Published Date: December 29, 2020
Last Updated on May 23, 2023 by camp tech
An Airstream trailer is a classic and uniquely shaped travel trailer that is used for camping. They are one of the oldest travel trailer manufacturers starting way back in the 1930s by the founder Wally Byam.
The Airstream trailers are known to be the best for their unmistakable shiny aluminum curved-bodied travel trailers. They have an aluminum construction with a curved shell that is held together like an airplane- using rivets.
However, all of this beauty comes at an extra cost, a regular airstream trailer costs way more than its counterparts of other brands. But why are airstreams so expensive? Airstream trailers are usually expensive due to several factors, including the brand name, its aesthetic exterior, durability, etc.
If you’ve ever wondered why airstream travel trailers are usually costlier than their counterparts, read on as we explain everything to you.
Brief History Of Airstream Trailers
The Airstream travel trailer brand was founded by Wally Byam back in the 1930s. But at the beginning of the brand, the trailers were constructed out of Masonite and plywood, and he started to experiment with the installation of toilets, stoves, and water pumps creating little homes on wheels.
After a while, Wally then incorporated the aircraft construction procedures he had learned while in the service to create a stronger and more aerodynamic design and gave it the name “Airstream.”
By 1936, the first airstream model to be released was “the clipper” which had a riveted aluminum body, with a room that could contain four passengers and also carried its own water supply. This was retailed for $1,200, which was a huge amount back then because it was during the depression era.
Throughout the decades, the Airstream brand has grown and continued improving and evolving its products to make them more accommodating, classy, and well expensive.
Why Are Airstream So Expensive?
Yeah! We know airstreams have very beautiful exteriors but that isn’t enough reason why they cost as much as they do.
There are lots of substantial reasons why airstreams are so expensive and we are going to talk about them so you can decide for yourself if they are really worth it.
1. Beautiful exterior
Airstreams are famous for their aluminum body and it is actually one of the principal reasons why they are expensive. The shell of an airstream is constructed from a high-quality “aircraft grade” aluminum alloy that is placed over a steel frame.
This is then insulated and an inner shell of aluminum is attached from the inside. The building materials are way more expensive compared to that of other brands and it takes a lot more labor to assemble. Every rivet is placed by hand to ensure it is sealed perfectly in order to avoid damage to the frame.
Their building process prevents them from dropping appliances in from above instead they have to carry them inside the trailer and install them by hand. All this increases the labor and construction costs.
The body design is a major factor that makes Airstream a great trailer that is highly sought after. It has an all-metal construction which makes it very durable. It has a similar design to WWII-era aircraft which were known for their toughness. Unlike other travel trailers, Airstreams do not rot.
The only plywood that is used in an airstream body construction is the sub-floor which is required to provide an anchor point for the appliances that will be installed as well as the flooring.
This plywood is contained within the double frame so it is going to take a long while for it to experience rotting, unlike the plywood walls and floors of many other travel trailer brands.
The aluminum body also gives the trailer its signature streamlined shape and it also makes it lightweight compared to its counterparts. That makes airstreams easier to tow.
You should also know that airstream trailers are not painted instead, the signature silver bullet finish is due to its construction materials. This gives them a good look that is easy to maintain and can withstand all kinds of weather.
Many travel trailers cannot boast of a 30 and 40-year-old lifespan, they all usually have a limited lifespan but that isn’t the case with airstreams.
You can find numerous Airstreams up to 40 years of age on the road and if they were properly maintained they will still be looking good and shiny. Airstream trailers hold their value better and longer than any other brand and most times they outlive their original owners.
Wondering Why other brands don’t use aluminum bodies? Well, it’s because it is very expensive and many brands are just looking to slap on different features (which are sometimes unnecessary) on their trailers rather than longevity.
2. Brand name
The Airstream travel trailer is a luxury brand. They are made to appeal to middle and upper-class customers so, Like any other luxury brand, they come with a luxury price.
Airstreams also have a high fanbase with a lot of loyalty and love for Airstreams and this keeps the demand high as well as the resale value. This makes it beneficial to own an airstream.
There’s even a membership club for Airstream owners and this dates back to the company’s founder, Wally Byam, who organized international caravans for its members.
His main vision was to enable people to travel the world and have exciting adventures, not just to make a profit selling his trailers. Airstream owners have tight-knit communities and clubs that still rally for adventure and help one another.
Airstream is also an American brand and although They are not the only trailers being made in the US they have been in the business since the 1930s and have been using American labor since then.
3. Process of Construction
Airstream trailers have very labor-demanding construction which makes it no surprise that they are expensive. The outer shell of airstream trailers is made with aircraft-grade aluminum which is then wrapped over a steel frame.
A high amount of aluminum is needed for each trailer which contributes to its high cost. Once the initial outer shell of aluminum is put in place, then insulation is added and an inner shell of aluminum is attached from the inside.
All rivets on every single Airstream trailer are installed by hand. It is done this way in order to avoid damage to the frame and to also ensure a watertight seal.
Once the rivets are put in place, each and every appliance to be installed is carried inside and installed individually by hand. This is a very labor-intensive process which is another major factor for the expensive price of Airstream trailers.
The cost of needed materials, as well as the amount of labor required to build each trailer, is way higher compared to other brands of camper trailers.
This is another reason why airstreams cost as much as they do. They are very durable and immune to rotting as The only plywood used in their construction is for the subfloor which is used to anchor the finish flooring so that large RV appliances, like the stove and refrigerator, can be installed.
