Everybody loves the beautiful Airstream trailers. They are simply beautiful and iconic. Who wouldn’t like to see the world with this amazing camper?
But before you rush out and buy one, here’s a list of 14 things you need to consider.
Getting an Airstream is a big investment and they differ from other types of RVs on a lot of points. Let us walk you through the list of things you need to be prepared for before you sign the papers. Plus a few issues that tend to surprise new owners after purchasing an Airstream.
By doing so, you will increase the likelihood of a good and pleasant buying experience!
Before we get into the details we should mention that there are a ton of different Airstream models out there. The first models came out in the 50’s and since then the Airstream company has continued to push out new models.
So we cannot cover all issues and considerations you will run into, but we can cover the most common issues people struggle with.
How big an Airstream can you (really) tow?
One of the first things you need to consider before you might buy an Airstream trailer is the total weight. You need to know exactly how much you can haul behind your vehicle.
The trailers have become heavier and heavier over the years. Some of the first models are around 30% lighter than today’s models are more and more features and geat is being added.
A lot of people make a big mistake here when buying their first camper trailer. They check how much their vehicle can tow and they go out and find a camper matching exactly that number (or close). This is not a good way to do it.
Even though the manual of your vehicle will say you can tow this or that amount of weight, it will not be fun driving uphill.
When your truck or SUV is loaded to the max limit you will have a hard time driving it unless you are drving straight out on a flat landscape.
Always remember to factor in all the things you’re going to put inside the camper.
Most people prefer to bring stuff like:
- Outdoor chairs
- Camping tables
- Pots and pans
- Road safety equipment
- Propane Tanks
- Lots of water and other liquids
- …and much more.
This can all add significantly to the total weight of the Airstream!
And before you know it you can quickly end up with a 10-20% heavier RV that you thought. So be sure to add that to the weight you see in the catalog at the dealer shop.
You want to be able to accelerate your rig whenever you need to. It’s no fun driving behind a big truck because you cannot pass by it.
We recommend towing only 80% of the limit of the maximum capacity of your truck or SUV.
By following this rule you should have a much better driving experience and you will also have a much better gas mileage!
You need to make sure you’re not cutting it too close on the towing weight, as it can create a bad towing experience on the road.
Here you can find a list of how much each model weigh. Scroll down to the section called “Trailer-Motorhome Weights”.
Rent before you buy
Should you rent an Airstream before buying one?
For many people, the biggest question isn’t what type of camper or RV they are going to travel in. More likely it is whether they can actually live in the small space long-term or for weeks at a time.
By renting a small space at the same size of the trailer, you can make a better and more confident decision.
Personally, we went to Oregon a couple of years ago to spend a few nights in a tiny home. It was a great experience for us and totally confirmed for us that this was something we could actually do long-term.
You can see more about our experience here.
It doesn’t need to cost more than $50- $100 per night to rent a pretty big Airstream and by doing so (for a week or two) you can do some real-life testing yourself.
We love Outdoorsy.
They are like AirBnB for RVs.
They have thousands of RVs you can rent locally all over the U.S. Here you can do a search for your area and see what’s available.
Click the link above and type in “Airstream” like we just did here:
It’s typically a lot cheaper than going through the big RV dealers and local RV rental services.
And you will have a lot more to choose from as there are a TON of RVs listed!
Think 3-5 years ahead when choosing the size
This is something we learned the hard way.
We started out with a tiny camper which would only fit two persons. This wasn’t an Airstream camper but the size of it was equivalent to the cute little Nest model from the Airstream company.
One year later, Maria got pregnant and we needed a new camper. Now we had to sell the old camper to get a new one and this took a while. We would have saved so much money if we just bought the right camper from the start!
This is us in our first (very tiny) camper:
So make sure to think a few years ahead so you don’t end up with a camper that is simply too small for your family.
Fitting a family in one room is no fun whether you are on the road or at home. You need to make sure you have enough space to entertain everybody on rainy days.
Rainy days will come when you are on the road so you’re better prepare for it. Otherwise, you might only be able to camp with your kids once or twice :-)
But if you’re traveling alone are only with his spouse, the smaller models can definitely be a very good choice. We really enjoyed staying in our super-tiny camper as long as we were only the two of us!
How much kitchen space do you need?
It’s always important to consider how big a kitchen you need on the road. Some people love to cook while other peoples prefer to eat out or go for prefab food.
