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Old 06-01-2017, 07:48 PM   #1
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Millersburg , Pennsylvania
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To Renovate or Not?

Hello. I'm new to the forums. My husband and I are planning to buy an AS this time next year. We are starting our research now on the forums and looking at listings to get an idea of price vs condition. Our total budget is in the $25-$35k range.

We are evaluating each of our options:

A) Buy Cheap and Renovate

We really love the 70s Argosys AND, as much as possible, we really want the original vintage interior. We know that we can do much of the work and with some there will be a steep learning curve. We also know that we'd rather be traveling than renovating. If we bought an old Argosy, could we pay someone to renovate and stay within our budget? If so, who would we look for to do that work? We really like this option because we get the best of both worlds: the vintage airstream and the peace of mind knowing it's essentially brand new and shouldn't require any major work if well maintained.

B) Spend Our Max Budget for Little to No Repairs

Is this realistic with our budget? Most I've seen in our price range are 10 years old or more. Is it realistic to expect a trailer of that age to last 20+ years more with the proper maintenance and have no major issues that would require a gut job? I mean, they were all new once and eventually need a complete rebuild.

C) Somewhere in the middle of cost vs renovations

This is the scariest of all, I think. The middle seems to be a wide range of prices, ages and conditions. I am terrified of spending too much and finding major issues later that would require a complete gut anyway. Any advice or examples on this option would be appreciated.
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Old 06-01-2017, 08:03 PM   #2
rbs
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I would recommend spending your money on buying the newest model possible, and start using it
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Old 06-01-2017, 09:07 PM   #3
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1962 22' Safari
1973 25' Tradewind
1968 30' Sovereign
Salt Lake City , Utah
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With $25k you should be able to find a very nice vintage trailer. You'll then have money left over for repairs/upgrades.

Whether you're going vintage or new, you'll need $60k-plus for the higher end trailers. I consider all of the new trailers "higher end" a subjective term to be sure.

I know my dream trailer would likely be $60k or more. Meanwhile I paid a small fraction of that for my new-to-me vintage trailer. Time will tell how well I did, but I am optimistic. For my first Airstream I paid $2,600 for a 25 foot 1973 Tradewind. It was in rough shape. I put $12,500 into it and everything worked great. That included new axles and tires.
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Old 06-02-2017, 08:27 AM   #4
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Welcome to the Forums!

You came right out in your post and said that you would rather be camping than working on your trailer. This is important! See my thoughts on your ABC options below:

A: Buy Cheap and Rennovate--The problem with your strategy is that any professional rennovator who does a complete rebuild of the trailer will blow your budget completely out of the water. For a complete rebuild/upgrade/modernization by a professional, you will easily pay $50k or more. Anyone offering to do it on the cheap is probably cutting corners. If you do the work yourself, you could very well spend years (I am in year 5 of my trailer rebuild) working on it instead of camping in it.

B: Spend the max budget for little or no repairs--This is what I would recommend. You should be able to buy a camping ready trailer that has been maintained or has already had major repairs done and stay within your budget. The challenge will be knowing how to do a rigorous inspection so that you don't get hit with surprises. Download the Inspector's Checklist from the Portal page and use it as a guide. You may also find a volunteer inspector who can help you.

C: Somewhere in the middle of cost vs. rennovations--This is really the exact same as option A, with the exception that it sounds like you are more likely to try to do the work yourself here.

At the end of the day whenever you buy a used trailer (not even a "vintage" one), you are walking a mine-field. At one end of the spectrum, you have the complete wrecks that are obvious candidates for a shell-off, and on the other end, you have the trailers that seem to have been well-maintained, or have already had work done on them, that seem pristine. The truth is, though, that people buy wrecks thinking they will be camping in no-time, and are stunned at the mountain of tasks that have to be completed, and people buy apparently pristine trailers and still find extensive floor rot, or shoddily performed repair work. Literally any trailer can have problems with floor rot, regardless of age, but your chances of having this problem go up with age.

So you have to get educated about what are the things that can go wrong, what does good and bad repair work look like, and how do you do a thorough inspection to minimize or chances of surprise.

good luck!
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Old 06-02-2017, 08:50 AM   #5
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Hi

A mid 70's Argosy is now turning 40 years old. Anything is possible, but it is unlikely 40 years has not taxed it a bit. Even with a good inspection, an AS is no different than a house or a boat. There is only so much you can see without tearing into it. Some of what may (or may not) be wrong is hidden from any inspection process.

