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Old 09-16-2016, 10:30 AM   #1
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EDINA , Minnesota
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Post Where do I start?


As we enter our 60's (me a little further into it than her) the Mrs. and I would like to spend the next 7-10 years satisfying our wanderlust. We would expect to spend 6 months in warmer weather climes; perhaps settling in at a location for the winter. We would also expect to spend a fair share of time on the road seeing the country throughout the remainder of the year.

We are exploring the AS lifestyle and are impressed with the wealth of information on Air Forums. Are there any suggestions on how best to navigate the site? Are there key post archives or FAQ's for the newbies?

My primitive male instincts are to go big or go home. I counter that with the Robin Williams guiding principal; "Men have a p***s and a brain, but only enough blood to run one at a time".

We're leaning towards a Classic, but don't know exactly why just yet; top of the line, more space. A 28-30 foot rig seems right.

A one ton diesel with dually's would mollify my machismo, but my early research suggests that one can safely and comfortably tow even the larger AS with considerably less TV.

As a general rule, safety has not been at the top of my list when it comes to vehicle selection. However, when moving 50 feet of equipment worth $150-200k through the mountains, I do not want to find out the hard way that I cut corners on safety to save a few bucks or because I mismatched equipment.

The challenge is to right size the AS to satisfy our daily living desires while balancing that with a relaxing and secure "rolling down the road" experience. I have no desire to white knuckle my way across the country.

I recognize these are garden variety questions that have been discussed ad infinitum on the forum. We'd be grateful to anyone who can help us shortcut a bit with recommendations or point us in the right direction.

Having said all that, here is a question. We recently road tripped to Tablerock Lake in the Branson area from the Twin Cities. We saw perhaps 3 or 4 AS' on the road compared to dozens and dozens and dozens of 5th wheel and SOB's. Why is that? Other than the size thing, what attracts people to 5'ers vs AS?

Thank you. Glad to be here. Looking forward to the journey.

Vaya con Dios;


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Old 09-16-2016, 10:42 AM   #2
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Tampa , Florida
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Where do I start?

5th wheelers are a lot bigger and roomier inside. The Airstream "thing", in my opinion, is for people who like to travel. They are easier to tow and park than your average fifth wheeler. We have some fifth wheelers in our park that have never been moved. They are essentially homes that could be moved, but aren't.

I'd suggest getting the biggest AS you can tow. If you go with a classic, know that they are heavier than the Flying Clouds, and you will need to manage your weight carefully if you want to tow with a 1/2 ton or SUV. If you get a bigger TV, then you can carry more stuff.

So it depends on how much stuff you want to carry with you. The answer is different for every person.

I preferred Airstream over other brands because of what I perceived as better build quality. I intend to keep my AS for 20+ years, and I didn't think the other brands would last that long. I didn't even look at fifth wheelers because of the large tow vehicles they require. I am not interested in driving a 1 ton truck as a daily driver. Your mileage may vary.

You will see a lot less AS on the road because they are a lot more expensive than your average trailer, and the factory only makes so many of them. I keep mine in a park with over 500 other trailers, and we are the only AS there.

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Old 09-16-2016, 10:49 AM   #3
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I think cost is a top reason.

You can get a huge fifth wheel for about half the price of a large Airstream.

Fifth Wheels may be a bit easier to hook up.

Fifth Wheels are a bit more stable.

A lot of fifth wheelers might not know that, down the line, the exterior Aluminum on an Airstream will most likely need a new clear coat

BUT, there are pros and cons for both.

Airstreams last longer and depreciate less.

Airstreams are better on gas mileage than fifth wheels

Airstreams are just plain cooler than other RVs

And the consensus is that Airstreams are of better quality, although all the appliances are pretty much common to both.
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Old 09-16-2016, 11:12 AM   #4
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1992 29' Excella
2010 22' Interstate
Van By The River , Georgia
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Hello SnuffySmith!

