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Old 03-22-2007, 08:16 AM   #1
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San Antonio , Texas
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Trying to get educated - 1st trailer

My wife and I have been talking about buying an aistream. I have absolutely no experience choosing or buying a trailer. So, I thought I'd post here with a couple questions and see if I could get pointed in the right direction. (I am also going through the forums and learning what I can)

To start, the biggest question I have is about value... Is there a guideline or general consensus regarding depreciation of a new airstream? (For cars, I usually use 50% in three years.) Do airstreams depreciate, appreciate or hold initial value? This would help me weigh the pro's & con's of buying a new, slightly used trailer or vintage trailer.

Car/used car dealerships sometimes have a bad reputation. Some times deserved and sometimes not. Is it the same with trailer dealerships? This is probably obvious, but thought I'd ask. I want to know if somehow most dealerships are "notorious" for ripping people off.

By chance, does anyone know a reputable dealer in S. TX/San Antonio area?

This is probably enough to get me started. I appreciate any advise, opinions and council.

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Old 03-22-2007, 08:33 AM   #2
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1992 29' Excella
Maryville , Tennessee
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I have a 1992 Airstream for sale.
It is 29ft long. Excellant condition.
Wrap around windows on each end.
new drapes all around.
new rear bumper and new power jack on front.
new refrigerator.
Tires new last year.
Cover for entire unit.

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Old 03-22-2007, 08:52 AM   #3
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1975 25' Tradewind
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Hi Skip
I have been through exactly what you're contemplating. If you are worried about depreciation, Airstream is the way to go. Most trailers are depreciated at a much higher rate than the Airstream. For example, I recently bought a 1986 31' Sovereign for $13,000. Brand new it was only $25,000. In 20 years it had only depreciated by >50%. A normal SOB would have disintegrated by now! It all depends on what your budget is and how commited you are. Obviously, buying a new Airstream at $60-90,000 means you take the biggest hit on the depreciation, but you'll have a brand new trailer and looked after will give you literally decades of service. If you want to dip your toe in the water to find out your preferences I would get a 10 to 15 year old small to medium sized trailer(16-22ft). They are expensive because they're in demand, but that means you can have a go with the possibility of selling on at little or no loss once you see the way you want to go. This will give you the opportunity to learn the ropes on trailing and get the bug without too much strain on your nerves.
Who can you trust? As ever it comes down to someone who you trust vouching for someone else. This post will put your thread back up at the top of the portal and I'll bet some folks will be along to advise.
Good Luck,
Hampshire, UK
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:30 AM   #4
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Ship----My view:--depreciation--Airstreams do depreciate but at a lower rate than most. Airstream has had some and continues to have dramatic price increases. This translates into less deprec. for those already purchased.
as well as better trade in value should you want to trade for a larger or different Airstream model. The inital cost of course is as much as 3 times any other brand. Dealer trust:: Airtream dealers are no different than any others in that they want and try to make as much on every transaction as possable. Sometimes this is interprited as being dishonest. Good buying skills apply here as everywhere else. Personally if a dealer won't sell or trade at what I feel is fair I don't concided this as dishonest but do look elsewhere. Service is very important so I would look for a dealer with a good service dept and one whe sells Airstream as a Primary Product and not just one of many other brands. If you want an opinon of most any dealer you can find it here on the forum.
Value::value can be measured in more than terms of dollars and cents. for some folks it's square footage per $, others it's pride, others it's function. There are a lot of trailers on the market that meet basic needs. That said , if you really want an Airstream NOTHING else will satisfy !! Good luck in your search. ----pieman
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:33 AM   #5
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Catfish Corners , Georgia
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Their is a dealer in the DFW area that folks here on the forum say great things about. I can't remember the name, but somebody will post it.

Welcome to the forum and read, read, read! I didn't do my homework well enough here before I bought, so I missed some things at the time of purchase.

Solve for X, Or is it Y?
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:52 AM   #6
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DFW area dealers

All I hear about that bunch, several, of dealers along 35, north of Austin is bad. All I hear about the dealers in Dublin and Weatherford is good.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:48 AM   #7
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Dallas , Texas
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First Trailer buying experience

Skipdup, hi and welcome from Dallas. I am exactly where you are (this would be my first trailer) and I share all of your concerns. Here are my thoughts and observations (fwiw):

1) Value: As a first trailer, AS is a big risk in that they are so expensive, and imo don't kid yourself, you will suffer significant depreciation is the first 3-4 years. Compare prices between new trailers and 2000 and 2001 trailers. As a long term investment a real case can be made and a couple of responses in this thread address that. That doesn't answer the question that you and I might share, namely: "What if after a year my family just doesn't like it, we never use it, or its too small or too big, or whatever?" On a 25' unit I would estimate in one year you will lose something like $10 to 12k. Compare that with the flights, rental cars, and hotels you could have had for that money. Also compare you could have bought a used SOB in great shape for that money and have meaningful resale value. In short, if you buy new, or even late model used, and in a short while find it isn't for you, you are going to take a much bigger loss than if you bought a same year, but cheaper SOB.

