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Old 11-10-2012, 08:10 AM   #1
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Question on towing an Airstream

I am refining my decision on which Airstream best suits my needs and I believe it is come down to either 20 or 22 foot model. I would like to share with you some of my considerations, and please let me know if you agree or not with them.
As I have mentioned before I will be traveling some in the summer, but mostly in the fall in northern states with my two full size dogs. As there are just three of us I am focusing on the smaller models yet large enough to give us breathing room and some "space".
Another reason for centering in on the 20 to 22 foot model is maneuverability. I have been advised by several trailer owners that managing turns in small towns can be difficult with larger trailers where intersections were designed for the horse and carriage. Another is wear on the tow vehicle. My car has 362 horsepower and can tow 7,500 GVW, so that is not the concern; it is wear and tear. A friend who towed a 30 foot trailer around the US and Canada on vacations indicated that the wear on a tow vehicles support systems is substantive and rarely discussed. Is this true or not?
Are there any takers on my decision on size, and usability; yea, nay or indifferent?
Best, BP
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Old 11-10-2012, 08:37 AM   #2
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IMO, small is good. We travel for months at a time with two people and two dogs in our 20". We like getting in to the smaller places to camp and the maneuverability is a plus.
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Old 11-10-2012, 08:52 AM   #3
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I am refining my decision on which Airstream best suits my needs and I believe it is come down to either 20 or 22 foot model. I would like to share with you some of my considerations, and please let me know if you agree or not with them.
As I have mentioned before I will be traveling some in the summer, but mostly in the fall in northern states with my two full size dogs. As there are just three of us I am focusing on the smaller models yet large enough to give us breathing room and some "space".
Another reason for centering in on the 20 to 22 foot model is maneuverability. I have been advised by several trailer owners that managing turns in small towns can be difficult with larger trailers where intersections were designed for the horse and carriage. Another is wear on the tow vehicle. My car has 362 horsepower and can tow 7,500 GVW, so that is not the concern; it is wear and tear. A friend who towed a 30 foot trailer around the US and Canada on vacations indicated that the wear on a tow vehicles support systems is substantive and rarely discussed. Is this true or not?
Are there any takers on my decision on size, and usability; yea, nay or indifferent?
Best, BP
The wear and tear on a tow vehicle, is directly related to how it's equipped, and used.

Factory tanny coolers are a joke if the vehicle is going to tow a trailer. They are a MUST for towing.

Proper tires, proper inflation is also a big must.

Then there is the gear ratio, that is typically designed t maximize fuel mileage but at the expense of torque. Having a gear ratio designed for towing, will lower the fuel mileage when not towing, but by the same token, it raises the fuel mileage "when" towing. It also make the wear and tear on the drive system, considerably lower.

Every rig (trailer and tow vehicle) combination, should be looked at for what it can or cannot do, separate and aside from someone else's experience, even with the same exact rigging, since driving habits also play a part of the overall performance, and, wear and tear.

Andy
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Old 11-10-2012, 09:03 AM   #4
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I've a considered space a +, especially once you get holed up in a trailer for a period of bad weather. My local dealer says his trade in rate for small Airstreams is higher due to the fact that the original purchasers realize after a few trips out that that cute little trailer is a little too small. I just don't believe 2 foot longer trailer is going to be an issue for you.

I've been pulling trailers from 21' to 30' for almost 30 years now and I've never run into an issue when pulling through a town where turning is an issue. Personally I'd think that towing through big city streets would present more turning issues due to the way some folks park and the way trucks double park while unloading. Thankfully most of us don't tow in those conditions and small towns present little if any challenges.

I have seen issues in some campgrounds where tight road loops and trees and posts on the edge of the roads cause to you take special care. Add in a mix of long tow vehicles who's owners let them stick out into the campground road, I'd state that you probably will need to use more caution in those circumstances when turning than on a small town street.

