The True Cost of Owning a Retro Airstream Vintage Trailor

The Silver Bullet Retro Airstream Trailer The Silver Bullet Retro Airstream Trailer

You have seen them on the road ever since you were young. You used to wonder what they looked like on the inside. They captivated your sense of adventure. The iconic Airstream along with the Winnebago Motorhomes have become a symbol of the American adventuring spirit. You’ve decided it is time to join the ranks of Airstream owners – great decision! Before you take the plunge, consider the true cost of owning an Airstream. There are many factors to consider, including initial cost, upkeep, fuel economy and insurance.

The Airstream was released in 1936 and has been in production ever since. As a testament to its value, consider that 70 percent of the Airstreams ever manufactured are still in use. In the world of RVs and automobiles, that is incredibly rare! The Airstream has achieved legendary status by being passed on from owner to owner, thus it’s never taken to a dump. This speaks volumes about its quality and value. They are built to last and to stay on the road.

Vintage Airstream

Vintage Airstream

The initial price to purchase an Airstream depends on the size, year and model of the Airstream. Whether your purchase new or used is also a factor. Depending on all these variables, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. A used Airstream will be less expensive, but will generally require more maintenance. Conversely, a new Airstream will cost more initially, but will only require basic maintenance for the first few years.

When deciding on the size of the Airstream, remember that these are towed RVs.  Ensure that your tow car can haul the weight of the Airstream.  They are lightweight and aluminum skinned; they are the lightest of all towed RVs. Their design is based on an airplanes fuselage, meaning it is aerodynamic by nature. This cut’s down on wind resistance by 20 percent compared to a square towed Heartland RV. So, if you own an Airstream, you will save money on gas. If you are planning on traveling full time or regularly, gas will be a primary expense.

Another big cost of owning the Airstream is insurance. You will need insurance for your tow car and for your Airstream. The exact insurance costs depend on the value of your Airstream, your driving record and your insurance company. It is wise to call your insurance company prior to making your purchase to receive an insurance quote.

Perhaps the most important factor is maintenance costs. This will vary depending on the year of your Airstream. It pays to learn how to perform basic maintenance. You can learn basic maintenance through a plethora of books and online videos/articles. There are some routine items to keep in mind:

  • Checking tire condition, air pressure, lug nut torque: free
  • Checking brakes:  free if you learn how – otherwise minimal cost.
  • Lubing hitch: free (other than cost of lube, minimal cost)
  • Checking battery water level: free
  • Lubing locks and latches: free
  • Verifying integrity of belly pan: free
  • Repacking wheel bearings: $100-$300
  • Tire replacements: $600-$800 depending on tires
  • Annual inspection: $500-$700, plus any repairs found.

There are, of course, unexpected repairs that may happen regardless of your year and model. They cannot be budgeted for, as they are rather unexpected. If the refrigerator breaks down and requires a full replacement, this can run up to $2000. If a tire blows out while driving, the repairs from damage can be $700-$1500. However, most unexpected repairs can be avoided by taking care of your Airstream. Overall, you can expect to spend $1500-$2000 per year if the Airstream is used regularly.

In the unfortunate event that there are serious mechanical issues and parts need to be replaced, do not worry. Airstream parts are common and can be easily found. Fortunately, beyond the unique shell, the Airstream uses the same parts as the majority of other towed RVs. Parts can be found readily through a copy of RV Parts and Accessories that can be purchased at any RV dealer. They can also be found in salvage RV sales yards, through online retailers and some can even be found from the manufacturer.

One final expense to consider is the cost of food and camping. If you will be living full time, or regularly traveling, this will be a daily expense. Food costs are entirely up you – how you eat and where you stop. Camping costs can vary between $10-$100 per night depending on the facility. There are also many inexpensive options, such as Wal-Mart parking lots, rest stops and national parks.

Now you have a good idea about the true cost of owning an Airstream. Living full time, or traveling regularly, can be expensive. However, with an Airstream you can expect to pay far less than other RVs.

This post was written and contributed by Tim Simis. Tim has been involved with rv’s and travel trailers for over 10 years, and has even held a job doing RV sales


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