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Old 05-27-2024, 03:46 AM   #1
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Aspiring Full-Timer!


I’d very much appreciate some guidance and direction on how to best transition to living full time in an Airstream. I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to live more sustainably, and modestly. I pay quite a bit in rent living in Brooklyn and while I love the social element of my current environment, I feel called to better align my lifestyle with my values - financial independence, peace from mind/health and wellness

I’m considering a 19’ Bambi, but I’m not sure if I should buy new or used. I like the thought of putting in sweat equity and being creative but practically speaking I don’t have any experience working on something like this.

My current plan is to park in my parents driveway in Suffolk county Long Island where I believe it is legal to do so. I have to do more research on the towns laws in this regard, but there is a trailer parked in a neighbors driveway hooked up to I believe water, so I don’t think it will be a problem assuming my parents neighbors are ok with it

Assuming I can legally park in my parents driveway, I think my biggest challenge will be waste management. My parents have offered to allow me to connect water and electricity if easily set up, but I’d imagine sewage is a more complicated process

My long term thought beyond living on my parents property is to buy land ideally 45-60 minutes outside of NYC and build a foundation/“port” with water and sewage (I believe I can make due with solar for electricity), but I’m not sure where to look or how to look. My dream would be to have multiple locations like these. Part of this thought would be to create an off the grid environment (I like the idea of composting, growing my own vegetables)

I don’t own a tow vehicle and am also looking to reduce my living expenses, so I’m wondering if I should either trade my car in for a tow vehicle, or sell my car and rent a truck if I ever need to move. My hope on this topic is that I can save to someday buy or lease an electric tow vehicle

Any thoughts and advice on these points?

Thank you
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Old 05-27-2024, 07:14 AM   #2
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Hi Frank,
Your enthusiasm is wonderful.
I do think you are asking some good questions.

I am not trying to burst your bubble. I do see a lot of issues you may have not considered:

My personal viewpoint is that you may not like the answers once you dig a little deeper.

It would be surprising if it were legal to permanently park and live inside a trailer in a large metro area in a driveway. It may be permitted to park/store a trailer in a driveway. But living full time in that may not be allowed with zoning. Consider that if people who paid big bucks for the surrounding property perceive something will lower property values, it is likely not allowed.

Look around your larger area and see where people are living full time in rigs. Because to live in a large metro in a trailer full time, that is likely where you would need to be to comply with local laws. Where I live, on the outskirts of of my city are private campgrounds with full time residents who mostly own large 5th wheels, and pick up trucks. They live in these and work jobs in the area.

National, State,County, and City-run campgrounds will have stay limits so you cannot live there full time. These facilities are recreational and for all to have access for use.

As to your next idea about having land and living on that. There is a lot of info in the Tiny House and Van Life communities that you can research for more information. In my opinion many find out that reality is different than what they imagine.

And to your last point about not having a vehicle or rig, and thinking that a 19 would be. your choice. I think you might want to do more research on all of that as well. If you don't know and understand the specs on vehicles and rigs, and understand payload, water capacity, solar and battery capacity, and costs and insurance, then you may want to research all of this more extensively. A 19 would not be what I would choose for your situation because of its limited water capacity, single axel, and overall small size.

Also, full time living requires the ability to deal with unplanned but certain needs, such as vehicle repairs, rig repair, storms, accidents, illness, and often the solution to problems is ready cash. You will need to be prepared for inconvenience, seeking out experts, doing repairs yourself, finding places to store your rig or vehicle if you have issues, and also likely a way to work and pay bills through all of this.

Lastly, although there is a lot of appeal to this lifestyle, in no way do I think it's a better trade off in the environmental scale than you living in an already-built apartment in a neighborhood that is walkable with good public transportation.

All that being said, as you begin your research, I hope you either find the reassurance you are looking for that this is the right decision for you, or the knowledge that this isn't what you thought it would be.

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Old 05-27-2024, 07:49 AM   #3
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Some more thoughts:

We (my wife and I, no pets) have lived in our 30 foot trailer for as much as three months in the winter time. Personally, we would not want to be in a smaller trailer, especially in the winter when it is not easy to spend a lot of time outside. A friend of ours (single female) lives in her 27 foot Airstream and does quite well. I have met a couple who lived full time in a 23 foot Airstream and managed quite well. You might reconsider the size of the trailer you want to live in.