This is also a typical reason for people to upsize (or downsize) their RV.
After being on the road for a couple of months or weeks you will quickly find out how much space you actually need to dedicate to the kitchen area.
Our first travel trailer had a super tiny kitchen. We immediately decided to put in a bigger fridge to be able to have what we need. Other than that we just went with it and it was totally fine. After a year we wanted to cook more food ourselves as Maria started on a special diet.
This wasn’t really possible in that old tiny camper, which was also one of the reasons why we sold it and moved on to a bigger model.
Is it worth the money?
The Airstream models are very pricey compared to the square footage you get on other types of RVs and campers.
You really do pay a lot for the design here. No doubt about that.
So it’s very important to make up your mind and really consider what else you could get for the same price.
The good news is, that you can always sell your Airstream quickly whenever you need the money. People love buying used airstreams. This is a great thing when you own one. But be aware that the new trailer will depreciate quickly as any other vehicle.
Let’s take a look at how quickly it will depreciate.
How quickly do Airstreams depreciate in value?
The Airstream models have gone up in price over and over again.
So it’s probably not a bad idea to own one for a few years (unless you’re buying a brand-new model).
If you consider buying a brand-new model you should be prepared to lose quite a lot of money! But if you can afford to do so you will have a wonderful experience.
So just how much will an air stream depreciate in value?
According to Dave Ramsey and a normal new car will lose 60% of its value over the first four years. This is not the case with an Airstream camper!
We have looked at some prices online for new models and used models. We found that it will probably lose closer to 30-40% over the first four years.
And after those four years, the curve will flatten out a lot depending on how well the camper is maintained over the years.
But of course, it depends a lot on the specific model you get and what sort of extra features you buy.
Get a basic model for a high reselling price
If you want the best reselling prize for your camper you should definitely go for the basic model. Avoid adding a lot of extra equipment and features as the next owner might not appreciate the same features as you.
People always look at the lowest possible price and use that to calculate how much they are willing to pay for a used camper. The amount of money you pay for the extra features will probably not be a good long-term investment.
Almost all other types of camper trailers will depreciate much faster than your Airstream.
The problem with camper trailers is they stay out in the sun much of the year. This often causes the rubber parts to rot. You will have rubber around the windows, doors etc. and it just won’t last much more than a decade.
Unless you take a really good care of it and apply special products to keep the rubber from rotting.
Should you buy a USED model?
If you haven’t got the money in cash the answers is definitely a resounding yes!
If you have read some of our previous articles, you know that we are big fans of being debt-free. This is simply the best thing that ever happened to our little family.
So don’t go out and borrow money to buy a new (or pretty new) camper which will quickly depreciate in value. If you haven’t got the money in the bank be sure to get a used model, or even better: wait till you have the money in cash!
But even with the money question out of the way, you should still consider buying a used model.
The special thing about the Airstream campers is the exterior look and finish. I think we can all agree that they are just gorgeous.
And personally, I think the older vintage models are maybe even more charming.
You just need to make sure everything works – especially the roof. Make sure it doesn’t leak. This is one of the most common problems people have with Airstream trailers.
Even brand-new models can have trouble with the aluminum case and it might start leaking much sooner than you would expect!
Our first little camper had a leaking roof and it really gave us a hard time.
We couldn’t fix it ourselves even though we tried and spent a lot of hours doing so. Finally, A good friend of ours came to our rescue and fixed the leaking roof.
But it ended up giving us some very frustrating experiences with that camper. Something you don’t want while being on the road and away from friends and family who can help.
Maintenance on an Airstream
New original parts are pretty expensive so you need to make sure you have saved up some money for repairs for the years to come.
All the different models have a reputation of lasting a long time, and many owners end up passing their beautiful vintage Airstream model on to the next generation.
But you will have to do some maintenance work on it and components will break eventually. You need to take good care of your Airstream camper for it to worth anything for the next generation.
You must be prepared to spend some time on maintenance
Before you buy an Airstream coach, you need to make sure you want to put in the hard work needed.
You have to clean it and wax the exterior once in and a while. Probably more often than you would with another type of camper wagon.
You will be waxing your camper at least once a year.
If you have any question regarding the care and maintenance of your RV, you can always contact the Airstream company at this number: 937-596-6111 (U.S customer service).
How good is the warranty from Airstream?