You've come to the right place for all things Airstream. There are other web sites with useful Airstream information but Air Forums is clearly the leader IMO.

Danielle and I have a 29 foot, 1992 Classic that we purchased from my parents. We like it but would be very happy with a 27 foot Flying Cloud. Don't overlook the 27 footer product lines - they have nearly the same features/floorplan with the advantage of being a few feet shorter.

You seem to like big along with some bells and whistles. The current 30 foot (I think) Classic offering is just that. However, that comes with complexity such as fancy adjustable bed, electric awning, etc. and a BIG price tag. Once again the 27 foot offerings might fit your needs.

Regarding the fact that you see fewer Airstreams. No question that's true. Almost any other brand makes more RVs in a given year than Airstream. But look at a specific brand, rather than lump them all in the white box category, and I think you'll find you'll see a comparable number of Airstreams on the road. As others have said, price is a key factor. In addition, Airstream doesn't currently make a model with a slide-out and even when they did it was only one slide-out. It seems many people want lots of room when they are parked - more slide-outs must be better for those people. I like WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). When we stop for lunch we don't need to squeeze through a confined hallway to get to the kitchen or the bathroom or the bedroom. The beauty and simplicity of no slide-outs is fine with me.

Best wishes on your search and journey. We look forward to seeing you down the road.
Lucius and Danielle
1992 29' Excella Classic
2005 Chevrolet Suburban K2500 8.1L
2018 GMC Sierra K1500 SLT, 6.2L, Max Trailering
Got a cooped-up feeling, gotta get out of town, got those Airstream campin' blues...
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Old 09-16-2016, 11:49 AM   #5
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Greenwood , Mississippi
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I agree with the Classic for style and floor plan and standard features.
The 1 ton dually isn't necessary, though.
I pull my Classic 30 with a Tundra.
The Tundra with 381 hp and 401 ft. lbs. of torque and 4:30 rear end gears is enough testosterone for me.
If you want more payload and towing capacity a 3/4 ton would give you more headroom.
There is no 3/4 ton or 1 ton with the rear seat room and wide opening large rear doors of the Tundra, but there is no Tundra with an 8' bed anymore.
Start by visiting an Airstream dealer and hanging out in all the trailers. Go through the motions of cooking/preparing a meal, eating, watching television, reading, working on a tablet/worktop, lounging, sleeping, pooping, sleeping...
This will tell you a lot about how the trailer's style and floor plan/layout will fit your lifestyle.
Gauge the reaction of the missus' to the different trailers.
Then, go drive all trucks- 1/2 ton, V6, 3/4, diesel- all of them. Compare towing capacity and fuel economy on all of them. Seems like regardless of which truck you have you will get 12-13 mpg towing. Fiddle with the controls in all of them. How will it be to turn on lights, wipers, a/c, radio, set cruise... Imagine still having the truck 250,000 miles from now. Check out the interior styling. Check out the missus' reaction to the styling. This will guide you in the way that you should go.
I think currently Ram has the best discounts- like 12k off.
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Old 09-16-2016, 11:55 AM   #6
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Hi Snuffy, I am in the upper half of my 70's and my wife and I had much the same plan as you, but taking care of older family members as their health failed interrupted the plan. Take that as a word to the wise. Our 26' AS is 50 years old having been bought by my uncle new and passed on to me. It has served us well and continues to do so. In these later years, the smaller rig is better for me physically but my wife yearns for a larger rig as she is a "collector" of things whether needed or not. If space in a camper is important to you, I am impressed by the newer wide body 31' trailers. On the other hand, many of the vintage folks like us are just as happy camping in 16' Bambis. As for TV type, I am convinced too big is much better than too small. Longer wheel base is safer than short. Comfort is always important. With that in mind, if you want to live on the road in spacious luxury, a big 5 slide 5th wheel or MH is what you need. If you like living in the out of doors and communing with nature, the Airstream will get you into places the big rigs won't go.
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Old 09-16-2016, 01:39 PM   #7
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2011 30' Flying Cloud
Greenback , Tennessee
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Hello Snuffy. Welcome to a new adventure. I have owned two 5th-wheels and two Airstreams. I think if I were going to use the trailer mostly for living, with not a lot of towing, I would opt for the 5th-wheel. There is no question that they have more living room and more room for storing all the "stuff" that many of us think we need. Their cost/sq.ft. is certainly less than the AS. On the other hand, There are lots of things that can go wrong with a multi-slide trailer. Many manufacturers of large 5th-wheels push the technology included in their rigs. Some you may need, some you may want and some you won't care about or use. You pay for them all and all can and will malfunction. The big trailers are also taller, which limits your selection of campsites, especially in Forest Service and State Park campgrounds.

