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Old 08-01-2010, 07:58 PM   #1
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Sioux Falls , South Dakota
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Wondering if I should get an Airstream or not ?

I am a new member to these forums and I have been reading as much as I can about Airstreams. I really like the looks, towing, and handling features of Airstreams. But, they are expensive, and being newly retired, I don't have a lot of extra income if needed to fix problems that may arise from possible construction errors that occurred possibly from the factory.

I want to be able to live full time if needed. We have had a couple of ice storms in my area the last few years that left families without power for up to 2 weeks. Some of them tried to get by in RV's. From reading some of the posts of other members, it is kind of questionable whether an Airstream is insulated and sealed well enough to be comfortable in my area(Missouri) where temps are expected to be 98 degrees tomorrow. Also, it can be below freezing in the winters for for more than a few days at a time. Some talk about the metal framing transmitting heat and cold because there isn't enough thermal break between the skin and ribs. I have read that if you try to be self contained, that the batteries for the furnace may only last through the night. Will solar charging be enough to charge them back up enough? Or, is a generator needed for power? Granted these situations would not arise often, as I would opt for utilities at an RV park or campsite if available.

How well sealed are Airstreams? One poster mentioned not being able to keep mice out. Are there openings that are not covered with aluminum that they can get into or chew through?

Are Airstreams more prone to developing moisture inside in cool temperatures than other RV's due to the aluminum outer and inner skins? What is the R value of the insulation compared to foam type used on most other trailers? Does the insulation get wet from possible condensation between the skins? I would think that much moisture inside would lead to mold or mildew on wood cabinets, furniture, etc, which would cause orders and not be very healthy to breathe.

I know some of the problems I mentioned are also found in all RV's. I just want to know if there are problem areas I should look for. I am contemplating getting a 1999 34' Excella Classic Limited. It is in very good condition, except for a couple small dents and some clear coat coming off, according to the owner. I haven't seen it in person yet as it is a long way off to view. I just want to estimate possible costs associated with fixing any dents, clear coat, leaks, etc.

Thanks for any information,

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Old 08-01-2010, 11:21 PM   #2
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Terry, there is absolutely no one but you who can make the final decision, and what will work for your situation is going to be unique. You are doing yourself a favor by investigating your options and lots of folks here are more than willing to help.

My advice will be worth exactly what you paid for it.

We all decide things emotionally and back up those decsions with logic, but we then have to LIVE with those decisions, so keeping logic in the room makes sense. No matter how bright and shiny some new thing is, after a while it's just part of your normal day. If you aren't realistic about the cost, the maintenance and the space limits down the road - you'll become unhappy.

I planned to be semi-retired, but it's not happened yet. Nonetheless I'm very happy fulltiming in my Airstream. I'm also financially able to buy a house or condo should I want one. I travel less than I'd like to, mostly weekend jogs, but every time I'm hitched up and going down the road I get a stupid grin on my face...

Your results may differ.

You didn't mention whether you'd done a lot of camping or traveling in the past. I hadn't - and have enjoyed it enormously; however it's an expensive experiment if you end up hating it. You are probably on the right track thinking of a gently used unit... you could probably sell it for about what you paid if you decide after six months that it's a huge mistake. You might also avoid making that mistake if you take the time to meet other fulltimers. Your local KOA would be a place to start, as would visiting an AirForum rally.

MONEY - No RV's are an "investment." They all depreciate, and they all require maintenance. If your income is going to be really tight, there are many nice senior apartment complexes where the rent is subsidized. Those deserve at least a passing "look see" if money is the main motivator for choosing an Airstream. You didn't mention TRAVEL as a goal. If you're planning to simply park an RV, you should really consider why you want an Airstream. They cost as much or more as a full sized park model "engineered home" or a SOB (square old box) RV, both of which have Much more square footage for the buck. Airstreams TOW better than anything else, and if you're retired and the weather is inclement where you are, then you simply move! Were I retired I'd have been spending July in the mountains - about a 5 or 6 hour haul from here, but 15 to 20 degrees cooler, especially at night. Winters in Georgia or Florida... etc. It got a bit sticky in my unit when the outside temp hit 105 last week, and the furnace has to be put on "suck propane" mode when the temperature goes below 35F so those are considerations. If you have full hookups to electricity, sewer and water you will end up paying for it somehow.

