Cost of New Airstream VS Restoring A Vintage Airstream
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Airstreams have something special that other RVs don’t. A big decision you have to make is either buying a new Airstream or renovating a used Airstream. This largely depends on if you have the time, skills, and budget. Restoring a vintage Airstream is not a decision that one should take lightly. Nothing can compare to the feeling of pride after you’ve restored your vintage Airstream, but not all of us have the time. We thought it would be helpful to share some pros and cons of each to help make the decision easier.
Time of Restoring an Airstream
One of the first things to consider is how much time you have. If you have a full time job restoring an Airstream might take a long time. Typically it can take anywhere from 6-12 months working on it everyday. If you decide to buy a new Airstream you can be out on the road in a few days traveling and exploring.
The time and energy that you put into restoring your vintage Airstream will pay off though. Most vintage Airstreamers report that their trailers go up in value, despite the age. You cannot say the same thing about new Airstreams which deprecate in value. It’s much like a car, the moment you drive off the lot, the value drops, but if you take care of it and put in the work to maintain your Airstream — then your trailer could hold its value better. A classic car, on the other hand, is going to be cheaper upfront but after you pour in the pain and labor, it can be worth up to 10 times more than you originally paid.
Cost of Vintage Airstream Restoration
The next factor is the cost of buying new vs. Restoring. New Airstreams can range anywhere from $47,900 for a Sport, all the way up to $164,400 for a top of the line Classic. The cost of a used Airstream shell in good condition can be upwards of $10K. Depending on your budget the cost of restoring can be anywhere $25,000 to $100,000. Not only do you need to worry about making sure the restored vintage Airstream looks nice, but you also need to think about the quality and age of the parts holding the trailer together.
You’ll also need to budget for additional expenses that pop up along the way. Working on a vintage trailer can cause some of the parts to jostle around. Depending on how long the trailer has been sitting, it can cause some of the parts to pull apart which will cause you to put it back together.
Labor Intensive Work
The next thing to consider is the labor. You will need to decide how much of the work you can do yourself as opposed to hiring someone else. Building your own Airstream will require a bit of know how in electrical, plumbing, metal work, and carpentry. One of the benefits of doing it yourself is you have full control of the design & layout. Not to mention, you’ll need to set a few hours aside to actually polish the Airstream once you’re done sanding and removing dents.
Space to Store Your Airstream Parts
Having enough room to build your own Airstream is another concern. You will need a large space to park the trailer as well as enough room to store any parts and tools needed for the job. Best case would be somewhere out of the elements as the weather can hamper your build. A project like this could take up most of your backyard or garage for a long time, so plan accordingly.
Warranty for Vintage Airstreams
A warranty can be the deciding factor for some people. New Airstreams come with 2 year limited warranty on all trailers. This covers any repairs or replacement of defective materials or workmanship. If you are building your own trailer you will be in charge of fixing it yourself or covering the cost to have repaired. You might need to purchase additional warranties on the parts that you put into your restored Airstream. Some of the time these warranties will be free, but you might want to budget for some hidden expenses in warranties.
Vintage Airstream Parts
Vintage Airstream parts can be hard to come by, and can often be expensive. There are a few dedicated parts dealers out there. If your nearby Airstream dealer cannot supply you the parts, it might be a good idea to try those dedicated dealers. A few of the most popular suppliers are Vintage Trailer Supply and Silver Trailer Supply. You can also join some of the vintage Airstream forums and Facebook groups and try to trade parts with other Airstreamers. With a new Airstream, you’ll have parts on the shelf at any Airstream dealer for the next ten years.
Insurance for a custom build can be tricky to obtain. First, you will need to hire an appraiser who will compile all the information as well as detailed photos. They will then need to compile a report and compare current market prices. Insuring a new Airstream is the same process and insuring a vehicle and often times can be bundled with your car insurance.
If you are looking for a design that is unique and fits your personally a custom built Airstream could be for you. A vintage Airstream restoration project could make you feel more proud of yourself than you thought possible, but that feeling of elation comes with a high price. It will require a lot of time and effort but if you have the skills and determination it can be done. If you prefer to spend less time working and more time out on the road traveling buying new is for you.