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Old 12-02-2012, 03:43 PM   #1
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Hoover , Alabama
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Contemplation - Preparation - Advice???

So, hello everyone! I am a 29 year old pharmacist - live in Birmingham, Alabama. Married (she's drug dealer too) we have a 2 year old son, and another due 1/19/13 (will not know the sex till then).

I am contemplating on starting a plan to save and prep for our family to do alot of camping vacations, tailgating (roll tide!), and just weekend get aways locally on the cheap ya know!

I was talking to some friends about buying something like a trailer or a 5th wheel later to go down to the gulf of mexico for example...or camping trips more abroad. The gulf is very fun to go in a camper. My first ever time going to the beach was with a friend's family who had a pretty basic travel trailer and at age 15 we slept in a tent, and parents and his younger sister slept in their camper. It was like 20 bucks a day and we were just a few steps pretty much from the beach! Had just a blast.

I want the same for my kids growing up and more

Anyway, my friend's wife starting talking up airstream "bullet" TT' curious and researching just for fun and they do indeed have their appeal.

I have some initial thoughts and possible plans to save properly and get into this and wanted to share with you all and see if you all think its a good idea - I have some basic concerns you all may provide clarity.


I moonlight as a pharmacist 8 hours per month - this + my budgeted allowance gives me $684 per month to stow away as I see fit. Also, I will get a final educational bonus from my job next year of 10K. If I save right now, come 2014, I could have roughly 18,000 at my disposal. Credit at that point is an option if needed...but would not want to swamp my "fun budget" honestly - yuck!

Current Truck:

I bought a 1997 Toyota T100 4x4 - 4 years ago and a small bass boat and been using that for that sole purpose sense then - runs great still - not the most amazing towing vehicle with that wimpy v6 - but it pulls fine for that light of load - says it can pull 5K lbs (I probably wouldn't though).

Storage I think I will be able to swing at my house location - looking at new houses as we speak, and will be wanting a lot that can accommodate a future of storage of my toys


I have a number of options if I pace myself for the next 2-3 years.....I wanted to share the one idea I had in particular to see what you more experienced AS folks would think!

So, I figure I can as of next year with 10-20K pick up a much older one that I could then just tinker with and remodel for a couple years. I am not exactly an experienced "handy man" but I honestly at age 29 am tired of not being one, and my dad is a mechanic, my siblings are much more handy and I have them as resources as well for guidance if needed.

So I figure I can troll for a good buy in 2014, fix it up as a "labor of love" whilst the kids get a bit older and wanting to go camping with the fam.

Of course at that point, I would have to figure perhaps getting a better truck for towing....Im not confident in mine for some of the bigger trailers - probably would not be confortable pulling something more than 3200 lbs in this at that point I would either have saved up a bit toward another truck and buy it - and perhaps finance that a bit if needed.

Then we would be ready to go.

New is too spendy for me I think....perhaps at retirement but no way now! gotta work ONLY from my spending budget! Plus, I like the idea of the older one - sets my expectations into fix mode so my hopes will not be dashed by getting a new one or new/used one and having to fix issues while making a payment

OR - if I bought first one of the smaller ones (like what is it a "bambi") and fixed it up, I think I can handle that fine with my truck...and just kick around in that for a while and save and upgrade TV and TT much later...

Part of me though likes the idea of a 19+ footer though...I suspect that while my wife likes camping for a couple days (which we have done) - staying a week at the beach a bigger AS trailer would be great...perhaps I can pick up a vintage 25ish footer...

OR - I simply would buy a newer model bambi or something else for 20k that needs no fixing up that my truck could handle in a couple years...

I know NOTHING much about renovating these things, so wanted thoughts...

No biggie this is all contemplation, even pre-contemplation - thanks ahead of time!

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Old 12-02-2012, 05:26 PM   #2
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1978 31' Sovereign
Texas Airstream Harbor , Zavalla, in the Deep East Texas Piney Woods on Lake Sam Rayburn
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Great thoughts...

...and welcome to the forums.

I will give some input drawn on my experience with Airstreams since January of 2003.

The question of size...a good rule of thumb for an Airstream is to sleep two, sit four for dinner, and entertain six for srinks and conversation.

