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Old 06-25-2019, 11:06 PM   #1
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Cabin vs Airstream (long post!)

Hi - Grab a cup of hot chocolate and dive right in!

For the past few years, my wife and I have been throwing around the idea of buying a little cabin somewhere nearby (we live near Seattle). We’ve looked at various properties around western Washington, especially on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Cascades near Mt. Rainier. We imagined waking up in a little A-frame somewhere and enjoying the lack of city noise and the fresh air.

During these past few years, we’ve also done a LOT of local traveling and exploration. We’ve covered most of Washington State, much of Oregon, some of Montana, Northern California and even a full tour of Vancouver Island. We’ve done all these road trips without an AS or any type of RV, staying in all types of accommodations from hotels to tipis. During these adventure-filled years, we’ve realized how much we love exploring new places and building a library of favorites, a few of which we’ve gone back to year after year.

A couple of years ago, I went and looked at some white box RV’s and Airstreams and really liked what I saw in the AS. The classic shape, iconic design along with the features and amenities really impressed me. At the time, we were living in a 600 sq ft apartment and paying lots of money on top of our rent per month to park 1 vehicle. Moving forward with an Airstream wasn’t in the cards as it would have been much too costly with the additional storage fees and the inconvenience of not having it at home and ready to go. So, we put the thought on a back shelf and waited and continued to explore.

Fast toward to about a year ago: After renting for the past 8 years in Seattle in a neighborhood on top of a hill with a great view of Mt. Rainer, we took the plunge and bought a house. We couldn’t be happier! Not to mention our new to us mid 1950’s era house cane with two driveways! I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. A house within our budget, with two driveways! We now have a place to store an AS.

The thought has been again taken off the back shelf and is being considered. Do we want to look at cabins and move in that direction, or look at an AS and have a cabin on wheels? We’re career professionals in our late 30’s without any kids. Well, except for our 4 year old Golden Retriever who still sometimes behaves like a 90lb puppy. Our current plan is to continue to have weekend getaways, which we do now using various types of accommodations. We also take 1-2 one week trips per year somewhere far. Yosemite NP, Glacier NP, Crater Lake NP and a bunch of other spots along the Pacific, for example.

So, the question, which I think I’ve basically answered for myself is, cabin vs. AS?

As far as AS’s go: I’d want a single axle model. I like the Caravel 20FB and the Bambi 20FB. I’ve seen a Caravel, but not the Bambi in this floor plan, which I will do as soon as one is available to view.

I have a 2016 Chevy Silverado 1500 with a towing package and capability to tow 8600lbs; so I’m all set there.

If you’ve read this entire thing, good on you! I appreciate any advice you’re willing to share.
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Old 06-25-2019, 11:14 PM   #2
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Sounds like you've already answered your own question. The Airstream it is. I know for the wife and I we prefer to be mobile and see various places with the comfort of our Airstream every bit of the way. Everyone has different preferences but sounds like you know what to do haha! Either way, enjoy your travels.
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Old 06-25-2019, 11:42 PM   #3
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Sounds like you want a mobile vacation home!

One thing I'd encourage you to do is to rent a travel trailer. Whether Airstream or SOB. It'll at least give you some insight into whether travel trailer style travel is the type of lifestyle or vacation you're looking for. Many also opt for the van life in the form of an Mercedes Sprinter. More mobility, less living comfort. But for a couple, potentially still a great option.
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:15 AM   #4
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There are some things you have not said. You have a house, do you do your own maintenance and repairs? How handy are you? Whatever your answer, a mobile vacation home is going to require more ongoing maintenance than a cabin that is in good shape at the purchase.
It sounds like you are close to an Airstream dealer, which would allow you to just pay for any maintenance without much trouble.
If travel is in your blood, you have the answer. But if all you really want is a nice place for a getaway, I think a cabin is a less stressful answer.
For years we thought about a second home at the beach or in the mountains, but I did not want the ongoing cost of upkeep and taxes. We bought an Airstream, one that was free of factory defects at purchase. However, after 6 years, the ongoing maintenance is aggravating, if not troublesome. I am a 4 hour trip from the nearest dealer...4 hours there, drop it off, 4 hours home. To pick it up, two more 4 hour trips. I am a handy guy and do most of my own maintenance, but there are some things I cannot or won't do. This year it was replacement of a leaking fresh water tank.
Frankly I am also tired of campgrounds that are just RV parking lots, lots of those here in the East. The tranquility of a mountain cabin with my nearest neighbor a half mile away, or more, has a lot of appeal...
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:26 AM   #5
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Lifestyle questions for you to consider.

