny new flooring over the rotting subfloor, installed a dorm fridge to replace the old RV fridge, spruced up the upholstery and fixed the leaks with silicone. Then, they shined up the exterior and put it up for sale with its sagging axles, rusting frame, and original univolt converter humming away. These are the trailers dubbed "polished turd."

If this is what you have in mind, then you can probably make a profit, but don't expect any referral business.

If you intend to do a complete renovation of the trailers, and correct all the problems that a 20+ year old trailer has, then heed the advice of the posters above--it is not work that is done cheap and easy--you will end up with trailers that you have a hard time selling at a profit because they are not custom-fit to the customer.

Here is another suggestion for a niche: There are plenty of vintage owners out there that bought a trailer thinking they would be doing a fairly superficial redecoration of the interior, but then they discover the rotting subfloor, the rusting frame, etc. They still want to have their trailer, but they need somebody to do the "heavy lifting" work, ie., complete floor replacement and frame repair and axle replacement. Maybe this is an opportunity for specialization.
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Old 01-29-2014, 03:59 PM   #14
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From my experience doing major restorations on a few Brit sports cars yard ago as a hobby, I would think that if you do a thorough and proper job, you will have a very tough time selling at a price to cover your cost - probably tough to even just cover the cost of new parts needed, let alone your time!

There could always be the exception - if you had documented everything you did, and happened to find just the right buyer you MIGHT make some $$, but I think the chances would be relatively slim.

Buying low, doing a few cosmetic repairs, hiding the really bad stuff, and "Flipping" a vehicle, be it a car or an Airstream probably has a much better chance of making money - but could you live with yourself as a person who would do that kind of thing!?

I'm sure not, although many people seem to be very capable of it - I was the victim of one such unscrupulous person many years ago and after all these years it still leaves a bad taste that someone could do something like that! Caveat emptor as they say!

The other approach would be the sort of business wherein you find the trailer and also find a prospective buyer first, then agree on what needs doing and a reasonable profit for your work and contract to do it before beginning! (Even then, probably with suitable clauses to protect yourself from hidden work that neither of you could have known to be needed at the outset!)

I would guess there are not too many prospective customers for that sort of thing due to the high costs involved, but there surrey are some, and there are people who make a living from this. I suppose the tough part would be making a name for yourself in the field, so as to establish a reputation.

Just my thoughts and ramblings! Best of luck if you decide to give it a go!


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Hensley Arrow / Centramatics
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