Another rule of thumb...tow only 80% of the rating of your tow the manufacturers rating - the engineers know what they are doing and - trust me - there is a reason for their rating a vehicle to tow only so much and not a pound more. We will never see all of the calculations involved in the ratings numbers but there is no valid reason to flagrantly bust the given numbers. Remember, no air shocks, air bags, spring additions, cooling enhancements, horsepower tricks, tires, or any other vehicle modification will legitimately increase the manufacturers tow or load rating. The most often rating busted is the total load on the rear axle.

More on size - talk with any knowledgeable camper to find the "ideal" size. This will vary with your needs. A 27'er is easier to tow than a 30'er, and way easier to toq than a 34'er. Anything less than 26' you would probably find too small.

My advice would be to focus on a 26 to 30 foot model.

Finally, the best advice I could give at this time - this is coming from someone who has pretty much rebuilt both a 34' Motor Home and a 30' '78 Sovereign - purchase a unit in the best possible shape that you can afford.

Search the forums on problematics such as OSB floors, rear end separation, and filliform corrosion...there are many others.

The maximum life on a rubber torsion axle is about 10 years...more if you regularly take the weight off of the axles during periods of storage.


"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

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Old 12-02-2012, 05:39 PM   #3
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Yes, renovation is the key. This is an area where the same word can mean wildly different things to different people, and makes a huge difference in the amount of work, money, and time that is involved.
Search the forum for the term "Full Monte"
As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
- Andrew Carnegie
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Old 12-02-2012, 05:51 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum. You will get lots of help and advice here. There are advantages to buying a late model used AS or buying an older 'vintage' model. You may be surprised that there might not be too big a difference in the final between these options (but possibly bigger cost risk with vintage due to floor rot, water damage, etc., but a corresponding opportunity to 'make her your own'). We chose to go the late model approach and are happy with that choice since we didn't have the free time or available space for a rehab. If you go the 'used' approach, as opposed to new, there are forum members who volunteer as inspectors and can maybe save you from a potential money pit. Take your time and enjoy the hunt. We looked for 3 1/2 years before we found our AS and it was worth the wait. We finally found one less than 15 miles from home listed here in the forum's classified section and we just love her!

Happy hunting,
Scott, Becky & Heidi (our standard poodle and travel companion)
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Remember... No matter where you go, there you are...

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Old 12-02-2012, 06:13 PM   #5
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1978 31' Sovereign
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More thoughts...

On the axles - the rubber naturally takes a "set" with time and weight. Tires should be replaced every five to seven a serious search on tire types - I think the factory is now installing LT tires. There are numerous discussions on the forums on ST tire failures.

By all means, if you want to keep your purchase "new", build a serious carport or spring for covered storage. If you go the carport route, figure on at least 4' overhang all of the way around to protect the unit from sun and driven rain or hail.

I would hesitate to recommend a rebuild - do a search for "cost of rebuild" or similar - the dollars spent on a serious rebuild would be better spent on a good used unit.

Enlist the help of a rebuilder (someone who has "been there and done that") to inspect any used unit - there are a bunch of hidden areas and there is a steep learning curve to discover each and every one.

Make sure to attend any legitimate Airstream campout - forums or WBCCI - and ask as many questions as you have time to listen to answers.

PM individuals here on the forum if you have a specific question - most people here on the forum will be glad to answer legitimate questions.

Do not feel as if you have to purchase the first unit that comes along - there will always be a "better buy" next week or next month. Educate yourself as you peruse the Forums, Craigslist, e-bay, and other sale opportunities.

Luck - and keep us posted on your search.

"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

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Old 12-02-2012, 06:23 PM   #6
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Here's my perspective being a mother of two. Last one just left for college but we did a lot of camping with the kids when they were younger. I'd recommend larger than a Bambi - a 25 minimum. They'll probably bring friends and you won't want them outside in a tent when they're young. Bedroom, more storage space. The extra space just makes trips longer than a weekend more enjoyable for all.

Your ideas are great! Your kids will have a blast and you'll have wonderful family times and memories.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:43 PM   #7
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You know, even though this is an Airstream forum, and I do own one, if I were in your shoes I would think carefully about what you really want the RV for.

A new Airstream is not cheap, nor is a thorough restoration of an older one unless you have the abilities (or friends that do have) and a lot of hours to put into a major undertaking.

You may find an older unit that has not been really well cared for or had a major restoration can take a lot of the fun out of RV'ing when something breaks down on every trip = or even if it doesn't you are just waiting for the next problem to crop up!

I've been there!

Our son in law bought an inexpensive new (non AS) trailer a couple of years ago and is extremely happy with it. He has had a couple of minor issues, but all covered under warranty.

