Airstream vs. other “RV” brands and and styles
When we first decided we wanted to travel around the country in an “RV” we had no idea what type of house with wheels we should choose. We started researching online – everything from fifth wheels, to motorhomes, to trailers. There were pros and cons to all these options.
For a couple weeks we were CERTAIN we wanted a huge fifth wheel – maximum space, supposedly easier to tow than a trailer, and the most like a traditional home for the road.
We did lots of research online and then went to the Tacoma RV show to see them in person. We walked through the ginormous, elaborate fifth wheels. Kitchen islands, bunk rooms for the kids, slide outs on every side, gas fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, pantries bigger than the one we had at home – lots of features and extras – a very livable space on wheels.
But we didn’t LOVE any of them.
And we just couldn’t get over the size – towering heights and up to 43 feet long. Sure there was MORE space – but the interior design was intended for a whole other generation (ahem, grandma?), the construction felt less than sturdy and the idea of hauling such a big HOME down the freeway was intimidating.
Then I saw my first Airstream online.
It was love at first sight. Sleek, clean interiors. Classic, shiny exterior. Well built. American-made in Jackson, Ohio. Our living space would be substantially smaller than a fifth wheel – but I loved every inch of it. I just knew we had to have one.
We kicked the fifth wheel idea to the curb and jumped into the Airstream online world for research. Forums, Facebook groups, websites – we found a huge, supportive community of Airstream lovers. We felt right at home.
We visited the Seattle Airstream dealer – Airstream Adventures NW – and we LOVED the Airstream trailers even more after seeing them in person.
So we started the search for the right Airstream for us – there are a lot to choose from! You can save a LOT of money by purchasing an old, vintage Airstream and remodeling it to fit your needs. I loved this concept – but knew that it wouldn’t work for us. We aren’t handy or patient people – and our timeline was tight – we wanted to get on the road within 6 months.
The next obvious option was a newer USED Airstream that didn’t require much updating. We discovered USED (newer) Airstream trailers were only about $10-15K less than brand new trailers. Vintage Airstream trailers, if fixed up, were also still going for shiny penny. Airstreams are great at retaining their value, unlike other brands.
floor plan graphic courtesy of Airstream.com
We knew we wanted separate, permanent sleeping solutions – I didn’t want to turn my dining room table into a bed every night. I knew if I was going to make 200 square feet work – I would need my own permanent space and so would my kids. In terms of Airstreams – the perfect fit would be the Airstream 30-ft Flying Cloud bunk model – kids have their own sleeping space and we would, too.
We quickly found that the Flying Cloud bunk model isn’t that prevalent – most people who buy Airstreams are of an older demographic and aren’t toting around two adorable kids. In the two months we watched the market – we found ONE used Airstream bunk model – and it was priced only $10K less than a brand new one – with upgrades and a full two-year warranty. So we bit the (silver) bullet and purchased a new Airstream 30-ft Flying Cloud bunk model.
We purchased our Flying Cloud bunk through Airstream Adventures NW – our sales guy, Michael – was amazing. The entire team was phenomenal. I think, honestly, it’s some of the best customer service we’ve ever had in the retail world.
Although more expensive than traditional RV brands – we found the aesthetics, durability, value retention, community and customer service were worth it us. If I’m only going to have 200 square feet to call home – I want to love every inch. And I do love every inch of our shiny, tiny Airstream!
Stacy Nero says
Love the photos! Thanks for sharing.
I love you. Thanks for visiting our new site, sis!
I’m right there with you on the thinking that really you don’t save much giving up a vintage or buying used. Congrats again to you guys! Our plan is to buy a new 27fb international signature next year. While we won’t have the beds on both ends already set up…we’ll still get those gorgeous panoramic windows!! Really enjoying your blog! I’ve left a couple other comments on other posts but I’m thinking maybe you guys are somewhere where you don’t have wifi? That or I’m somehow posting wrong. Lol user error is more feasible I suppose!
