Opinions on Airstream Trailer as a "home"....1980 to 1996

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by fordy, May 28, 2006.

  1. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ..........I'm interested in your opinions relative to using an Airstream trailer as a home rather a stickbuilt house as they aren't taxed as a home . I've looked at a few but still feel I need more input before I make a decision . I realize that they aren't as well insulated as other types of newer trailers with fiberglass exteriors made of filon or Gelcoat . But , they sure seem to possess a fairly long life . My idea is that the trailer would need to be housed in a structure like a polebarn during the winter and then it could be used for workcamping during the warmer months of the year . thanks , fordy... :)
     
  2. GranmaKay

    GranmaKay Active Member

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    Just to small for me, cosy for a trip for two, maybe!

    They have all the essentials just smaller. There is storage space, but that fills quickly then what do you do? Use outside storage? There are slightly larger brands with more room and storage, with full size appliances; if your going that far then a mobile home would be even better, the new ones have some nice features.

    For me the airsteam is good for its original intention not for a permenent home.

    Oh, and the utiliites wear out faster when used all the time and fixing them can be a pain you need the arms of an ape to reach some of the stuff built under or behind something.

    Just MHO

    GK
     

  3. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ...............GK , thanks for your opinion . I agree mostly , but the usual excuse that current or former owners give is that they....Pull so good....fordy... :)
     
  4. QBVII

    QBVII Well-Known Member

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    I don't know if I'm even qualified to give an opinion because I've never seen the interior of an Airstream.
    But I assume the interior is small.
    If that doesn't bother you, and you have a plan to efficiently heat and cool it - why not?
    As long as you would be satisfied I don't see a problem.
     
  5. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    I lived at a retreat center for 5 months in a 6 x 9 trailer. My friend there had a 22 foot (I think) Airstream. It was awesome!!! We called it the Twinkie and spent many a night sitting outside watching the hummingbirds feed. This was in Colorado.

    I think it's doable, sure. I wanted one for a long time after that. She pulled it with a Jeep Cherokee.
     
  6. LvDemWings

    LvDemWings Well-Known Member

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    Fordy I don't see why what your proposing would be much different than full time RVing except your not moving your home nearly as often. I would plan to insulate just as much as you can. Getting between the interior paneling and outter shell can sometimes be a pain but not impossible and you can add thin pieces of styrofoam insulation. You would need to address air leaks around the windows but this can be done with the plastic window kits. Another major area that would need attention would be where pipes and wires cross from the interior to the exterior. There are usually large holes and they would need to be stuffed to keep out the cold and any rodents looking to take up residence with you.

    If you don't run afowl of zoning restrictions I say go for it.
     
  7. insanity

    insanity Well-Known Member

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    My dad lived in a 27ft AS for at least three years once.
    And we own a 1978 31ft Airstream that we camped in last year and plain to live in for the summer this year, if we can find some land.I'm going to build a large roof out over the front of ours so as to have some sitting area for rainy days.Because small places bother me in the long run.Later the roof will be closed in for the barn.Ive seen folks use Qansan (sp?) huts for storage.They even have a nice silver look and round curves to them like the AS.:D
    AS's also have lots of different floor plains to pick from.And everything really last.Everything still works on ours.
    But the major problem you'll have living in an AS is the humidity!They are built so air tight that they sweat bad and are also prone to small leaks from what i read.But they can be fixed.The Difference is the only wood in an AS is the floor.Thats why they last so long.All the wall braces are aluminum.(Read lighter weight)
    They are fully insulated.But as with many thing they do have room for improvement in places.The roof for example if you paint the center section white Ive heard it will reduce the inside temps as much as 7 to 10 degrees.All the new ones are white on top.And there are some holes cut threw the walls for wiring and such.That let in rodents and air,that could be caulked.Check the wiring to make sure nothing chewed them off.Most of these are under the beds and inside the sink cabinets.
    You can run a dehumidifier or just leave the roof vents cracked to solve most of the problem.
    We are currently replacing a section of the back floor that has rotted do to the one major problem that plagues all older AS.The back compartment that holds septic hoses and what not, has a little piece of metal flashing that was supposed to protect the floor.But if the caulking isn't kept up it will leak and rot every time.The front also does it only not as bad.Other than a few top side windows ours has no other leaks.We gave 2000 for it when we are done fixing and polishing it can be worth as much as 10 grand or more to the right person.Not a bad investment if you ask me.
    Bottom line when looking at an AS to buy, look for small dents or puckers in the outside aluminum body skins,right above the frame rails in the back.If there are any dents there,its from the floor rot! The outside frame isn't strong enough alone to support the rear end of the trailer,as it is supposed to rests on the floor.When the floor rots the end is left to bounce up and down against the frame when going down the road and it dents the outside.
    It is a slightly major undertaking to replace any flooring.Avoid those unless the price is right and you want something to do. Coarse it would probably last another 30 years it just start to leak a little more. :D
    They are also pledged by something else.The Axles,they use are torsion not leaf sprung but they still have shocks for dampening.(Another reason they pull so smooth. :D And last 30+ years) Problem is from years of setting around on the tires the rubber in the axles can go bad.Letting the axle have less rotation when hitting bumps.The tires also have to be kept in good condition,and must be balanced with the brake Assembly! If not they cause vibration going down the road,(read leaks) and loose or missing pop rivets!While looking every thing over look to see how many pop rivets are missing inside and out.If theres a bunch ill bet the axle is bad.Cost can range between 400 to 800 each depending on what brand you want.Again up goes the resale value though.No matter what you put into it, you will always get it back when it comes to AS's.

