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Old 01-15-2011, 11:00 PM   #1
3 Rivet Member
1989 29' Excella
Tyrone , Georgia
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 187
Looked at airstreams today.. Advice needed.

Hello folks. My wife and I are very excited about adding an airstream to our life. We were driving through florida today and stopped at a dealership. I have lingered through the forum here for about a year and have looked at airstreams online for quite a while.

First, I have primarily focused on a 28-31 footer and have hoped to get one that was taken care of well enough that I can simply do cosmetic work. After looking underneath the 77 today, am I correct that I need to steer clear of that old of a trailer? To my surprise rust abounded and I don't want to get into a project that involves a frame off restoration.

Is it as simple as "don't go older than xx if it was located in xyz state?" to get one that is what I am looking for?

Also, can someone shoot me for stepping in a $90k 2011 model?
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Old 01-15-2011, 11:46 PM   #2
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2012 27' Flying Cloud
Denver , Colorado
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Posts: 102
Fishandfly - like you, we looked for quite a while and did get a lot of useful information from this forum. I don't know if you'll find any rules as simple as what you're looking for. We were helped a great deal by the advice to first find the trailer that fits your needs and desires (well, maybe short of the $90,000 for the 2011 model but they sure are sweet) and then arrange the tow vehicle. Also we read that you should look all over the country for the right trailer; after all, they are made to haul so go pull it home when you find it. We drove from Denver to Ohio to buy our slightly used 2008 model in 2009 and have enjoyed every minute with it since. We still laugh about driving across the country for our first trailer - and we'd never towed anything before that. Maybe Airstream's are like finding a dog: you'll know it when you see it? Good luck.
Jim and Marsha
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Old 01-16-2011, 12:15 AM   #3
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1975 Argosy 24
West Linn , Oregon
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Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to your question. Rust begins as soon as you expose unprotected steel to air. How fast it progresses depends on the amount of humidity in the air. Surface rust, a light orange coating, is normal on an unpainted surface. The steel underneath will look almost new when it is rubbed off with moderate effort using steel wool.

Moderate rust will begin to show pitting in the metal. As moderate rust advances, the pitting will turn into flaking, and the advanced rust will have heavy flaking, and eventually the pitting and flaking will cause holes in the steel.

Usually the rust will vary from location to location on the frame. Areas that have the best ventilation will usually have light rust, as will the areas that are well protected and dry. The worst areas are usually the hidden areas that hold moisture from leaks the longest, allowing the rust process to advance faster than the other areas. Typically the place to look would be to look at the frame directly above the black and gray water tanks, and near the rear bumper. Even then, heavy rust on the bottom inch of the frame in a few small areas is not an immediate concern if the rest of the frame is fairly sound, and can be repaired relatively inexpensively from underneath by welding in some reinforcing angle iron. However, if the frame is weakened up to 2 inches vertically or higher over a significant length, it needs complete replacement of the damaged section or the attention of a talented welder and fabricator.

For minor surface rust, don't worry about it, they are all like that. A company that specializes in undercoating cars can undercoat the frame and it will effectively last forever. For moderate rust, a good wirebrushing with a heavy duty handheld grinder will remove the loose rust and flakes, and prepare the surface for an application of a rust converter and sealant such as POR-15.

We bought our 1975 Argosy on the Oregon Coast from a man who lived in it for a year while he built his house. Before that, it had been in inland Oregon. There was a surprising amount of recent surface rust on the frame from the salt water air and high humidity near the ocean, but it is still structurally sound. Except for the angle iron supports for the grey water tank, but that's a different story.

So, no, you can't judge a trailer's condition by the state it is from. Two trailers a hundred feet apart, one stored on a concrete pad under a cover, another parked on wet dirt most of the time, will have remarkably different corrosion. And, you still can't tell, because the one parked under cover that looks almost new underneath may have had plumbing leaks that kept the foam insulation around the rear tanks wet, causing more hidden damage than the one parked over a mud puddle. Personal inspection is about the only way to tell, unless the frame looks almost new everywhere else.

Hint, if you can see visible holes in the frame, or you can poke a sharp screwdriver through the frame in the heaviest rust areas, it's probably time to move on or negotiate a major discount in the price of the trailer to offset repairs. If you can scrape the rust off with the corner of the screwdriver, and the steel underneath looks fairly smooth and bright, it's in great shape.

