When making a large purchase such as a used airstream RV or trailer, it’s important that you look into the condition, know what to look for in a quality Airstream, and make an informed decision. So how do you know what to look for?
In this article, you can find 13 tips on what to look for when buying a used Airstream. After reading, you’ll feel like an expert in the areas of the outer structure, inner appearance, type of Airstream, and what qualifies an Airstream as a high-quality RV.
Whether you’re buying an Airstream travel trailer to renovate it into your new home on the road, or you’re looking for a travel trailer for your family’s vacations, you can find one that works with your needs. Here’s how.
Review the Exterior
It’s extremely important to check the condition of the aluminum exterior of the Airstream when you’re looking to buy one. Airstreams are known to have structural damage with time, especially around the rear frame. This part of many Airstreams is known to start to sag with time.
To make sure the rear frame of the Airstream camper you’re interested in isn’t sagging, you can put some weight on the rear bumper using your foot or hand. If it separates from the main shell, this is a good sign that the rear frame is damaged.
If you’re not looking for a big outer renovation project, you can instead check out other airstreams and know that you made a sound decision.
Below are some of the most common problems with Airstream trailer exteriors.
Doors, Windows, And Compartments
Check the door of the recreational vehicle before buying to ensure that it opens smoothly. If there’s an extra door such as a screen door or a door compartment, make sure everything opens smoothly and can be locked from the inside.
Check the windows of the Airstream to make sure they open and close smoothly. In some cases, it might just be that you need to add a little grease.
The Outer Main Shell of The Airstream
With the large metal shell that the Airstreams are known to have, it’s important to note that there could be some structural damage. Check for dents in the metal. Check for rust as well. Rust can wear away at the Airstream and eventually cause damage to the body.
Tires and Rims
Check the tires for any air issues. Check that the rubber isn’t too worn down and used. If you’re going to be using your Airstream a lot, tires with poor tread aren’t going to hold up for very long and could cause issues down the road.
For a complete inspection checklist, check out our helpful video course on inspection of your RV, travel trailer, Airstream before buying. This course will allow you to have the tools to inspect any trailer you are looking at and verify items for proper operation as well as give you insights on how to negotiate a lower price.
Check the Floor
When it comes to the interior of the Airstream, there can be many problems or many positive aspects that may make you want to buy it. One of the most important aspects of your Airstream will be the floor.
Problems that could arise with the floor include:
- Rot in the wood underneath the carpet or in general (this is for trailers that do contain wooden flooring).
- Dents in the flooring.
- Pockets of air under the carpet.
- Dirty flooring, wet spots, or mold.
- Brittle, dark, or chipped wood in uncarpeted spots.
- Water damage on any part of the floor or in the bathtub.
The best way to check for floor damage is to look at the floor of the Airstream under the carpet. To do this, you don’t have to pull up the entire carpet.
Check the spots under the carpet where it connects with the wall, and close to any major appliances like the bathtub, sink, etc. If the wood underneath is showing any signs listed above, it’s not worth it to purchase.
The price of replacing the Airstream floor can be very close to the price you might be paying for the Airstream in general. This is definitely not worth doing unless you’re looking for a huge project, and you’ll have to remove all the furniture and appliances if any exist.
Check the Inner Walls
Just as the outer walls of the Airstream are important, the inner walls are also. Inside the Airstream, any damage can cause problems with the overall structure of the trailer. Hidden damage behind appliances can also cause problems with the appliances, floor, and walls. This could include rust and oxidization to the metal.
Check the inner walls of your airstream for all of the following:
- Rust or strange coloring
- Dents, scratches, and other damage
- Parts of the wall not attached well, exposing the outer shell
- Any part of the ceiling dipping in or with a strange shape
If you are sure to check out these parts of the walls, you’ll save yourself the expenses of having to fix any issues down the line. The body of the Airstream is one of the most important and most commonly damaged parts.
Since Airstreams are built in large pieces, you have to replace practically the entire body if one part of it goes bad and breaks.
