THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A VINTAGE TRAILER

Our 1984 triple axle Avion 34V

 

From a folding camping trailer to large fifth wheels, Brent and I have owned our share of RVs. After four years of full-time RVing, our family finally settled down and decided we needed a smaller RV for weekend camping and summer road trips. We looked at all sorts of RVs, visiting RV shows and dealerships, but finally settled on a vintage Avion, Airstream’s second cousin. We spent the summer exploring Route 66 and couldn’t have felt cooler. Literally, because the air conditioner wouldn’t stop dripping on me while I slept. Ha! Regardless, of the quirks we loved that trailer. A year later, we came across a great deal on a rare front kitchen Airstream. We had dreamed of owning an Airstream for years, so we sold the Avion and finally became part of the Airstream club. Having owned new, used (newer used RVs), and now a vintage trailer we’ve learned a few things. Many of the same things that apply to buying a late model trailer, like towing capacity of your tow vehicle, also apply to buying a vintage trailer with a few more things to consider.

 

1998 Airstream Excella 34’ FK

 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Vintage Trailer

 

Usage – How do you plan to use the vintage trailer? Weekend trips? Full-time RVing? Airbnb or guest house? Winter RVing? Most vintage RVs (Not all, our Avion was great in cold weather.) aren’t going to be suited for winter camping without significantly upgrading the insulation, a BIG job! If having more space is a priority, as it often is when full-time RVing or camping with large families, you won’t find many, if any, vintage trailers with slide outs.

 

The Princess is a fully renovated 1969 Streamline Princess Photo courtesy of Marmalade Vintage Trailers

 

 

Handyman Skills – Are you handy and do you enjoy learning that sort of work? Vintage trailers will often need more work than their newer counterparts. It really helps if you have some handyman skills or else maintenance and repair expenses can add up very quickly. Just as

important as having the skills is actually enjoying the work. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you want to! I’ve found most vintage trailer owners, including myself and my husband Brent, really enjoy the process of renovating. Of course, it’s always possible to buy a fully renovated vintage trailer.

 

Photo courtesy of Marmalade Vintage Trailers

 

Campgrounds – It might come as a surprise, but not all campgrounds are vintage RV friendly. There are campgrounds that place age restrictions on the type of RV they will allow. Others place restrictions on length limits and many vintage trailers are on the shorter side. We once stayed at a campground and our friends came to camp with us in their adorable little vintage trailer. Unbeknownst to us, the campground had a length rule and our friends weren’t allowed to camp there! (It worked out because we were camping in a huge fifth wheel at the time, so they just stayed with us. It was cozy but great fun!) If you visit specific campgrounds regularly, you will want to make sure they don’t have any of these types of restrictions in place before purchasing a vintage trailer.

 

Before and After of a 1963 Shasta Compact Photo Courtesy of Guy Bratton

 

Scope of Work – It’s really important to carefully and fully consider the scope of the work before buying a vintage trailer. Vintage trailer renovations run the gamut from shell off renovations

(where the camper is stripped of everything and the shell, the walls and roof, is lifted to work on the chassis) to simpler repairs like replacing worn awnings. You’ll want to take a full inventory of what might need work. Some things to consider are: leaks, water damage, electrical system, water lines, water pumps, heaters, toilets, showers, sinks, air conditioners, axles, floors and subfloors, tires, body condition, the frame, tires, windows (vintage windows can be hard to find), appliances, propane line, awnings, and a clear title. We called about many vintage trailers that were inexpensive and looked good in pictures only to find out the title was salvaged or it didn’t have a title at all!

 

Be Prepared to Walk Away – It’s really easy to get emotionally attached to the idea of a vintage trailer (Trust me, I know!) without full consideration of the amount of work involved. Take an inspection checklist and take your time going over the trailer from top to bottom and front to back. Be sure to ask the owner lots of questions and if the answers don’t add up then be prepared to walk away.

 

1957 Airstream Bubble Photo courtesy of Guy Bratton

 

Be Patient – Along the lines of being prepared to walk away, it’s important to be patient. Finding a vintage trailer is more difficult and time consuming than going to your nearest RV dealer. It will take searching at multiple sources like RV Trader, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc. You may have to look at many trailers before you find the right one. Personally, we prefer to buy vintage trailers that have had fewer owners. We bought our Airstream from the original owners who had retired and were no longer RVing. They took the time to explain all the quirks of the

trailer and pointed out all the things that they knew needed repairs. This is an ideal situation but not always possible. Don’t give up! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t worry there will always be another one!

 

Be Prepared for Surprises – So you’ve found your perfect trailer, inspected it thoroughly, and you pulled it home to start working on it. Don’t be surprised if you pull up the carpet only to find a section of soft or rotting subfloor or you realize you forget to check the stove and it doesn’t work. It happens. There is a good chance you will miss something when checking the trailer out. It’s okay, almost everything is repairable. Just prepare yourself for surprise repairs ahead of time and you can roll with it.