Solar is another area you might want to reconsider. Currently we have 400 Watts of solar panels on the roof of our trailer, and 300 amp-hours of lithium batteries. In the spring/summer/fall, solar can fairly easily keep up with our power needs (we have an absorption fridge), but in the late fall to early spring, it cannot keep up, especially if we use the furnace. If you have full access to the sky (no trees or structures near your trailer) you might be able to get by, but you will likely need a large solar array.

As for an electric car or truck, charging that with solar will be a challenge. If you want to be able to charge it at a reasonable rate, you will need a level 2 charger, and they run on 240 volts. Yes, you can use a 120 volt level 1 charger, but they are painfully slow. The other option is to use public chargers, that can work fine if you can find one close to where you are living.

Just some considerations. Good luck on your adventure.
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Old 05-27-2024, 08:00 AM   #4
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I love your idea and applaud you for considering it. Very cool! But, perhaps not very practical as you’ve presented it.

Piggy Bank raises some great issues, all of which require due diligence. Of these issues, I suggest a deep dive into cost, as the Airstream itself is the tip of the iceberg. Things break and need to be fixed. If you can’t fix them, you’ll need to find someone who can. Land is also costly, and so are real estate and personal property taxes — both of which NY has. Solar as configured at purchase is not sufficient as a primary energy source. You’ll have to retrofit more panels and/or get stand alone panels. Costs are manageable as long as you are financially stable. If not, you’ll need to do something about that.

I’d also seriously consider space — as in living space. Have you rented a 19’ trailer for a length of time sufficient to assess its suitability? If you’re thinking this is a long term proposition, have you thought about a 2nd person, a dog/cat/ferret/goldfish in the 19’ with you? 140-ish square feet is not a lot of living space. Are the tanks big enough to meet your needs? Talk to someone who boondocks for extended periods of time. You may be cool with i19’, but find out before you buy.

Again, neat idea. Good for you for getting input and gathering intel. Keep digging and I’m sure you’ll come to the right conclusion for you.
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Old 05-27-2024, 04:23 PM   #5
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Unlike some of the others who replied, I’m not going to offer any encouragement. I actually think what you propose to do is a really bad idea.

Airstreams are not designed to be used as full-time residences. The owner’s manuals state this very prominently. They are intended for intermittent or part-time use during vacations and travelling.

Airstreams need to be winterized in cold weather to prevent the plumbing system from experiencing freeze damage. In New York, you would have several months of the year without running water etc.

Airstreams aren’t a way to live more simply and reduce your footprint. Pretty much just the opposite. They are inefficient to heat and cool from an energy standpoint, and that’s not even factoring the gobs of energy it takes to move them from place to place.

Purchading an Airstream and tow vehicle will require a substantial cash outlay. If you are trying to get ahead financially in the hope of achieving some small level of financial freedom or even flexibility, the worst thing you could do is take out loans on these sorts of depreciating assets. You are better off paying rent and saving as much as possible every month.

Maybe look into the possibility of someday building or purchasing a “Tiny House”. Airstreams have so many compromises built into them related to the need to move them from place to place while travelling. A Tiny House on the other hand can be built in a highly efficient way and properly situated on a compact building site with permanent water/sewer/electric utilities. Even a live-aboard boat would be a better option than an Airstream, imo.

Sorry to be such a downer, but I just see a lot of pitfalls in your plan. But maybe your resources aren’t as limited as I’ve presumed, and you just want to take the plunge on a whim. To each their own.
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Old 05-27-2024, 07:55 PM   #6
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Having been an elected official in Pennsylvania, I'd be quite surprised if you could legally live in an RV in a driveway in Suffolk County NY. I'd recommend, if you want to be legal, contacting the local elected officials, probably a zoning enforcement officer, and ask him/her. I guarantee there are codes, permits, etc. including, but certainly not limited to sewage disposal.

Even in rural New York state, you'll run in to local ordinances regulating same.

Not to be too blunt, but if I were going to full time in an RV it wouldn't be an Airstream. I'd research and choose a manufactured unit that was designed for 4 season living....Airstreams are not.