When you buy a brand-new Airstream trailer from an authorized dealer in the United States or Canada, you will get a 24 months warranty on most parts of the camper.
But not everything is included in the warranty deal.
These things and items are not covered by the 24-month warranty:
- Kitchen appliances (refrigerator, stove, microwave)
- Slide-out mechanisms (!)
- Awning tension
- and more
As you can see it’s not a full-service warranty.
All the things above can cause a problem within the first 24 months. And what is more important, the exterior aluminum will often not cause problems within the first two years. It will do so at a later point in time when the warranty has run out.
Even though we have heard of several cases where the roof would be leaking almost immediately after the Airstream rolled out of the factory. Unfortunately, that’s not too uncommon.
After doing some research online we have found that people do not recommend paying for the extended warranty from the Airstream company.
It’s simply too expensive to make sense. It will be cheaper to just pay for the issues as they occur.
Other trailers are normally made from fiberglass which is much easier to repair and cheaper to fix. All in all, you shouldn’t buy an Airstream unless you enjoy working on it once in a while. It will need fixing and maintenance. That’s just part of the deal about owning one of the classics.
It will require some time for polishing and waxing as well as examining the roof before you head out for a longer trip.
Can I use the Airstream during the winter season?
If you really want to.
Most Airstream owners will tell you that it’s a 3-season trailer, but you certainly can do it. We did some research and found lots of stories from people staying in their Airstream all winter long. Even on the border to Canada!
But it takes special preparation to do this in a tin can!
You can use the furnace for heating (and you will probably have to). The built-in air conditioner/heat pumps will not work below 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) according to the manual, and it won’t be your best option anyway.
But be aware, that using the furnace for longer periods of time will quickly deplete the batteries. So you need to be hooked up to electricity.
So don’t expect to go out camping in the wild. You will probably have to stay at the campground (with a hookup) – unless you figure out another way to keep warm!
For the vintage models, even small Airstreams can easily eat up a 35-gallon tank of LP gas per week. So you would benefit a lot from installing a few small electric heaters in your camper.
Either way, you should prepare to burn through a lot of propane.
This also goes for other types of RVs, but especially for the Airstreams as they are not super-well insulated. They are tin cans after all.
The small electric heaters cost next to nothing, and you might even consider removing the furnace if winter camping is your thing. It will give you much more space inside the camper.
You will also need to cover the windows (at night) with Prodex insulation or something similar. Otherwise, the temperature will drop significantly during the night.
Note: If you like to camp up north you should prepare for power outtakes as well. They can be dangerous during a snowstorm.
Check out all the Airstream models
There are a lot of models to choose from. The new lineup includes 9 different campers. They all have the same cool and classic exterior aluminum finish and aerodynamic shape.
The biggest difference is the weight, length, and interior design and layout.
- Nest – Sleeping area for 2 persons: from $45,900
- Basecamp – Sleeping area for 2 persons: from $36,900
- Sport – Sleeping area for 4 persons: from $47,900
- Flying Cloud – Sleeping area for 8 persons: from $66,400
- International Signature – Sleeping area for 6 persons: from $84,400
- International Serenity – Sleeping area for 6 persons: from $14986,400
- Tommy Bahama – Sleeping area for 4 persons: from $83,900
- Globetrotter – Sleeping area for 6 persons: from $103,900
- Classic – Sleeping area for 5 persons: from $149,000
Other previous models which have gone out of production include:
Bambi, Argosy, Excella, Spokane, Interstate, Quicksilver and many more.
We recommend visiting a camping trade fair
Another great idea is to visit a camper trade fair.
Here you will be able to talk to the Airstream guys and learn a lot about the different models and extra features you can get with each model.
Last year we went to a huge camping trade fair and it was really great being able to compare the different models and brands.
It’s one thing to do research behind the laptop screen and it’s an entirely different thing to walk in and out of campers all day.
It’s much easier to compare models and get a good feel of the differences and similarities, when you can see all the models lined up next to each other.
If you cannot visit a trade fair, you should at least visit a local dealer who has most of the different models available.
This way you can still check out as many Airstreams as possible and find out exactly how each model works from floor plans to features.
Check out the official Airstream website to see all the latest features and models.
I hope you feel better prepared now to take the big decision. Whether you need to decide which models to buy or to buy an Airstream at all. We wish you the best of luck!
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.