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Old 03-08-2018, 08:40 PM   #1
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Selecting a first Airstream

Looking to enter the Airstream world and feel overwhelmed with options. We are looking at smaller Airstreams that can be pulled with a vehicle with a 5000 pound towing limit. Is there a standout favorite or favorites in this class? And do you recommend new or used for newcomers?
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:03 PM   #2
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Hi and welcome. Take a deep breath - there's a lot in your first note here.

If you have a dealer near you, spend time walking through, sitting in, and basically familiarize yourself with different models and floor plans. Consider the kind of camping you're thinking of. Full timing? Well, if you have more seasons than a year long summer, you won't want an Airstream trailer.

The 5000# limit is tied to your current tow vehicle I assume? If your camping style includes 4 humans, 3 dogs etc. - a small Bambi or Basecamp may not meet your needs. It might be towed by whatever you have, but if the full package doesn't meet your needs, you'll be disappointed early and often.

As for new or used - depends on whether you're good with maintenance and basic repairs or, like me, making up for what I lack in mechanical skills with a checkbook

If talented - buy gently used. Sometimes people buy a trailer, use it a few times and for a number of reasons sell it a year or two later barely used. That's going to be at a good discount.

If you're not mechanically inclined, the advantage of new is a 2 year warranty to shake out the bugs and have the dealer or factory repair it on their dime. That's what my wife and I did back in 2012. Great strategy for us.

So it sure can be overwhelming. We haven't even addressed why you're looking to enter the Airstream world. There are others (the fiberglass Oliver tends to get a lot of play here) as an option to consider for possibly less cost and within your tow vehicle's range - though that gets complicated too with other factors like payload, axle weight ratings and more.

So search around the forums - there are lots of threads in here than can shed some light on your decision.

And if you can share more details about what you want to accomplish, the kind of camping/traveling you're seeking, why must it be an Airstream - you'll get additional insights from experts deeper than I am. Good luck!!
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:32 PM   #3
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There are so many variables (interests, needs, differences...) BUT four years ago we made the move. From tent camping to an RV was a big change! we had a Highlander so were, also, limited by towing capacity but we found our dream rig: for us it was a 19’ International. It has the head room, sleeping space (with a major tweak), kitchen and bath that “we” desired. Almost everything in an RV is a compromise of sorts: wife had to have the bath...which I now appreciate and the size is just right for us - easy to tow/park, ample space (nice headroom, plenty of room when cooped up in bad weather, enough storage, etc), comfortable digs (that said, she sleeps in the bed and I’m on the settee, which we both prefer!) and it tows nicely. We were ok with the 5000# capability of the Highlander for a year or so but then went to a Ford F-150 and it works much better for us - we (too??) head to the mountains quite often (Cascades and northern Rockies) and the 150 is much better than the Highlander.
But our style is to mostly sleep in the trailer and cook and lounge outside, so the 19’ is more than adequate. Plus it is just the two of us - no kids, no pets etc. We have been out over 20 times and are still in love with her 19’ International)... though I do look enviously at the 20’ now and then. The only thing I might change is the floor plan - I would go for a rear dinette/kitchen if possible but alas...
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:40 PM   #4
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Being a bit predjudiced, the 22 Sport would be my suggestion. It has several advantages. The body is narrow and that helps in tight locations. The layout is similar to our 23 and we find it to be quite satisfactory.

However, the 20 has a layout that maximizes the galley counter space, which some find preferable to other options.

The 16 and Basecamp are high on the cute factor. And the 19 moves you out of the wet bath that the 16 uses.

As suggested, a trip to a dealer with lots of coaches to explore is the best way to find what you define to be the best option for your RV lifestyle. It may be that you could decide to upgrade your tow vehicle to mate a larger coach.

The other option is to look at older models. They are generally lighter as well as narrower. A well maintained older coach can be quite good value, especially if you appreciate the patina and history of an experienced unit.

You are going to enjoy the experience of investigating your options. Hope to meet you with a smile in the future. Pat
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Old 03-09-2018, 05:28 AM   #5
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Never buy a trailer just because it fits your tow vehicle (TV).

