Category Archives: Restoring a Dream

What should it cost?

What should it cost?

This is an excerpt from my book – “Restoring a Dream”.  Available on Amazon.

What Should it Cost?

The street price of vintage Airstreams can very greatly for any number of reasons.  The price can be different just because of where the trailer is located in the country, like the East coast vs. the West coast.  Other reasons may include the era of the trailer, or a perceived value added by the seller.

If a seller has put some work into the trailer they will want to recover their investment, so it may be better to keep looking for one that has not had any work done to it.  This will eliminate any perceived added value, and you are in more control of the restoration.  I know this sounds backwards, but you don’t know the quality of the work they’ve done, or the parts they’ve used.fall-airstream-for-sale

Searching websites such as eBay and Craigslist to see what the average selling prices are for the model you’re considering will give you a ballpark idea.  Of course, you will still need to do your own inspection.

A website called breaks vintage Airstreams into several categories to make it easier to get an idea on what the price should be for trailers in various conditions. classifies them as the following:

As-Found Condition:  This trailer will require the most work.  As-Found Condition may have many dents or punctures in the exterior skin, missing or broken vents and windows, bad electrical, and LP gas systems.  A rotted subfloor will also be common.  This trailer has not seen use in many years.  It was likely left to rot in a field somewhere.

Average Condition:  Is an older trailer that has very few or no dents and no punctures to the exterior skin.  More than likely it is not polished.  It should have all the original exterior vents covers, and working windows.  Working appliances could be original, or properly replaced with newer models.  There should also be a solid subfloor.  Basically, the trailer should be in a working condition having seen regular use.

Restored Condition:  This trailer will have been restored to original condition.  Everything should work and look like it did when it was newer, and necessary updates for safety have been completed.  In short, this trailer should be updated to have all systems working as original, but retain the original feeling of the trailer.

Renovated Condition:  A renovated trailer is basically the same as the restored trailer where everything works.  However, no requirement to keeping the trailer original was in mind.  Newer technologies may be incorporated in plain view, which can include flat panel TV’s, computers, and changed layouts.  These trailers have been heavily altered to the owners taste and may not be something anyone else would enjoy.

Price Negotiation

Lets follow a 60’s era Caravel through these steps to give you an idea of the costs involved.  A Caravel in an As-Found Condition may be in the range of $2,000-$3,800.  This same trailer ready to use in Average Condition would set you back $5,200?$8,900.  Finally, the Restored Condition of this Caravel could run you somewhere between $12,900 and $17,800.  Keep in mind that these are all examples from  Finding a properly restored Airstream available for sale would be a difficult task.

In my experience from producing the last seven years of theVAP, I believe the Restored Condition estimates to be quite low.  I think that you should start by doubling their estimates.

When looking for a good restoration project trailer, I recommend looking for something in between the As-Found and Average Condition.  The reason I say this is because you want to have a trailer with good aluminum skin, without punctures or large dents.  On the flip side, you don’t want to pay more because things are working that you don’t want or need.  Maybe the original refrigerator is working now, but you are likely going to need to replace it.  The water heater might work for a while, like my Bowen, and then go out, so you’d need a new one.  The point here is that you do not want to pay extra for things you won’t need in your restoration.

Restoring a Dream: My Journey Restoring a Vintage Airstream

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Vintage vs. New

Vintage VS New

 This is an excerpt from my book – “Restoring a Dream”.  Available on Amazon.

Why would anyone one want an old trailer anyway?  I originally chose to ‘go vintage’ because I wanted to get into trailering inexpensively.  Where there better reasons that that?  I wanted to understand why some people would choose to have an older trailer over a new one.  

Why would someone buy a 100-year-old home, or a car from the 1950’s?  Things that are older have a certain character or charm about them.  They were made in a simpler time with simpler technology.  A lot of the components were hand-crafted.  This in itself doesn’t

1960 Ambassador

1960 Airstream Ambassador – Photo by Debra Shephard

make them better than new, but for a certain type of individual it does.  They can look beyond the dilapidation and see the potential.

Think of a vintage Airstream as a blank canvas.  One that you can paint your own picture on, and create whatever vision you personally have.  You can restore a vintage trailer to showroom condition of yesteryear, or you can update it to something new that suits you.  The problem you have when looking at a new trailer is that you’re saddled with someone else’s idea of what you might like.  You have to compromise from the start.

When you choose to restore a vintage Airstream, you’re essentially restoring history.  By restoring a trailer you’re not adding to a landfill, but saving something from it.  As I mentioned earlier, it does require a certain type of individual.  Someone interested in restoring an Airstream needs to look past the issues of an ‘As-Found’ trailer and see its potential.  Patience and perseverance are words that come to mind when you choose to ‘go vintage’.  Once you commit to restoring a vintage Airstream, you have an open canvas.  There will be hurdles to overcome, guaranteed, it’s all part of the journey.  You’ll also have great satisfaction when you’re camping in a trailer that you restored.  Often times when camping in our restored trailer, I look around and think about all the work I put into the restoration.  It gives me a great sense of accomplishment knowing that we are enjoying the product of my labor.

There are many advantages to ‘going vintage’.  One advantage is that you can select the type and quality of the appliances, furnishings, and layout that you like.  Almost anything that you can imagine can be on the table.  Another advantage is that many of the older Airstreams used a higher quality of aluminum that has an alclad coating, which is stronger and more resilient than modern Airstreams.


2009 Airstream Flying Cloud

Vintage Airstreams are lighter and often have better layouts than newer models that allow you to see all the way through the trailer, from the front window to the rear window while towing.  There is a lower entry price when buying vintage, which you can add to as funds become available.  Don’t forget that vintage Airstreams can be polished to a mirror shine.  Folks, let’s face it, vintage Airstreams are cool!

Ok, I got it, going vintage is the way the go.  The next step is to find the right vintage canvas.


Restoring a Dream: My Journey Restoring a Vintage Airstream


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