Our journey to the Airdreaming lifestyle did not happen overnight and we bounced ideas around for quite a while before settling on an Airstream.
We became intrigued with the idea of tiny living when we stumbled across the Wheelhaus. We looked at it as a long term goal – when we retire someday we will buy some perfect piece of property and put our Wheelhaus on it.
But the idea stuck in our mind and we started consuming as much information about tiny homes as we could find. It started sounding like a better and better idea.
To go tiny sooner rather than later, we had to give up the idea of the park model sized Wheelhaus. We weren’t in a position to purchase a piece of property AND a house – and we didn’t want to buy land in the area we were working.
So we aimed our sights even smaller and started looking at Tiny Houses on Wheels (THOWs). We liked the idea that we could park at RV parks instead of having to deal with the stress and cost of buying property.
Around the same time – we met some great people who bought a Vintage Airstream to remodel and live in with their two kids.
So simultaneously we started researching Airstreams and THOWs.
We first looked at a 2005 Airstream Safari Bunkhouse. We drafted out a floor-plan and got estimates on remodeling. But the cost kept edging up and we figured if we were going to spend a big chunk of money, it might make more sense to invest in a custom built tiny home that would feel more like a house and less like a camper.
We researched THOW builders both local and nationwide. The brilliance of a THOW is the fact that it’s easy to ship, so you don’t need to limit your search to a local builder. We finally settled on Ideabox. We loved their houses and were super excited to discover they also built THOWs. We worked with the company to draft up design plans and created the perfect THOW.
So what went wrong? The builder was great and we were only steps away from starting the build process.
Ultimately, we canceled our THOW plans and bought an Airstream. The following comparison drove our decision.
Just like the Airstream remodel, the THOW was getting up there in cost. Yes, you can find all sorts of blogs of DIY THOWs that cost some motivated go-getters $15,000 and 2 years to build. As you have probably gleaned from the rest of our posts – that is just not us.
Having a THOW professionally built to the scale we were looking for (30 ft), and with all our specifications, was not cheap. Our total costs were reaching close to $80,000. Yep, that’s right – $80,000. Up front, out-of-pocket. I started to get nervous.
When you buy a traditional house, you are buying something that has a fairly measurable value. That is not the case with a THOW.
Even though it is trending, tiny living is still a niche market. We know this because we searched for tiny homes listed for re-sale. Some of the listings were posted for an extremely long time and were clearly not selling for what the individual paid for it (confirmed on a number of occasions by cross-referencing the THOW with the HGTV or DIY episode it had been featured on).
So what if we didn’t like living in a tiny house? We would have spent $80,000 on something we couldn’t easily re-sell, didn’t want to live in, and with no place to put it. It started to feel like too much of a risk.
Airstreams depreciate in value like any other RV. But Airstreams also retain value over time better than other RVs.
Even so, our Airstream has a measurable value that a THOW does not. I can look at other similar models and gauge the worth of our trailer. I can also see what other remodeled Airstreams are selling for and know that even though we spent money to upgrade our Airstream, at least some of that cost could be recouped if we ever had to sell.
More importantly, the purchase price and total cost of servicing and remodeling our Airstream was less than what we would have spent on our THOW. True, we don’t have a storage loft, tongue and groove walls, or a luxury bathroom – but we have peace of mind that dollar for dollar our Airstream was the better value.
Just because your THOW fits the dimensions and is registered as a travel trailer does not mean you can roll up to any RV park and settle in.
Only one RV park in our area was willing to confirm in writing that they accepted THOWs. One park flatly refused and another said yes but made it clear that “they could change their policies at anytime” – very reassuring. The one park that was welcoming was over an hour from work.
There are many RV parks across the country that are happy to host tiny homes – even in Florida. But we aren’t road tripping. We needed a stable place to park, somewhat long term, and near work. We were not in a position to gamble and just tell an RV park we were coming in with a 30 ft trailer and just hope they didn’t turn us away – or that they would approve our reservation verbally and then change their policies at any given time.
For folks traveling with their tiny home and that also have the flexibility to pick and choose where they go – articles like these are helpful and reassuring: Tiny House Giant Journey.
But for us, the idea of not having a place to park our house – and then also not having a back up place to live – did not work.
Our Airstream is an RV. We don’t have to worry about being rejected by most RV parks.
THOW = NOT aerodynamic & Heavy.
As first time tow’ers, I was not looking forward to hitching up a house on a trailer and cruising down the highway. MOST tiny homes are pretty heavy when it is all said and done. Which means you need a tow vehicle equipped for the weight. Super Duty Truck = Super Expensive.
Airstream = Aerodynamic & Light.
Even with the remodel, we aren’t worried about the weight of our trailer. We removed a lot of the heavy cabinetry and the dinette and didn’t add much. The heaviest addition is likely the kitchenette and counter-tops. This gives us greater flexibility in selecting our tow vehicle.
Ultimately, the Airstream is made for the road and I wouldn’t hesitate to hitch it up and go.