Lastly, I'd likely seek a warmer climate to set up housekeeping, like, somewhere down south where the winters aren't so long...and cold. Your original post leads me to believe this won't be an immediate option.

A good old fashioned mobile home, possibly a tiny home, legally set up on a piece of ground would be, in my opinion, the most logical way of moving forward.

In any case, to avoid potential loss of $$$ invested, and possible threat of lawsuits from local governing authorities, I'd approach them and inquire as to the legality of what can and cannot be done in terms of an RV, or other living quarters arrangement in any respective State, County, Township or Municipality.
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Old 05-28-2024, 05:53 AM   #7
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Also want to add onto what MajorAirHead said.

Just "asking your parent's neighbors" if it's OK with them is not sufficient.
Because legally, they don't have the authority to grant you an OK to driveway surf at your parent's home.

Zoning laws, fire and emergency codes, utility regulations, as well as HOAs and insurance companies don't care if the neighbors say it's OK.

If it is not legally allowed then you can count on people using legal action to evict you and possibly fine your parents.

Most people are not OK with people breaking the rules, especially if they perceive that it is a blight on their property values.

They will make the case that if everyone did this in your parent's neighborhood, it would quickly become a public nuisance and bring in problems.

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Old 05-28-2024, 04:19 PM   #8
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If I have anything to add to the wisdom here (I'm in the @BC camp) I'd say if you can swing it try an incremental approach first just getting used to living in a camper like the Bambi and see how it goes. Go for shorter periods and visit places you might want to live. And with the smaller Airstreams you don't need a big vehicle. However, I think most people who are full time are retired or have a remote job. They can follow the sun and don't have to worry about winter.
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Old 05-28-2024, 07:50 PM   #9
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If you are interested in simple living, why not just figure out how to live in a tiny house that is more energy efficient? I have actually read where there are entire neighborhoods with tiny homes. Also in some areas of the country zoning won’t be a problem for this type of house.

As a professional in real estate for 26 years I can tell you that zoning WILL be an issue. You might want to check if the area where your parents live allows for accessory dwelling units and put up a tiny house. Most of the time they limit the square footage for such a unit to around 400sf.

I agree with the above statement that Airstreams are not energy efficient; especially for the space. And there is no way you can go through the winter with just solar. I have solar on my house. We produce enough electricity through the year that the power company pays us back. But during the winter months when it is cloudy over half the time, we produce very little. I could never live off grid.

I also agree with the above suggestion of try living in it for a month or two to find out how it is. I would find a 19’ very confining. What I have read is that a 30’ is the way to go for extended living. We have a 28’ and frankly I would never want to live in it for but a few weeks, and my wife even less.
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Old 06-02-2024, 10:39 AM   #10
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do it.

hello frank

your interest in this lifestyle journey is fascinating and i for one would enjoy some more background leading you to this point.

personally i have been living fully mobile for over 25 years, the last 20 years in a 16ft casita travel trailer with a tacoma tow vehicle.
utilizing two or three low cost off grid base camps around the country with solar, water catchment and composting.

there are times when on grid recourses have been used, ie a full winter @ 7K feet in colorado.

please continue your vision, and keep us apprised of your progress. (:
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Old 06-02-2024, 01:09 PM   #11
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In addition to the problems in the winter, anywhere 45-60 minutes outside of NYC also has quite a lot of very hot days and nights in the summer. Solar on a 19" trailer will not provide enough electricity to run air conditioning. An airstream in the summer without AC can get really hot.

Re: sewage; if staying at your parents place is, in fact, legal, you might be able to rig up a port in their sewer line which would allow you to dump your tanks. Depending on where their sewer line is this could be very simple or it could be impossible.
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Old 06-02-2024, 01:28 PM   #12
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Full time

I will agree with others that Airstreams are not intended for use in cold climates. You are expected to winterize it and store it until Spring. It is possible to make it work but you have to do a lot of modifications. It is more practical in milder climates.

