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Old 07-31-2006, 08:55 PM   #1
New Member
williamsport , Maryland
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Should I Buy?

Thanks to all who responded to my first post. Now - here's what we're looking at! we test drove the 1986 Airstream 345 today. The a/c's work, but the more forward one would work only with the toggle switch down (I don't know what this means), it started smelling a little after it ran a few minutes and we think it may be going out. It drove well, thought the brakes were a little soft. All other systems seemed to check out. The seller said it may need a new generator or alternator on the motor- he would have to have it checked. We think maybe alternator. It needs repair on the front windows (seals are gone and thorough cleaning. The tires aren't dry rotted, even though it has set for about 2 yrs. There is a stove, but no oven - it does have a microwave/convection unit and shower and toilet seperate. Twin beds in the back. It has under 96,000 miles. He is willing to take $10,000 for it, but I do not have $ to put into it over that. I would appreciate your opinion!
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Old 08-01-2006, 07:47 AM   #2
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Chesapeake , Virginia
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All the features you described are standard for the year and model. There is a switch so you can only run one AC unit at a time (unless you want to rewire somewhat at your generator, but that's another story). There was an option of the microwave/convection instead of a standard oven, and many buyers chose that. My 1989 370 has that. By window seals, I'm assuming you're talking about the driver's and passenger's side windows. If so, that's a job that's pretty routine for these units, and you'll find several threads on the Forum telling where to get the materials and how to install them.

Not seeing the unit, the price sounds good. The issue, as I see it, is that you HAVE to assume you will be spending some money on it. Especially at first you will find things wrong, or things will go wrong, and they will need repair ($). Every rig is different, but you need to know that repairing and tinkering go with the territory. This Forum is full of great people who are willing to help in much detail, but if you simply don't have the money for working on it then it's still not a bargain. If you're fairly mechanical, you can save lots of money on labor costs. If you're like most of us, working on these things is part of the "pleasure" of MoHo ownership, but even parts cost some money. Predicting how much is impossible, but generally these units don't just die and need big buck repairs.

Best wishes, whatever you decide. Keep us posted.
1987 30P
2003 Suburban 2500
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Old 08-01-2006, 09:45 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forums.
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Old 08-01-2006, 10:08 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by sarasmom
He is willing to take $10,000 for it, but I do not have $ to put into it over that. I would appreciate your opinion!
$10,000 sounds like a fair price for what you are describing. However, I would question the tires if they did sit for two years in the sun without moving. thee will be other expenses after you purchase the MH. You will need to change out all the fluids, most likely a tune up, and at least a brake inspection. Unless you are doing the work yourself this will run upwards to a grand. If you do need to replace tires add another $2,000. Four wheel disc brake job with turning the drums , add another grand. After you replace the alternator hopefully the batteries keep a charge or that will be another $500.00, you replace all three at a time.
Please do not think I am trying to scare you but this is just the realities of owning a twenty year old vehicle with 96000 miles on it. True it is very well made and will give you many years of good service but it is not cheap.
I always tell new owner's that your original cost is only your down payment.
Good luck to you and please do let us know what you decide to do.
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Old 08-01-2006, 11:41 AM   #5
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1986 34.5' Airstream 345
Louisville , Kentucky
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that is a great price for a 345 in almost any condition. As others have described everything you described was standard from the factory. To echo other comments, while the price is terrific, it will require additional expenses in the early stages of ownership, especially since it sat for two years, so be prepared to lay out more money as you find things. Also consider that the engine, at 96,000 miles, is likely approaching the end of it's useful life. Be absolutely sure the engine/transmission and driveline are going to last a little while. Not to sound too cynical but the price seems like there is something hidden to me.

To put some perspective on initial expenses; we purchased our 345 for a great price (not 10K great but still a good deal), and spent another $3000 in the first year of ownership on tires, brakes, engine accessories, exhaust, etc, just chasing gremlins and making it a reliable motorhome. That number was just for parts as I did all of the work myself. Year two was about $1000 and year three and four have been negligible for maintenance - but we've spent money on upgrades and interior improvements.

Getting one of these beauties back to life will cost some money. If you can do the work yourselves you can save big and you will be rewarded with a quality motorhome that will serve you well for many years to come.

Lastly, units priced at or below 10K don't come along very often. Chances are good you would be paying twice as much for one that was run regularly and is in "ready to go" consider the opportunity cost of passing on one at this price point.
Steven Webster
1986 Airstream 345 Classic Motorhome
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Old 08-01-2006, 07:53 PM   #6
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1991 35' Airstream 350
Windsor , North Carolina
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Sarasmom: A resounding hear, hear!! to all of the above. Even though our '90/91 was newer, and required fewer repairs to make it immediately safer and more efficient, we found that mechanical and electronic upgrades which would give us less engine heat, less engine wear, and less transmission wear and tear (and better fuel economy) exerted a strong force on the checkbook, as did state inspection requirements and new batteries, new tires, etc. I would guess that, maintained properly, you should plan to put at least 10% of the purchase price back into any used vehicle. The older the vehicle, the larger the percentage of the purchase price needs to be re-invested--and that's exactly what it is.

Basically, you have to decide how much this vehicle is worth to you, given your intended use (and the speed at which you expect to wear out stuff that requires replacement) and act accordingly. It might be helpful to play the "what if" game--What if I have to replace all the batteries next week? What if I only get another 10K miles out of the engine? What if it doesn't pass the state inspection? If you simply cannot handle the "what if" calamity in a way that satisfies your needs, then walk away and start building a bigger war chest. There will be other Airstreams later.

Everyone's comments here should enter into your negotiations. If nothing else, the seller should guarantee that it will pass the state safety inspection, or make it good to you, even for $10K.

Hope this helps--Rob
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