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Old 10-16-2003, 10:20 PM   #1
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Small MH: Older Airstream v. newer SOB

We, a 50-60ish couple, are exploring buying a smaller MH, say in the 22’ – 25’ range. We looked at a used 34-foot Airstream classic and it was WAY too big for us -- but all smaller Airstream MH’s seem quite old.

So…we would an older Airstream MH (Argosy?) stack up against a newer, used SOB?

It’s just for the two of us, poking around the country, exploring parks and cities. We’re both clueless at mechanical things ourselves, but are diligent about having maintenance done (our’87 Volvo we bought used in ’88 is still in great shape.)

Budget we’re thinking about is up to $20K - $30K. Any ideas or suggestions?
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Old 10-17-2003, 06:46 AM   #2
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A vintage Airstream or Argosy will no doubt have needs. Not being mechanically inclinded isn't a problem, but let's just say that depending on what you find out there, the vintage units are going to need service. If it's a motorhome, you then not only have service, repair or upgrades to the coach, but also the drivetrain.

Being on an Airstream forum, I think you'll find few that say go with an SOB. Could happen, but it's rare. The forum is a bunch of Airstreamers (including Argosys and Avions).

At any rate, if you got the time, the $$ and choose wisely, you'll get a heck of a good coach and a fun time in a Twinkie!

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Old 10-17-2003, 08:10 AM   #3
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The 22'-25' MH's will cost you a bundle if even an older A/S, ie 70's thru 80', because of the short length and ease of driving, and they are difficult to find.

If you would like a bargain, go with a 28 footer...still easy to handle physically and financially. But even if you get one with "everything done already and working", you'll still need to earmark a fund for unanticipated costs, say roughly @2K.

When I was looking for a MH, the newer SOB's out there, from late 80's thru mid 90's, were averaging about 50K from a dealer, depending on mileage. Some private parties may be cheaper. Either way you probably won't get a warranty. After much thought, I decided to go Airstream due to the aluminum construction and least likelihood for water leakage versus the rubber or fiberglass MH's. Also, the mechanicals are allegedly easily assessible, although I question that after having to have some work done recently at a higher cost than what I expected.

Bottom line, you WILL spend money on whatever MH you purchase, whatever year, make , or model. My suggestion to you is to get one that feels good, feels right, you really like, then research THAT ONE about all the amenities before paying. I'd have it inspected prior, but even then they may miss something.

I would buy mine again if I had to repeat the process. After my kids are gone, I know I will get a bigger rig, and have not considered a brand yet. It may or may not be A/S, unless A/S comes up with that new aluminum classic they're all talking about.
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Old 10-17-2003, 10:10 AM   #4
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If you aren't really prepared to do some ongoing work to keep up an older motorhome, I would suggest you get the newest you can afford, and preferably one that is on a reliable chassis and has been maintained. I would check woth owners of SOB and see what brands they recommend. I see a lot of Allegro and such in your price range, and mid 1990's models at least.

The Airstreams are great fun, and hold up well, but if I didn't have the courage,knowledge, keep working/tweaking mine, I couldn't own it.
At least without making some rv mechanic very happy.
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Old 10-17-2003, 11:41 AM   #5
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One brand you should consider is Lazy Daze. Lazy Daze manufactures custom built factory direct Class C motorhomes. They are rated 5 stars by the RV consumer group and a have an excellent reputation for quality and durability.

Although the new coaches exceed your price range (and also have an 8 month waiting list) a used coach should fit into your budget and provide you with years of trouble free service.

Other coaches you should look at are Born Free and Chinook. Born Free is comparable to Lazy Daze in terms of price/quality but Chinook can be very expensive.

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Old 10-18-2003, 03:57 PM   #6
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Chassis Questions

Thanks so much for all your information. This forum is what makes me want to own an AS; the support and sense of community are awesome.