Maintenance money - any RV more than 10 years old that has not had meticulous maintenance will be needing something. I fulltime, and have had mine 5 years, and I think the water heater is nearing end of life. There's no 5 gallon heater used daily that is going to last for much longer than that. Some things that sit unused actually have more problems than well used items. Your tires and the rubber in your axles would be subject to dry rot if they've sat unused. I'm replacing tires on my unit this year, and I've been busy re-sealing seams, a job I've decided I thoroughly detest, but it has to be done. I think I'll pay someone ELSE to redo the vent fans when they give out which should be fairly soon. Oh and then there's floor rot. LOOK OUT for it especially around the rear bumper of new units. It's a never ending menace.

Next Travel - unless you go for a very small unit you'll need a substantial tow vehicle which can be expensive as a daily driver. Of course the "joy" of having two vehicles to pay taxes and maintenance on is another alternative that also sucks money... unless that second vehicle is a bicycle.

Health - most of us will age out of our Airstreams. I know a couple of very spry 80 year olds who are still RVing. They only tow about 200 miles or 5 hours per day, they stay in one place for a month, then move on, but they're camping. Far more often, you'll see people giving up the RV because one or both have become walker/wheelchair bound or can no longer drive. From your post, I don't see family mentioned, but they may have some serious input into your decision. If you have kids and grandkids who may rely on you, are you going to get an Airstream big enough for all of them to visit?

Health2 - if you have any condition that requires you to receive ongoing medical care or doctor visits, travel becomes problematic, and RVing in any remote area is downright dangerous. Of course a perfectly healthy person can be in an accident or have an aneurism blow, or something else.

Good luck whatever you decide, Paula
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Old 08-02-2010, 07:35 AM   #3
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Thanks, Paula for the input.

I hope to keep my house in case I get too old and cannot comfortably drive pulling a trailer or cannot do the things necessary to set one up when I get to a camp/park site. My tow vehicle is the latest redo of the Toyota Tundra which is rated at around 10500# tow capacity.

I do want to travel some, maybe a lot. I think I would like to visit places for at least a month at a time, but not feel cramped up if I should want to stay at least 3 months. I like to ride my bicycle(recumbent) a lot and would be interested in going to locations for awhile and riding my bike to explore.

I guess what I was really getting at in my first post was whether Airstreams are made as well as they are perceived? I have read about a lot of problems in the forums, but also know that other brands might have the same problems. The floor getting wet and rotting is a very important question to me. What is the cause of floor rotting in the rear? Leakage in the walls? Or, perhaps getting wet while pulling down the road in rain? Also being drafty in cold weather and not being able to heat and cool sufficiently in a wide range of temperatures is another main concern for me.

I know if I got an older Airstream and kept it like new inside and out, it would have a greater resale value than others if I was to sell it, but initially they are very expensive. There is a new manufacturer called Evergreen that is manufacturing a travel trailer with new techniques and materials that don't rot, swell, or promote mold/mildew. They are also lower and lighter than a conventional box trailer. The thing about any brand is how long the company has been around and whether they will be around in the future for parts and repairs. I know Airstream has done that.