What your travel style is and what you want to get out of your leisure time.

If you like to be pampered by amenities when you travel, then the airstream may not be as suitable as staying at VRBOs or hotels. If you like to always eat out when traveling then same.

Also your tolerance of others in your near space vs need for seclusion. A cabin in the middle of no where is different than a campground with neighbors all around you.

What is the traffic situation where you live, and do your jobs require you to be in the office M-F or do you have some ability to work remote with connectivity or bunch up work hours and take off for 3 days in a row?

Are there several places you would enjoy staying at for a weekend that are an easy 90-120 minute drive on a Friday night?

What about friends and family? Do you currently do travel activities with others, and do any of them camp? If not, will this mean your relationship will change significantly?

Advantages of an airstream vs cabin are you have ability to travel near and far, ability to go to different locations, and control over the environment when you stay, and can easily and quickly sell if your needs change.

Advantages of a cabin are more potential for appreciation, easier to bring along others, more nimble travel going to and from. Potential to expand as able, less potential for damage/accident, and higher solitude.

ps--where we live we have several friends who have lake houses. It is fun to visit them there, but they are a lot of work /chores and are expensive to keep maintained. Septic systems, boat lifts, HVAC, driveways, and a nice boat can cost about the same as a used Airstream.
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:40 AM   #6
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There are campgrounds that have Airstreams onsite for rent, many in very nice locations. Have you tried that out? Good way to find out how you like RV trailer camping I think, at minimal cost. Personally would not have wanted to limit my travel options and adding the maintenance obligations by owning a vacation cabin when I was your age and working full time.
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SYC2Vette View Post
There are campgrounds that have Airstreams onsite for rent, many in very nice locations. Have you tried that out? Good way to find out how you like RV trailer camping I think, at minimal cost. Personally would not have wanted to limit my travel options and adding the maintenance obligations by owning a vacation cabin when I was your age and working full time.
I think about my friend that had a vacation condo about 4 hours away. It was a nice place in good shape, but still a good percentage of the weekends he spent there were maintenance related. The AS is 20 ft. from my front door when I need to work on it.
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:58 AM   #8
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You've covered the emotional gratification angle pretty well. How about the financial? A depreciating asset vs an appreciating asset. Can you afford to pay cash for the AS? It is never a wise nor a profitable endeavor to finance a depreciating asset. But then, real estate on the West Coast can also fall into that category depending on your time horizon. Have you considered renting an RV?
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Old 06-26-2019, 07:32 AM   #9
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Think vintage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomzstream View Post
You've covered the emotional gratification angle pretty well. How about the financial? A depreciating asset vs an appreciating asset. Can you afford to pay cash for the AS? It is never a wise nor a profitable endeavor to finance a depreciating asset. But then, real estate on the West Coast can also fall into that category depending on your time horizon. Have you considered renting an RV?
If you buy a vintage one, it may appreciate or at least hold it's value rather then depreciate.
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Old 06-26-2019, 07:38 AM   #10
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sounds like your in the position for an Airstream. We bought a Flying Cloud 19 a couple years ago and love it. I personally wouldn’t buy a single axel unit again though. Instead, I would opt for a dual axel Flying Cloud.
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Old 06-26-2019, 09:35 AM   #11
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With the trailer, if you don’t like the neighborhood, just move.
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Old 06-26-2019, 09:36 AM   #12
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I found a cabin in one location can get boring. Traveling in the camper opens up and list possibilities.
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Old 06-26-2019, 09:58 AM   #13
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AS vs Cabin

This is a great dilemma to have! We also considered similar options a few years back. We looked at several cabins in the Flagstaff area which is 90 miles from where we live in Phoenix. Honestly, we couldn't find one that we liked and certainly not in the AS price range. So we opted for a 2018 27' Globetrotter and absolutely love it. We put 13,000 miles on it the past 18 months and have visited some of the most amazing places in the country (including 2x to the Seattle area).