Over time, assuming you bought the right long term trailer for you, it will at least justify itself. I like you car analogy. I tend to buy very expensive cars that really resonate with me for looks, quality, and timelessness, and then I hold on to them forever because I like them so much (and in part because the difference in purchase price of a new car and my resale value is so great). I have a 10 year old car now with no need or even real desire to replace it and will probably keep it at least another 10 years. So it works for me. I am convinced AS is the right trailer (looks, quality, features, timelessness). Where I waffle is 1) is an AS even right for me and my family (I have looked at SOB's and they hold absolutely no interest for me. For me its either AS, or planes, trains and automobiles), and 2) if it is, this analysis from a financial justification only works for me if I buy the right size trailer with the right features. This is where research on this forum I hope will really help.

2) Dealers. I don't like to think its justified to think of salesman as dishonest, or rip off artists. Their job is to sale trailers and for as much as they can. Yours is to buy it for as less as you can. An AS is a fungible product. Every dealer has one or can get one. A little effort on your part will guarantee a fair price. There are at least two large dealers that I know of, and several more in my vicinity. Find the trailer you want and the features you want, and solicit an out the door price, and ask for it in writing--no $xxx + fees, or $xxx + dealer prep, etc. Remember to add for a hitch, and compare apples to apples. What I often do when buying cars is demonstrate to the dealer that I am both a knowledgeable and serious buyer. I tell them that I am shopping for the best price and that they have one shot to give me their best price, and tell them I won't let someone steal the business from them unless their drive out price is $1000 or $500 (or whatever, depends on the size of the purchase) better than theirs, and if it is, I won't be back. Since I usually have shopped my purchase at one dealer, I give that dealer the first, and what should be the best, shot at my business. But I don't care if I like the salesman, I don't care if I drank their coffee, beer, saw pictures of the kids, or whatever. I don't care if they have a better service department. I only care about the drive out price. Do that, mean what you say, acknowledge that the salesman has to eat too, and I think you will get treated well.

3) One last thought, I don't think you can look at this as a financial decision. It's going to cost you money, whether you keep the trailer in the short or long term. There is something passionate about AS and the value you associate with it. Your job (as I see it) is to figure out the best matrix of what it takes to give you the experience you seek, and how much you are willing to pay for it.

These are just my thoughts. I sure hope this helps and hope to hear more from you as you go through this process since you and I are so similarly situated.

Also, would love to hear from Jim (below) on what he missed and what he would have done differently.

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Old 03-22-2007, 11:56 AM   #8
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1977 31' Sovereign
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1989 34' Excella
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There are very active local WBCCI units in the area. Contact several members from the region and visit them and review thier trailers and experiences with local dealers. They are usually very happy to help someone get into trailering. You will also learn what size you need to fit your travel plans and family size. You might think about renting an SOB for a trial trip before you comit to the big bucks for an Airstream. A lightly used one modern one is likely a better buy. The first couple years out of the show room can have high depreciation. Some people buy new and then for changes in health have to sell at a greatly reduced price. You might have to wait a while to find the desparate seller but you will be money ahead.
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Old 03-22-2007, 12:56 PM   #9
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San Antonio , Texas
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You folks are great! I really appreciate all this information!

What is SOB? Some other brand?

- Skip
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Old 03-22-2007, 01:39 PM   #10
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Yep, Some Other Brand or Square Ol' Box

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Old 03-22-2007, 03:57 PM   #11
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Virginia Beach , Virginia
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You've been bitten by Aluminitis.... resistance is futile.

I concur, DO meet with other Airstreamers in your area. We LUV to show off our Airstreams. I went from camping with my Aunt Jean in the "Silver Suppository" in the 60's to owning an Airstream in 2005 with nothing in between.

I did make the Haj to Jackson Center Ohio and toured the factory, climbing on board about one of everything which convinced me that I liked the 22 CCD best and could handle something bigger than a 19'. (Of course a year later Safford RV gave me a deal on a 25 Safari FB SE....)

If I had it to do over... Well. First, if you've never camped before a gently used Airstream will save you quite a bit. Click the classified's on this forum for some nice newer Airstreams. Second, evaluate who will be camping, how long your trips will be and how much your lifestyle will demand that you spend INSIDE your Airstream. I've heard one wise person state - you'll never be happy in any camper if you don't have a comfortable BED. Truer words were never spoken. If you have to clamber over your partner to get to the loo, or if you have to sleep head to toe to have enough room, or (IMHO) if the head of the bed is right by the loo, and you've got a partner who eats beans.... wow, too much intimacy!

