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Old 08-04-2015, 11:21 PM   #1
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1985 31' Excella
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Would an older Airstream be okay for me? Full time, stationary, non park

I live in a (sadly not an Airstream) camper due to having most fortunately secured a place in my employers RV park, which is extremely cheap rent wise and right next to where I work (and even single bedroom apartments in the area are quite pricy)

My camper unfortunately is on its last legs and soon will be going to the campground in the sky, I am not about to forfeit my RV spot though and am going to buy another camper

My neighbor and a couple of my coworkers have all suggested that what I would really like is an older Airstream, and I've looked at a 71 Sovereign that looked pretty cool (until the person happened to mention he didn't have a title and that the 'AC worked great, just needed freon', which scared me), so I am thinking perhaps of looking for an older Airstream to buy to live in. Would this actually be a feasible thing? I'm a younger bachelor, so the tenants of the camper would just be myself and my cat

I am a bit worried about the lack of a slide, but I've lived in a tiny rented room in Kansas City for 3 months once, and a camper is huge compared to that. I'm worried about how hard and expensive (or even possible) it would be to keep an older Airstream in livable condition. My coworkers and neighbor specifically believe that older Airstreams are the stoutest, most indestructible trailers in existence, but they notably do not actually own one so I'm not sure how much I credit their opinions

The RV mechanic I have work on my camper (and who has condemned my camper to needing to be replaced) thinks what I need is a park model Katrina type Cavalier just like the camper next to mine . . . but ugh, I hate the idea of living in one of those, it just seems so epicly uncool

I've always thought Airstreams seemed super cool like something out of Flash Gordon, but unfortunately coolness alone isn't my only shopping criteria

Still, I look at the older Airstreams and think 'this trailer is still soldiering on 40 years old, surely it has another 10 years left in it right?'
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Old 08-05-2015, 12:30 AM   #2
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Still, I look at the older Airstreams and think 'this trailer is still soldiering on 40 years old, surely it has another 10 years left in it right?'
Yes, but any 40 year old Airstream will need work too, just like any 40 year old car, house, or other device to live in.

Stationary you would not need new axles or tires, but plumbing systems need attention, refrigerators need to be replaced, AC units wear out, and electrical systems get old and need attention. Then there are leaks which can cause floor rot, a major issue to be concerned about.

Airstreams are nice and the shell can last and last and last, but everything inside does not.

Not wishing to discourage you, just trying to be realistic for your needs. It is not cheap to renovate an old Airstream.
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Old 08-05-2015, 12:34 AM   #3
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Airstreams, while wonderful, that are 40 years old, are still old. Substandard electricity, things break, stuff happens. Part of being able to "live" with an Airstream would be where you would be located to live year round. Winter is rough on any trailer/camper. They are generally not well insulated and water can freeze unless you truly prepare for it. Best advice I can give is think of it like buying a used car. Look at everything you can, compare it to the next model and choose what works best for you!

Good luck!
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Old 08-05-2015, 08:34 AM   #4
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Based on lifestyle choices for the next few years we decided an RV might be the best option. After shopping around looking at everythng from truck campers, tiny and huge TTs and 5th wheels, even park models, we finally settled in on the idea of a used Airstream.

We found a 75 Overlander 27' nearby that claimed to be in excellent condition. I did a worst scene estimate of repairs in case it wasn't. We went to look at it. It wasn't hooked up so the PO couldn't prove his claims. I started adding up worst scene renovations in my head. The Mrs fell in love with it. The price wasn't ridiculous for what likely needed repaired or replaced, so we bought it.

Once all repairs and renovations are complete, we will still have less in it than a new small white box of lessor size. This is with me doing all repairs. If a shop was doing the repairs the new small white box would have been cheaper.

Living in an RV is different than living in anything else. I was an RV full timer for about 4 years while still working - in the Mojave and later in the mountains of Colorado. The smallness of an apartment, coupled with the need for tinkering of a house. Neglect the tinkering aspect and you end up buying over and over again.