The Airstream is a much easier trailer to tow. I hardly know my FC 30 is back there. With the right type of hitch, there is no sway when trucks go by and I have never seen an AS overturned by high winds in a campground. They have a lower profile, which keeps them out of the trees is some campgrounds. The interior of the AS, even the 30', are not roomy, but there is enough room for two adults, for sure. With good planning and using all the storage niches in the rig, we find we can get along fine. We do have a long-box truck with a cap, which allows us to carry bikes, paddles, etc.

The main reason I now have an Airstream is that, at this point in my life, I can finally afford a genuine piece of Americana. I feel proud when I see my silver bullet among the white boxes in the campground. I enjoy seeing folks walk by and eye our trailer and comment how beautiful it is. I don't even mind giving the occasional tour, if the folks seem genuinely interested. Good luck with your search and I hope you find a rig that you love. --Richard
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:11 PM   #8
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2016 30' Classic
Santa Rosa , California
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Welcome Snuffy. You've received great advice so far. Here's my additional 2 cents worth, in the order of the questions that you asked....

Airstreams are great TRAVEL trailers. If you are going to be parked in one spot for many months at a time (every year), a 5th wheel starts looking better to me.

The forum's internal search feature is not very useful. A better way to search the Airforums is to use Google. For example, you could google: "full-timing" to get a list of all the forum posts containing that topic. You can also browse the various forum subsections (the Forum tab at the top) to get a good idea of whats out there. I subscribe to one forum which is dedicated to recent "Classic" models, and I receive a daily email of new topics from that forum - a great way for me to learn more about my model. You can do this with any of the subforum sections.

"A 28-30 foot rig seems right". Based on your planned use, I agree.
Remember that Airstream measures length from rear bumper to the tip of the hitch, whereas most SOBs (some other brand) dont include the length of the bumper/battery/propane/hitch in their numbers. Therefore, a 30ft AS might provide the same interior length as a 27ft SOB. Also, the AS model numbers don't necessarily reflect the actual length. For example, my "2016 Classic 30ft" is actually more like 31ft overall.

A one ton truck is overkill for even the largest AS. A 3/4 truck ton can provide plenty of power and safety. Several full-sized, heavy duty SUVs may also work well for the larger AS models. Towing an AS, you will want to include a weight distribution and sway control device as part of your essential safety equipment - to help prevent any white-knuckle experiences.

In the west, I see 1-3 other Airstreams on the road each day - makes us feel special. I get compliments about our AS at every campground we go to. I love the way our AS looks, and handles on the road. I like that our AS looks very modern and well designed inside. I love its simplicity, and its thoughtful conveniences. Although we initially looked at several SOBs, the only trailers we've ever owned are Airstreams. With a new AS, there are always several issues that crop up over the first few months - thats what the warrantee is for. But in the long run, a well-maintained AS will be something my kids would love to inherit - can you say that about most SOBs?

"What attracts people to 5'ers vs AS?". I would say lower price and greater living/storage space are more important to people who go with 5'ers. If you insist on bringing all your stuff from home, you might need a 5'er. Airstreams have everything you NEED, but don't have slideouts, and they are more money.