Obviously the weight of any trailer and your towing capacity for your vehicle trumps all and that issue will dictate what you can tow. I assume that your vehicle can handle the weight of the 20 or 22 foot unit.

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Old 11-10-2012, 09:47 AM   #5
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A friend who towed a 30 foot trailer around the US and Canada on vacations indicated that the wear on a tow vehicles support systems is substantive and rarely discussed. Is this true or not?
Are there any takers on my decision on size, and usability; yea, nay or indifferent?
Best, BP
Some good points so far.

Also... our 150HP V6 Nissan Van was a TV for many years and after 450,000Klm's the drivetrain and suspension was problem free with the exception of a pair of tie rod ends and adding heavy duty shocks on the rear.
I guess others have not been so lucky.

A 20' is small for the 3 of you IMHO.
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Old 11-10-2012, 10:09 AM   #6
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Maneuverability is much more limited by tow vehicle wheelbase than trailer length.

doug k
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Old 11-10-2012, 10:11 AM   #7
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As there are just three of us I am focusing on the smaller models yet large enough to give us breathing room and some "space".
False This is not enough breathing room for three humans and two dogs if that is what you mean by "the three of us." If it is you and two dogs, then you will be fine.
Another reason for centering in on the 20 to 22 foot model is maneuverability. I have been advised by several trailer owners that managing turns in small towns can be difficult with larger trailers where intersections were designed for the horse and carriage.
FalseThis is pure baloney.
Another is wear on the tow vehicle. My car has 362 horsepower and can tow 7,500 GVW, so that is not the concern; it is wear and tear. A friend who towed a 30 foot trailer around the US and Canada on vacations indicated that the wear on a tow vehicles support systems is substantive and rarely discussed. Is this true or not?
FalseI have never worn out a tow vehicle. Properly selected for the size and weight of the trailer, and properly maintained, there is no "substantive" wear.
Are there any takers on my decision on size, and usability; yea, nay or indifferent?
Opinion 25' is a good size for what you describe, 27' is my favorite.
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Old 11-10-2012, 10:51 AM   #8
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Thanks all, this is what I am looking for in advice.

However Andy Rogozinski, what is a "Tanny Cooler"? Remember, I am new and the jargon is alien to me. Now if you want to know what A mathematical function called the wavefunction that provides information about the probability amplitude of position, momentum, and other physical properties of a particle are, just drop me a line!
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Old 11-10-2012, 11:12 AM   #9
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Thanks all, this is what I am looking for in advice.

However Andy Rogozinski, what is a "Tanny Cooler"? Remember, I am new and the jargon is alien to me. Now if you want to know what A mathematical function called the wavefunction that provides information about the probability amplitude of position, momentum, and other physical properties of a particle are, just drop me a line!
Transmission Oil Cooler. Factory fitted coolers are poor, an after market cooler, fitted correctly, is a sensible must.
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Old 11-10-2012, 11:21 AM   #10
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Thanks all, this is what I am looking for in advice.

However Andy Rogozinski, what is a "Tanny Cooler"? Remember, I am new and the jargon is alien to me. Now if you want to know what A mathematical function called the wavefunction that provides information about the probability amplitude of position, momentum, and other physical properties of a particle are, just drop me a line!
Sorry, was in a hurry.

The word "tanny" is supposed to be tranny, short for transmission.

Proof reading takes a little time.

Andy
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Old 11-10-2012, 11:42 AM   #11
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We have towed our almost 4 ton 31' Sovereign for almost 50000 miles now over the last 7 years with our similarly powered Nissan Titan. Other than routine maintenance we have had no problems with the Titan (knock on wood) and it is rolling towards 150,000 miles. So I am a little skeptical about the "additional wear and tear" notion.

Never have faced a turning/maneuvering problem as described by your allegedly knowledgeable towing friends and my rig is over 50' long when saddled up.

We do half time, two adults a small dog and a cat, so we need the extra tankage, storage and space of our '31. For a few weeks at a time, 23' would probable be okay and 25' better.