How does one become educated on chassis issues? Where to begin?
Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 10-18-2003, 07:15 PM   #7
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if you mean varying chassis brands I would surf the we sites like open roads forum, etc. You can pick up a lot of info from the posts on repairs and problems.
I don't want to scare you off of Airstreams, as they are a joy to own, but realistically any older motorhome is going to need attention. If you can locate a 27 or 28 foot Airstream with a good maintenance record, and keep some extra cash around for the inevitable, you might be doing well. Especially since the resale value seems to holding up rather well on our coaches. Buying this time of the year can lead to a bargain also, as Winter prices are lower than in the Spring. Just take time to learn before you jump in.
Happy hunting.
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Old 10-19-2003, 03:16 AM   #8
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3 words of advice... be very very careful!!! (ok, I snuck an extra word in there, but who's counting?) Rather than commenting on A/S or SOB MH's, I would simply caution anyone who is NOT mechanically inclined against purchasing a motorized vehicle of any kind that is more than a few years old. The only exceptions would be if someone was so passionate about owning a vintage model that they were willing to spend the extra money to maintain and repair it, or if someone knew a mechanically inclined individual who was willing to do the maintenance and repairs for the cost of the parts alone. I agree that there are some bargains to be found on older MH’s, but the ongoing repair bills will eventually surmount any of the savings made from the initial purchase price compared to buying new or slightly used. Even many of us do-it-yourselfers will tend to purchase an older TT vs. MH, so that we can continually trade-in our tow vehicles for newer ones. The purchase of your ’87 Volvo in ’88 was a wise decision and is an example of this rationale. Would you purchase an ’87 Volvo today? In fact, if it has a turbocharger and/or intercooler, I would consider trading it in before it begins to nickel and dime you to death. I don’t mean to pooh-pooh your ideas and dreams, but I have seen quite a few people, myself included, who try and save money initially but mistakenly buy someone else’s “problem” vehicle. I once purchased a 10 YO snowmobile for $1200 that seemed to be a good deal at the time. Even had a mechanic friend check it out. Before I knew it, I had spent an additional $4500 in repairs. (not a good friend anymore btw) I could have almost purchased a new one for that much. Anyway, this is just my humble opinion so I won’t belabor the point any further. But please keep in mind those 3 words during your search…be very very very careful. oops

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Old 10-19-2003, 12:05 PM   #9
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sob vs as mh

IMHO - If you are looking to spend 20K - 30K on a Class A MH you'll need to expect to spend some on repairs. The advantage the AS has is that they were well built coaches on simple P30 chassis and the aluminum coach (if still in good shape) won't need a rubber roof replacement, dry rot repairs, fiberglass delamination, etc. that can make a $20K SOB get very expensive quickly.

To echo Dave's comments; with only the two of you you might be better off to go with a class C or B. You certainly can get newer, more reliable used coaches in that range and have good manuevering, parking and better gas mileage than an older Class A.

If however you plan to go with the A and your stuck on Airstream (like the rest of us!) then and older MH in the 13 - 15K range with a $% - 7K budget for repairs might be just the ticket.

One last word of advice. Don't just look at length/pricing combinations. Go out and look at many many coaches and think about the floorplan that will work for your lifestyle. Even though it will be just two of you make sure you can drive, live, cook, backup, take on guests (and pets) either on hookups on dry camping, etc. We ended up with a much larger AS MH than we set out for but with three kids and a dog I'm glad we made this choice...even the 325 would have been tight for more than a few days for our needs.

Once you know what floorplan you want then the other decisions become much easier.
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Old 10-19-2003, 12:40 PM   #10
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Excuse my ignorance, but what does SOB stand for?
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Old 10-19-2003, 01:13 PM   #11
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Old 10-19-2003, 08:58 PM   #12
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another thought

Based on your age group as listed in your initial request for info, I would add this.......

You appear to be thinking about using this unit for a number of years and one thing is for sure in my experience.....I would rather pay to get a quality A/S off and running much more than most sobs that have not proven their long lasting ability as A/S have proven theirs...some 80 percent of A/S are still out there from 1936 to date and no one else can say that.....

Most sobs and I have had several to 34 feet will not stand the test of time, especially in a
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