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Old 08-02-2010, 09:18 AM   #4
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Just keep in mind that the only STUPID QUESTIONS are the ONE'S YOU DON'T ASK>
There is a wealth of knowledge here,please feel free to ask.
I will offer one bit of advise. Take a few days and go PUT YOUR HANDS ON that 34ftr. Dont take the OWNERS WORD. Check all systems for proper operation. There are those here that have 34 ftrs of that vintage and can offer advise on where to look for problems.
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Old 08-02-2010, 09:52 AM   #5
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Only you can determine what you want to own. Twenty nine years ago at age 49, I bought my first RV. It was a big slide-in far overweight for what I put it on. After two seasons I knew two things. 1) I loved to travel and camp, and 2) I hated my camper! I researched several months, talked about it, then decided I would either buy a fifth-wheel or an Airstream. In 1983 we bought a 1969 31' International that in retrospect had some very serious problems. However, we set about to re-do it and had about sixteen years of good use from it. As I approached retirement (I retired in 2002) I began to look for a newer and better Airstream. In 1999 I came across a little used, like new, 1992 34' Limited. I bought it for about one-third of what it had sold for new. We haven't used it as much as we thought we would but have enjoyed owning it. One year ago we began living in it about half of each week as I came out of retirement to serve a church that was losing it's pastor to a brain tumor. I'm not wired for full-timing but having the trailer for what we're doing now is a God-send.

My advice (also touched on above by others) is to talk to several people who are doing what you're thinking about (not just Airstreamers, but others as well). Nothing beats the voice of experience! If you are thinking seriously about an Airstream then gather experiences from others more experienced than yourself. We lived in ours through the winter with temps that dipped to near zero a few times. We have two furnaces, but didn't use either very much. We used both A/C heat strips plus a little ceramic heater ($16 from Walmart) and did fine most of the time. I skirted the bottom with styrofoam board, rigged a styrofoam cover for the water heater—only for the days we were not in the trailer and the burner was OFF-- used heat tape on the water supply, things you'd need to do with any trailer. There was no undue condensation on either walls or windows.

I think the Airstream construction concept is superior in many ways. Quality is probably no better than other higher end types. Appliances, plumbing, etc. are the same brands you'll find throughout the industry. I could never have afforded a new one! Not on a preachers salary and certainly not on retirement pay. However, a great plus with Airstreams is, they are somewhat timeless, so who cares that mine is eighteen years old. It still looks up to date!

Of course, need I say-- it pulls and handles like a dream!!

'92 Limited 34ft (now sold); '96 Dodge Cummins 4X2, 5speed
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Old 08-02-2010, 10:12 AM   #6
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Thanks Roger and Gene,

The Airstreams are the best looking for sure..maybe because like you said, their design doesn't go out of date like others. I have watched the video on Airstreams website comparing Airstream and a regular trailer in a simulated highway change lanes maneuver. The Airstream was pretty impressive the way it followed the tow vehicle so well.

I for sure will personally inspect any trailers I intend to purchase. I know that most people are honest, but if you really want to sell something, they may not tell you everything unless you specifically ask.

Thanks for all the input,

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Old 08-08-2010, 07:58 AM   #7
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My wife and I have a 22' AS, which we could easily tow with a smaller vehicle than a diesel F250. However, we also tow a boat that weighs twice as much as the AS and we need four wheel drive to get to a very remote cabin in Northern Michigan.

All of this being said, your trailer size and tow vehicle may encourage another thought, especially when it comes to saving money.

We bought a Honda Civic as a daily driver for multiple reasons:

1. The $ we save on fuel would be enough to make a payment on a brand new vehicle, and cover the insurance cost.
2. The truck will last longer (Michigan winters) and depreciate more slowly with less mileage.
3. We always have a spare in the event of needed repairs.

My best to you in your decision-making process.
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Old 02-01-2011, 08:43 PM   #8
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Others have well addressed your questions except re moisture/ mold, so I'll take this one.

We are in fourth year full-timing in a CCD 25 that has clear-coat interior finish, two fantastic fans, and we added a Wave6 catalytic heater.

Moisture control is problematic in some climates we've visited, and is manageable most everywhere we go. If you use the shower and aren't in Arizona, you have to crack a window and run the shower exhaust fan to remove moisture. If you a boiling rice or other food on stove or in the microwave you need to run the stove exhaust to remove moisture. If you operate any direct-fired heater, like our catalytic, you MUST crack a window AND have a roof vent open not only to remove moisture but more importantly to replace oxygen.

In those three examples, failing to vent will in most climates assuredly cause lots of condensing moisture which, unchecked, often leads to mold forming as quickly as 72 hours later.