There are never any real guarantees buying anything like this. The odds are a bit more in your favor as you go newer. That's not because they make them better now. It's simply because there are fewer miles / owners / curbs in the mix.

Any time you head into a renovation of anything (trailer, boat, house ...) you have an estimate of the cost and the time. Best advice is to triple the time estimate and put away enough to support double the cost. Again, noting to do with this or that specific AS project. You will have a much better idea where you are at *after* you tear into everything, by then it's to late to turn back

Bob
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Old 06-02-2017, 12:17 PM   #6
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I did a total "skin off" down to the last nut & bolt restoration which turned out beautifully about 4 years ago. However, I was naive going in costwise and as someone else on this forum suggests, even $50,000 for a total resto is unrealistic.
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Old 06-02-2017, 12:51 PM   #7
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1993 32' Excella
Woodburn , Kentucky
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I like your questions. My thoughts are try the best of both. When you have settled on a model, e.g., Argosy or Airstream, contact a couple of the companies that renovate and restore older AS's or Argosy. Ask if they have any they have recently worked on for sale. I bought a 1993 AS Excella last year from P and S Trailer Services in Helena, OH. It was recently polished and clear coated, had new carpeting, reupholstered couch, new curtains, blinds, etc., awnings and looks like new. My cost was a little below your budget. I realize it is a long way from AZ to OH but you may want to check with them or someone closer to you. I am happy with my situation and have money for the inevitable need to repair/replace something, e.g., tires, water heater, refrigerator, etc.

Good luck

David Parker
1979 Dodge D-350
1993 AS Excella
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Old 06-02-2017, 01:02 PM   #8
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I'm looking at selling my 73 Argosy 20...l use it regularly so its in decent but not restored condition. Would likely let it go for half your budget. Let me know if you're interested.
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Old 06-02-2017, 01:36 PM   #9
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My suggestion would be to buy the best trailer you can find for. 25 to 30 and hold 5 in reserve to replace appliances if the need arises.
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Old 06-02-2017, 04:49 PM   #10
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I would buy a 1996 or newer that has been stored under a roof. All RV's leak and will have had some level of water intrusion. Arizona is one of the best areas to buy a trailer from because of the water issues!
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Old 06-02-2017, 05:40 PM   #11
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Take some time to search for similar threads to yours. There are many people who have asked similar questions and you may find some useful information on those threads.

Much like threads on which hitch to buy, which tow vehicle to use, which camp stove to buy... there are not really right and wrong answers and the decision is very personal.

In the $25k-$35k range there are plenty of trailers available and many will be in very good condition or at least very usable condition. You'll probably have money left over for repairs, tires, periodic maintenance, etc.

For instance, our very usable 1992, 29' Classic would very likely sell for less than $25k. It has several upgrades like wood floor, new(ish) refrigerator and air conditioner, upgraded 12V charging system, and a few other improvements here and there. If you want to buy a trailer, put your stuff in it and travel you should have no problem finding one in that price range.

Do some research, look at some trailers and don't feel pressured to buy until you've come to a good understanding of what's available and the associated prices.

There are lots of trailers for sale that are gutted, half-finished, or otherwise finished to varying degrees by people who found themselves in over their head with time and money. Unless you have a tremendous desire to perform a restoration I suggest you go with a good-quality, moderately priced mid 80's to mid 90's trailer. In general, the 80's will have tambour roll-up doors on the cabinets and the 90's will have wood-front cabinets.
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2005 Chevrolet Suburban K2500 8.1L
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Old 06-03-2017, 06:33 AM   #12
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Hi

If you *do* head towards the market for partially restored trailers, consider that their current condition may make them unable to be towed. Bringing in a crane and flat bed for transport is ghastly expensive ....