This is a pretty significant investment that you want to get right, so buy the right trailer that fits your lifestyle, and if required, buy a TV that will pull it.

You could be in for a lot of regret doing it the other way around.

Cheers
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Old 03-09-2018, 05:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isuzusweet View Post
Never buy a trailer just because it fits your tow vehicle (TV).

This is a pretty significant investment that you want to get right, so buy the right trailer that fits your lifestyle, and if required, buy a TV that will pull it.

You could be in for a lot of regret doing it the other way around.

Cheers
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I completely agree with this excellent recommendation!
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Old 03-09-2018, 07:37 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hans627 View Post
I completely agree with this excellent recommendation!
I second.

The trailer should be the key here. Pick the one that will meet your needs. Then figure out how to tow it.

Also, remember that many people buy and find out its too small for them. I experienced this as a boater for 15 years. Until I found a "just right" size. So when I purchased my first Airstream 2 years ago, I went for the big enchilada. I use it every single weekend. And I am grateful every day I made this decision.

Your mileage may vary. (YMMV).
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Old 03-09-2018, 07:47 AM   #8
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Completely agree with sidekick Tony. Consider a used tow vehicle that will pull the Airstream of your choice. Most people camp 6 to 20 times a year. You need a dependable tow vehicle. Choose capability over beauty, function over style and economy to allow bigger splurges on the Airstream and its accoutrements

Also if possible go to a rally or two. WBCCI is an Airstream club, with few open rallies, but airforum rallies are generally open to other brands. You can also use this forum to ask for a "rabbi" or mentor/guide in your area to meet with you.

You will probably find that 80% of us really love our current Airstream, BUT. Oh that Pan America or Eddie Bauer or....
Getting perfect contentment with your first purchase is hard. I am on Airstream #3, and if I had Jay Leno money would probably have 10 to 15 and change them like shoes! ( I would need staff of 10 to keep them clean and gleaming)

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Old 03-09-2018, 08:31 AM   #9
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We had an Aliner (a hard sided popup) that we towed with my wife's Volvo XC70. We loved it, but it had two deficits: no shower, and my wife had to crawl over me to get into her side of the queen sized bed.

So when we decided to upgrade to an Airstream we found that the 27 foot long models and larger were the only ones with beds that fit our needs. So we decided on a 28 foot Flying Cloud.

We knew our Volvo wouldn't tow it, thought we'd be getting a Ford F150. Our dealer told us that would work but that we'd be much happier with an F250. Reason being that the F150 would be maxed out on cargo load with us and a 1000 lbs of hitch weight, were as the F250 would have about 3000 lbs. of capacity for generator, grill, luggage, etc...

So for us the trailer also dictated what TV to get, and we got it several months early to get used to driving it.
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Old 03-09-2018, 09:03 AM   #10
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I wanted my first Airstream to also be my last Airstream, so I got a Classic 30 to start with...
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Old 03-09-2018, 09:18 AM   #11
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I completely agree with picking the AS that meets your needs and then buying the tow vehicle that will pull it. We looked at dealers and for my wife and I the 28' was the best for what would meet our needs. My wife is a bit claustrophobic so we went with the International Serenity because of all the windows. She really liked it the first step into it. Not so much with the others.

Of course budget is something to consider as well. But find a dealer and walk through them. Think about how you are going to use it and your lifestyle while camping. It's a big investment and you don't want to buy and then be sorry about it a few years out.
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Old 03-09-2018, 10:06 AM   #12
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Selecting your first Airstream

Te best advice we received when purchasing our RV was to take your time. Talk to as many campers and view as many Airstreams (and SOBs) as you can. We began this process a little over two years ago. My SO loved each and every trailer we saw at the Chicago RV show. Slowly, after receiving feedback from many people, we narrowed in on Airstream, eventually selecting a 2017 International Serenity in salsa.

