Friday, October 17, 2014


Short Answer:  Cross your fingers, say your prayers, conduct your own market research, do your best, open your wallet, and take your chances.

Longer Answer:  There are a couple of things you should know about buying a used Airstream Interstate.  I have summarized a few of those in the listicle below.

(1) Used Airstream Interstates are surprisingly expensive.
Screengrabbed and annotated from this RV Trader post, the link for which might be dead by the time you click it.  This unit is very similar to ours except it's a rear bath and ours is a mid-bath.  It probably listed for approximately $90,000 when it was new and yet despite having over 100,000 miles on it, it still has a high market value.  Relative to other listings we have seen recently, this asking price is probably close to realistic.  
(2) Used Airstream Interstates are surprisingly rare on the sales market.  This is not unrelated to the first point above.  It's a supply-and-demand situation.
This is fairly typical of what we've observed over the past few months - buyers seem to unload them quickly or hold them over the very long term, such that there are virtually no moderately-used, moderately-priced units on the market.  Most of what's for sale seems to be either almost new or almost dead.

Of course, RV Trader is not the only sales site on the internet, but it's one of the biggest, and we found that it was reasonably reflective of the market.  
(4)  The good used units sell very fast.  In late August 2014, we had our eye on one at Colonial Airstream, which is a large dealer in New Jersey.  We called about four days after it listed, only to be greeted on the phone by a frustrated salesman who lamented the fact that the third-party website upon which he had posted the listing required a ten-day minimum posting time.  The unit had actually sold within six hours of being posted for sale, and since that time, he had been taking "at least six calls every day" from additional people who wished to buy it.  Moral of the story:  Good used Airstreams tend to sell as fast as they become available.

(5) There may be a geographic bias in the distribution, or perhaps it's just a small-numbers phenomenon.  We found only one for sale in the state of Texas during our own shopping interval (and the one we did find was almost new such that the owner wanted close to full MSRP).  We do know that our local dealers such as Holiday World of Houston are selling new inventory quickly when they do get them in (we've looked at those dealers), but the absolute number of both the new and used units we've seen remains extremely low.  We get the impression that they might be more popular in other areas of the country, which makes no sense to me because it seems like they should be more common in Texas, as its rock-bottom cost of living is precisely what allows such discretionary expenditures for many of the middle class.
In Houston, you can have a wonderful home AND an RV for about the same price as a crummy home in many other American cities.  Maybe most people here buy boats instead and that's why there are so few Airstreams.

Image excerpted from this unusual Sparefoot graphic.  
(6) You may have to arrange your purchase in another state.  This, in itself, poses a number of challenges, especially when it comes to verifying the condition of the vehicle prior to closing the sale.

We faced all of these general hurdles in purchasing our Airstream Interstate, but I will save that story for our next post.
During our Airstream purchase experience, I experienced moments of both.

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