Mike
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Old 11-10-2012, 12:16 PM   #12
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IHMO, any problems with your tow vehicle will be related to heat. The poster who recommended the transmission cooler is right on.

The real question might actually end up being, "How fast do you want to be able to tow this thing?" If you want to run 10 over the limit up a 6% grade, you'll have to pick you TV (and cooling systems) for that duty.
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Old 11-10-2012, 01:31 PM   #13
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In response to the replies from people who recommend going bigger, I will repeat something I have posted before: my wife and I and our large dog spend at least a month a year (in northern areas) in our 19" 2002 Bambi and have no feeling of being cramped. We happen to spend most of each day outside, inclement weather or not. I recommend going to a dealer, sitting and standing in various sizes of Airstreams, and seeing what "feels" best to you. You might find that small seems spacious or cramped; it is entirely up to your perceptions.

Jcanavera says, "My local dealer says his trade in rate for small Airstreams is higher due to the fact that the original purchasers realize after a few trips out that that cute little trailer is a little too small." That is an interesting observation because we have friends who are interested in a small used Airstream and have noted the difficulty of finding them.

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Old 11-10-2012, 02:02 PM   #14
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Sound Advice

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Originally Posted by Tim A. View Post
...I recommend going to a dealer, sitting and standing in various sizes of Airstreams, and seeing what "feels" best to you. You might find that small seems spacious or cramped; it is entirely up to your perceptions.

Tim
Tim A. nails it. We all have different perceptions of what is spacious and what is cramped. Once, in an RV park in Pensacola, a couple with a slightly smaller Airstream asked to see our 23.' They oohed and awed about how much room we had, just at that point in our trip that we were really feeling cramped.

This is why I always recommend that you visit Airstream rallies and attend the "open houses." It is very important to see Airstreams with people in them along with all their pets and stuff.

We just returned from a three-day, mini-rally with one other Airstream couple. Their 25' is "perfect" for them, but they no longer bring their dog because "it just makes things too crowded." Since our dogs are an essential part of our Airstreaming, our Airstream must accommodate them as well as us. Since our standard excursion is 10 days, our Airstream must be one in which two humans and two dogs can live in comfort for 10-14 days at a time.
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:39 PM   #15
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We have a 19-foot Bambi. Having previously "camped" in a 27-foot cabin cruiser (boat), our 19-foot Airstream seems spacious. We got this model, because this size was about the largest we felt comfortable using for boondocking.

Here is Arizona, some small mountain roads here are limited to 40-foot combined vehicle length. And, basically, if our Tundra will make it, the Bambi will follow -- with one caveat, road clearance (high center, big rocks, etc.).

Our rig handles heavy city traffic and back roads equally well, and it charges up long mountain grades, with plenty of engine braking for nearly all downgrades. Plus, it gets reasonable fuel economy.

The larger Airstreams are spacious and luxurious. However, ours is great for my wife, me, a small dog and two granddaughters (when we can drag them away from the shopping mall).
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Old 11-10-2012, 04:06 PM   #16
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... This is why I always recommend that you visit Airstream rallies and attend the "open houses." It is very important to see Airstreams with people in them along with all their pets and stuff. ...
A good dealer will show you what they have and if you desire should let you be as you go back and forth trying to get a feel for what fits your desires, but absolutely, see if you can find a nearby rally. You may get a much better feel from actual owners of how their choice works for them. Learn first hand the pros and cons of storage space and just how live-able one size is compared to another. We bought our slightly used 27' that came available because the original owner felt 27' was too small after 1 trip and traded for a 30’. Everyone is entitled to their preferences and I'm delighted this 27' came our way. We see couples and singles with smaller models and they seem just a happy with their choice.
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Old 11-10-2012, 04:35 PM   #17
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I'm not wholly convinced you're saving tons of vehicle wear by saving 1000-1500 lbs of trailer weight. Drivetrain-wise, a good portion of the workload is from overcoming aerodynamic drag.

