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Old 10-02-2007, 12:29 AM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1974 31' Sovereign
Phoenix , Arizona
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 16
Smile Adventure Living

Hello Everyone
My first time here, I am interested to find out what I need to know in order to purchase a used Airstream. I really don't know much of anything to be careful of or check out.

My wife and I frequently travel to S. America looking for lost cities and ancient places. Our journey takes us to very remote places and "raw" living conditions at times. What we find we share with those interested by placing the video's and reports on our website,

While in the States, we travel throughout the country giving talks and seminars. Staying in hotels has long been an issue. The beds are never as comfortable as we wished, nor as clean. Eating out all the time is just as bad. I really like my wife's meals and rarely get to enjoy one unless we happen to get a room with a small kitchenette. Most of the tikme, it's Denny's or similar.

So, we were thinking about a motor home for awhile. About to buy one, a good friend sugested we reconsider. They are expensive to repair and maintain, plus you will certainly need a tow behind car. You just don't drive to the store in one of those giants.

Having just returned from Peru again, we decided to start looking for a trailer. Though I have no experience with any brand of trailer, I've a good feeling about Airstream's. My intuitive feelings are really the only reason we decided to look into getting one. Well, I must admit... They look really cool, kind of like a spaceship. Since we're both SciFi fans, it seems to fit with our sense of adventure.

So, what should we be aware of as we explore the various models and years for sale out there? We have about 10K to spend and realize a used item is in our future. However, we don't know where to begin except that we already are certain a 31' or larger is what we're looking for. Anything smaller and we simply couldn't comfortable live in it full time (I'm 6' 7")

We have a 1999 Chevy Suburban 4X4 (automatic) with a 350 ingine. Will our car be able to tow it? What do we need to know about this? It has a 500 lb. hitch. Is that good enough? The Airstream's have brakes. Is there something about this that we need to know? Is something supposed to be already installed in the vehicle or do we need to have something installed?

I already know many of you are shaking your heads in bewilderment at the questions. Buy hey, if this isn't the right place to ask questions... well, where is?

We're looking forward to being a part of this community and hopefully contributing someday.

Best Wishes to all who read this...
Jerry Wills
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Old 10-02-2007, 03:56 AM   #2
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1958 22' Flying Cloud
1956 30' Sovereign of the Road
1963 16' Bambi
Southeastern Area , Tennessee
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Hi Jerry and welcome to the forums. Wow, you folks sound like quite the travelers. A good place to get some answers is by clicking the "search forums" link in the quick links box to the left side of the portal page. There is a wealth of info on the site. Also, check the classifieds here for used trailers for sale. If you go pre-1980's you are looking for a 31 foot Sovereign. I don't know much about the post-1980 trailers, but I know there were Excellas in that length range. Research this site and become an educated buyer is my best advice. Be aware you can buy something for 10K and easily have to spend another 10K fixing or restoring. So information is power. Good luck!
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Old 10-02-2007, 07:09 AM   #3
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Hi Jerry,
I think the number from your factory mounted hitch is for static hitch weight. Weight for the total trailer, and if it is towed with a weight distributing hitch, will be rated somewhat differently. Check your owners manual or a towing guide for your particular vehicle. The info should be available from your Suburban dealership. A common rule is tow a trailer only within 80% of the tow vehicles rated weight capacity.

Most AS trailers have electric brakes. Some of the trailers have disk brakes. A brake controller will need to be on the tow vehicle to activate the trailer brakes. Check with a camping service center, Camping World, or your dealership to have a brake controller installed on your TV (tow vehicle.)
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Old 10-02-2007, 08:13 AM   #4
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1989 25' Excella
By The Bay , Rhode Island
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Hi Jerry, I am sure you are well aware of the legenday AS Caravans. I would say based on your travels, you are prime candidates for an AS!
I would suggest looking at Excella's and Classics as they have the largest tank capacities for their length. This may be a huge factor for you.
We love our Excella and do quite a bit of boondocking. No where near what you are doing though!
But one of the best things about it is the large tanks; 50 gals fresh water can last a while in the boonies...

Good luck, Bill
*Life is Good-Camping all around the Continent*
*Good people drink good beer-Hunter S Thompson*
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Old 10-02-2007, 09:44 AM   #5
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1953 25' Cruiser
Canton , Mississippi
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Welcome to the forum, this IS the place to ask questions.

