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New verses Used: The Much Debated Airstream Question
It’s a beautiful spring day. The breeze is gently blowing, and cabin fever is starting to set in. Images of winding roads and beautiful sunsets are calling. Now all you need is the perfect travel trailer to take you there. For most newcomers, the lingering question is; “new, or used?” This will require extensive thought regarding your intended budget and the amount of effort you wish to invest in renovations. (This site is not affiliated with Airstream.com)
Without a doubt, newer Airstream trailers are costly. Their one huge benefit is the ability to just hook up and hit the road. Restored vintage or antique Airstream trailers offer the charm of yesterday, but also come with a detailed pricelist to cover all the elbow grease that was invested. The last remaining option of purchasing “as is” is the most cost effective in the short run, but could add up quickly if you hire a professional restoration specialist verses doing the work yourself.
If purchasing a new trailer isn’t an option due to price or desire, then it is important to understand the value of used trailers that you will be sorting through. Unlike used vehicles there isn’t a “Kelley Bluebook” to help determine the value of vintage trailers. This ultimately means that the value varies depending on consumer. There are typically four categories of prospective used trailers:
Average, As Found, Restored, and Renovated.
Usually the largest selection of used Airstream trailers for sale fall under the category of “As Is”. These trailers are the ultimate “fixer uppers”, so to speak. They will require the most amount of work to make them road safe, but usually are the least costly of all the categories. These gems haven’t seen any winding roads lately, put possibilities abound! It would be very common to find exteriors with large dents, and major oxidation. Most of the electrical, LPG, and water systems aren’t in working order, and the external features such as utility connections are damaged or missing. As with the exterior, the interior could have major damage as well.
Most price ranges for this category fall between $1100 - $3800. The one exception is that of the 50’s Model of the 16’ Pacer, which can top out around $4800. These prices look amazing after researching other categories, but understand that the price of restoration can become a large one.
Typically a trailer that is referred to as having “average” condition is one that has been used regularly and has had basic care and maintenance. The outside exterior shell usually has only a few minor, shallow dents that are relatively easy to fix. If there are any punctures or scrapes on the exterior it is not considered in average condition. It is not uncommon for these trailers to have not been polished though, or to have plasticoating that is blistering and peeling.
All external items, such as utility connections should be fully functional, as well as having all original exterior vents and doors. The trailer should have all working windows that open and close correctly. Before turning to the interior, the last exterior item to check is the tires. They should all be in working order, including the spare.
When addressing the interior, it is very important that the sub-flooring is solid throughout the entire trailer. Typically it either has the original floor covering or a replacement one that is in good condition. All of the original appliances, as well as the heater, water heater and A/C units should be in working order and if they have been replaced they are appropriate for the year and model of trailer.
Regarding the interior furnishings; all cabinets, and fixtures should be at least 90% original and in good working order. Most retailers agree that the curtains and upholstery add or take away very little in regards of value. It these items are basic in appearance, worn originals are acceptable.
The last major area to check in regards to if the trailer is considered to be in “average” condition is that all the electrical, LPG and water systems are in good condition and are fully functional. The main thing to understand about trailers considered to be in “average” condition is that they are basically road safe. There might be changes or adjustments here and there to be made, but nothing major.
The price range for vintage Airstream trailers that are in “average” condition vary regarding year and model. Typically, models from the ‘40’s range from $3800 to $9000. Most of the 50’s Models fall somewhere between $3200 to $8800. With the 60’s Models the price starts to expand and typically they fall between $3400 to $8900. The 70’s are the last Models viewed as vintage. Most of the trailers from this era considered in “average” condition retail for around $4100 to $9100.
Vintage trailers that fall under the category of “Restored” trailers are the ones that have been redone to their prime. All damages are repaired and the correct attention is paid to insure “period” statement. Their price can range anywhere from $10,000 to over $20,000.
The last main category is that of Renovated trailers. These are trailers that have had the inside completely redone without attention to “period” style. They are updated based off the style desired by the owner, and typically are modernized. These can range anywhere from $30,000 up.
There are a world of possibilities out there for the future Airstream owner. The basic thing needs to be addressed before purchase is; “what is the set budget, and how much work do you want to put into restoration?” Once these two factors are determined, the shopping can begin!
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