Happy camping!

Sean & Sharon
AIR #: 27389
TAC #: OR-3
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Old 01-16-2011, 02:16 AM   #4
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2008 31' Classic
Lake Charles , Louisiana
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You should not rule out purchasing a new trailer. We visited an AS dealer who had about every floor plan to look at, decided on the Classic Limited 31 foot and then made up a list of what options we would like to have and started shopping on-line. We ended up finding "OUR' trailer at a dealer up in Oregon. It was the end of the year, dealers were looking at clearing their lots and for the deal we got it made no sense to look at used trailers. If you choose to shop new, consider the dual AC if you plan to go with a 31 ft. model. We love ours. We have the option to run the rear unit while watching TV which greatly reduces the noise level in the front of the trailer. Ours also came with electric jacks. They weren't on our "to have" list but I have really come to appreciate them. And as far as buying far off...make a vacation out of it. We live in Louisiana, purchased in Oregon, the dealer brought the trailer down to Los Angeles and we vacationed all the way back home :-)...........steve
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:25 AM   #5
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manufacturer's SUGGESTED retail price.

Pre-spring you can get 20% off MSRP if you're firm, and have your financing already in order.

All that said, a 1,2,3 year old unit, you'll get a heck of a deal.

If you've never RV'd before, then spend as little as you can. Mistakes like this are expensive. KOA has a deal with Airstream, many of them have a 25FB on the lot that you can rent. DO rent one for 3 days to a week. It may not be your favorite model, but you'll still learn a lot about the shower - small if you're over 6' tall, the bathroom knee room issue and the downsides of a sideways queen.

If you find you're claustrophobic after 3 days and hate it, you would have just saved all but about $175 of your 91K potential expenditure. It might merely clarify your must have list and the size and model you'll really be happy to live with for many years.

Buy new if you're absolutely sure you know what you want.

CHECK your dealer's reputation very carefully.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:52 AM   #6
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2008 31' Classic
Lake Charles , Louisiana
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Foiled Again.... I agree. Check out your dealer and don't get in a hurry. Our purchase towards the end of the year, offering to pay cash and with the economy at the time in a downward spiral worked out a 26% reduction off of the MSRP for our AS. What made the deal was their agreement to bring the AS down from Oregon to LA. We don't have an AS dealer close by so I wasn't too concerned about warranty work. Our Acti Brake unit did fail and I worked the trouble-shooting and replacement directly through AS. We've had a few other minor issues but nothing I could not handle myself. For the past several decades we have camped tents, pop-ups and mid-range travel trailers. We knew exactly what we wanted in our AS trailer. I wasn't aware KOA would rent our AS trailers. Good comment for a prospective buyer who has not done much camping. Take care........steve
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:22 AM   #7
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Decide what you like best about getting an Airstream--hitching up right after purchase and driving into the sunset or buying an old one and lovingly restoring and personalizing it.
If you restore one it will take a lot of time and some money but some people like working on old trailers and like the end result which is often unique.
Getting a steal on an Airstream isn't likely to happen. They are popular and you may have to search a bit to get the one you want at or near blue book.
Even with an Airstream, you don't have to buy a $90,000 trailer. You can save a lot if you buy lightly used. Contrary to the belief of some sellers, Airstreams do depreciate particularly in the first few years.
Good luck in your search.
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:42 AM   #8
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2006 19' International CCD
Olathe , Kansas
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Buying used can save a ton of money and if you need a Tow Vehicle you can add 50 to the 90k pretty easy. Here are a couple of examples on the classifieds.


