Airstream travel trailers attract attention like no other RV: they’re the Harley-Davidsons of the RV world. Even if you’re pulling a Spartan or Silver Streak, most folks will take one look at the polished streamliner style and think it’s an Airstream.
Real-world prices have fallen in the past few months, but buying an Airstream trailer is still a complicated business. If style is your main thing, you’ll need to pass on the Classic models and pony up between $35,000 and $70,000 (MRSP) for a new International CCD Signature with a smart, modernist interior—or better still, the seriously desirable $50,000 Design Within Reach variant.
The cheaper option is to dip a toe into the murkier waters of the used market. Recent Airstreams are well built, so it’s not a huge risk buying secondhand. But it’s easy to become unstuck with high-maintenance older models: as with classic cars, the purchase price is often just the first downpayment.
So before you part with your dollars, you need to do some research. Grab your NADA Guide and become an instant expert with our guide to the essential Airstream websites.
1. The Vintage Airstream Resources Index is probably the leading online guide and extremely comprehensive. The Price vs. Condition section is especially useful, pointing out the vital difference between ‘restored’ and ‘renovated’, and giving you pointers on how to negotiate an accurate price.
2. The well-frequented Airforums contain over half a million posts. This site also has listings of Airstream Inspectors, enthusiasts who are willing to examine a used travel trailer if it’s too far away for you to visit.
3. The largest Airstream recreational vehicle club, the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, has around 14,000 members and is a good place to start researching, especially when it comes to articles on maintenance.
4. If you’re the owner of an Airstream 25 or more years old, you’re eligible for full membership of the Vintage Airstream Club, which is part of the WBCCI. Even if you don’t have an old Airstream it’s still a good place for research, with plenty of old ads, photos and documents to browse and a small classifieds section. Best of all, it’s got a complete PDF archive of the wonderful Vintage Advantage Newsletter.
5. Dan Burke’s airstreamtrailers.com has probably the largest selection of Airstream links on the net, and deserves a higher profile. It’s especially good if you’re looking for sites offering restoration advice.
6. Try airstreamclassifieds when looking for used Airstream travel trailers, or parts and appliances. (There’s also eBay, but at last count it only listed around 40 trailers for sale.) Bear in mind that the asking price is where you start negotiating, and eBay is likely to be the most expensive option because it attracts a wide audience.
7. There’s a treasure trove of 10,000 Airstream images on Flickr. There’s also an Airstream group with over 150 members, and if you’re not too picky about your vintage porn, a terrific Trailer Trash group packed with shots of old travel trailers.
One last point: Many Airstream dealers will knock 15% to 20% off the MRSP if you negotiate. If you’re thinking of buying a fully renovated vintage trailer, factor this in. The gap between the classic and the current might be smaller than you think.
Airstream’s latest model is the PanAmerica toy hauler, and we’ve got the pictures.