Only in rainy climates, especially cool ones, do we have difficulty managing interior moisture. The issue is not so much our interior finish as it is the amount of moisture in the air and the dew point. If moisture wasn't condensing on our walls it would condense on our many windows still, and run down into the walks and into the floor.

Prevention is key, and ventilation is ninety percent of the solution, in our experiences.

Chasing 75 Degrees,

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Old 02-01-2011, 10:19 PM   #9
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You have brought up a very good subject! We love our Airstream and have been looking at a 34 if one comes with a great price! But I must say we live here in the northwest and I being a fairly cold blooded person (keep the house at 72 degrees!), I can't see an Airstream being a four season trailer? Just a bit too much thermal loss for me, maybe it's just my older model? But to keep the temp around my comfort zone during our wet cold winters is not efficient use of my dollars, this is the only area that bothers us. Since I'm not the type to stay bundled up while inside, 40 and below we go indoors (the House that is). This is the only plus a SOB trailer has an advantage on an Airstream, it can be made with a much higher thermal R rating. Just my 2 cents.

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Old 02-02-2011, 05:04 AM   #10
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Terry, great advice above. May I add that an AS is much more than a trailer, it is a way of life. I have owned and pulled many SOB's for many thousands of miles but nothing comes even close to the feeling you get with the Stream. I am not retired (probably will never) and have only owned my Stream about 18 months, and am still searching for words to describe that feeling. Aluminitas? probably. Along with that trailer you get an entire, huge Airstream family that will never let you down. John
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Old 02-16-2011, 10:49 PM   #11
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So, my comments should be taken with a grain of salt, because we just took delivery of our Airstream. Our first RV of any kind. I did an AWFUL lot of research over a four year period on RVs and TTs before deciding on an AS. I talked with owners extensively asking all manner of questions. I did all this because this is my first, and hopefully my LAST, TT. My sense is that there's Airstream, then everything else. Their build quality and choice of materials/subassemblies is superior to almost any other brand I saw. One possible exception is EarthBound, a radical departure that may yet change the industry, too soon to tell.

My wife and I like the design of the AS because it is NOT meant to be an extension of our home. It's different, more spartan, and thus it's a change. When we're in it, we're traveling, camping, not towing our home behind us.

Finally, I really like the owners. In Northern California, they seem like a pretty solid, helpful group that share many of the desires we have. That community is very important to us and we're looking forward to making friends at rallys.

My $.02
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Old 02-17-2011, 05:04 AM   #12
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We boated for years on the Great Lakes. We missed being "out and about" with the boat and thought traveling with a trailer might fill that void. In the 40+ years we've been married, nearly every vacation was spent in Europe - now, with retirement nearing, it would be time to see America. Again, a trailer might be the perfect solution. We looked at a lot of trailers - not knowing one from the other. There was a lot of similarity between trailer A and trailers X, Y and Z. Finally, one salesperson said we should look at an Airstream since we seemed interested in quality interiors - not the shabby stuff we were finding. We have spent the last three years towing our AS around the area - getting into 7-8 states a summer. No matter the TV you start with, you'll know soon if it is adequate. I thought my BIG Nissan SUV (Armada) was a great TV but after a couple of years of towing, I didn't like it. Now we have a Suburban 2500 with EVERY bell & whistle GM put on cars and trucks - and do we ever like it!!! But, we had to drive for a year or more to discover the difference. Noone can tell you what you'll like or dislike. We bought a new AS because, never having had a trailer, if we had problems, I was willing to pay extra for the two years of warranty. Didn't need it, but sure liked the security of having it.
Last season we stayed on the road until after Thanksgiving. We spent Thanksgiving in a neighboring state enjoying a hearty meal in a State Lodge - really well done - and we stayed in a campground with 160 spaces - and we were the ONLY trailer there (made for really quiet nights). We awoke the day after Thanksgiving to snow covered grounds - it was cold the entire trip. We have a small oil-filled plug in heater that kept the chill minimized at night and meant we didn't have to run our propane furnace all day long. IT WAS COMFORTABLE at all hours. Sure made for great sleeping with the temps. below freezing outside. We did call it "the end of the season" when snow covered the ground - we packed up and headed home and put the AS away for the winter. That was three months ago and the urge to go see the AS in storage and get our early camping plans made is tugging at us very much. We spend around 100 nights per season on the AS and are just now making our plans for the upcoming season.
Do'll know if its right regardless of what others might say. And, only you will know if its right or not. As an earlier poster said above, driving down the road pulling the AS is one of life's greatest achievements - you can't do it without a smile on your face. If you don't smile while doing it, then, it isn't for you.
Good luck and happy 'streaming if that's your ultimate deciison. We've done it and couldn't be happier!!!
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Old 02-17-2011, 07:06 AM   #13
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I think you should get an Airstream because they are nice trailers to have. and because WBCCI is a great organization to go on carvans and rallies. I do not think living in a airstream for an extended time in cold weather is at all feasible. But for a short time like a week or so it should be doable. You will use a lot of propane to keep the pipes from freezing. and you will have to re winterize it when you are done. Be sure to keep both propane tanks full when it is stored.
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Old 02-17-2011, 09:25 AM   #14
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Terry, It's probably cheaper, in the long run, just to rent an apartment.
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Old 02-17-2011, 11:43 AM   #15
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Exclamation Was wondering also!!