A 16' or a 19' is the perfect Airstream for some, I enjoyed my 22 CCD and like my 25 Safari FB SE..... but oh, have you seen the 27 ft FB SE? ....resistance is futile!

Be patient and find the right one for you, and if you tend to be scared of the big ones, but want the creature comforts and "MORE is more" is your motto, then go ahead! You will learn to tow it. Just take your time, get a good coach, and practice. There was a lovely 3 axle 34 for sale on the Classifieds, and I liked the price. (I also like the oak better than the hickory).

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 03-22-2007, 04:50 PM   #12
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We were in your position in 2004. We looked and looked and compared.
We had never camped and were not sure we would be comfortable and happy with an Airstream. We were NOT going to make a rushed decision.

We decided to go with the best used smaller unit we could locate. There were few to view in New York State. We both work and did not want to travel distance to view.

We did locate our 20 foot Airstream Globetrotter and it took us two years to locate it. If you are willing to travel to view selections will be greater.

Most used Airstreams will require some repair, restoration etc. There is an Airstream for you. There are many decisions to be made. It is fun searching. Enjoy the search. All on this Forum are knowledgable,helpful people.
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Old 03-22-2007, 05:01 PM   #13
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Winter Park , Florida
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tlwood99: Addressing your three points ...

1) Value: As your discerning taste in cars shows, there is great value in buying things of high quality that give you great enjoyment. For me, and for you, it seems, it is well worth the extra cost to buy something you truly enjoy using, whether it's a car, a bike, a tool, a trailer or anything else. Despite the initial savings, there is far less value in buying something of poor quality, finding that you don't like it and pawning it off on the next poor sap willing to pay for it. The value in an AS is in its use and enjoyment. My family and I love being in it as often as possible. If I had bought a lesser brand, we might have mistaken a dislike for the cheap trailer for a dislike of camping, and you might too.

2) AS dealers aren't a dime a dozen like car dealers. Negotiate your best deal, yes, but definitely take into consideration the quality and convenience of service. You can't just take it down the block to the next AS dealer if you get poor service at the place that gave you the cheapest out-the-door price. Hopefully, the best dealer will give you the best price, but service is a major consideration.

3) "There is something passionate about AS" ... don't kid yourself. You're hooked and you're going to buy one soon, aren't you?

'06 28' Safari SE / '08 Chev 2500HD Duramax
'64 Me / '60's-ish wife / '90's kids / '06 Black Lab / '02 Poodle / oh, and a horse, too.

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Old 03-22-2007, 06:04 PM   #14
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2007 27' Safari FB SE
Tracy , California
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I so agree with Paula above. The 27 FB is such a perfect size and layout. The 25 is really nice but the orientation of the queen bed (front to back vs side to side) was the selling point to my wife. Add to that the extra closet and pantry space and I made for perfection for us.

Of course, ALL airstreams are so much better in construction, towability, resale and just plains LOOKS that I can't understand why anybody would want another brand. Except of course for the cost.

Dealers do make a difference. I drive 70 miles vs 20 just so I don't have to deal with the local dealer in Northern California.

Good luck.
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Old 03-22-2007, 06:40 PM   #15
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Welcome, and good looking...

Roger Williams is the dealer west of Ft. Worth that people speak well of here... Good service, a little biased towards Hensley Arrow Hitches, but well regarded. Airstream of Arkansas further away, but also well regarded in that area...

Depreciation is concept of value when you want or need to sell. Until then, it's all theory.. Given 20+% dealer margin on new units, initial depreciation curve is steeper in first few years, and then flattens out.. Vintage units in good condition (more than 25 years old..) are currently Appreciating... Late model units in good condition from late 1980's or early 1990's are pretty much bottomed out... In mid-sized trailers, bottom is probably 20-35% of cost of new version.. Whether to buy new or slightly used or vintage is a matter of your own preferences and tolerances for maintenance and mechanical aptitude as well as cost... If you think you might have to sell within 3 years, late model used is better economics...

You can look through classifieds here to get ideas of prices and conditions, or other web sites like Vintage Airstream Club ( or .

Best advice is to be pretty sure about how and where and how often you're going to use it, and then find one that fits. Buying one too big or small or old will just mean selling soon, and short period of ownership will be more costly. Also be sure you know what you will realistically need to pull it with, as some sales persons will cheerfully assure you that a compact pickup can easily tow a 7,000# trailer, when they can't...

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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