A 19' trailer is a camper, not a mobile home. I live full time in a classic 22' but I live alone. With fairly extensive customization it is comfortable for one person but I cannot imagine sharing it with someone. For one thing, it has two very small clothes closets but I have converted one to pantry and storage. I don't know what I would do with that stuff if I had to turn it over to someone for clothes. One of these little closets is good enough for a man who isn't much concerned with being stylish but a can't imagine it being suitable for a woman on anything other than a travel/camping basis. Most people would say that a 30' rig is about the minimum for full time living.

To park on property, you will need custom water, sewer and electrical hookups. I can't think of any way to do it in a driveway even if you can avoid legal problems. You would be better off looking for an RV park which offers monthly rates. Places calling themselves "resorts" can be expensive but if you don't need a pool and golf course, you can find places where the rent is far less than the most minimal apartment. If you want to stay for extended periods on your own property, you would be better off installing a mobile home or some kind of cabin or tiny house.

There is woman who lives at the RV park where I live who has a tiny house mounted on a wheeled chassis with RV style hookups. Although 8' wide, It is way too tall to travel seriously and appears to have a sleeping loft which would free up a lot of space on the lower level. It must be 30' or 35' long. She doesn't have license plates on it so she got a commercial hauler to bring it in and doesn't plan to move any time soon.
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Old 06-02-2024, 03:37 PM   #13
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Excellent info above but I don't see this mentioned: Code-wise, many (most?) counties nearish to urban centers do NOT allow fulltime living in an RV or trailer on purchased land. Generally, one may live in a trailer for a single year - while a permanent "to code" home is constructed. That's the code for even Pima County here in Arizona, and nearby counties. In New York, I cannot imagine it would be any different.

Mentioned above, there are many RV parks which allow for fulltime residents, and many are near urban centers. Of course, water, electric, and sewage is provided. I live 10 steps from Tucson city limits, and 10 miles from downtown. My annual rent is $4500, with electric and water extra (average of $130/mo - it would be far less with solar). Also as mentioned, even with the overhead AC and a window AC, it is uncomfortable when it's 109'; and chilly when it's the rare 30' - 'cuz Airstreams are NOT well insulated.
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Old 06-02-2024, 05:07 PM   #14
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Where I live in rural NW Washington State, you can legally live in a RV on your land. You are, however, required to obtain a permit. This permit is used to ensure proper sewer and power requirements are met. I do not know if all counties in Washington allow this, or even if the entire county that I live in allows it, but I do know someone near me that did it.
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Old 06-03-2024, 01:22 AM   #15
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Hello Frank,
You have received a lot of good advice to help you figure out and plan your future lifestyle.

I would just like to throw in a few comments since I have had very similar experience with what you’re hoping to do. I am a 76yo woman who lived in a 19ft. single axle Airstream for 10 years. The first 2 years I traveled a lot to enjoy a retired nomadic lifestyle and see more of our country. Then I did Workkamping for 3 years in Virginia Beach so that I could stay basically free in a lovely resort type campground by just working part time in the campground security department. I’m a night owl by nature so checked in late arrivals, patrolled the grounds, periodically, etc. It worked great for me as I would be up late anyway and then after sleeping, had my afternoons and early evenings free to relax or explore the area.
The last 4 years were spent with my airstream parked in my son’s driveway where I did house and dog sitting when he traveled extensively for work. His home was in a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood with close neighbors, several of which kept RV’s in their oversized driveways and took them out on camping trips occasionally.
I was free to spend as much time as I wanted in his home, of course, when I wasn’t involved in community activities but I preferred to sleep in my trailer rather than his guest room since I had all of my possessions handy there so no need to pack things back and forth to his house. I was hooked to electricity on a 30amp outlet he had installed on the outside of his garage wall and I could fill my water tanks to use when needed but mostly I used the facilities in his house and always showered inside so only used water in my trailer very rarely and had a portable tank to empty my gray water when necessary. His neighborhood had an HOA but since a few of the residents kept RVs, including 1 other Airstream, in their drives year round, no one ever complained or even commented except to say how “cute” my little one was.
I would be living there still except he sold his house in Yorktown, VA so my Airstream is now in my daughters farm in Pennsylvania where I indeed had to winterize it this past winter and get a short term apartment.
Long story to just say, living full time in a 19 foot AS as a retired person worked great for me in all the different situations I was in. So I therefore hope you find what works for you !!
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