Finding and Purchasing Your Airstream

Hey there!

Today we’re going to discuss how we found our Airstream and briefly touch on pricing.

We began the search for our Airstream about a year before our purchase, and started to seriously hunt after about 6 months of more casual browsing.

The main resources we used when looking for our Airstream included:

We had multiple hits on Craigslist and Facebook that we took a look at and eliminated due to the exterior condition. Sellers can be pretty sneaky with their photographs and hide major defects in order to get you to come look at their trailer. We also had a very nice Airstream that we found in Kansas through Craigslist that was sold before we could travel to see her (we had a newborn at the time!) so time is of the essence in a lot of these situations.

Although not likely your best source for a good deal, we did visit one Airstream on consignment with an RV dealer in Houston (PPL Motorhomes). We were interested enough in the trailer to make an offer (significantly more than we ended up paying for Aurora), but the consignor wasn’t willing to budge on their outrageous price. The consignor also wanted a cash-only transaction, and at the time we didn’t have enough cash on hand to put down. However, while we were at the dealership we did take the time to walk through a few new Airstream models as well as a few other types of RVs and travel trailers just out of curiosity.

We ultimately found Aurora listed through Airstream Hunter, but we had several reasonable options through other routes that we investigated prior to her purchase.

  • If you’re going to utilize Craigslist, one tool that can be helpful is to set up an RSS feed for any listing including the word “Airstream” within designated cities. Unfortunately Craigslist won’t allow you to set a search radius, so you do have to choose specific cities, but after setting up our first feed we found the process of adding more to be pretty simple (and we’re tech illiterate).
  • When driving around town, keep your eyes peeled. You may be able to spot an Airstream for sale at a consignment shop or dealership, or you may be able to stop and ask about one that looks unused that is sitting on someone’s property. You’ll be amazed at how many you see once you start looking for them.
  • Be prepared to travel a bit. The best Airstreams may not be located nearby, and may require a decent amount of travel. Just make sure if you’re going to take a road trip that you take everything you need to make your purchase. This includes making sure that you have a method of payment. Most sellers are going to want a cashier’s check or cash payment so you want to make sure you’re visiting on a day that the bank is open. It’s also a good idea to take a blank copy of your state’s title transfer application and to verify requirements for purchase and/or title transfer (in our case we needed an inspection, a signed affidavit of correction, a signed transfer form from the seller, and a cashier’s check).
  • Be patient. The right Airstream will come along eventually. You don’t want to settle for something you won’t be happy with.

We briefly mentioned above that RV dealerships/consignment shops are likely going to be your most expensive and least negotiable option. However, they’re also one of the easiest places to quickly evaluate inventory and potentially find vintage Airstreams, so if you’re looking to buy on short notice this may be a good option. They’re also good for tire-kickers if you just want to go take a look but aren’t serious about buying yet.

A few other considerations when you’re looking at what will be affordable for you and where to get the best bang for your buck:

  • Don’t assume smaller trailers mean cheaper prices. Shorter trailers (less than 27′) are more readily towable by most SUVs and small trucks, so these are generally more highly desirable models. This means they tend to be more expensive and/or less willing to negotiate on price since there is a larger market for them.
  • On the flip side, larger trailers and models that were more common (like the Airstream Sovereign) tend to be cheaper due to ubiquity and a more limited audience.
  • Obviously condition of the trailer is going to affect price. Trailers that are in better condition will likely cost more, although sometimes you can find a good quality trailer for a steal.
  • Renovations will likely cost you. If a vintage trailer has been renovated, sellers are often looking to recoup some cost. Since we were looking to completely overhaul our Airstream we definitely didn’t want to pay extra for a previous full or partial renovation.

A final note on renovations – not all renovations are created equal. Some people (like us) will strip a trailer completely and rework the entire thing from the frame up. This ensures the integrity of the structure and that it will be roadworthy for years to come. Other people will choose to strip down to the subfloor and then replace from there, which leaves a large question mark when it comes to everything below the subfloor (frame, axles, etc). Rust, corrosion, and water damage may be very difficult to assess in these cases, and it is often difficult to tell the difference between renovation types (full or partial, good quality versus quick and dirty). Even if you pay top dollar for a “good” quality renovation you may still end up with an expensive undertaking if they skipped steps or didn’t perform high quality work on the structure.

We hope this guide helps as you begin evaluating your options for your Airstream purchase. As always, if you have any questions feel free to drop us a comment below or send us an email!

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