Having said that, I agree with the comments on maintenance. Your cabin won't be bouncing down the road at 60 MPH. Things shake apart and break in EVERY TT so you'll need to know how to fix some lightweight things. Each time we stop, I check for loose screws (there are a handful) and this keeps things running fairly smoothly.

Best of luck!
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Old 06-26-2019, 10:07 AM   #14
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Being still in your thirties, you are young!

So, with all the other good points made, I would pass on some good advice I got years ago from fellow Airstream owners who were now old and retired and had been most everywhere twice:

"Go forth, travel, see the world -- and do it while you're young!"

When I was in my thirties, I could do anything! Learn how to twist a wrench if you don't already -- it's fun and fulfilling. Traveling with a camper isn't exactly strenuous, but there is some lifting and crawling about involved. Do it while you can! In another 20-30 years, you will discover your body isn't as strong and flexible as it is today, and it will go by FAST, trust me.

Then, THEN, you can revisit that cabin idea! Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too, just be patient and go forth and explore while you can!
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Old 06-26-2019, 10:11 AM   #15
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Lot of folks around me in my age bracket went the condo route for a vacation home. We've got some wonderful locations in Missouri and a lot of friends who bought the condo, the boat, maybe the house at the lake etc. Interesting in that every person who are my friends eventually sold that investment. It's been one of three common reasons. One is rising condo assessments for improvements and upkeep, two is the boredom. Same place all the time, it tends to lose its attractiveness. Finally it's the upkeep. I used to envy the guy who had a home at Lake of the Ozarks and I used to envy him on the 150 mile drive to relax on the weekend. He said Jack it's no vacation. I work all week and have to keep the house up, then I go down to the lake on the weekends and I'm cutting grass, repairing the house etc. It's really not as neat as you think it is.

For my wife and I, we made the choice of the camping and 15 years ago made the investment in the Airstream. With indoor storage I've been able to minimize the wear and tear that typically occurs with trailers and I truly know that investment is the last I will make. Sure I've had some upkeep but from an economics stand point it has been a sound investment. On my 3rd set of tires, had to replace a brake drum and the associated brake, replaced a skylight and pretty much that's it. Yeah I pay to store it but that cost is far less than real estate tax, condo fees and assessments for improvements.

The other aspect is the sad day when you lose your partner in life. It's hard dealing with it at home, but if you have a recreational residence outside of your home, it will be that much harder living with what you have had there. I've met some widowed singles in the past year and every one who had property like a home or condo sold them on the passage of their spouse. And one I met actually went out and bought a trailer so that they could travel and explore. Since my wife has passed, not only have I traveled to new locations and places that we never saw together, but because we traveled to so many locales over the years, I can return to those places we loved if I wish. Having the trailer has been a godsend to me.

Jack
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Old 06-26-2019, 11:00 AM   #16
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Do BOTH, buy the land in the woods and have the AS for the cabin. When you want to travel, hook up and go. But, keep the house as another place to store your trailer and load and go. Do it while you are young and can!
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Old 06-26-2019, 11:01 AM   #17
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A fellow Seattle-ite, although you are pre-kids and my sweetie and I are post-kids. Like you, we did a lot of driving around the NW, in our case tent camping, until we finally bit the bullet and got our AS. I'll post what I wrote in response to another poster today on the AS Forum, as I believe it applies to your situation as well. I have no problem with anything that you've said, although I would ask you to reconsider getting a single axle or, more specifically, anything under a 25, particularly for the NW. Maybe if you were in the south, where you could vacation 9-12 months a year in the sun. But in the NW, we've got maybe 4-6 months of decent weather, and the rest of the time, if you want to go camping, you're going to be dealing with wet and cold and probably going to be spending more time in the trailer than you might prefer. A 25 or more just gives especially a couple more elbow room and the possibility for separation. I think we'd feel cramped in anything smaller, but to each his/her own.