Sells new for 90+ or 2010 at colonial for 71


Sells new for 80


Sells new for 76

As you can see they drop FAST. I could do a lot with 20 k plus. Some people have to have new but some of these trailers for sale were people who thought they would love camping in an Airstream and then after a year or two sitting in storage, they decide to cut their losses. That's how I found our Bambi, the husband loved it and his wife hated it their loss was my gain. Good luck on your search.
Get involved and sign up for a Rally!
WBCCI 4973
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:31 AM   #9
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2008 16' Safari
Destrehan , Louisiana
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I tend to like as small a trailer as posible. It's just easier to tow, maintain and set up. Your needs may be different. So, first you need to decide on what trailer size fits your needs.
New or used? Again, that's going to depends on you. If you want a trailer with a warrenty and no work; get the new trailer. If you are handy and can fix up an old trailer; get a used trailer.
AS trailers are extremly durable. A 30 year old AS that has not been wrecked and has been well taken care of can be just as good as a new trailer. Some of the best deals out there are old AS trailers that have already been restored. Careful inspection before purchase is a must.
We've had two AS trailers. The first was a 72 and the current trailer is an 08. The current trailer is only 3 years old but I still end up doing minor repairs after each trip. The 72 required about 10X as much work during and after each trip. Owning a trailer is not exactly carefree.
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:06 AM   #10
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2017 23' International
Ridgefield , Washington
Join Date: Oct 2010
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New to Airstream

Have you owned an RV before?

1) Select a floor plan which affords the basics and amenities you need.
RV "veterans" will most likely suggest that there is no perfect unit anymore than there is the "perfect" home, but having stated that, try to select a floor plan that seems to suit your living / camping style.

2)Opt for a unit which provides sufficient "living room" to allow comfort and mobility on a long rainy day

3) 90% of buyers only focus on the interior when purchasing an RV, and forget to concentrate on the "nuts and bolts" of the unit, which is NOT a problem with the AS, so just focus on the floor plan and space.

4) At this time of year dealers are offering "better" deals, especially at shows.

5) I honestly would try to purchase a unit from a dealer close to where you live if possible. We purchased a fifth wheel ( now traded in on an ordered AS) from a dealer located 12 hours away. We had some issues and returning to the dealer was a bigger deal than I wanted. Now, our dealer is located only five miles from my house--a real plus--and I can be in his "hip pocket" if i have a problem---this is not always possible.

6) I believe market forces are changing wherein more and more folks are switching to Airstreams from fifth wheels, because of AS's quality and integrity.

Hope this helps a little. If you wish to speak with me, leave a PM and I'll call. Sometimes it just helps more to discuss over the phone rather than on a forum. PS--I have never seen a group of more knowledgeable and experienced participants than those who contribute to this Airstream forum. I have learned an enormous amount of useful information here. Good luck.
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:29 AM   #11
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Colfax , North Carolina
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If you have never owned an RV before, you probably should look at new, if only because they have a warranty. You'll likely take a hit in depreciation, but you'll have the "cushion" of being able to get somebody else to take care of the problems, at least for the first couple of years. By the time the warranty runs out (and most of the appliance warranties are for 3+ years), you'll have a pretty good idea of how things should work, and how to perform your own minor repairs.
If you decide on new, and it's only you and your wife, and you're only going camping in it rather than spending entire Summers in it, the current model 23' with the front lounge and rear corner bed is very nice, making good use of the space available. If I had a pile of cash, and wanted a new trailer, I'd probably get one. They are small enough to be easily towed and maneuvered into small spaces.
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Old 01-16-2011, 02:17 PM   #12
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2019 30' Flying Cloud
Homosassa , Florida
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New vs Used

We have had two A/Ss, both purchased new. The first was a 22' Safari Sport and the new one month old is a 25' Flying Cloud. We did take a hit on depreciation of the 22' but wanted new. We chose a 25' for the queen bed and holding tank sizes. Like many have noted, decide what you want and what you can properly tow. Some campgrounds may have length limitations so it's something to think about although I would chose what we wanted for space and a floorplan. If you're OK with used, check around on the forum and most importantly, personally examine any unit before purchase. We live in Florida and our first A/S was purchased here while the second one was purchased out of state. Note what a dealer will charge as their administrative or document fee as they can vary considerably by hundreds of dollars. Good luck.
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:04 PM   #13
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1969 21' Globetrotter
1953 25' Cruiser
Front Royal , Virginia
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Wow, I guess I look at the whole thing differently. I feel if you never owned a trailer before and not sure of a floor plan, definitely DO NOT go new. I would find the cheapest "good" trailer, ready or mostly ready to camp for $5-10K. I look at things as, what I would be willing to lose in Vegas on a weeks vacation and not be upset. If you hate a $5-10k rig you can always turn around and sell it even for a loss and lose only $1-2K.

When it comes down to it, there are vintage people, used Airstream people (not yet vintage) and new off the lot people. We rented a 2008 Flying Could 25' in Vegas this new years eve and we confirmed we are Vintage People. At least with vintage, all the little defects and oddities we can say well it is 32 year or 58 years old. With a new one I would just be pissed about every crooked outlet and sloppy sealed joint.

