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Old 03-26-2009, 07:13 PM   #1
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Airstream for a Broke Student - Recommendations?

Hello there,

I've always loved Airstreams, and although I think it's unlikely I'd be able to own one anytime soon, I was wondering if anyone might be willing to impart some advice about what the best or most realistic options would be for someone in my position.

I've finished an undergraduate degree but would like to return to school for a second one (philosophy) before starting graduate work, so I'm likely looking at another four years of schooling from this point on, which means no earning potential to afford anything beyond the smallest, most abused airstream out there.

In the summers I work as a treeplanter in Western Canada, living in camps that we set up in the bush. I've been planting for five years now, and have lived in a tent the entire time. The job's gruelling, both physically and emotionally, and after planting half a million trees by hand to this point, I'd like to come home to something a little more private and spacious than my tent.

I'll probably end up picking up a real beater travel trailer or tent trailer, but I was wondering if an Airstream might somehow be a realistic option if I either settle for something with nothing on the inside or really look hard. From what I've seen of prices, they simply can't be found for less than $3,000 (my budget is $1,500 at this point with very little flexibility), and they're very difficult to find in Canada it would appear. I don't need much room, and don't care about functioning appliances or fridges or washrooms inside - I'm more concerned with privacy and solid roof and space that a solid structure provides (and something safe to tow, as we move every two to three weeks).

I'm wondering what might be the best option for someone in my position, which years/model/sizes (the smaller the better) might be realistically found in the $1,500 price range (or higher so I can start looking ahead to next year) and where, in Western Canada or the North Western USA (if bringing it across the border wouldn't be a huge hassle), might I have the best shot of finding something. I know it's a bit of a pipe dream, but I really love airstreams and the freedom/luxury even an old beaten up one would afford me is unimaginable, and if there's a possible way to find one, I'd like to give it a shot.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:20 PM   #2
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You can get a usable trailer for $1500 or less but not likely an Airstream. Sorry.

The big problem on an old trailer of conventional construction is a leak on the roof. Around a vent or at the edge seam. Such leaks may leave a small stain on the inside but be a big repair job.

It all depends if you are handy. For your use you might also consider a small fibreglass trailer like a Boler. They are fairly common in western Canada and they do not have the leakage problems of conventional trailers.
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:25 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ganaraska View Post
You can get a usable trailer for $1500 or less but not likely an Airstream. Sorry.

The big problem on an old trailer of conventional construction is a leak on the roof. Around a vent or at the edge seam. Such leaks may leave a small stain on the inside but be a big repair job.

It all depends if you are handy. For your use you might also consider a small fibreglass trailer like a Boler. They are fairly common in western Canada and they do not have the leakage problems of conventional trailers.
Yeah I didn't think so, but I thought I'd get some second opinions, thank you for the response.

Bowlers seem to be ridiculously expensive considering what they are, they are my second choice, but even they seem like they're in high enough demand that finding one for $1,500 that's safely towable might be a problem.
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:29 PM   #4
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Here is an excellent web site about buying and restoring an old Trillium, another popular fibreglass trailer.

The Green Grape

The Trillium and Boler have the added advantage that you can tow them with practically anything, including many 4 cylinder and almost all V6 cars.

Any ads I have seen for Airstreams in Western Canada were very high priced. Most seemed to be in BC.

There are much better buys in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and the western US generally. Except California seems to be high priced but not as high as BC.
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:55 PM   #5
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I see you are in Toronto. That brings up another issue. Will you be buying a trailer in Toronto area and towing it across the country? Or flying to the west and buying one out there?

If you buy one locally you will have time to find one and fix it up a bit. But the time and money of towing across country will add up. But if you fly out, then you will have to buy a car and trailer within days and of course they will have to be usable right off the bat.

For laughs I just did a quick Google search for "kijiji trillium" and turned up these 2 in Mississaga and Peterboro. $4500 and $5950! Ai ai ai ai ai!!!

Trillium trailer 4500 model for sale, Mississauga - Kitchener Cars & Vehicles - Kijiji Kitchener

Trillium 4500 - Peterborough Cars & Vehicles - Kijiji Peterborough

All I can suggest is to run your own trailer wanted ad in Kijiji and Craigslist or drive around and keep your eyes open for an unwanted trailer in a storage yard, campground or in someone's driveway.
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:08 PM   #6
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I will tell you, you never know your luck. Last fall I bought a 25 foot Travelux (Canadian Airstream copy) for $1000 bucks. It had been taken by a campground for back lot rent and they just wanted rid of it.

Ask around, tell everyone you know that you are looking. Keep your eyes open.