Even at that, the airstream has a double-frame design, so the plywood subfloor is completely contained within the frame which makes it a lot less likely to rot compared to other RVs. This helps to increase the lifespan of the trailer. Airstreams are known to last up to 40 years and still look brand new.
It is a fact that more than 75% of airstream trailers ever built are still up and running some of which includes the original models that were built way back in the 1930s.
Because airstream has an extremely durable design and construction, you are expected to spend less on annual maintenance costs, on average, compared to other trailer brands.
5. High Resale Value
Due to their durable construction, Airstream trailers can hold their value much better than their counterparts.
On average, most RVs and travel trailers have a 20% depreciation value just in the first year.
But that isn’t the case with Airstreams, in fact, they are known to have some of the highest resale values amongst RV brands. One major reason for this is their “pop culture” reputation. Airstreams trailers have been featured in lots of movies so their reputation is a huge factor.
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Other Airstream Qualities That Adds To Its Cost
Aside from their unique design and reputation, Airstream trailers are most sought after for other reasons. All because the company doesn’t hold back when building their trailers, here are some other additional factors why airstreams are pricey.
Carpentry And Finish Work
Airstream produces its own cabinetry and its furniture is made from high-quality materials. Each piece of furniture is carefully selected to fit the trailer’s unique shape.
Airstream sources its appliances from quality third-party providers, such as faucets from Moen. Although most RV brands also source their appliances from high-end and quality third-party providers most of them are reserved for their luxury models but, with Airstream, every trailer is considered a luxury model.
Airstream trailers are equipped with large windows which allows you to feel close to nature and get a really nice view from inside your trailer. Unlike most RVs brands that come with small portholes or tiny square windows that open partially.
The windows are covered with tempered glass so you get a clear view of your surroundings without having to open up the window.
Airstream also sources its brakes, axles, and wheels from highly reputable brands. If you travel a lot these areas are exposed to lots of wear and tear, so the fact that this area is also prioritized makes them a great brand.
Airstream trailers also have a great modern style, especially when compared to the “country home” aesthetic that is popular with most RV brands. Airstreams are known for their streamlined shape and curved surfaces which be a little more costly to manufacture.
But Airstream goes the extra mile to ensure that each and every one of their customers who purchase their trailer gets quality for their money.
What Is The Average Cost of An Airstream Trailer?
To experience the lifestyle of Airstream living you have to be ready to pay the price, literally! There are different price ranges of airstream trailers which can start from:
- Low-End Start Price: $37,900
- High-End Start price: $156,400
And for $37,900 which is their lowest price level, you only get a tiny 16′ trailer that’s not even of the classic styling.
When it comes to airstreams travel trailers there’s a wide range of sizes and options to choose from, it all depends on what you are looking for and your budget.
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Are Airstreams Worth The Cost?
We’ve talked about several reasons why Airstreams are so expensive, and all the aforementioned reasons are why airstreams are highly sought after. However, there are still some downsides to owning an airstream, aside from the cost there are certain issues that an airstream may encounter along the way.
You will need to regularly maintain the interior and exterior parts of An Airstream, and repairs on this brand are quite expensive compared to other trailers brand
Just like any other RV brand, you are still going to experience caulk issues with an Airstream. The constant movement of RV parts while they are on the road makes regular checking and maintenance of the roof and seams an important issue.
Due to the high durability of An Airstream, it may need to be re-caulked a dozen times in its lifetime.
However, due to their aluminum construction, only polyurethane caulk can be used for this as silicone caulks will not adhere properly. This type of caulk is way more expensive but works well for Airstreams.
You should also note that all RVs are prone to leaking and an Airstream is no exception but you can prevent this from happening by maintaining the caulk.
You should also ensure that the exterior is kept clean and waxed in order to maintain Airstream’s clear coat. With time the clear coat of an Airstream may start to peel and it will need to be buffed, polished, and recoated. Fortunately, black streaks are less to appear on Airstreams compared to other RV models.
There have been headroom issues in Airstreams. the roof of an airstream trailer is curved and this limits the headroom for taller occupants.
Its upper cabinet space is also impeded due to the curved roof. If you’re looking to purchase an airstream trailer you should take note of the headroom and interior space before settling for any of these models.
Airstream models can have limited outside storage so you also need to determine your needs to ensure that the storage of a particular model is the right choice for you.
However, due to the aluminum exterior of an Airstream, it may easily acquire dents, in fact, the slightest collision with a tree or post can leave a dent in your RV. The rounded edges of an Airstream are more prone to denting when it comes in contact with something.
Like any other travel trailer, you will still need trailer brakes, and sway bars and know the vehicle’s towing capacity before choosing an Airstream model.
You also need to check the cargo carrying capacity as well because due to the fact that They are very lightweight, they, may not be rated to carry as much cargo as some other RV models.
Airstream trailers are constructed in a way that the greater weight is evenly distributed over the axles and properly balanced in order to improve control.
Airstreams are known to be easy to tow way better than most travel trailers. You also need to properly plan your weight distribution when loading your Airstream.
two people should never be allowed to stand in the back of a long, unhitched Airstream without the stabilizer jacks being put down first due to the weight distribution of an Airstream, as that can cause it to tip and be damaged.
An airstream is also at risk of corrosion although it is usually localized and cosmetic. If you live or plan to camp near the ocean or in an area with salted roads, you’ll need to properly investigate the risk and severity this environment poses on your Airstream.
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Airstream is a trusted and loved brand, that is well built, very durable, high quality, easy to tow, and has a great resale value. If you love the style and beauty of airstream trailers, you will understand why are airstreams so expensive and if they are worth it.
At the end of the day choosing an airstream is a personal choice of want, need, and affordability.