 

Photo courtesy of Guy Bratton

 

Budget – Once you find a prospective vintage trailer make a list of all the things that are important to you in order of importance. Start with the non-negotiable components like axels and wheels and work your way to down to the cosmetics like curtains. It’s likely you won’t need to do everything on the list but it’s a good starting point to have. Visit sites like Ebay and Vintage Trailer Supply to get an idea what these renovations or repairs will cost and make a budget.

 

Photo courtesy of Guy Bratton

 

Community – One of the best parts of owning a vintage RV, other than enjoying the charm and history, is the instant community. There are many clubs, meet ups, and rallies for vintage trailer owners. There are even dedicated groups and clubs for specific makes of vintage trailers. These groups tend to be really welcoming and enthusiastic. It’s definitely a perk to owning a vintage trailer. (Note: There are meet-ups and clubs for nearly all major brands of late model RVs as well!)

 

Photo courtesy of Riverside RV

  

After some contemplation, you may have decided a true vintage trailer and the potential work that comes with it is not for you. Perhaps you really just want the peace of mind that comes with a warranty? If it’s the vintage charm you are after and not the possible surprises then you might want consider one of the new trailers that look vintage like the Retro from Riverside RV. It’s got charm and modern convenience.

 

What about you! Have you ever bought or considered buying a vintage trailer? Any advice to share?

THE STAYING POWER OF OLDER RVS

I can still remember the excitement I felt riding in the back of our gold station wagon (with a 455-cubic engine!) that pulled my family’s 1970 Starcraft travel trailer. It was an older RV but my siblings and I didn’t care. We were off for a weekend of adventure that meant time to roam the woods, explore caves, and roast marshmallows around a campfire. My childhood was filled with road trips and weekends at campgrounds that remain some of my fondest memories. The love of the road is a gene I inherited from my parents.

Like the one belonging to my parents, our own first RV, a 1996 Jayco folding camping trailer, was over a decade old. We had a small budget but big plans to give our kids oodles of childhood memories. Although that RV was 13 years old when we bought it, it gave us years of fun as we camped on the shores of the Pacific Ocean or under a canopy of Redwoods. It required very little aside from general maintenance and was in exceptional shape for its age.

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RVING FOR HISTORY BUFFS: 10 MUST SEE PLACES

When many people think about RVing they think of parking next to the lake for a weekend of fishing or heading to the mountains for hiking, but RVing is also the perfect way to get out and explore North America’s rich history.

We spent four years touring the United States in our RV. Much of that time was dedicated to visiting historical sites from Key West to Alaska and San Francisco to New York City and hundreds of places in between. Narrowing down my list to 10 places was next to impossible. It would have been much easier to write 100 Must See Places but for the sake of length and your time I whittled the list down to ten. I chose RV-friendly places in a variety of locations around the country and most have the added benefit of natural beauty for outdoor enthusiasts.

 

 

Boston, MA

For early American history, it doesn’t get much better than Boston. Boston is home to the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile marked path through downtown that passes by 16 historical significant locations. It starts at the Boston Commons and winds its way down to Bunker Hill. While not a part of the Freedom Trail, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum offers an

in- depth look at an event that changed the course of history. Not far from Boston you’ll also find Plymouth Plantation, a living history museum about the early settlement of Plymouth Colony. Campgrounds are limited to the outskirts of Boston. We’d recommend camping at one of the numerous campgrounds between Boston and Cape Cod so you can experience Boston’s history and spend a day or two experiencing the beauty of Cape Cod.

 

 

Charleston, SC

The history of Charleston, South Carolina is one of the most enduring in the country. Founded by the English in 1670, Charleston began as a small seaport settlement. By the 18th century it had grown into a wealthy city. The bloodiest four years in America began in April of 1861 when Confederate soldiers opened fire at Union-occupied Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor. The Civil War devastated Charleston but the lack of funds forced the city to repair instead of replace buildings thus preserving a large array of significant architecture. Start your visit at the Charleston Visitor Center for suggestions from their friendly and helpful staff and be sure to watch, Forever Charleston, to get an overview of the city’s history. Must-sees include Fort Sumpter National Monument, a walking tour of historic downtown self-guided or otherwise, Battery Park, and Charleston City Market. A handful of campgrounds are on the outskirts of the city including Edisto Beach State Park where you can camp on the coast. Or consider staying further south and add a day trip to Savannah, Georgia to your history tour.

 

 

Dearborn, MI

Located just outside Detroit, MI, Dearborn is a haven of history in the Midwest. The must-see attraction is The Henry Ford. The Henry Ford Museum of Innovation is nothing short of spectacular. Step onto the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, see past presidential cars, learn about manufacturing, and even see early RVs. Head over to Greenfield Village where you can ride in a Model T, explore Thomas Edison’s lab, and see the workshop where the Wright brothers thought to reach for the sky. There are a number of campgrounds located outside the Detroit area. If you want to spend some time enjoying Lake Erie, we suggest Sterling State Park Campground located south of Dearborn on the lake.