Hey Kyle! Sorry for the delay in responding. We’ve been so busy prepping for our journey that I’ve been remiss in replying to comments. The panoramic views are amazing and we don’t have that with our set-up. Wish they could somehow make that work with a bunk system. 🙂
Brittney B. says
I cannot believe we came across your blog! We are looking to do the EXACT same thing this year! We are a military homeschooling family of 6, who are in the very beginning stages of following the same path 🙂 We are selling our home and plan on purchasing the same airstream model you have. Although we would love to start traveling now, we have a few more tours before my husband retires. We plan on exploring where the Navy sends us via our airstream. I cannot describe how giddy I am to have come across this blog! Excited to be following you on your journey!
Susan Reed says
I just found your blog while searching for storage solutions for our
Airstream. We are newly retired and purchased a 19Ft Flying Cloud, but after spending a few days in miserable weather at Priest Lake, Idaho, we traded it in for a 25Ft front bedroom Flying Cloud. Last week was spent at Nehalem state park in Oregon. I’m looking forward to reading about your travels and reviews. Best wishes to your family. Your children are very fortunate!!
We are headed up to Priest Lake next week! Isn’t it beautiful up there?
David Knapp says
Nice article. We have been full-timing since 2008, just us empty-nesters and a dog, going through a 19′ travel trailer, a 28′ FW, a 35′ FW, and most recently a Lance truck camper. We started out workamping, but for the last year have been managing a campground in FL while we do eldercare. We have been contemplating what our next rig will be for hitting the road again after our manager duties are done. We have caught some of the airstream bug and are now in the research phase. At first we wanted a toyhauler so we could carry an ATV with us (we do gold panning out west), but also see many folks haul them in pickups while pulling travel trailers. We currently have a dual rear wheel truck, which is overkill for an airstream and a lot harder to park compared to a single wheel truck. You guys probably also have the 6.5′ long box instead of the 8′ bed, which is even easier yet to park in a parking lot. Our current truck is a 2012 with only 35,000 miles, lots of contemplating to do yet. If we carry and ATV, how do we carry our backup generator securely in the bed of the truck, and so on. Thanks.
Thanks for sharing. Like you I was not too handy to tackle a vintage Airstream and looked at new ones. Then it dawned on me to look at used. I DID find a newer used one for $30K under the best price quoted for a new similar model Flying Cloud. To me, though the model differed from the newest models, it was not different enough to justify the cost differential IMO. A used model hunt can save money though, in your case, the bunk model may have been to hard to come by used. It is just me so my 25′ is a nice size, especially with the twin beds allowing for more storage (inside and out) and more floor space.
What year did you purchase? We too are looking for a 25′ and wonder if purchasing a 2015 or newer is worth the price with the new, quieter a/c system.Thx.
My wife and I are thinking of taking the plunge – what’s a realistic price to be paying for these things? I’ve read anywhere from 20-30% below msrp – would you agree?
Hi Steve! This is what we had heard too. We purchased in late February and got a hell of a deal. I think easily 20% off MSRP plus we negotiated heavily on things like adding solar panels and an extended warranty. Buying the last day of the month helps – they usually are trying to get monthly sales goals. Also if you have two dealers close enough to price compete – that helps, too!
Thanks Heather for your prompt response. Wish us luck!
One of my bigger hesitations in purchasing the 30 bunkhouse is it is too big and cumbersome for camping in state parks. Have you found that to be the case? I have 2 preschool aged daughters and we would be just camping for weekends and a few weeks here and there during the year. Thanks glad I stumbled upon your blog!!
Hi Katie –
I’m so sorry for the delayed response – we’ve been moving into our house this past week! We had heard similar things with a 30-foot trailer, but honestly, it didn’t keep us from staying in national and state parks! Even the Grand Canyon primitive campground allows trailers up to 30 feet! We haven’t had any issue and I think there are enough options that you won’t find it a problem, either. Good luck!
Thanks for the article. I love both the Airstream and the RV. My concerns are the costs associated with purchasing a truck to tow the Airstream – sometimes the truck costs more than the Airstream. As I already own a car – Mini Cooper. I was hoping to tow that behind an RV.
Did you already own a truck or have to purchase one for the Airstream?