    To read more and to see pics of what the axles should look like if they are in good condition when you look underneath (very easy to see when you no what to look for) do some searching on this site. http://www.airstreamforums.com/forums/
    Or post back and ill find the direct link.
    AS people are the best group of people Ive ever met.Aside from ya guys here.
    Several guys on that forum have offered to drive here to help us fix our As for nothing more than gas money and good conversation.Great people!
    If you need any help finding one or fixing one just ask me or join that forum and ask away and we will be glad to help! :hobbyhors
     
  8. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ..........LDW , good idea's for any kind of trailer . I've got so many different idea's that I really don't know what I'll ultimately end UP doing . My first thought was to buy a new RV that would last me atleast 10 to 15 years . But , since I will have limited resources , like Most folks , I'm beginning to think maybe I should by 2 to 5 acres with an old fixer upper home that I can invest lots of sweat equity into and find a good used rv . Everyone needs a place they can call home . Great idea's guys , thanks , fordy... :)
     
  9. insanity

    insanity Well-Known Member

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    Also Fordy you might want to check and see when the last time was that the gov. upgraded the requirements for propane tanks.I'm thinking they have done so every so many years lately.We had to have the valves changed in ours to get the propane companies to fill the darn tanks.And we like to have never found a company that would do it for us.The org. tanks are aluminum and cost a little more than i wanted to pay to replace.
    Another little thing to point out to the seller when haggling a price maybe.

    Also check to see that all the tools are still with it.They should be clamped to the wall or door in the hall closets if it has closets.Not sure where they put them other wise.We got all the receipts and original paper work to all the appliances and plumbing fixtures,from the furnis to the roof air conditioning with ours.And also a very rare find a thick Repair Manuel for all models made around the year of ours.Sells for 100 bucks!
     
  10. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    .............Insanity , I had a feeling I'd get some very good info here by some of you'll . Appreciate your info on floor rot , etc . , owners manual and problems with the rear of the trailers . I visit the AS forums from time to time and with your recommendation I'll spend more time there now . I'm going to do alot of looking before I actually purchase whatever trailer I end up with . thanks , fordy... :)
     
  11. Obser

    Obser "Mobile Homesteaders"

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    Fordy, Airstream has an excellent reputation for being road-worthy. That company was one of the early manufacturers of quality trailers. They have quite a following of loyal owners with clubs, gatherings, publications, etc. Older Airstreams command premium prices.

    I, personally, feel as though Airstream trailers tend to be over priced and over rated. Though I have not owned that brand, I have often been in the same environment as Airstream trailers and owners and have had friends who were Airstream owners. The owners tended to be convinced (but not convincing) that all other makes were inferior.

    Part of the “image” derives from maintaining their traditional style and appearance – for decades. The design worked, but as often happens with firm traditionalism, new ideas are not incorporated if they conflict with tradition. This may have positive as well as negative points.

