Ready to try your hand a buying and renovating a Vintage Airstream trailer? It’s a lot of work… but worth it!
Vintage Airstreams are all the rage these days. While it’s still possible to find the vintage gem that’s been hidden in an aged explorer’s garage for the past fifty years, the instances are rare and should be quickly acted upon!
Instead, you’ll find most vintage Airstream owners have an idea they own something valuable. There are a few reliable sources of Airstream values based on comparisons, but like most purchases, it all depends on the buyer and seller.
The Older, the Better
Vintage Airstream prices go up as they get older. You won’t see many Airstreams from the 1930’s or 1940’s for sale, but as you start getting into the 1950’s and 1960’s, you’ve reached the age “sweet spot”.
As you move into the 1970’s and 1980’s, you lose some of the “vintage” appeal and its value is more determined by the quality. If the aluminum is in good shape and the interior is solid, you can find a good deal. As you move into the 1990’s and beyond, they should no longer be viewed for their vintage appeal, but instead by their overall shape.
The Shorter, the Better
If you’re looking at a vintage Airstream from the 1950’s to 1960’s, you’ll typically find the shorter Airstreams are more expensive. The Bambi which is as cute as the name implies is the smallest and typically most valuable trailer. With next size up at 17 feet, the Caravel is the another great purchase for a vintage trailer.
Our beloved vintage Airstream is the Globetrotter, measuring 20 feet long. The last single-axle trailer in the 1960s and 1970s variety is the 22 foot Safari. All four of these models are quite popular in their vintage years and will cost you pretty penny to purchase.
When we became interested in purchasing a vintage Airstream trailer, I started browsing the classifieds daily. Depending on your area, you can usually find a few on Craigslist or other local seller sites. It’s usually easiest to find undiscovered vintage beauties using these alternative sites.
As you can into the more familiar selling grounds of eBay, you’ll find a more informed seller usually has an idea of their Airstream’s value. The best stocked listings for vintage Airstreams is on Airstream Classifieds,. While the list is plentiful, the sellers are usually quite informed and you’ll have a lot of competition on the site.
We found our precious Penny Lane on Airstream Classifieds.
How to Value a Vintage Airstream
As you start to browse the various listings, you’ll notice a wide range in prices. As discussed above, must of this depends on the age, length and condition with the “older and shorter, the better”.
Many of the Airstreams on eBay are already remodeled, which makes them quite expensive, while many of the “local finds” are in a more original conditions. These should definitely be priced differently, as you’ll see below, it takes quite a bit to go from “original” to “restored”.
The best gauge of vintage Airstream prices can usually be found on Airstream Classifieds. They’ll often have 40+ listings from across the US with Airstreams of various ages and lengths.
We found our 1966 Globetrotter in solid, but mostly original condition listed at $7,000. When we went to see it a week after it was listed, the seller had already had multiple offers and many people who wanted to ship it to their location “sight unseen”. Luckily, the owner wasn’t comfortable with that and gladly accepted our $6,000 cash offer.
Perform an Inspection before Purchase
While it’s tempting to rush into a purchase when you finally find the vintage Airstream of your dreams, make sure you don’t buy a nightmare! Anytime you a vehicle or house that’s fifty years old, you’ll expect to find some issues… but you just need to know which issues are the worst.
Luckily, there are lots of Airstream vintagers that have created beautiful checklists to follow. The outside is the easiest to inspect, making sure the shell is in good shape. The real concerns are all on the inside – subfloors, electrical, plumbing, mechanicals, axles, etc.
Our “Penny Lane” was pretty rough around the edges, but the shell and subfloor were in pretty good shape. We did a full renovation (but not shell-off), so we weren’t too concerned with the interior shape.
Valuing a vintage Airstream is somewhat difficult, but estimating renovation costs is extremely difficult. There are many professional remodelers who will easily charge over $50,000 for a full “shell-off remodel”.
If you would rather renovate your Airstream yourself, I’d highly recommend researching what you’re getting into first. It is a lot of very challenging work that’s somewhere between fixing up an old car and remodeling an old house.
Our full renovation – with a majority of the work done by us – cost us $12,000. You can find all the costs details of our vintage Airstream renovation here.