Is Buying an Airstream Camper Really Worth the Monster Cash?

Some things are better than they actually are. Let me explain. Nostalgia, icons, classics, these labels raise things above their literal value and give them a supernatural position where what they actually are matters less than what we think they are. A Jeep Wrangler is a great example of this. Airstream campers have fully passed into this territory. There is a catch, though. Airstream is low key updating while still looking like the classic silver bullet. 

Why does an Airstream trailer cost so much?

Airstream campers have been gracing our highways since the 1930s. According to Camper Report, Thor Industries (the folks who own Airstream) claim that an estimated 65-70 percent of all Airstreams ever made are still gleaming as they roam our highways. That is a lot of vintage RVs. Of course, Airstream is making more than just trailers these days, and that affects things, but still, that is a pretty impressive ROI. 

Silver Airstream Flying Cloud camper being towed by a blue Ford F-150 in a forested national park
Airstream Flying Cloud camper being towed by a Ford F-150 | Airstream

New Airstream trailers cost anywhere from $36,900 up to $149,900. Nothing in that range is cheap, but you are looking at a possible 90-years of use. I’d like to see someone get that kind of mileage out of a Kia. The point here is, yes, they are expensive things, but they are clearly able to last quite a while if properly cared for. 

What are Airstream campers trailers made of?

If you think of WW2 fighter planes when you see an Airstream pulled down the road, you aren’t alone or wrong. Part of the value and durability of these living legends is that they are made of aircraft-grade aluminum. 

The other aspect that makes these stand out is that they are seamlessly riveted together, just like those old planes. This process of riveting the aluminum shell to the steel frame is done by hand to ensure quality and a leak-free cabin. This costs money. Are we starting to see the value in these iconic campers? 

What about the inside? 

Airstream makes all its own furnishings. Due to these trailers’ unique shape, the company decided to outfit the interior themselves so that the entire package works together. The aesthetic is a vintage-modern. Light colors, swooping lines, and still, an air of vintage futurism defines the modern look. The brand is damn near a fashion icon at this point. 

There are some headaches invloved

vintage Airstream RV and Camper model trailer parked on the grass at an event
vinage Airstream trailer | Airstream

Airstream May Look Retro But That’s Only a Disguise

Like any high-fashion item, Airstreams take some care and looking after if you want to keep them nice for 90 years. Airstream owners are in a constant state of upkeep and maintenance. The aluminum shell needs regular cleaning and waxing to keep it from degradation. Certain seams will need to be chaulked and seen to regularly to out moisture. Due to the shape of its hull, they can be limiting on how much exterior storage you have. But to continue the analogy, you don’t buy Gucci because of its pockets. 

So, is the juice worth the squeeze?

It all depends on what you want/need. If you want the toughest, most rugged overlanding camper to weather the apocalypse, then I would not think the Airstream would be worth it. But, if you are trying to do some casual camping and want to look like a million bucks while doing it and join in an automotive legacy while doing it, then hell yeah, it’s worth it.