Verify That the Appliances Function
When buying any home, it’s important to verify that the appliances function. It’s especially important in a moving trailer home such as an Airstream, as RV and trailer furniture can be a little tricky at times. If you’re buying an Airstream that has already been gutted, move on to the next section of the article.
A lot of Airstream trailers come with appliances and built-in furniture. Some of these could be extremely outdated depending on the age of your Airstream.
Before purchasing the Airstream, make sure you verify with the owner that each appliance works, and if it doesn’t, see how much it might cost to replace it. A broken oven from the ’60s is fine to replace, and it’s probably best you replace it, but there might be some damage to removing the appliance from the Airstream, and you have to keep that in mind.
Common appliances and how to check them when you go to purchase an Airstream include the following.
- Check the oven for rust. Ask if it turns on and test it if you can. It is possible only some burners work, or that the inside of the oven doesn’t heat up. Check if it is electric or gas.
- Check the refrigerator to make sure it is cold. If there is a freezer, feel to see if it is frozen. Look for any rust, mold, or weird smells.
- Check the bathtub or shower to make sure that water comes out if hooked up to a water source. Check the flooring of the bathtub or shower to make sure it’s not spongy or soft. This can indicate rot underneath.
- Check any sinks to make sure water flows from them as well, if hooked up to a water source.
- For any electric appliances such as fans, AC, ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators, make sure that all appliances that are plugged into the power source are working correctly.
- Verify that the lights in the RV turn on and off normally.
If the Airstream isn’t hooked up to power or water, it might be impossible to know whether or not the appliances work. You can ask the owner to write you a list of what works and what doesn’t and sign it for you. This leaves them partially liable if they lie to you about the condition of the RV.
Verify the Quality of the Furniture and Inner Fixings
For Airstreams that contain furniture already, it’s important to check the quality and state of the furnishings before you purchase the Airstream.
If you’re planning to gut the Airstream after purchasing, it’s probably not so important to you whether the furniture is of good quality. What will be important is knowing how the furniture was fastened to the ground in the trailer and how best to remove it.
For fabric furnishings such as couches and chairs, it is possible for mold to grow anywhere that was damp. Check that the fabric is dry and without black spots on the surface. You can lift up couch cushions to see the condition of the couch underneath as well.
Some Airstream owners do their own personalized build when they add furniture to their Airstream, so if you’re buying one that was customized, you can most likely ask the owner how they fastened everything and what fabrics and wood they used.
Ask Questions to the Owner
The most important thing to do when you’re buying an Airstream is to ask questions. If you’re not informed about the uniqueness of each Airstream, you won’t be making an informed decision. You can use the guide linked above, and you can even use this article for tips, but when it comes down to it, the owner knows best about their own trailer.
Some great questions to ask about the Airstream include:
- What is the asking price?
- Has any mechanical or plumbing work been done to the Airstream recently?
- How many owners have owned this trailer?
- Is there anything I should know about the condition of this Airstream?
- Do the tires need replacing or is this ready to haul today?
- Is there any damage to the body of the Airstream in any way?
- Have you ever had any problem with rot or mold?
These are some great starter questions to get you some of the information you need about the Airstream. You can also have the owner give you a list of any repairs needed, or about the general condition of the trailer.
Do Your Research
When it comes to Airstreams, different models have different attributes. Depending on the year of Airstream you’re buying, you might get a totally different structure of the underneath tanks, the appliances, etc.
It’s important that you do your research so you’re able to be informed when you arrive on-site to look at the Airstream you’re considering. A good place to start is this video on YouTube, which shows the different types of Airstream floor plans.
It’s also important to know that there are new Airstreams and there are vintage Airstreams. Vintage ones tend to be higher priced at times, due to the demand. Especially if they’ve been restored. Know the pros and cons of vintage vs. newer years below.
Buying a Vintage vs. New Airstream
What’s the difference between a Used Vintage and a Used New Airstream? Both are used, so can one really be considered new? The answer is yes!
