Trailer Happenings

No, we haven’t bought a trailer. We’re holding true to our game plan. But I continue to learn more and more about trailers, their prices and the best places to hunt for them. The last week has found me on eBay, which is turning out to be a good hunting spot. The site seems to get a steady stream of trailers, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

Other good sites include Tin Can Tourists, which has a decent classified section, that features a few new trailers every week or so. For Airstreams, the best site is Airstream Classifieds. 

The problem with Airstreams are two-fold. One, they are way too expensive. There was a damaged one on eBay that was a steal at $12,000 which, given the means, I would have rolled the dice on. Otherwise though you’re spending $10K minimum for anything in our 16′ range. The longer ones are actually less expensive. Which leads us to the second problem with Airstreams, they weigh too much. We could only pull a 16′ with our RAV4, and even so it’d have to be a vintage one. The newer ones are outfitted like Cadillacs with all sorts of heavy furniture and gear. This doesn’t keep me from looking, but you know how it goes. Wishful thinking.

Here are just of few of this week’s crop of new and used trailers I’ve been spying.

 

 

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Wanderlust Part 2

A Serro Scotty Highlander. Up until just recently you could buy these brand new from the dealer just across the border in PA. It's a 16' trailer, and one of the wife's personal favorites. Photo from the www.scottytrailers.com website

A Serro Scotty Highlander. Up until just recently you could buy these brand new from the dealer just across the border in PA. It’s a 16′ trailer, and one of the wife’s personal favorites. Photo from the http://www.scottytrailers.com website

In yesterday’s post we talked about our investigation into getting a travel trailer. In this post we’ll start to look at what our options are and how they affect our budget.

New Trailer

We went to the RV show to get a feel for what’s available new and to see how much they cost. The show featured many of the “mainstream” boxy looking trailers in various configurations. We actually found a few floor plans we felt would work well for our little family. Features such as a toilet, shower, range, microwave, A/C, propane, etc. are all standard and ubiquitous for the most part, regardless of brand and floor plan. These are all the things we need for our base camp.

 

Viking was one of the brands we liked for new trailers. Here are some typical layouts we felt worked well for our family of four. You could definitely spend long periods of time on the road with this as base camp.

Viking was one of the brands we liked for new trailers. Here are some typical layouts we felt worked well for our family of four. You could definitely spend long periods of time on the road with this as base camp.

As for price I didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately the dealers all had pricing on the trailers, and the RV show featured huge discounts, bringing the typical cost of a trailer in our size range (16′-21′) down into the $9,000 – $15,000 range (from around $13K-$20K). Cool retro looking Scamps, T@bs and Scotty’s like the one up top can be had brand spanking new, but the cost is even higher. For example a retro re-issue 2015 Shasta Airflyte runs $17,000 or more. Ouch.

A typical modern day travel trailer within our budget. This Viking is from the www.coachmenrv.com website

A typical modern day travel trailer within our budget. This Viking is from the http://www.coachmenrv.com website

 

It's 1959 all over again. You can buy one of these brand new today.

It’s 1959 all over again. You can buy one of these Shasta Airflytes brand new today.

So from a budget standpoint, a new trailer would be do-able in theory. We could squirrel away a few hundred dollars away each month and then the next time the show comes around we could take advantage of show pricing. Or maybe find a used late model trailer between now and next year.

If you people would buy some of our art it would make things much easier. We take commissions. We’ll barter…I will exchange design for a trailer….

Ok, seriously though, those prices are good, but not great. In reality we’re still broke and a trailer isn’t a necessity by normal people standards. We may not be able to squirrel away an acorn, let alone ten large.

Vintage Trailer

In just a short week I’ve become a virtual travel trailer expert. Or at least I know a LOT more now than I did before. Actually my wife and I both have.

She’s become an expert in what what she likes. She also keeps me laser focused. Because if it was up to me we’d be shopping $45,000 Airstream Sport’s. (I will own one someday, mark my words).

We just need a simple trailer that has a bathroom and can sleep four of us. In fact as the boys get older, they, or I, can sleep in a tent outside if need be.

Stay focused.

What if we bought used? Like really used. Like old.