 

 

New Orleans, LA

In 1803 the United States bought approximately 827,000 square miles of land for 15 million dollars from France. Known as the Louisiana Purchase, this territory located west of the Mississippi included New Orleans. New Orleans’ history is as rich and varied as its food. Stroll the famous French Quarter and visit the St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1724, St Louis is the oldest continuously active Catholic cathedral in the United States. Ride one of the continuously operating streetcars in the world. You’ll also find museums galore including The New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park and The National World War II Museum. As for places to camp you’ll find RV parks within walking distance to the French Quarter or pick one of the many nearby campgrounds located and drive in for the day. For more tips on visiting New Orleans with kids check out RVing in New Orleans.

 

 

Philadelphia, PA

A history trip isn’t complete without a visit to our nation’s first capitol city, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The main course is Independence National Historic Park. Independence NHP is an urban park that contains historical delights like the Liberty Bell, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, Carpenter’s Hall, and Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. In addition, there are many other smaller sites that commemorate the people and places of our rich history. Consider visiting nearby Valley Forge located northeast of the Philadelphia to learn more about place where the American Continental Army spent the harsh winter 1777 and 1778. Campgrounds are speckled all around the city, including one in downtown.

 

 

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe is the oldest capitol city in the United States and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi. Explore ancient Native Americans petroglyphs or visit the Palace of the Governors, one of the nation’s oldest government buildings. Currently, the Palace of the Governors serves as New Mexico’s History Museum. Just outside of the city, you’ll find Pecos National Historical Park where the remains of Indian Pueblos teach us about the ancient peoples who once thrived in this high desert. History, art, and culture are rich in Santa Fe and there are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had as well. All of this makes it a wonderful stop for RVing history buffs.

 

 

St. Augustine, FL

Along the sandy shores of the Atlantic in northern Florida, lies the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States, St Augustine. St. Augustine was founded in by Spanish conquistador, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1565. St. Augustine has been the home to a wide array of cultures from Native Americans, Spanish settlers, British soldiers, and unconventional millionaires, all who have left their mark on this beautiful coastal city. Visit the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish fortress, walk through the historic district, and spend time at the beach. If you can get a spot (reserve early), stay at Anastasia State Park located across Matanzas Bay from downtown St. Augustine.

 

 

Washington DC

Of course, no list of best places for history buffs is complete without our nation’s capital city, Washington D.C. It might surprise you that Washington D.C. is very RV friendly. Well, you won’t be parking on the National Mall, but there are plenty of options nearby making an RV trip to Washington D.C. educational and affordable! The list of attractions in D.C. is long and ever growing so plan accordingly. For an in depth look at our favorite places to visit while RVing Washington D.C. check out this post.

 

 

Williamsburg, VA

Known as the Historic Triangle, Williamsburg, Virginia is where American history comes alive. You’ll be able to walk through and touch hundreds of years of history in the living history museums. From the Native Americans who first called this area home to the first settlers founding Jamestown in 1607 to the Battle of Yorktown, history is thick around Williamsburg. Plan on spending multiple days to tour Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, American Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown, and Yorktown Battlefield. There are a number of campgrounds to choose from in the area. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Yellowstone National Park, WY, ID, MT

National parks and RVing are like ice cream and cake. They just fit together. Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park and, depending on who you ask, the second oldest in the world. This history with its unmatched geological wonders makes it a must see for RVers. Be sure to attend a ranger program or two discussing the history of the park. It’s fascinating to hear how conservancy and culture has changed over the years. Today you wouldn’t think of intentionally feeding bears but back in the 1900s it was a common occurrence and there are pictures to prove it! You’ll find numerous campgrounds located in and around the park. If possible plan a visit early or late in the season to avoid crowds.

Are you a history buff? Where are some of your favorite places to Go RVing?

 

 

COOK UP SOME ADVENTURE: BEST APPLIANCES FOR YOUR RV KITCHEN

I’m at once a homebody and an adventurer. Can you relate? Nothing fits these dual sides of the adventurous homebody better than an RV. Wheels to satisfy the wanderlust and all the comforts of home while out on the road. Perfection.

 

 

My husband, Brent, and I both enjoy cooking and we find that meals together as a family complete our RV travels. During our 13+ years of RV ownership, more than four of those spent as full time RVers, we’ve experimented with a number of space and propane saving appliances. We are happy to share with you what we’ve found to be the best appliances for the RV kitchen.

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10 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING THE PERFECT RV FOR YOUR FAMILY

A soft bed to sleep on after the day spent playing at the lake. A kitchen to easily prepare your family’s favorite meals. A shower to clean up in after a long day on a dusty trail. A home away from home in all your favorite places.

 

You’ve decided you want to experience the RV life. Or maybe you’ve been hooked for some time, but your family’s needs have changed and it’s time for an upgrade. With so many RVs to choose from it can be overwhelming. Don’t worry, ask yourself these ten questions to help make the decision easier.

 

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