Maybe it doesn't look as attractive as an AS and doesn't have the cachet, but it gets the job done for him, our daughter and their two kids and they are having a ball with it.

They love camping and outdoor activities, but not tinkering with aging equipment to keep it going!

In fact his current plan is to keep the trailer maybe three or four years then trade for new again before problems start to crop up.

No perfect solution to suit everyone, but it is an approach to think about. I think that he paid somewhere around the budget amount you are talking of spending.

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 12-02-2012, 07:46 PM   #8
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How much for a 25 foot AS in fair to good condition needing little or no repairs?

If I save until 2015 - I would have 27k in cash and if needed at that point I could afford a 400 per month truck payment.

1) what can I get into with that budget

I'm not against a non-AS solution but honestly love the look of them and bonus that resale is good.

I think once we get it going we will be able to afford the maintenance - I assume once this happens the AS will be equal or better reliability to most competitors?

My reading on this forum leads me to assume that RVs in general are maintenance hogs and that AS's do not really stand out as much worse in this regard than the pack

I like the warranty idea but part of me cringes when I hear warranty (bad experiences)....

I'm probably a no on a huge rebuild idea - likely not a ton of time for that I suppose....but if some maintenance issues I could start to tackle some smaller stuff and or pay someone to do the work...
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:58 PM   #9
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I will be curious how the interest rate will be on a loan for an AS next year....I read that the interest can be deducted through taxes - I got a rate this year on a UTV @ 2.99% - I wonder if a similar rate can be gotten (or say in the 4-5% range, my credit score is 789) -

If that were the case, it would be a very easy decision to get exactly what I want at that point cause the interest I deduct and could even re-invest it and make money on that...

Just another thought really....I like this option...I have used my spending budget for very low interest financing my toys and I always enjoy doing this because it forces me to focus my spending money on my bigger ticket toys and not distract and waste my money...and in the case of the interest deduction there is almost no waste....assuming that deduction doesnt dissapear in the future...second home deduction that will go away my guess in some way shape or form...but who knows.

Loving looking at these Airstreams...ive been looking at some of the non-AS stuff...really nice layouts....but I just really love the look of the AS and the long term appeal of them...but I am staying open to other possibilities.

An update too is that come next year or two the budget will perhaps be even better cause the wife seems pumped up and has agreed to divert some from the "vacation budget" into this - I was not sure if she would bite on this premise, but it turns out one of the mom's in her "mom's group meetup" raved on about it as wonderful childhood memories and it now seems like it seems like more of a family desire rather than one of Ellery's toys he is wanting to "blow" money on

I think I will plan on renting one or two though for a couple trips first to ensure that the wife will enjoy it...she better though or we will leave her at home I have little doubt she will enjoy it...shed loved camping for short stents in tents....I think she will enjoy this for the same appeal but for longer vacations with the fam.
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:36 PM   #10
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Here is another perspective - (female) - Your wife will be having another child and now she will be a working mother of 2. The two of you will have several extremely busy years in front of you. My suggestion would be to find a pop-up camper and take advantage of the local and state campgrounds near you. There are several. People don't know it, but Alabama really has some very nice parks. We just did a tour of AL parks including Brierfield State Park (Calera Exit off 65), Oak Mountain (practically in your back yard south of Birmingham), Cheaha State Park (highest pt in AL) absolutely wonderful facility; Monte Sano near Huntsville (another great park) and you can visit the space station. What I am suggesting is to find a used pop-up (there are nice ones w/AC, king/queen bunks (plently of room for kiddos), SAVE, SAVE, SAVE until you have approximately $30K to pay CASH for a five-ish year old 25-27 foot Airstream. By that time you will know that you LOVE camping and will be able to enjoy doing so while you are saving for when children are a little older 3-5 or 4-6, without having a "old AS in your backyard that you can't use and will take up all your spare time and $$ to fix.
Tom and Robin
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Old 12-03-2012, 07:11 PM   #11
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Here is another strong vote to avoid the "Full Monty" serious restoration experience.. There are many tales here of disappointment and unfinished projects where non-mechanics or contractors tried to do full frame off restorations.. Much easier to plan on modest "upgrades" like upholstery, flooring and maybe an appliance repair..