Once you get larger than a 31', 34' is the most common. These have 3 axels, 6 tires. They are heavy and require more than a 350 CI engine. I had one of these along with a 3/4th ton Chevy pickup and it would tow OK on flat land, but in any hills, it was an iffy proposition. I was too scared to take it to any real mountains. Your vehicle would also have to be at least a 3/4 ton, maybe a 1 ton with single rear tires (not a dually).

With a proper tow vehicle, I have learned on this board that the tri-axle Airstreams tow very well. You may limit your choice of campsites, though, because not all campgrounds can fit a 34'er.

Having also had 2 - 25 foot Airsteams, I prefer 25 to 30 foot trailers.

(click on dmreilly10000 over my avatar, then click on photo album to see the Airstreams I own and have owned.)

Good luck in your quest for the perfect Airstream.
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Old 10-02-2007, 10:38 AM   #6
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1960 22' Safari
in the wilderness , The great Mojave Desert
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Several opinions in no particular order.

Longer Airstreams are usually cheaper than shorter ones.

Make your decision based on floorplans and not exclusivily length.

If you burb is a 1/2 ton that will limit what you can tow.

Before you choose a '70's model run Frame seperation under the search function. Some are affected and some not but ignorance can really cost you on this one.

Check the classifieds here along with Craig's list, Rv Trader, local papers and be very carefull on ebay. Lots of scams there. If you see an Airstream in a yard don't be shy. Knock on the door and ask.

Good luck.
I'd rather be boon docking in the desert.

AIR# 13896
CA 4

Yes, we have courtesy parking for you. About an hour North of Los Angeles.
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Old 10-02-2007, 12:10 PM   #7
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1974 31' Sovereign
Phoenix , Arizona
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 16
Great information, folks. Kathy & I are really grateful for the suggestions and advice. We were thinking a 34' would suit our space needs better, but perhaps it's just that we haven't a clear concept of how space can be best utilized.

Incidentally, we found an AS for sale withing the classifieds. It's a "Square Stream" at the following link:

Airstream Trailer & Motorhome Classifieds - 1989 Squarestream - Powered by PhotoPost Classifieds

Personally I like the look of the classic design but am wondering if any of you have thoughts about this design, or any information we should know about it.

I'll continue checking here for your thoughts and help. Thanks to all who pass this way.

Best wishes
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Old 10-02-2007, 02:25 PM   #8
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1972 23' Safari
Placitas , New Mexico
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 305
Hi Xpeditions and welcome. Do you plan on taking your Airstream down to South America? If so it seems like the longer ones would be very difficult to navigate through the roads in Latin American countries...not mention continually popping the rear on topes. When I was in Peru last summer I was contemplating how difficult it would be to navigate the roads there with a my trailer and it's only a 23 footer. But the fantasy of driving down there is a lot of fun.

I think one of the previous pieces of advice about the size of the tanks is an excellent consideration. Also--even though I have an early 70's and I love it-- I would stick to something no older that early 80s. The link you posted looks like a mighy fine rig--on the inside--with lots of great features. But I have to agree with you that there's nothing like the silver spaceship look of the original models.

I wish you best of luck in your search. Folks here will help you out every step of the way.
Airylle 1972 Safari featured for 5 nanoseconds in the movie Wild Hogs
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Old 10-02-2007, 09:35 PM   #9
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2006 19' Safari SE
Tucson , Arizona
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Welcome to the Airforums, Jerry and Kathy... I must say that an Airstream would certainly fit your adventuresome style! What a way to go for you! There is lots of info here and a lot of things to consider knowing how you intend to use the AS...think it through in terms of size, age, etc and take your time in making an informed decision. All Airstreams are wonderful in thier own right, and each has its niche in terms of how they are used and in ease of towing, so there are no "bad" Airstreams,'s just a matter of what will work best for you. I would not rule out newer models either if you can search outr a might save some rennovation/restoration/fixup costs with newer ones...though the older ones certianly have that ageless charm!

Whatever you do, enjoy yourselves and ask all the questions you need to...we're easy and always willing to offer our opionions!

And most of all...Happy Trails!

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Old 10-02-2007, 10:01 PM   #10
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in the wilderness , The great Mojave Desert
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Opinion on the Squarestrream. Cool and rare.
I'd rather be boon docking in the desert.

AIR# 13896
CA 4

Yes, we have courtesy parking for you. About an hour North of Los Angeles.
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