Coolbikeman, Enjoyed your post and pretty much have most of your concerns about owning an AS. This is a great site and the info is superior. My dream was always to be an owner of an AS but after getting on to this site and reading tons of posts I'm having second thoughts. Will be retiring in the next couple of years and intended on buying an AS and probably living in it 6 months out of the year and living at home the rest. Problem is finding an AS that is livable and operational and that doesn't need a ton of fixing or remodeling to get it that way. With my background I wouldn't have any problems doing alot of repairs and fixing but I just don't want to spend the time. Have seen a couple of AS's from websites that I would be interested in and there will probably still be many more in the future. Probably just best to retire and if my decision is to own one then I guess I'll drive all over the country and see if I can find the rite one. And before I buy anything it will be thoroughly checked out and inspected by a professional. I am not that concerned about the price, its the condition that is important to me. ALOT TO THINK ABOUT!!!
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Old 02-17-2011, 03:12 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
I think you should get an Airstream because they are nice trailers to have. and because WBCCI is a great organization to go on carvans and rallies. I do not think living in a airstream for an extended time in cold weather is at all feasible. But for a short time like a week or so it should be doable. You will use a lot of propane to keep the pipes from freezing. and you will have to re winterize it when you are done. Be sure to keep both propane tanks full when it is stored.
Well, Ihave to reply to the cold-weather question, although my info is only second-hand. Our '86 34' Ltd we purchased from the original owner who had lived in it with his wife for 4.5 yrs in Alaska. He had removed the vac system to have room for an extra furnace in the bedroom. He also had hook-on and magnet-fastening insulated skirts made to go all around the trailer. They did just fine. But do you contemplate the extreme cold of Alaska?? With lesser extreme cold, you would not need the precautions of our PO. We have camped in below freezing temps with one furnace running in Idaho and no skirts, so you can do it, but you do need to be careful not to run out of propane. Buy your airstream and enjoy the unit and the other 'Streamers!
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Old 03-27-2011, 09:28 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by coolbikeman View Post
I guess what I was really getting at in my first post was whether Airstreams are made as well as they are perceived?
Terry, We shopped around for all sorts of trailers when we decided to full-time... We looked at all the fiberglass monsters, we looked at airstreams, we looked at apartments, even a couple old sailboats. The Airstreams are the yachts of The American Highway. It like comparing a Bentley to a hand me down 94 Saturn with manual windows. Really.

No BS'in about it, there will be things that break. We do live in a woild where moth and rust destroy. Since we got our used airstream we've had to fix lots of little thing the previous owner neglected... An A/C unit being the biggest deal, a couple plumbing bits, a nick knack or two and even a couple rivets, but all in all they are built so much better than anything else easily available.
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