Buying an Airstream – New, Used, or Vintage?

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So you’ve decided to buy an Airstream.  Do you buy New? Used? Or Vintage?

First it may help to define what we mean by New, Used, and Vintage.

We considered an Airstream “New” if it was brand new or up to 5 years old (give or take).  Why?  Because models in that range generally had a pretty high price tag and still looked new – both in wear and style.

“Vintage” included those rare gems built circa 1980 or earlier.  These Airstreams could often be found for an affordable – even bargain price – but might need significant repairs.

Take a look at this great post on buying a Vintage Airstream from LivinLightly – Before You Buy a Vintage Airstream.

“Used” fell somewhere in between “New” and “Vintage.”

We decided to go with a Used Airstream and ultimately focused our search on early to mid-2000 models.

A Used Airstream would probably need some maintenance and repairs, but have no major service issues.

We knew significant service issues (water damage, electrical work) would be outside what we would be comfortable doing ourselves and would end up costing us a ton of money to get fixed professionally.  If you don’t have the time or skill to DIY –labor costs will end up being the most expensive part of your re-model ($124-$129/hr in our area – Tampa, FL).

A Used Airstream would also be dated enough that we wouldn’t feel bad about ripping out the interior to customize our living space.

We plan to live in our Airstream, so no matter what model we ended up with, we were planning to make some modifications (we don’t need the space consuming dinette that comes standard in most Airstreams).

And, while we plan to use professional help for complex renovations, we figured we could manage some minor aesthetic improvements ourselves to save money (see our post Airstream Cabinet Update – DIY).

So far, our 2005 Safari has suited our needs perfectly.  After a thorough inspection it needed some repairs but nothing outside basic wear and tear.

For us – not having some huge wood-rot surprise was worth the higher up front cost.

We are still tallying up our overall expenses for our Airdreaming lifestyle and will share in an upcoming post.

If you’re trying to save the most money and you have a lot of time (and hopefully skill) to do the work yourself – I would say go for the best trailer you can find at the cheapest cost.  A lot of people go that route and end up with a great remodel at a low cost.

Take a look at this great thread on Airstream Forums:  What does it cost to buy and renovate a Vintage Airstream).



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