As for size, the poster above was hinting that a number of Airstream floorplans aren't kid-focused, since company founder had no children. Brand X trailers with bunks might be an option, which is how we started until our children were grown and too cool to camp with us... We started with inexpensive Nomad Weekender and then bought 14 year old Airstream once it was just two of us.. With very small children, popping open couch or converting dinette will work, but it becomes an effort. Over first 2 years, we replaced carpet, curtains, blinds and couch upholstery, and are very happy with results. Mechanically, we've replaced tank drain valves, water heater thermostat and refrigerator control board, and chose to replace faucets and microwave, but feel very fortunate to have spent less than $17K for trailer we are very happy with...

Finally, late model used Airstreams from late 1980's to mid-1990's can be had in price ranges from $10K to $15K, which sounds like your range.. There is a 1988 25' Excella listed in Classifieds here now for $14K in Alabama, that looks like good fit.. See 1988 Airstream Excella - Airstream Trailer Classifieds - Airstreams Trailers For Sale Be advised that market for good used AIrstreams is a "national market" and you may have to look at trailers some distance from home, and folks across the country may compete for same trailer...The T-100 can easily pull a 19-23' Airstream or Argosy, but is going to be stressed pulling a loaded '25 (especially a post-1995 model which is 6" wider and heavier than pre-1995 versions..).

Good luck with your quest!

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 12-03-2012, 07:56 PM   #12
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My experience with attempting to finance a used AS was that the banks wouldn't loan anywhere near what it was going to cost to get a decent one. I ended up going for a new one. With the deal on a 2012 and dealer financing I got by with a lot lower down payment, not that much higher monthly, and 4.25% interest.

For me it was a no brainer.

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Old 12-03-2012, 08:07 PM   #13
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It's good you are starting to think about this early on. By the time you are ready to move, you will know what to do. In the meantime, research yourself silly, go look at RVs at dealers to get an idea of what's out there...including Airstreams. But don't make an impulse purchase. You might be quite surprised how much you can save on an Airstream that's been well taken care of and several years old...and what great rigs you can find.

Good luck, have fun, and your kids are going to thank you for it down the road. They'll love until the get old enough to probably not want to go camping with you "old people," but if they do happen to still want to go, they can sleep in a tent as you did as a kid.
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:36 PM   #14
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Yeah, I think after further contemplation....a significant fixer uper I am entirely ruling out.

We got some really amazing news today, I wont get into here, but we are coming into more money for our new home down payment and we will be doing really great. As a result of this, I am going to have an even more robust some of the saved money for the downpayment may be saved toward RV purchase in 2014 and wife is now more on board with the premise and has agreed to divert some of our vacation budget over to what I will now call the "RV fund"....

In the meantime I can save and obsess over buying possibilities...etc etc etc....

I did see some of the craigs list listings...Ive already been trolling around looking at a bunch of the listings in bham, huntsvill, tuscaloosa, jackson, MS, atlanta, etc....there are a few pretty decent ones...I think I recall at 25 footer that was a 2006 that looked nice for like 22K....not sure if that is a great price, but point being they are out there

Regarding my will have to that wife is all on board, I think there is a fantastic chance that IF we ever buy an RV, it will be too heavy for this pulls like crap with 2K load will be replaced for sure once I get an RV and then will match it up with a TV....

Alabama has great camping places...fort payne is one of my favorite areas for swimming holes and some great hiking...cheaha is awesome too....oak mountain of course is in my back yard and I LOVE mountain biking there...trips down to the gulf...including the man only fishing get away

I think that is likely excellent advice about trying some more basic options first! That I think we will do and make sure everyone enjoys it and really try stuff...

Whatever happens, I am an excited parent....really looking forward to the future outings with my family...

I grew up poor, never got to do this kind of stuff, parents split up when I was 7 years old and no family vacations, no such outings...what few great memories I have I cherish and I am really excited to create our own!!

Thanks for advice so far you all! Keep it coming.

Any good reading advice for RV competency in the meantime? Ive been watching some youtube videos on the sewage systems and proper use...I figure I can learn alot on youtube, and perhaps pick up something like RV guide for idiots etc...Once I get my mind set on something I become a book expert on it...I am a book expert on bass fishing and am not that good at it....

My guess is IF we get an AS, the wife will want a nice shiny new one....I worry about all the maintenance, but IF I were to buy a new one, I would do alot of local excursions first and work out the kinks...I know people hate the idea of paying a payment and doing repairs, but as long as I can afford it and we are all having fun in our spare time its all good...that is what it is all about - be it in a tent, or whatever

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