As an industrial designer I’m intrigued by the self indulgence of designing my own trailer interior. Maybe god does help those who help themselves. What if we found a used trailer and gutted the inside. Outfitting it with all the modern amenities we need. Styling the inside just the way the designer in me would love to do. We’d need something that was structurally sound and hopefully leak proof.

Other than the unfinished basement project, I kinda have run out of self imposed windmills to chase.

I’m really good with a saw and nail gun. I have people who can fabricate anything I can imagine. My brother’s a carpenter. The inside of a trailer is just like a tiny house. We could definitely do this. And the wife really likes the look of old those old Scotty Highlanders (blue and white trailer at the top of the post).

I started looking around and while there aren’t a ton of trailers out there, but there are enough to get my blood and imagination moving. And there are a bunch of vintage trailer restoration forums and websites. There’s even a couple who restore old trailers as their business and have a TV show. Who would’ve thought people did this sort of thing.

I want a TV show.

Ok, stay focused.

You can buy a brand new Scamp trailer with the same body style they've been making for decades. The inside is up to date. Image from the Scamp website.

You can buy a brand new Scamp trailer with the same body style they’ve been making for decades. The inside is up to date. When you look at used ones from the 80’s, they look virtually identical. Image from the Scamp website.

Like I said, Christine really likes the look of some of these vintage trailers, as do I. While it’s convenient that many of them are still for sale brand spanking new, that is not an option for us. Luckily there are Scamps and other vintage trailers within reach of our meager means. Tentatively I would set a budget of $1,000-$5,000 for a used trailer that I could gut the interior on.

I do not want to do a full frame off restoration or renovation. Also, I’m not interested in restoring a trailer to it’s 1960’s glory either. The interior will be 100% contemporary. In line with our aesthetic and taste.

I looked at photos of redone Airstreams and other trailers. The interior construction is simple to do.  I would lay down wood laminate floors, and hopefully line the interior in polished aluminum or wood. Then build all the cabinets and beds out of 3/4″ birch plywood. Not cheap but I’d contribute all the labor.

And most importantly we could build it as funds were available.

Maybe even use it before it’s completed.

In just a few days of looking I’m starting to learn about all the various brands and styles of campers that were made in the last 70 years. Obviously an Airstream would be my first choice because of the style and solid construction. But they are impossible to find in the 16′ range, at a reasonable price. I can buy 20’+ Airstreams all day for under $15K but 16′ models are impossible. In fact 16′ vintage trailers are in such high demand apparently that they fetch top dollar, are hard to find, or are already restored; often to look like 50’s diners unfortunately.

There are options though. We just have to keep our eyes open.

Something like this though is right in my wheelhouse:

This two door 1953 canned ham style trailer would be perfect. I love the port hole window in the door. Asking price is right in our budget at $1,600

This two door 1953 canned ham style trailer would be perfect. I love the port-hole window in the door. Asking price is right in our budget at $1,600

 

 

We’re on the lookout. Browsing forums and classifieds; under no time crunch. When the stars align we’ll make it happen one way or another if we want to.

No matter what happens, it’s great to learn about a new topic. I’ll have more useless knowledge than anyone I know I suppose.

Stay tuned.

-Chris

Here are some interiors to get you excited:

An office inside a trailer. Maybe I could just live in the trailer and rent out the house.

An office inside a trailer. Maybe I could just live in the trailer and rent out the house.

A special edition Airstream Bambi interior for sale on Ebay for $25,000

A special edition Airstream Bambi interior for sale on Ebay for $25,000

The awesome interior of a renovated Royale. Yes please.

The awesome interior of a renovated Royale. Yes please.

The interior of a modern Viking trailer. It's like being at home. And if I wanted to I could redo it completely down the road, really jazz it up.

The interior of a modern Viking trailer. It’s like being at home. And if I wanted to I could redo it completely down the road, really jazz it up.

Wanderlust – Our Travel Trailer Adventure?