Our personal choice is just that - personal. Everyone will be different. Many friends had gone through four or five trailers before they found the one they liked. We resisted this approach and ordered Something Shiny in the fall of 2016.

Fast forward to our visit to the 2018 Chicago RV show. We left without a single qualm regarding our choice of 1 1/2 years ago. Taking the time to figure things out the first time has worked well for us ... thus far
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Old 03-09-2018, 10:19 AM   #13
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Which one

I agree it's better to pick the trailer you want and not just because it fits your TV, however: we bought both a new truck and our AS last year and jeezum crow the expense!

That said, take your time. What do you do for camping now? What are you thinking you will want to do? What items in your experience are important to you?

Us-and we researched for 2 years: we were tent campers/backpackers for years. We went to a pop up for a couple of years. What we love: being outside. We cook outside, we like to build a fire, we hike, bike and kayak. What we hated about tenting: getting up off the ground. What we hated about the pop up: the setup. And crawling over each other to get to the bathroom.
Also, after two years of thinking about it-yes, we want a toilet. And the galley inside because if we're not cooking outside, we want to be inside!

But, we're campers. Not RVers. We want to go off road, we want to boondock on dirt roads.

We bought a Basecamp and tow it with our Chevy Colorado. Works for us. When I retire in 6 years, we may want larger but for two campers doing one long trip and a bunch of long weekends each season, it's right.
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Old 03-09-2018, 10:42 AM   #14
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Some thoughts

Things we considered:
Maneuverability both on curvy roads and most importantly....at the campgrounds....we stayed at a 25ft max length.
2 axles...just in case you had flat tire the other tire on that side could hopefully hold the camper until you could pull off the highway for tire change.
If could do over again....I would buy a used one that we could go ahead and start camping without re-doing everything...it's a LOT of work completely gutting, replacing, etc.
All the best.
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Old 03-09-2018, 10:59 AM   #15
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My ex-wife and I had a F-150 with a 8 ft Lance camper. I had also used a tent trailer. My sweetie and her ex-husband had a Winnebago and thereafter a Prevost. She and I had tent-camped. We wanted something more. I thought the AS 23 would be ideal. We went to our local AS dealer and shopped. She does all the cooking and bed-making. So, after looking at the 23 and then the 25, when she got into the 27, with the North/South, walk-around queen bed (and a little more storage in the kitchen), she said, "This is it." If I were to do it all over again, I'd get another 27. It's our first, and hopefully our last, AS. And I know there are a lot of posts on this Forum of guys pulling 27s and even 30s with a F-150. I prefer a heavier truck, so the tail does not wag the dog.

My best to you in your AS adventures.
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Old 03-09-2018, 11:02 AM   #16
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Iím a 1/2 ton gasser guy

Hoopwood

I use a bunch of 1/2 ton Tundras for my business. I wanted to stay in the low cost and maintenance of the 1/2 ton envelope.
Iím a weekend warrior and like several long trips a year. 23 ft and under is the lowest cost for airstream ownership. IMO.
The smaller units are cheap,light and nimble.
The big boys,cost more and are more involved to tow and park.
But! You get a lot more room.
Itís your call. All airstream are way overbuilt
vs other RVs . Decide what you style is and you will be amazed! Camping in a piece of artwork is really fun!
Enjoy the ride!
Tom
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Old 03-09-2018, 11:23 AM   #17
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I can understand your thought process as we went through the same thing. We wanted an iconic Airstream, but did not want to change our 4WD tow vehicle because off-roading capability of our TV was of primary consideration for us. It is just the two of us so the storage space and payload of the TV was adequate. We did not plan on taking kayaks, mountain bikes, generators etc. with us. In fact, the weak point of our planned rig was the hitch receiver - not the vehicle itself.

For example, if engineers design a vehicle that only has a Class II or III hitch receiver with a low published tongue weight (e.g. capable of TW of 500 lbs) it then follows that the maximum towing weight of the trailer can only be 5,000 lbs, because in North America the TW should be a minimum of 10% of the trailer weight and a TW of 500lb is 10% of 5000lb trailer weight. The engineers could make a stronger receiver, but IMO they design it this way to minimize weight and thus keep the mpg higher to meet EPA regulations across the fleet while realistically believing that most owners aren't planning on towing. (They also want to sell more profitable pickup trucks.)

