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Old 09-17-2015, 06:21 PM   #1
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Spicewood , Texas
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Is an Airstream the right brand for fulltiming for us?

I'm retired and my wife is close to retirement. We have a 33 year old Autistic son who needs to live with us. We have Rved in the past multiple times, and even briefly full-timed for a few months when changing jobs and moving, so we know we like RVs and fulltiming. We have owned a diesel pusher, an older bus conversion, a SOB travel trailer, and have fulltimed in each of them for at least part of the time we owned them. We liked the trailer the best, primarily because of ease of maintenance. We currently rent a park model in an RV resort.

We are looking at going fulltiming after my wife retires, but potentially buying the necessary RV before she does so, and living in it locally until she retires. In the meantime, I have built out a 6x12 cargo trailer into a combination Garage / toyhauler / RV for 1 week to 2 week road trips, and am LOVING it as an interim satisfier for the travel bug!

We LOVE the appearance of Airstreams. We also like the light towing weight of Airstreams, as it allows you to avoid the current generation of diesel pickup trucks which seem to be particularly troublesome. A gas 6 liter pickup (rated to tow 12,500 to 14,000) or even a Ford Ecoboost pickup (rated to tow up to 11,800 lb), can probably handle any Airstream.

But here's the key question: Is an Airstream, as opposed to a SOB, really suitable for 3 adults fulltiming?

Here is why I am asking:

- The 2012 Flying Cloud owner manual I just read online says rather forcefully that none of the Flying Cloud models is designed for fulltime living, and that fulltiming can void the warranty

- Is a 30' Airstream (the largest size apparently currently available) really large enough for 3? Ou Autistic son really prefers "his own space", and while some SOBs have "2nd bedrooms", I've never seen an Airstream that has one.

- Airstreams, with their rounded shapes, don't seem to have a lot of storage space. Even the wardrobe in even the largest models appears to be maybe 3 to 3-1/2 feet wide in total. Could we really fit a reasonable amount of stuff into an AS?

- As a degreed engineer, I have to question the water integrity of a design that uses a LOT of riveted pieces of aluminum, and has windows that are located so that they are partially in the rounded roof, not confined to vertical walls. Just the highway shaking of a trailer, coupled with the daily thermal expansion and contraction of aluminum exposed directly to hot Sun, would seem to stress any type of sealant that I am aware of.I also have seen a LOT of postings online that seem to confirm my suspicions - a lot of AS owners find their floor rotting out in one or more sections, because of undetected leaks that funnel water down between the outer and inner skin right to the plywood floor. In terms of percent of Airstream out there, how many get afflicted with this? Is this a RARE problem, or does it afflict MANY Airstreams?

- Airstream says in that Flying Cloud manual that they recommend the entire shell be washed monthly to preserve the clearcoat finish. But many RV parks, including the one we currently rent a park model in, don't allo RV washing in the park. Although they sometimes tolerate annual or semiannual exceptions, those parks will not tolerate monthly washes, often because their water is either costly or from a well of limited community demand capability. What happens if you DON'T wash an AS that frequently?

- The only "toyhauler" that AS offers is the Eddie Bauer, and that is designe to handle bicycles, mountain bikes, and kayaks, not the 735 lb / 96" long / 36" wide Harley we own (both weight, door sill height, and absence of a ramp at least 3 feet wide would be issues, I suspect). And, the Eddie Bauer is available in only 25 and 27 foot lengths, right? So, we could not haul the Harley if we went with an AS, so would need to sell the bike, unless I can figure out how to PRACTICALLY haul the Harley in the bed of the tow vehicle. Am I correct in that?

Given the apparent limitations and/ or risks, a lot of prospective RVers would likely just forget about getting an Airstream and buy a conventional SOB or SOB toyhauler that would be "large enough" but also HUGE in size and require a 3/4 ton or 1 ton truck to tow it. But, my wife and I both like the appearance, weight, MPG, and non-overwhelming size of an AS, and are not ready to give up the idea of towing one until we have at least heard from experienced actual AS owners with similar objectives to ours.

So, with that intro, can I get some feedback? Preferably from AS owners who have actually full-timed for extended periods of time, and with more than just husband and wife in the AS.

Jim G

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Old 09-17-2015, 06:33 PM   #2
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Have you been to look at any Airstreams? Maybe if you went to see some then you might be able to get a better idea about the space.

I think the question, "is this enough space?" is largely a personal one.
Five of us are quite happy in our 26ft trailer for 6 weeks but we know plenty of couples who prefer more space.


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Old 09-17-2015, 06:40 PM   #3
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My opinion.

