It’s been one year since we picked up Mavis in Tampa, Florida and drove white knuckled all the way back to Atlanta. We had never owned a camping trailer before, never knew anyone that had one and really never even stepped foot inside one until we showed up and bought a trippy shag-carpeted silver monster from a sweet old lady. I thought I’d share our experience of searching for our vintage Airstream as it didn’t prove to be as easy as we thought it’d be. Once we finally decided to buy, actually finding a suitable one seemed to be the hard part. We had a daily routine of combing classifieds, Craigslist, eBay and anything else we could get our hands on. We searched for months only to find out either another buyer beat us to it, the trailer was too far gone, too expensive or too far away. This is the list of sites we used to search for Airstreams:
- Airstream Classifieds
- RV Trader
- Search Tempest – this nifty site searches Craigslist nationwide or a radius of your choice. If you are having trouble being the first to call about a Craigslist trailer, you could set up an alert to notify you the minute one is posted. We lost out on many Airstreams because we just weren’t fast enough. Here’s a step-by-step on how to set up an alert.
Our search radius was 500 miles. That scared us. We are the type of people that can’t buy a used car if it has a scratch or door ding on it. So buying a trailer – an old trailer – sight unseen was majorly frightening. If you are considering an Airstream that is not down the street, we recommend you take a look at a service called We Go Look. They will go out and ensure that a trailer is road-worthy as well as provide a comprehensive set of high res photos of every inch of the trailer, including any applicable damage photos. That’s the next best thing to actually seeing it in person before committing to buy.
These were our basic four questions we asked sellers:
- Is the subfloor rotted?
- Can you see or smell mold?
- Does it have any major towing issues?
- Are any of the windows broken?
Any of these that came up with a “yes” for an answer we ran from. These questions mostly covered the major issues that we just weren’t equipped for or had the time to deal with. Knowing what we learned after our renovation, the only thing on that list that would scare us now is a towing issue. Check out our Buyer’s Guide for more details on what to look for when shopping for a vintage Airstream.
We looked at three trailers before we found Mavis. A 31′ Sovereign and two 27′ Argosys. The 31′ was just too long, too hard to maneuver. The Argosys were beautiful and far less expensive but a “painted lady” just didn’t live up to my dream of a silver bullet. We held out for the perfect Airstream. One evening as I combed my usual sites, I stumbled upon Mavis. A 1975 Overlander in Tampa, Florida posted on eBay. It was listed through a 3rd party service and had very little information and photos. I was put in touch with the seller – a sweet older lady living in Michigan. She had been paying to have her Airstream housed at the storage facility in Tampa for the past seven years. The Airstream was but a dream for she and her husband. It was to be a mountain home for the two of them to finally slow down and live a simple life. Sadly, he passed before they could make this dream of theirs come true. The Airstream then sat neglected and forgotten at a storage facility in the Florida sun for the next seven years. But the truth is, she didn’t have the heart to sell it and part with those final memories of her husband. When she decided it was time to sell, she turned down many buyers. The two of us clicked right away when we first met through the eBay listing. I told her of my lifelong love for Airstreams and our wild, romantic idea to travel the country in one. Right now, while we are young. She told me we were the couple she had be waiting the last seven years for.
As we got down to business regarding the condition of the trailer, it passed all four of my questions (and then some!) so we started making arrangements to pick it up. Since the trailer was 500 miles away, we hired We Go Look to inspect the trailer to ensure it was roadworthy. Below is a page out of the report.
We have since lost touch with the previous owner but wherever she is, I hope she knows how much we love her Airstream and that we are doing our best to live a version of their dream in honor of them. We jumped feet first into this whole crazy experience and are so glad we did. We look back and laugh at how naive we were. We didn’t even know anything. Where to plug it in, how to get water to it or how to even hitch it up. But we’ve come along way and know this trailer and all her quirks like the back of our hands. Who would have ever known what a special thing this Airstream would have turned into. It’s been completely life changing for us. Living small, living simply and having the time and the freedom to enjoy the world around us is everything.