    Since the 1980s or so many makes of RVs have become equally road-worthy and the fifth-wheel design (long resisted by Airstream) has many roadability advantages over bumper-pull design. Post-1980 fivers almost invariably tow very well – without any need for equalizer hitches and anti-sway devices.

    We presently own both designs, our 32’ fifth-wheel home and 23’ “Little Trailer”, as we know it (which came to us virtually free in exchange for a little, very little, construction work). Being lighter, it is easier for the truck to pull, but for stability in difficult conditions and for maneuverability in tight quarters I much prefer the fiver.

    That said, unless one is pulling frequently or far, the difference is roadability should be of little concern. Any of the modern trailers is satisfactory in that regard and the differences are relatively minor. Fuel prices encourage minimizing distance traveled.

    Regarding “workamping”: It would be wise to look at that idea critically. It sounds good; however, most positions available require quite a few hours of work in exchange for an RV space. Twenty hours per week seems to be average. Even if one values their time at only $5 per hour, that equates to $100 per week for a site – well above market in most areas.

    We have been full-time RV dwellers for a many years and have only done the “workamper” thing for a couple very brief periods, though we have known many who do so frequently. For us it seemed as though RV park managers (the most frequent “employers” of workampers) expected too much in exchange for an RV site (i.e., value their unused sites at premium and value workamper time as minimal).

    If a person enjoys donating time to campground owners or concessionaires, workamping may be a viable option. We prefer to donate our time to individuals, homesteaders and small farmers rather than corporations or government agencies. If that reasoning appeals to you, we welcome and encourage you to use the idea however you wish – and we volunteer to discuss the matter with you in forum or in private communication.
     
  12. QBVII

    QBVII Well-Known Member

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    Insanity,
    Thanks for the link to the Airstream board
     
  13. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    .........Observ , lots of good , unbiased advise from you which I appreciate . I , too , feel that Wking is much biased in favor of park owners . I've spent some time reading the Wk section over on RV.net and seems that working conditions don't always match the descriptions as provided by owners\managers . Actually , I've narrowed my choices down to , two . That being purchasing a real nice truck camper , such as northern lite , bigfoot , or
    snowriver all of which are pricey but Very well made . Then , to carry tools , clothes , 4 wheeler and misc . stuff I'm looking at a 7' x 8' x 20' cargo trailer to pull behind my diesel truck . Then , I'm completely portable , I'll leave a very small footprint , can go where I please when I please , doing light maintenance , maybe alittle welding on homesteader fence projects , etc .
    ..........My second choice would to purchase a tongue pull toyhauler like the Desert Fox 28-KS which would come close to holding most of my stuff , and equipped with genset would be fully self sufficient although alittle heavy . The camper has advantages in that it doesn't require license plates , essentially no sales tax on initial purchase , no tires , no axles to worry with and maybe easier\cheaper to insure as a add on to the truck policy . The disadvantges are around $2000 outlay for necessary mechanical rigging to slave camper to truck and $1,000 for extended and strengthened class 5 hitch to hook the trailer too . I'm referring here too the Torklift Superhitch which appears to be the best one currently available . I'm favoring the truck\camper route because I guess I have a "Turtle" mentality and campers nowdays are just as well outfitted as trailers , if NOT nicer . I'm also prejudiced in favor of the Snowriver camper as it seems to be the Best made camper with a slide currently available . Your thoughts !!! , fordy... :)
     
  14. Kenneth in NC

    Kenneth in NC Well-Known Member

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    Airstream's are very nice. But they often commend a higher price than I think there worth. We looked at a Hi-Lo and a Trailmanor. Both had very desirable floor plans and extremely easy to tow. Set-up takes about 15 minutes. The Hi-Lo had a "real toilet" in it and to me that was a plus. Even our family of three could be fairly happy in the larger Trailmanor or Hi-Lo. So if your browsing take a look at them you might be pleasantly surprised.

    Kenneth
     
  15. insanity

    insanity Well-Known Member

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    As Obser said a fifth wheel is far superior in maneuverability.And in my observations also enables a truck to pull far more weight than it could comfortable pull from the bumper.So what about 28ft fifth wheel toy hauler?Then you could have a bed up in the fifth wheel area providing more floor space.And also not need an expensive receiver hitch.Ive also seen folks fence in under there fifth wheel when its set up in camp grounds to provide out side storage for things.That would come in very handy for myself.I'm wanting a toy hauler myself one day.