Bob
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Old 06-03-2017, 06:44 AM   #13
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1981 31' Excella II
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The interior of a 70's-to early 80's trailer will most likely be toast. They were made with cheap plastic coated wood. In the 80's the interior got better but then they went to OSB flooring which made the more prone to floor rot. The 60's trailers had a lot of real wood in them but they are hard to find in restorable condition. You should be able to find a camp ready trailer for your budget. You might even find one restored for that. Let the seller take the loss on the restoration budget. You might also consider AVION. They made some nice trailers in the 70's and 80's that were better built than the Airstreams. I would stay in the 80's and newer. I have an 81 that was basically a 70's trailer as far as interior. The interior was in fair shape and I brought it back. I probably have $10-15k invested so far and everything works but it is not all that.

Perry
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Old 06-03-2017, 07:32 AM   #14
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Millersburg , Pennsylvania
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Thank you all for your advice and insight. It’s true I would rather be traveling than renovating, but we can’t start traveling for two years because we are stuck in a lease and don't have a tow vehicle. Stupid decision for us to lease, but probably a blessing because we can’t make an impulse purchase. I would be ok with a slow-paced, 12- to 18-month renovation. I don’t want a seemingly endless 5- to 7- year renovation, which I’ve seen here. The plan is to take the next few months to learn about the renovation process and trailer values so we can make an educated decision. The problem with Option B is that I hate newer interiors. I really the love the 70s interiors and want to restore/replicate it as much as possible. The problem with Option A is that’s where my heart is. I really love those little Argosys. And once I get my heart set on something it’s hard to do anything else. I am a compulsive spreadsheet-maker, analyzer and planner—that’s my IT background—so by the time I’m finished with my research, I’ll probably be so sick of airstreams I’ll probably go with a Shasta. We’ll see.

And I’m in PA—not AZ—but I hope to travel there soon.

@uncle_bob I'm just north of Harrisburg.
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:28 AM   #15
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1981 31' Excella II
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Your best bet on a 70's trailer then is to find the rare garage kept unit or maybe one from the left coast where it is dryer and things don't rot as fast. The early 80's trailers are basically the same style but most likely in better condition and have both gray and black water tanks. You might find and Argosy as well.

Perry
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:38 AM   #16
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1992 29' Excella
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Van By The River , Georgia
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Look for Air Forums rallies in your area - even if it takes an overnight stay to get there and back. There are usually a wide variety of trailers at Air Forums events - some have been renovated, some are in the process and some are new and shiny. Everyone is always willing to talk about their trailer and give the back story. Many events have an open house and that's a great way to see lots of trailers/ideas.

Another option is Tin Can Tourists rallies. You'll see a wider variety of RVs but the restoration stories are similar. We saw several Argosy trailers at a recent TCT event.

WBCCI rallies are another avenue but there seems to be less show and tell at those events.

Argosy seems to have been an Airstream test platform in some ways. There are interesting features contained in some Argosy trailers that Airstream used on a limited basis - aluminum subfloor for instance is found in some models.

Best Wishes
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2005 Chevrolet Suburban K2500 8.1L
2018 GMC Sierra K1500 SLT, 6.2L, Max Trailering
Got a cooped-up feeling, gotta get out of town, got those Airstream campin' blues...
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Old 06-03-2017, 09:09 AM   #17
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1978 31' Excella 500
Barrie , Ontario
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by funsizebarby View Post
Hello. I'm new to the forums. My husband and I are planning to buy an AS this time next year. We are starting our research now on the forums and looking at listings to get an idea of price vs condition. Our total budget is in the $25-$35k range.

We are evaluating each of our options:

A) Buy Cheap and Renovate

We really love the 70s Argosys AND, as much as possible, we really want the original vintage interior. We know that we can do much of the work and with some there will be a steep learning curve. We also know that we'd rather be traveling than renovating. If we bought an old Argosy, could we pay someone to renovate and stay within our budget? If so, who would we look for to do that work? We really like this option because we get the best of both worlds: the vintage airstream and the peace of mind knowing it's essentially brand new and shouldn't require any major work if well maintained.

B) Spend Our Max Budget for Little to No Repairs

Is this realistic with our budget? Most I've seen in our price range are 10 years old or more. Is it realistic to expect a trailer of that age to last 20+ years more with the proper maintenance and have no major issues that would require a gut job? I mean, they were all new once and eventually need a complete rebuild.