That is just my view…not for all but for some.
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Old 01-16-2011, 05:05 PM   #14
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Battle Lake , Minnesota
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These things are expensive whether new or old, so take your time. Let the excitement cool a bit.

We bought new but almost 2 years old in dealer stock and saved a bundle, but still got full 2 year warranty, and there are few changes from year to year.

Family trailers and long term trip trailers are larger (usually), weekenders are smaller (usually). How will you use it?

The Airstream doesn't burn fuel but the tow vehicle does. As you look at trailers, think of what will be in front of it.

If you are capable of repairs, save some money buying older. If not, buy newer.

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Old 01-21-2011, 09:14 PM   #15
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1989 29' Excella
Tyrone , Georgia
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 187
Wow! Thank you so much for the contributions! It is a great feeling to be joining (hopefully) a community of true enthusiasts.

I am almost ready to head home from my vacation and I am going to make an effort to really look at as many as I can before making the big move.

I am definitely aiming for the idea of getting a solid model that needs cosmetic work. I'll throw in an update to show you all what we end up with.

Thanks again for being an awesome community.
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Old 01-21-2011, 09:33 PM   #16
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Virginia Beach , Virginia
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A Warning

People sometimes think they can get a great bargain by buying something like the wrecked unit that is on e-bay right now. The words "salvage title" means that an insurance company has determined that the cost to repair the trailer is greater than it's book value. Damage repair is EXPENSIVE. Curved segments on the end are about $1200 each, long side panels on big tailer can go as high as $4000. Get help before you consider buying a damaged trailer OR just run like hell.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 01-21-2011, 10:34 PM   #17
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1972 23' Safari
Houston , Texas
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I looked around and decided I loved the 25'Safari Fb model bur didn't want to shell out the bucks for new Flying Cloud. Then I started looking at the 2 then 3 then 4 year old models and saw the price drop. Wound up with a 2006 Safari FB that is in brand new condition but over 21,000 cheaper than it was new, which was even $10K less than a 2010. Saved big but got almost new in the model I wanted.
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Old 01-22-2011, 01:07 AM   #18
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Shasta Lake City , California
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You should know... axles need to be replaced after 15 years, even newer airstreams leak, so even if you buy a 95 model....you will become an RV tech or spend alot of money on you AS.
"Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you." -the Stranger-

Come and see me at: https://www.airforums.com/forums/f185...-71804-60.html
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Old 01-22-2011, 08:54 AM   #19
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1986 31' Sovereign
Miami , Florida
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My wife and I bought our 86 31' Sovereign for a song so we could try RVing without a "payment book". By the time we got it presentable, water-tight and comfortable we had fallen in love. I have $20K in my rig, have towed it 40000 miles in the past 5 years.

Is it "showroom perfect"? Nah, it has what we consider "beauty marks". Is it structurally and mechanically sound? You betcha. Does everything work? Yep. Do I now know lots more about ac/dc, plumbing, refrigeration, and sheet metal repair? Oh yeah.

It's paid for. Lot's to be said for that.

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Old 01-22-2011, 09:12 AM   #20
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2000 30' Excella
1999 30' Excella 1000
Low Country , South Carolina
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Thumbs up

well, we have had three great USED Airstream.
* 93 29' center side ba, rear king br (our modification) (reupholstered sofa)(narrow body)
* 2000 30' center side ba, w all the glitz, queen rear br
* and now a 1999 28' center open ba rear queen (sideways) all the glitz
inc. skylites and two or three fantastic fans (highly recommend these items.

loved them all, put wood flooring in them all, added shelving in them all and other storage modifications. All were oak. Cleaned up beautifully and I might ad that I love having the wider body in the newer units.

Love the open ba we now have in the 28', can close off the br & kit/lr areas to make a nice ba dressing area. This unit seems roomier than the 30' was and I think this one will stay w us a long time.

That's the thing, you will probably modify some stuff even in the new one, if you are handy.

Sure the new ones are fresh and pretty, but the 10 year old units have lots of charm and THE PUNCH LIST issue have been done by the previous owners. VIP if you don't want to be visiting the dealer a lot.

That's my 2 cents worth. I love my Airstream!
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