When we purchased our first Airstream we decided on a 22 Sport as it matched the published capacities of the TV. However, we did find that it was a bit too small for our needs.

The owner of Can-Am in London ON Canada is Andy Thompson and he is well regarded as the towing expert in North America. I would suggest that you read his "Hitch Hints Blog". He is generous with his time, often providing information over the telephone to Airstream customers. He has designed setups for everything from Honda Odysseys to BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars, Cadillacs, Chrysler 300, Jeeps, VW Toureg TDIs etc., etc.

At our request and assured by his belief that our TV was capable of towing a 25’ RB Serenity, Andy designed a custom Class IV equivalent weight distribution receiver for us. When combined with an Eaz-Lift weight distribution hitch it was able to take the tongue weight and transfer about 1/3 of the TW to the front steering axle, leaving about 1/3 of the TW on the rear drive axle and also transferring about 1/3 of the TW back to the trailer axles. This configuration kept all axle and tires within weight specifications.

You may find that your present tow vehicle is more capable than you think it is, with some inexpensive and straight forward modifications to the hitch receiver. For some reason many on this forum feel that no vehicle except a 3/4 ton pickup truck will adequately tow an Airstream. This is simply not true. With the aerodynamic design and low center of gravity an Airstream is much easier to tow than an equivalent length SOB. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on an unnecessary new TV - if a simple upgrade/modification to your rig will meet your needs? This is especially true if it is also your daily driver.

YMMV
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Old 03-09-2018, 11:31 AM   #18
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I would without a doubt buy used. Even if it is 1 year old - but for economic - anything in the 5 to 10 years could be fine. I have been reading a lot on issues with new Airstreams (Not sure the cause) - but one of the benefits is it has gone thru the any initial issues. Recognize a lot of airstreams are lightly used - so can find many in good condition. We bought one that was ~5 years old at the time and it felt and looked like it was brand new (and was for nearly half the price of a new one).
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Old 03-09-2018, 11:41 AM   #19
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Talking

I have been keeping my eye on the new and used market also, 25'.
Units that are 1-3 years old are only $2K to 5K cheaper than a new unit, after 20% discount off MSRP.

People that own AS are like Foretravel owners. They think their babies should appreciate in value. I have yet to start dickering with a used AS owner however and I don't really know what the final selling price would be.
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Old 03-09-2018, 11:49 AM   #20
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Hi

Some basic math:

A brand new reasonable sized AS, once you get it ready for use is in the $70,000 to $100,000 range. That's a lot of money. Most of the cost is in the trailer, but there is a non-trivial amount of this and that you will be buying as well.

A brand new vehicle that will tow any AS made can be purchased for < $50,000 brand new. Trade in your current ride on the new one and the investment will be even lower.

No, brand new isn't the only way to go. Used is another alternative. The ratio of the numbers comes out the same way. The trailer is the big ticket item.

Yes indeed some people drive their vehicles for 500 years Most people trade in / trade up / whatever in < 6 years. An AS is just getting broken in after 10 years of use. It is likely that you will go through three or four tow vehicles while you own your trailer.

What can mess all this fine math up? Buying the wrong trailer !! To small is a very common issue. To big does happen from time to time. Trading any of this stuff after a year or two is *not* a cheap process. It's not a blood bath, but it's not cheap. Making the right decision is far more important than making the "cheapest up front" decision.

If it takes you a few passes of shopping / looking / tire kicking / budgeting to get things done, that's fine. We spent decades working on that part of it. Even so, the vehicle we had was not up to towing the trailer that made sense. We bought the trailer and traded in the vehicle.

In an ideal world, everything would come together at an instant in time. You would be ready to trade the tow *and* ready for the trailer *and* everything would fit. Life is never that simple

Bob
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