I will also tell you that an old trailer had NO salvage value. Junkyards won't even take them for nothing. There is too much wood and fibreglass and the metal salvage doesn't pay.

This means that an old trailer that needs repairs, is worth practically nothing. Something to keep in mind if you are the handyman type.
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:17 PM   #7
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Something just floated to the surface of my so called mind. A few years back a friend took a trip to Vancouver. He told me that a lot of foreign travellers buy vans, campers, motorhomes and trailers in eastern Canada and drive them to Vancouver where they try to sell them and in many cases, abandon them. He told me he saw a big lot full of cheap campers. Where this was I couldn't tell you. But if you have any friends in Vancouver maybe they could make inquiries.
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:18 PM   #8
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I opted to shop south of the border, (California) via Craigslist. There was nothing of interest in my part of Canada. I paid $1800 but chose to get new axles and stuff before I even saw her. At a rough tally I'd say I'm at least $8k into essentially a safe to tow tent like trailer.
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:25 PM   #9
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Hard top camper trailer - Toronto Cars & Vehicles - Kijiji Toronto

Here is a canned ham for $1600.

For some crazy reason the trailer is in Toronto but the owner seems to be in Moncton New Brunswick. This could mean the seller will take a low offer.

Trailers like this can be bought for $200 to $500 if you don't mind knocking on doors.

Look in nice neighborhoods. You will get the best buys there. Especially if wifey wants "that thing" out of the back yard or driveway.
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:32 PM   #10
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You can do anything you set your mind to. One big bit of advice that will help after you snag your Airstream. Be sure you have all the tools that you will need to repair and maintain your home available. You must be handy to take on the job of a less than perfect Airstream. Good Luck. May the Fourm be with you
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Old 03-26-2009, 09:57 PM   #11
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I wish I could tell you Replant that it's all good, but any toy carries it's price and not just and Airstream.

I know how I don't care for tenting, and perhaps you're getting to be the same way, but the fact is that if you buy a fixer upper (Airstream or otherwise), you'll spend money that a broke college student more times than not doesn't have.

If you buy a pre-owned you'll pay up front, but really either way you're gonna pay. Then there is insurance, maint, upkeep, storage, tow vehicle costs, etc. It's not for the timid. I'm not trying to pop the dream, but like you about 10 years ago, I was where you are now more or less, had I done this then, instead of now, it might have been a bit difficut...not impossible, but more difficult and I might not have gotten the full use having had lots of other more pressing priorites. I do think yer heart is in the right place, just maybe the wrong time IMVHO (in my very humble opinion).

If your goal is to own one and complete more schooling, get the schooling done, get a gainful job with benefits and then get into it full force.

Going for advaned degrees and second degrees take a lot of time and money. My bud went though med school after his 4 year college stint. I rarely saw the man, and when I did see him, it was not for long cause of his school work, which was the priority....so you could spend this money and not get the use out of it you are thinking you might right now.
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Old 03-26-2009, 10:05 PM   #12
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It can be done, but you must be ready to roll up your sleeves and work on it. For that price you will have a very nice aluminum "tent" after you remove all the things that don't work or you would like to upgrade. I found a Safari body in good shape for $700 which needed gutting. After investing another $500 I had my nice aluminum tent that was solid, legal, and safe to tow. Time and $$$ later I had a trailer that even my wife would get in! I think the best way to learn how to rebuild an Airstream is to carefully take one apart. The good thing about doing the work yourself is that you will know every inch of the trailer and will be able to troubleshoot and fix most of what ails it. Most everything else you need to know is available here on the forums. The advice and support here is tremendous! One last thing....make sure you get a clear title.
Good luck!
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Old 03-26-2009, 10:22 PM   #13
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If you look at my avatar or pics, you'll see the 28' Avion that I purchased for $1,000. It took very minor money on my behalf (gearhead) to make usable and was worth every penny and then some.
Mine was found by driving around and seeing it in the back yard with a newer SOB sitting in the drive. They wanted rid of the Avion. Score!
Keep your eye out, you'll find it!
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Old 03-26-2009, 11:05 PM   #14
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How will you tow it and will your tree planting locations be accessible with it in tow? I see Airstreams come up in the local Craigslist for anywhere from $1000 and up. Almost without exception, new axles are needed and the interior conditions are from the ridiculous to the sublime. If your camps are remote, you may want to upgrade your tent to something more spacious but still portable. What about getting yourself a canvas wall tent and building a wood base with front porch? You could even put a wood stove in it.

Deluxe Wall Tents

Wall Tents, Canvas Tents, canvas wall tent, canvas wall tent frames,
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