So yes, it can be done, but an Airstream and its hookups would need some special attention to survive -20F nights with 0F days.
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Old 08-05-2015, 08:44 AM   #5
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Airstream is a luxury travel trailer. I don't think it's going to be your least cost accommodation, unless your are exceptionally handy.

I wouldn't buy one if I was in a financial situation "terrified" that I might have to replace the AC or such.

Can I afford a very inexpensive vintage mercedes as a daily driver ? Possibly. But I don't want to pay to keep one on the road.
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Old 08-05-2015, 09:32 AM   #6
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Welcome to the Forums!

You don't mention your budget for the acquisition of the next trailer. As some of the other respondants have mentioned, any 40 year old trailer that has not had any work done to it will be a wreck (albeit a very cool one) and require a lot of work and $$ to fix it up. BUT there are folks all over the country who buy the vintage trailers, fix them up, use them a bit, and then decide they want something bigger/smaller/older/newer, and sell their rennovated vintage trailer. Sometimes these are available for as little as $10-12k. They may not be the work of art that some rennovated trailers become, but they have working appliances, repaired frames/floors, and running gear, and are ready to go.

If you have less than $5k to spend on the new trailer, then you are looking at buying an "as found" Airstream that will require another $10k and 2 years of work, or your better "bang for the buck" may be a recent model white box FEMA trailer.

good luck!
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Old 08-05-2015, 09:44 AM   #7
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If you have less than $5k to spend on the new trailer, then you are looking at buying an "as found" Airstream that will require another $10k and 2 years of work, or your better "bang for the buck" may be a recent model white box FEMA trailer.

good luck!
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Old 08-05-2015, 09:53 AM   #8
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Seriously - if you want the Airstream LOOK and a durable trailer - look at an '80's AVION.

Google it.

The interiors if un-messed with (which IS often best) are butt ugly. However slipcovers or upholstery and new curtains, and if they have the bronzed antique mirrors take them OUT - and you've got a wonderful durable trailer.

DO not buy unless it's all hooked up and you can test everything.
You're looking $8,000 - $10,000 for a monster 10 meter (34 footer)... maybe a bit less for a 30 footer - both good for fulltiming.
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Old 08-05-2015, 10:04 AM   #9
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I'd prefer not to spend more than 2-3 grand a year in repairs in all honesty, though I wouldn't mind spending a larger sum on occasion for a repair that should last several years.

I'm not particularly handy, so I call ye olde local RV shop to come out and do repairs.

I found a 33ft 88 Land Yacht camper being advertised an hour away from me as 'everything works, new AC' for 8700 I want to take a look at
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Old 08-05-2015, 10:09 AM   #10
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1985 31' Excella
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Oops, missed the question on budget. My budget is 10k or less, and I would like a trailer that can ideally survive 5years with only a couple thousand a year repair budget.
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Old 08-05-2015, 10:30 AM   #11
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I would say that your budget is realistic, if frugal. Download the "buyer's inspection checklist" from the Portal page, and you will know what to look for when buying. Again, your best bet is to find something that somebody has already done the heavy lifting on and can prove it. Watch out for trailers that are being "flipped," which may have superficial fix-ups, but still have hidden, rotting bones. Also keep an eye on the Airstream Forums classified ads, you might find something in better condition there than you will kicking stones on Craigslist.

Good luck
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Old 08-05-2015, 11:12 AM   #12
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I think you can do it.
I have seen full-timers in 60's and 70's Airstreams in RV campgrounds that were still roadworthy.
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Old 08-05-2015, 01:33 PM   #13
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I would think the '88 Land Yacht would be a great one. And contrary to what someone said about the -20F temps - - - in Jasper, TX you will NOT have to worry about that! ;-) Only an occasional 32F temp per winter. Good luck on the '88!
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Old 08-05-2015, 02:50 PM   #14
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In Texas? Very good! You should be fine, especially since you have no plans to drag it around.

But ... I do remember when the Army sent me to Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio for 6 months. In January in snowed so much the city was closed for four days.

Humorously enough snow storms seemed to follow me every where I was stationed typically closing things for four days or more, except the snow in Victorville CA in the Mojave, that lasted less than 24 hours.

Never say never ...
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