People who have bought newer models of Airstreams can still be looking to sell, even if they’ve only used the Airstream for a couple of months to a year. These newer models may look new but are still Used.
Vintage Airstreams are usually from the 40s-70s and are older models that are often sought after by fans of vintage items and collectors.
If you’re looking to buy an Airstream, you may want to know the pros and cons of buying a Used Vintage Airstream or a Used newer model. It has all been laid out below.
|Used Vintage Airstream Pros||Used Vintage Airstream Cons|
| • The style is often very retro for people who are into history. |
• Often these have been gutted or remodeled, and you can find very unique Airstreams this way.
• There are more on the market, and it may be cheaper, depending on what has been done with it.
• Vintage furniture and appliances can be a pro or a con. If you’re a vintage fan, you’ll most likely love it!
• Possibly stronger metal on the body of the Airstream.
| • Older and can come with more problems |
• Possible rust or rot
• You may end up having to replace a lot of the body, floor, or major appliances.
• If you’re doing a remodel, it could cost a lot more and be more difficult to remodel.
• Vintage appliances may not work very well.
• Older smell.
|Used Newer Airstream Pros||Used Newer Airstream Cons|
| • Newer furnishings, flooring, and body. |
• Modern techniques of building that keep the body of the trailer secure.
• New appliances that do not break easily or will not break for some time.
• Same retro look with a modern feel. It
• May not need remodeling or any structural changes inside.
• Quality and new wood that is unlikely to rot
• Unlikely to be rusted or smell bad.
| • Much more expensive |
• Newer models don’t have the same real vintage vibe.
• If it has already been remodeled, it’ll be hard to tell if it has problems with how it was built.
• A lower quantity on the market to buy.
You have to be pickier with what you choose.
• Possibly lower quality in metal or building materials.
• Some of the older models don’t exist in a newer version.
After reading this pros and cons list, you might know what type of Used Airstream will be best for you and your needs. If you’re looking to remodel, a vintage Airstream might be best for you.
Used Airstream Pricing: What to Know
It’s finally come down to it. You’ve gone through your guide, you’ve read up on Airstreams, and you’re looking to buy. You’ve found some options locally and are ready to start finding your forever Airstream. Now is the time to look for pricing.
What is your budget?
When it comes to buying an Airstream, having a budget is important. You don’t want to go over your budget, and if you go under your budget, you might have some wiggle room to add more to your Airstream and really customize it how you want. So, how do you start?
Always Browse Online
Once you have a budget in mind, the best place to look is online. Websites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have many options. Just search for Airstream on Facebook Marketplace or go to the RV and Trailer section on Craigslist.
The pros of going online to get a price are that you can set up a meeting with someone and already know what price they want. If it’s over your budget, don’t go and try to get them to make a deal with you. It might waste your time and theirs.
Average Used Airstream Prices (Including Antiques)
Generally, Airstreams sell depending on condition and model. For the purpose of this article, assume all the models below are in perfect condition. These are the average prices.
|Model of Airstream||Average Price|
As you can see, vintage trailers are much cheaper to purchase, but they may also have more work to put into them. Newer Used Trailers are often remodeled or already come with brand new furnishings. They are easier to work with and get on the road immediately.
Is An Airstream Worth the Price?
When it comes down to it, why not buy a different type of trailer? Why go for an Airstream? There are many reasons for choosing this type of trailer, and depending on whether it works for you and your specific needs, it might be the perfect option.
Here’s why you should choose an Airstream:
- Retro Airstreams are cheaper than newer RV models and are worth more to sell in the future.
- The design of Airstreams is the same design used to build metal airplanes and it is extremely secure.
- The design of an Airstream is unique from other RVs, which all look similar.
- Airstreams are great renovation projects.
- Airstreams are easier to pull behind a car, reducing the frequency you’ll need to stop for gas.
- It is easy to clean and often easy to see every part of the flooring inside since there aren’t many corners.