Hope this helps!
Happy Trails,
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:13 PM   #9
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Fifth wheels will never have that iconic style.
We suffer a little on walk around room and storage for that style.
That style has other by-products as well- towing ease and mpg.
Compared to my previous white box travel trailer the Airstream is far superior as a hit the road all the time trailer.
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:21 PM   #10
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I would look carefully at where you want to go with your new rig. There are size limitations in some campgrounds. We got our AS to go places and see things and it has seemed to us on our travels that the large fifth wheels, etc., seem to go to one place and stay for a while. Different strokes for different folks. As for TV, we just upgraded to a Ford F250 to pull our 28FC. The F150 was serviceable but we are looking forward to the comfort level of the larger TV on certain roads.
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:24 PM   #11
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I love the Classic personally - the recliners, the bed that adjusts, the finishes are all beyond reparoach. I can easily see myself relaxing in the Classic model trailer! One factor to consider is sleeping capacity between the models. Sleeping capacity is usually balanced with amenities and comfort. RV designer's assumption seems to be that the more people sleeping in the unit means it will be more utilitarian in use, form & function whereas if it is a couple using it as a home away from home they will spend leisure time in it and will want more of the comforts of home. Thinking in terms of motor-homes: class-C motorhomes are generally less cost and can sleep hordes of people, Class-A: more expensive in general and really are meant to be moved less often and lived in by a couple with a grandchild visiting on occasion. Sure - I know there are hundreds of exceptions and individual stories, this is just one person's point of view and opinion.

We are looking at what our next AS will look like and be. In talking with many people that have made a recent purchase of a new AS at rallies and luncheon events with our WBCCI chapter I have yet to hear anyone say they wished they had bought a smaller trailer nor that they wished they had bought the next model down. I like the 1-ton diesel dually TV idea but keep in mind the length for parking in a camp site and ease of getting around to sightsee during a stay. Not a big deal just a consideration. For us, again personally, the Classic is a bit of overkill actually since we tend to move a lot and be very active in and out of the trailer and don't want to worry about a scuff or scratch plus we have pets. The mid-tier models are really Flying Clouds with nicer finishes which leaves us back to the longer Flying Cloud models. If we begin to travel longer periods of time and distances then we need a dedicated bedroom area (our 23' 1969 Safari has a pull out bed - not ideal). It's all lifestyle and personal decision! Do what is right for you and you won't look back ...
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:28 PM   #12
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Cats and a dog have not hurt my Classic.
It is durable.
A 1 ton dually is overkill.
A 3/4 ton should provide all the peace of mind necessary if you want headroom over a 1/2 ton towing capacity and payload.
Payload is really the limiting factor on 1/2 tons.
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2007 Silver Toyota Tundra Crew Max Limited 5.7 iForce
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:38 PM   #13
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Absolutely the best advice I have read on the Forum to date on trailer and tow vehicle choices!

We started with a 23 foot Airstream and used it for eight years. The 2014 25 foot we purchased, fits us perfectly.

Many first time buyers are one model too short after owning it awhile. Any of the previous posts could sell you an Airstream and I would be content that they were fitting myself to the trailer that I needed.
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:49 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by phann View Post
Remember that Airstream measures length from rear bumper to the tip of the hitch, ..., my "2016 Classic 30ft" is actually more like 31ft overall....
That contradiction is confusing as it can get.

IMO, 5th wheels are "house trailers" that don't require a professional mover to transport. They are typically huge, but don't need an 18-wheeler-tractor to relocate. They may be moved with HD Pickup Trucks.

An Airstream is a sophisticated, finely-developed travel trailer that eventually stops depreciating and then begins to appreciate in value. SOBs, almost to a rule, depreciate...on and on and on...

A "gently used" Airstream will cost similarly to a newer SOB, but will hold it's value and may even hand you back some of your money when you go into assisted-living. All the comments about maneuverability also apply.

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