C) Somewhere in the middle of cost vs renovations

This is the scariest of all, I think. The middle seems to be a wide range of prices, ages and conditions. I am terrified of spending too much and finding major issues later that would require a complete gut anyway. Any advice or examples on this option would be appreciated.
I would NEVER buy a new AS but anyyhing before 2002 is IMO a good investment my AS is 39 years old I had some mechanicals professionally renewed and I did some cosmectics to inside and am planning a couple more renos this summer but it has no leaks and so far I have about $20,000.00 Canadian invested in it. When someone spends $100,000.00 plus U.S and have leaks and problems on 1st trip, I don't think that's a good deal, Ive had my AS for 15 years and take long trips every year with no problems. Good luck with whatever you get and enjoy!
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Old 06-04-2017, 06:59 AM   #18
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2017 30' Classic
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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Hi

Consider that any refurb / rework of anything is not an analytic process. You never have all the data to put into the spreadsheet. Since each home / truck / trailer has it's own history, prediction only goes so far. Even with a pro doing all the work that is the case. If you will be doing it yourself, the number of variables increase quite a bit.

A few things to consider on the do it yourself side:

Do you have the space? The trailer will be stationary for a long time. Stuff will be coming in and out of it. Doing it indoors lets you work 12 months a year. Doing it outside in PA has some practical limits Stuff going into and coming out of the trailer needs to get stored somewhere as well.

Do you have the tools? There are a lot of different subsystems in a trailer. Each one has it's own tools / parts / skills. Metalwork is different than woodwork. Plumbing is different than HVAC. Electrical has it's own set of gizmos. Learning by doing is fine. It also is expensive and slow.

Do you have the time? If you are working full time, there's only so many hours in the day. Picking up a job and putting it down is not a fast way to get things done. It isn't just your time. The whole family schedule gets impacted.

You may take that as "don't do it yourself". Far from it. There are a *lot* of things you will be better able to work out doing it yourself. You will have abundant knowledge of how everything was done and how to fix it. Having somebody else do it, simply puts you one step away. You *still* should get very involved (yes the guy may hate you in the end ..). You still need to be making some of the decisions as things move along. Doing that is expensive as well.

As I said at the start, this not entirely trailer specific. Gutting out the kitchen and putting in a brand new setup has many of the same issues. Yes, the starting point is one you already own. The guy doing it is one of dozens who will come in and quote the work, or you do it all yourself.

Bob
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Old 06-04-2017, 07:32 AM   #19
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1978 31' Excella 500
Barrie , Ontario
Join Date: Dec 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perryg114 View Post
The interior of a 70's-to early 80's trailer will most likely be toast. They were made with cheap plastic coated wood. In the 80's the interior got better but then they went to OSB flooring which made the more prone to floor rot. The 60's trailers had a lot of real wood in them but they are hard to find in restorable condition. You should be able to find a camp ready trailer for your budget. You might even find one restored for that. Let the seller take the loss on the restoration budget. You might also consider AVION. They made some nice trailers in the 70's and 80's that were better built than the Airstreams. I would stay in the 80's and newer. I have an 81 that was basically a 70's trailer as far as interior. The interior was in fair shape and I brought it back. I probably have $10-15k invested so far and everything works but it is not all that.

Perry
perryg114, I have a 1978 that I bought 15 years ago the interior is still good I painted all the inside but other than replacing door hinges on the 2 cupboards it's fine! The original sub floor is good and had new laminate put in have no leaks in roof or windows! I've taken my AS to YK AL 2 trips to LA with no problems. It's the new ones that seem to have the most problems! If I paid out $100,000 plus for a trailer I'd expect it to be PERFECT and not leak or start falling apart on the first trip!
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Old 06-04-2017, 07:55 AM   #20
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1981 31' Excella II
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They all seem to have a leak problem at the back unless the owner knew to remove the rear belly trim and caulk under there or if it is from the left coast were it does not rain much. There are some that are survivors. Mine was on the brink. The interior was mostly intact but there had been zero maintenance for 30yrs.

The newer center bath trailers from about the mid 70's on are much easier to repair in the rear since there are only bunk beds covering the floor. The older rear bath trailers are harder since you have to gut the trailer to get the bathroom out so you can get to the floor. I was able to get my trailer usable in 2 months worth of work to replace the back floor. I spent a couple more years getting it in better shape. We are still using it with a painted floor. It is a little bit Spartan but it is tons better than a tent.

I think around 75 they started adding gray water tanks. So the late 70's is a better deal for that reason alone.

Perry
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