Hi, we have a 25'er and don't full time, but we have been on the road since July 1st. Two adults and one little dog is about it for us. Forget the Harley, or forget the 1/2 ton truck; It won't work. Full timing in an Airstream will require living with absolute minimum, especially for three people.

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Old 09-17-2015, 06:46 PM   #4
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If you want a roomy Airstream toyhauler, look for a used Panamerica.
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Old 09-17-2015, 06:57 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Someday'59 View Post
Have you been to look at any Airstreams? Maybe if you went to see some then you might be able to get a better idea about the space.

I think the question, "is this enough space?" is largely a personal one.
Five of us are quite happy in our 26ft trailer for 6 weeks but we know plenty of couples who prefer more space.
Yes, I should have mentioned that my wife and I spent an afternoon at an AS dealership a few months ago, and examined the interiors of multiple models.

I know that an AS could work for me and my wife, but am not sure about our son.

Jim G
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Old 09-17-2015, 06:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by CRH View Post
If you want a roomy Airstream toyhauler, look for a used Panamerica.
I had not heard of a "Panamerica". What model year range did AS build them?

Jim G
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:04 PM   #7
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I love my Airstream, but for sure it would not be my choice to full time. I would go with a high end 5th wheel, there are a number of good companies. As for travel trailers, I think the Nash/Artic Fox and Airstream are the higher end models. For some reason the high end 5vers are more available.

Space would be a concern for me full timing in an Airstream. They are smaller with no slideouts. For traveling and going down the road they are most excellent. For staying in one spot and living...not so much in my mind. I would hazard to guess Wally didn't want you to stay in one place.

Different strokes for different folks however.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:05 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JimGnitecki View Post
Yes, I should have mentioned that my wife and I spent an afternoon at an AS dealership a few months ago, and examined the interiors of multiple models.

I know that an AS could work for me and my wife, but am not sure about our son.

Jim G
Consider a center bath model, 31' or up. (appr. 8000 pounds). This allows for separate living and sleeping quarters, with private Bathroom access from both ends.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:09 PM   #9
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I think it is a very personal decision that only you can decide no matter what other people - such as me (!) might say.

My wife and I camp with a 31 footer. But in our case, would consider too small for full timing. For us, after seven weeks in the trailer, we are ready to head home to spread out and have our own space! I have lots of hobbies too that demand it!

Others certainly do though, some in even smaller Airstreams. (not sure about 3 adults though.)

I would like to bring our Goldwing on our trips in the bed of our 3/4t truck - probably using one of those self-loading gadgets, I'd be nervous about riding up ramps! I'm not a large person and have already fractured a vertebrae lifting it up once!

But in any case, we need the truck space (Leer cap on the bed) to serve as the basement for our trailer. Even on our seven week trips, it is pretty much loaded!

(Incidentally, our tow vehicle is diesel. It has been very reliable for us with numerous trips across the country and does a great job hauling the trailer effortlessly - it is the first diesel I have owned and would certainly buy again!)

As it happens, I would never get my wife to consider full timing (I know as I have raised the subject a few times and she has made her views on the subject very clear to me!)

But if I did, I have no doubt that it would be with a fifth wheel - even though I too like the looks of the Airstream!

You are right, the shape of the AS limits storage. Fifth wheels are in a different category entirely in this respect, and with the multiple slides give a ton of living space albeit at the risk of more things to leak and/or fail!


PS - we have had minor leaks with our AS even though I try to inspect all caulking several times a year.

I go after the leaks as soon as I see evidence of one and carry a moisture meter to check the floor any time we suspect there could be a problem. It has always been a pet peeve with me that for such an expensive trailer AS do not use some sort of impervious floor design,

But then we have also had leaks in our previous none Airstream trailers as well. I don't think our Airstream is any better or worse.

I believe all trailers will leak sooner or later if not regularly inspected/sealed.

Hope you get some useful input from folks with personal experience full-timing.

Brian & Connie Mitchell

2005 Classic 30'
Hensley Arrow / Centramatics
2008 GMC Sierra SLT 2500HD,4x4,Crew Cab, Diesel, Leer cap.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:09 PM   #10
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Ok, I just found an out of date website ad for a Panamerica! Wow! That looks like it could work for us, as we would haul only one motorcycle, leaving much of the rear section of the trailer for use by our son. What model year range where the Panamerica models built in? What do the used ones sell for now?

Jim G
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:12 PM   #11
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As much art as engineering

I am an engineer as well. It is not really a very analytical purchase process. I could never create a spreadsheet or decision tree that would justify buying an Airstream . But I would own no other brand.

Go to an Airstream dealer that also sells other brands on a nice cool day. Spend the day sitting in all types. You will know right away if you want the kind of room that a 34ft SOB with slide outs, outdoor kitchen, washer/dryer etc give you. Be sure to try on an Airstream with aluminum interior panels for size too. After spending time in a few, good chance you know right away if you want an Airstream or another brand.