- Because of the size of an Airstream, you’ll be more motivated to spend more time outside in the sun and with your family in all the beautiful places you travel to.
- Airstreams can be used as a tiny home if you’re into that kind of lifestyle.
Overall, Airstreams make great homes, trailers, and projects for the airstream enthusiast. If you’re looking for that home on the road that is cheaper than a house, a bit larger than a camper van, and smaller than a large RV, an Airstream might be the best choice for you.
Give Yourself Options
If you’ve gone through this entire guide and have found one Airstream in your area that suits you, that’s great! It might also be worth it to try to give yourself more than one option. View 3-5 Airstreams or more to really know that you’ve found the one.
When it comes to shopping for Airstreams, it’s similar to finding an apartment. You have to find something that you really love. If you settle for the first apartment that you find, you might miss out on an even better and cheaper opportunity down the road.
Give your 5 favorite Airstream ads a call and set up a meet. You can set up an entire weekend just for viewing RVs. Make sure you bring your checklist along and ask each owner the same things!
What to Look For if You’re Planning to Renovate/Gut your Airstream
If you’re looking to renovate an Airstream, it might be worth it to buy one that’s already gutted. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t exist. You’ll have to do most of the dirty work yourself. When it comes to having to do this work, you might be wondering how you know which Airstream will be best for a project.
The best type of Airstream for a project is a gutted, partially gutted, or customized Airstream. When it comes to Airstreams that were already renovated, the owner most likely knows what tools they used to secure the furniture and build it into the body of the Airstream.
Choosing a Furnished Airstream to Remodel If all you can find on the market is Used Airstreams that are fully packed and functional, use this article and your Airstream checklist to go through every part of it. Make sure you also verify the following:
- The appliances will be fairly easy to remove from the Airstream
- There is no rot or mold around the edges of any furniture, the floor, or the walls
- Any furniture inside can be detached without damaging the floor
- Any previous customizations are laid out in detail by the owner for you when you ask
- Plumbing and electricity won’t be compromised too heavily by gutting the Airstream
- Check to see if the bath or shower will be difficult to remove or if you’d like to retouch them instead.
If you’ve gone through these steps, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you can gut an Airstream.
Choosing a Gutted Airstream to Remodel
If you’ve decided that you can’t start on a renovation without already having a gutted Airstream to look at, you might have to do some extra digging. Take a look online and see what’s available. Look through the newspaper classifieds as well.
Some Used Car dealerships also sell used and vintage RVs, so send them emails or give them a call to see if they have one available. Online isn’t your only option!
When looking at a gutted Airstream, all of the above tips from the article apply, but make sure you check the following.
- Whether or not the flooring is one you want or one you’ll replace. If so, you might want to look under for rot or mold.
- Come up with an idea of the floorplan for your renovation, to make sure the Airstream fits that idea.
- Look for parts of the Airstream that couldn’t be removed or still remain on the floor, wall, etc.
- Verify whether or not the Airstream has working electricity and/or water.
- Check the tires and outer body.
- Ask if any previous renovations were done and what was done before it was gutted.
You’re now ready to choose the Airstream RV trailer of your dreams! Whether you’re looking to remodel and gut your Airstream or looking for a 2019 used Airstream with modern fixtures, you’re likely to find something out there that you can use.
Here are some final tips on finding the best Airstream trailer for you.
- Look outside of your town in neighboring cities if you don’t find something you like where you live.
- Check with family and friends if anyone has seen anything for sale recently.
- Check RV communities online to see if anyone is selling.
- Place an ad stating you’re looking for a Used Airstream.
- Bring along a friend or family member or someone who has knowledge in Airstreams if you don’t. Another voice can help you decide.
- Bring a notebook as well, so you can note all the details of each RV trailer you look at.
Overall, it’s important to have fun and enjoy your Airstream buying process. This is a huge decision that will most likely stick around for years of your life. When making a big purchase such as this, make sure you take every facet into consideration.
Now that you’ve learned about what to look for when buying an Airstream, you’re ready to hit the road and get shopping!
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