An Airstream is ahead of the game there - but once you're towing the trailer, you're pulling that drag, regardless of the length. I've noticed similar fuel economy (a direct sign of workload and drag) with different size and weight Airstreams and I'm not alone. Rich Luhr, publisher of Airstream Life magazine, gets similar fuel economy towing his 17' Caravel or 30' Safari.

Your tow vehicle's towing capacity, determined by the manufacturer, was based on a severe test - towing up a steep highway grade in Death Valley in 100+ degree temps with the AC blasting staying at highway speeds, all without overheating drivetrain fluids. Modern vehicles have much more cooling capacity than they used to. With proper towing equipment and an accelerated schedule of transmission fluid changes, that will be taken care of.

Yes, brakes and tires will wear more quickly when towing - but they're wear items anyway.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I would focus on buying the trailer that you want. I've owned 20' and 23' Airstreams and have towed bigger enclosed cargo trailers. There is very little difference in towing difficulty between those two lengths. Going to a 23' trailer gets tandem axles, adding a bit of stability (that said, never had a problem with the single axle I owned) and peace of mind in case of tire problems.

You mentioned a 22' trailer. The 22' model built 2002-2006ish was a popular model, but has rot-prone OSB floors and a under-structured frame. Those problems can be overcome - but I would get a newer 23', which hasn't shown similar problems.

Finally, I like having smaller trailers for a few reasons. They are easier for snaking into gas stations, parking spaces, and into the tight state campground sites we like. If my wife and I full-timed, we'd have a 25' or 27', but the 23' suits our weekend warrior/2-week vacation status just fine. (Not that I don't admire those larger trailers with dedicated bedrooms...)

There are lots of reasons to pick different trailers. Sometimes I wish I had a little 16' Bambi with dual wrap windows. The 20' is a very clever floor plan with a huge covetable kitchen. A 19' 75th anniversary/David Winnick model is fabulous. So many nice Airstreams...look at a lot of them, take some time, and figure out the one that suits you. It took us 3 trailers until we found this one, and it's a keeper (for a while...)

Good luck!

Tom
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Old 11-10-2012, 06:40 PM   #18
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We've had owners of 34, 30 and even 25 foot A/S visit us in our 19' and say that the cost of hauling their trailers, which weigh 2-3 times as much as ours, keeps them from doing the traveling that they'd intended to do when they bought theirs. But then, they are talking about traveling as a couple - post kids- as we do. We have travelled with a large dog, who took all of the floor space in the 19', and even the addition of a cat makes it smaller. I'd like a larger trailer only if it doesn't weigh more - which means vintage. So, I'd recommend getting as much trailer as you can afford to haul.
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Old 11-10-2012, 07:06 PM   #19
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.................................................. .
However Andy Rogozinski, what is a "Tanny Cooler"? !
Don't let these guys fool you with the transmission cooler story.

"Tanny" is southern California surfer slang for the backside of an individual who sunbaths in the nude. A tanny cooler is a water filled spray bottle used to keep the tanny cool while sunbathing.

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Old 12-11-2012, 11:33 AM   #20
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How much time will you actually spend inside the "travel" trailer; what do you anticipate for annual mileage "pulled"? The answer to those questions will impact the decision ... as well as do you have unlimited budget funds and how new a TT do you want to purchase? We downsized to the FC 20 and are quite happy with the choice for our lifestyle. It is cozy when camped at night, but then we don't "live" in it during the day ... our emphasis is on comfort mostly during the evening hours and little during the day. As has been pointed out - it is unlikely that any additional wear on the TV will cause you to wear it out ... if proper service is mantained.

Offroad travel and parking are a consideration for us ... would we like a nice EB 25 foot? Absolutely, but budget and lifestyle dictate otherwise at the moment. There is a huge dfferene in lifestyle between 20 feet and 30 feet! Good luck with your decision...what did you decide to get?
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