You can easily get twice the space for half the cost in other brands.

ALL RVs leak eventually. All floors rot if you do not fix the leaks.

The Airstream is well engineered, structurally sound, and extremely well laid out with maximum use of space. They have many quirks. As much art as engineering. As you read the comments you see here just gauge them in context - folks come here with problems. Many very old Airstreams are still on the road. The new sealants are excellent and just need good maintenance. Just remember they are hand built - no production line precision fitting/machining.

I seriously doubt the Airstream manual prohibits fulltiming. What you read was probably a warning about setting the trailer up permanently on a site - e.g putting it on blocks, plumbing into a sewer system and hooking to permanent utilities.

Here is my list of reasons for buying an Airstream...

- The smile on your face every time you look in the rearview mirror
- A trailer that takes on the color and hues of the world around it - of the sunset, the beach, the sky and the mountains, wherever you park it.
- Not having to say longingly, "damn I wish I'd bought the Airstream" every time you pass one on the highway.
- Campfire reflecting off the aluminum skin on a chilly night.
- The look, feel and sound of that heavy handcrafted aluminum,door.
- Curved curves
- Equally adept at a romantic mountain weekend as it is a family vacation to Dollywood.
- Pictures of you and your kids camping with the shiny Airstream.
- Watching your kids show their kids those pictures 30 years from now, remembering how cool a time they had camping .
- Art you can live in.
- Glow of the interior aluminum skin as the morning sun streams through the port hole windows.
- A trailer that goes just as well with Merlot and Filet Mignon as with beer n' brats.
- Someone coming up and saying "I didn't know they made those anymore"
- Stopping to look back over your shoulder every time you walk away from the rig.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:23 PM   #12
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Airstream DID make a 34' toyhauler called the Panamerica for a few years. Here's a link to one, which was thoroughly remodeled/upgraded by the 2nd owner. Here's the link. 17 pages of posts, please don't drool on your keyboard while reading.

You really could consider the "garage" to be a perfect 2nd bedroom for the average teenage boy. I have close relatives who have a non-verbal autistic son. They're great parents and deeply committed to care for him. I know just enough about the spectrum to know every case is different. It is sort of common to find that "separate bedroom" or sanctuary helps autistic people keep leveled out.

OTOH Airstreams aren't what you'd call "heavy duty" homes that would fare well in a rough and ready setting. And I'm lucky if I wash mine 4 times a year. Actually they do quite well with a bucket of warm water and a damp mop - one of those spinner things! No rule against damp mopping/damp dusting the Airstream. I use a few wet microfiber rags on the dried bugs also.

I'm afraid your intuition about the size is right, but I notice you're obviously looking at new units. Airstream recently stopped making their 34 footers, but many of them are available used. Often these are bought by well to do retirees who eventually age out of traveling. You could get one of these and customize it too - and POSSIBLY do it for less than a new 30' would cost. (reno's tend to grow on you.)

Earlier this year I bought my retirement home/trailer - a 1986 Avion, a close cousin of the Airstream. It's a LOT more robustly framed and built than any Airstream that ever came off the lot. It's a 10 meter (34 feet) and there are 3 models - you might find the center bath would divide nicely. And the Avion is a beast. It however is only 8 feet wide and the widebody Airstreams 25' and up) are 8.5 feet.

Airstreams are slick and they are easy to tow, with a lot less drag and sideways shifting than SOB's (square old boxes/some other brands). I notice you live in Texas - and I know it's a big state but there are 2 Airstream Only parks in TX... so why not make it a destination trip for a weekend to visit one or both? A lot of folks who stay there have a building that covers their Airstream and often contains additional living space. If fulltiming doesn't mean full time travel to you, one of these parks could be economical and a perfect fit for your family. Texas is full of "snowbirds" who stay in the south during the cold months hand head north for the summers.

Happy trails whatever you choose. Paula
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:37 PM   #13
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Airstream also has the bunk house model, seen here: 2015 Airstream 30FB Flying Cloud Bunkhouse Premium Travel Trailer Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona | Desert Autoplex RV

This would give you a front and rear bedroom. But no "garage" to speak of.

As everyone else has said, space is subjective and personal. I have been full timing with two kids and a wife and we have empty storage compartments. Personal observation has shown that the older you are the more stuff you seem to believe you need.

We chose the Airstream over a giant 5th wheel to purposely focus on less and on each other.
Family of 5 exploring the USA with a Ram Power Wagon & Airstream in tow.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:40 PM   #14
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Wayward - that really is the warning:

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