What I wrote earlier today:

We bought our AS in 2016. In the process, like yourself, I spoke with dozens of AS dealers and other personnel and found one fellow, in AZ, who had decades of AS experience, as a dealer, salesman, owner and user of multiple ASs, etc. I was quite impressed with his AS experience. I finally just asked him, "Denny, you know my circumstances, what model should I get?" Somewhat to my surprise, he asked, "Do you and your sweetie sleep together or separately?" I said, "Together." He responded, "So, if you sleep together, get an AS 27 queen --- if you sleep apart, get an AS 25 twin." The 27 queen has a walk-around bed that is easy to make, that each person can get out of in the middle of the night without having to crawl over the other, and that you don't hit your head on the overhead cabinet when you get up. The 25 twin has more storage and is slightly more maneuverable. Both of them have room to sleep two more in a crunch. We, my sweetie and I and our 150 lb Great Dane, now have over 35K miles on our 27, and if I had to do it all over again, I'd buy the same trailer. We've considered from time to time getting a 30 or even a 33 and continue to believe that at least for us, they're both "Just too much."

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Your half-ton should work well for either a 25 or 27, there are lots of 25s and 27s pulled by half-tons, although as you can see, I prefer a more stout tow truck.

My best to you however you decide.
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Old 06-26-2019, 11:19 AM   #18
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We were exactly where you are. About fifteen years ago, we had just retired and decided we would look for a lake house in northern Alabama. Even though we have a nice beach house in the Florida Panhandle, we thought that we would like to have a lake house just a few hours away.

We made a couple of trips up to the Alabama lake country, and looked at quite a few properties. We stared to notice that there were lake properties that consisted of a concrete slab, electric hook-up, water, and septic. We also noticed that some of these were occupied by various types of RVs.

As we looked further, we decided that it might be nice to have an RV and travel to different places instead or going to the same lake house all the time.

This started our quest for the RV lifestyle. WE did a lot of research and ended up buying a brand new 2005 Airstream Safari 25FB. We traveled the extensively across the United States and parts of Canada. We now have a 2015 Airstream Flying Cloud 25FB.

We are now right at 2,000 nights of Airstream camping, and over 180,000 miles of Airstream towing. We have had the time of our lives and wouldn't trade it for anything.

As I write this, we are camped in Billings, Montana, on our way to Alaska.

Brian
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Old 06-26-2019, 12:05 PM   #19
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We have had both a cabin and trailer for years! Each is its own type of adventure.

Cabin is best if you’ve found a place you sincerely love and are happy to be there regardless of the time of year. Ours is basically 4 hours from home by car, accessible all year (a wee bit of snow hiking to get in during the winter) and a place where my family has camped for 65 years.

Trailer goes where you want to go. Not every set-up is perfect but you can always move on. You can arrange trips based on your interests and life style. Trailer also allows for long distance trips with great accommodations and all your own stuff.

Both require up-keep and maintenance, fees, and charges (insurance, property tax, utilities). Cabin requires lot cleanup every year, tree removal and fire safety. But, our overall costs have been similar for both (we paid less for the cabin than for the Airstream!).

So...homebody happy to be in one place or adventurer ready to hit the road?
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Old 06-26-2019, 12:23 PM   #20
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Jack , I was touched by your humble but wise counsel. I am a uk airstreamer and my wife has recently received a terminal cancer diagnosis. I know that when she leaves me our airstream will continue to be a faithful friend. With best wishes to you Sir Robert
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