I like the simplicity of this restored 1956 Santa Fe, especially the satin aluminum exterior - image via flytecamp.com

I like the simplicity of this restored 1956 Santa Fe, especially the satin aluminum exterior – image via flytecamp.com

Wanderlust

One of the things we’ve always enjoyed is traveling. Before the kids came along, the wife and I would make a point of visiting America’s national parks. Seeing nature, learning a little history, and simply being on the road. One of our first dates was spent adrift in Biscayne National Park on a broken snorkeling boat for four hours with thirty other people and no bathroom.

You don’t get that at Disney World.

And I for one have always enjoyed driving and the experience of the open road. It is an experience that is a treasured, integral part of living in North America I believe and fully support.

As we all know though, things change. We get busy. We make families or change lifestyles. Work, that necessary evil, gets in the way of the living part of life.

In our case, we’re busy as ever, but our children are starting to get old enough where we can, should, start thinking about taking real vacations with them. Actually, from my perspective, it’s not even really about “vacation” as I want them to experience the world beyond our little home as much and as early as possible. I simply think it will make them more well adjusted kids, and eventually, well adjusted adults.

The plus side of our current lifestyle is that we both work from home. So as long as we have an internet connection we can basically work from anywhere. The other harsh reality though is that we’re basically broke. With a focus on keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table and a good education for our children, there is zero money left over for vacations.

The question becomes, can we see the world, or at least our little part of it, on an essentially nonexistent budget? I think so. So like any good project we’re working on a plan. I don’t know when or even if we’ll execute our plan, but a plan doesn’t really cost much to put together.

Road-trip

Our thought is to get a travel trailer and use that as our base camp for our travels. The wife and I have been discussing our vacation options for quite some time now. Nearly every possible scenario was considered, and we decided that a small trailer that we could tow with our current little SUV would be the best choice. It would provide basically a roaming hotel room, and allow us the freedom to explore the countryside and mountain vistas with our vehicle, while the trailer stayed at a campground.

We would need a trailer that could sleep the four of us. More importantly, it must have a toilet and shower. And to keep meal costs low, the trailer would have a small refrigerator, range, sink and microwave. Before you think we’re “glamping”, all of these amenities are very common, even on small inexpensive travel trailers.

Lengthwise we’d go as small as possible; somewhere between 13′ and 21′ long; with 16′ as our benchmark to shoot for.

But Chris, you guys are broke, how can you afford this? We can’t but that’s never been a deterrent before. And as we prioritize things, at least I believe it’s important to get the kids out there to start seeing the world. Doing this when they are in their 20’s is useless. We will all hate each other by then. It’s now or never.

Having a little trailer hopping from campsite to campsite seemingly would be fun as well – little twinkle lights on the awning, turkey burgers on the grill. Meeting strange people that we can hide from in the safety of our hard trailer walls at night.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, right?

Travel Trailer Game Plan

We do not have a set schedule, but preferably by spring of next year we’ll be well on our way to achieving our goal of having a trailer and hitting the road.

As stated, our intent would be to use the trailer as a base camp. A place to sleep, hang out at night, eat breakfast and dinner in, occasionally lunch. Aside from trailer cost, we’re assuming food costs would be neutral compared to being at home. Campsite costs run around $20-$30 a night according to USAtourist.com, which is about $100 less per night than a hotel room. We figure we’ll eat out less if we can cook our own meals, so maybe save $20-$30 on food per day compared to a regular hotel based “vacation”. Fuel costs will be higher due to reduced gas mileage (+$300/year?). Plus additional insurance (+$300/year?) so that will offset some of the cost savings of our mobile hotel room.

We’re thinking about twenty nights on the road a year – two vacations at a week apiece, plus a few long weekends. And this doesn’t include any out of state art shows we might use the trailer for. One other awesome thought we had too, was, in theory we could pack up the cats, kids and gear, and park our trailer in a campground on the Gulf coast for two weeks to escape the seasonally depressing NEOhio winter.

It sure beats putting a bullet in my head.

Without doing any hard math, I’m guessing if we had a $10,000 budget the endeavor would pay for itself via cost avoidance in 3-5 years. At which time we could trade it in and get ourselves even further into debt with some other hair brained idea of mine.

Before we talk more about budget though, let’s start looking at trailers. Because up until a few days ago I didn’t even know what to expect they would cost…

Click here to see Part 2 of this post