    I don't no anything about turtles, but they sure make some stylish ones now days! :D

    Airstream made a very limited amount (800 i hear say) of the fifth wheel trailers.But for some reason abandoned the idea. I cant for the life of me figure out why. :shrug:

    I'm not really biased when it comes to AS.Am I? Hum :D Anyway a camper is a camper as long as it makes you happy I'm happy for ya. And happy to park beside ya. I just cant afford a newer one so i suspect you want see me pulling anything other than an AS ever again. :D

    There not all over priced.I see some deals around here every so often.A lot of the hype and price depends on the trailers location and the knowledge or lack there of, of the seller.Like for instance i only gave 2000 for mine and a much newer model down the road from me just sold for 1500 in near mint condition i hear.I didn't hear it was for sale until it sold however or i would have bought it and sold mine.
     
  16. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    FIL traded in his airstream,it was a very heavy pull he said.Got a much lighter one,but they traveled a lot.

    Get a 5th wheel.

    WE fulltimed 2 years.5th wheel is most space per total length,super easy tow,great storage,good headroom.

    Stay away from class A or C. A mechanical failure means house has failed too.A towed rig allows you to upgrade truck and not lose the investment in your trailer upgrades.Or trade to a newer trailer and keep your good running truck.

    Best 5th wheel I was ever in was a Teton(Best RV i was ever in,period,for quality,though Ive never been in a Prevost or such).Superb quality,like nice cabinets and such,but also a heavy rig.They sell used for more than most,there is a reason

    If you are towing,nothing but nothing beats a 5th wheel they tow as if it isnt even there.Retired SIL travels with hers alone,and shes getting up there in years.

    BooBoo
     
  17. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Slides leak and are mechanical nightmares.
    On the plus,they really enlarge the size of your home.

    Your choice,if I fulltimed I would be leery of one,but thats just my preference.Mechanical problems in the home are not good,especially when it means the living room is jammed up or such.

    Enjoy your solar setup,if you fulltime I bet it will be on your roof :)

    IMHO.

    BooBoo
     
  18. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    .................BooBoo , THe three , best built campers , are all built in BC . Both bigfoot and Northern Lite are precast Gelcoat fiberglass , and fit together like a clamshell . The top fits over the bottom for a very snug and weather proof camper , but they doNOT build slideouts !! Snowriver is also a BC product and warrants their slide mechanism to the origional owner for a lifetime . The closest dealer too me is in colorado right outside Denver and this dealer carries both NL and snowriver . There is also a Bigfoot dealer closeby so once I've closed on my home I'll be heading for Colorado . I'm going to be wearing a new pair of tenny rompers cause I'm thinking I'll have to walkOUT shaking my head numerous times before they give me the deal I want .
    ................Now , regarding 5'vers , Desert Fox makes a new model...the 30-5J which would be a perfect fit for my needs , but they are pricing them at 41k and change and I'm thinking If you could get 20% off you're still at 32K and the trailer has to be registered in some state , and Sales Tax paid which , more than likely I WON'T have to deal with on a Camper . It all depends upon your point of view but I can be perfectly happy living in a camper that is secure and dry for a decent place to sleep and eat my meals . fordy... :)
     
  19. Queen Bee

    Queen Bee Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I used to know a couple who sold rv's and lived in an AS full time and loved it. It was just the two of them. They lived in one for over 40yrs and loved every minute of it. When they had a day or two--they went rolling around...but most of their time was spent in a beautiful 'yard' area of the rv lot! They had a swimming pool, gazbo, and decks everywhere... It should have been in an rv magazine...
     
  20. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Speaking of toy haulers,Neighbor just got a couple year old repo for 18,000,its big,3 axle big.

    Point being,maybe repo could save some money.

    Ive heard plenty good things about bigfoot,bet you would be real happy with one.

    Another thing,once you get your RV,what you thought you would do,and what you will Actually do will be 2 different things most likely.
    Thats not a bad thing,its just the reality will be different then the planning,but its a good trip,not a bad thing.The world will open to you in ways you havent imagined until you actually hit the road some.

    Its GREAT things!

    BooBoo