Why Are Airstreams So Expensive?


You’ve looked into an RV, but that’s too big for what you need. Travel trailers are more the size of the vehicle you’re interested in, but you haven’t found one that appeals to you. Well, except for an Airstream. The only problem is Airstreams are quite pricy! Why is that?

Airstreams are expensive due to the aluminum construction used during production. Labor costs also drive up the price of an Airsteam, as does the brand’s name recognition and the distinct profile of the travel trailer. 

In oday’s post, we’ll delve into the pricing for a new versus used Airstream and elaborate further on why one of these vehicles is so expensive. We even have some Airstream alternatives to share that are more reasonably priced. You’re not going to want to miss it! 

Reasons Airstreams So Expensive?

Okay, so what’s clear is that either way, if you go used or new, an Airstream is going to be costly. Why is that? Allow us to explain by delving deeper into the points from the intro. 

Name Recognition

Airstream was founded during the 1920s by Wally Byam. Ever since then, the Airstream has become an American institution.  

The popularity of the Airstream has reached critical mass with the development of Airstream parks in the US. These campgrounds and parks are owned by Airstream lovers who decide they want to own or lease the site. Since it’s their site, their rules, if you have a non-Airstream and you try to stay, you could be kicked out. Other site owners are a little more accommodating, but it depends. 

By the way, these Airstream fans even have their own nickname: Airstreamers. As this should all tell you, those who love Airstream are more than mere RV fans, but passionate about their vehicle of choice and proud to let it show. 

Exterior Looks

As Airstream says on their website, “the aerodynamic aluminum exteriors turn heads on the highway.” The Airstream does indeed have a distinct profile, as it’s shaped like a sausage, or–a little more flatteringly–a bullet. The Airstream is rounded at the top and flat on the sides and bottom. When combined with its aluminum exterior, which may be polished to the point where it’s reflective, you do have a rather striking vehicle.

The shape of the Airstream also goes back generations. Hawley Bowlus, the designer of the Airstream, created that shape sometime in the 1930s and it’s stuck ever since. This is definitely one of those instances of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  

High-Quality Construction

Arguably the biggest reason Airstreams are considered so expensive has to do with the quality of the materials. The Airstream shell is riveted in place so the aluminum becomes self-supporting. Airstream likens their travel trailer design to that of airplane fuselage.

Aluminum is often inexpensive, so it’s not just the shell material that drives up the price of an Airstream. The Airstream is also designed exteriorly in such a way that it’s draft and wind-resistant, including protection from side winds caused by traffic as you drive. Airstream says you can get up to 20 percent more fuel efficiency when using the Airstream as a towing vehicle compared to a travel trailer that’s about the same size.

A rubber torsion axle for towing, which Airstream calls “premium,” is able to absorb road vibration at a higher rate of 50 percent over standard travel trailer leaf springs. If you tow often, the Airstream should provide more comfort and stability. 

Inside the Airstream, no expenses are spared. You get furniture included with your purchase as well as USB ports, 110-volt outlets, an entertainment system, climate control, and appliances. Transcore flooring inside is made of a polypropylene and recycled glass composite. According to Airstream, Transcore flooring has great screw retention, strength, and a sturdy feeling. It’s waterproof as well. 

These amenities, at least to some extent, come standard with every Airstream, which is why you can’t escape the high prices. 

Labor 

From measuring out the metal shell of the Airstream’s exterior to riveting it to the frame of the trailer (which requires rivets in the thousands, if not more), it’s not exactly quick nor easy to put together an Airstream. That time, dedication, and craftsmanship is ultimately worth it for the final result, but you do end up paying for the labor. 

How Much Does a New Airstream Cost? What about a Used One?

Not all Airstreams are the same. Per the Airstream USA website, let’s take a closer look at some of the various Airstream models and compare the costs for a new travel trailer from this manufacturer versus a used one. 

New Airstream Costs

Do you need a teensy-weensy travel trailer or a long one big enough to transport a horse? Airstream has ‘em. Here is an overview of the various Airstream travel trailer models and their prices when you buy them new.

  • Basecamp, 16 to 20 feet for four passengers: starts at $38,400 
  • Bambi, 16 to 22 feet for four passengers: starts at $49,900
  • Caravel, 16 to 22 feet for four passengers: starts at $62,200
  • Flying Cloud, 23 to 30 feet for eight passengers: starts at $78,900 
  • International, 23 to 30 feet for six passengers: starts at $91,900
  • Globetrotter, 23 to 30 feet for six passengers: starts at $96,400
  • Classic, 30 to 33 feet long for five passengers: starts at $157,400

Used Airstream Costs

Yes, Airstreams can get expensive fast. Even the very, very small Basecamp is close to $40k. Per this listing on RV resource Lazydays RV, for less than that, you can get your hands on a 2021 Forest River RV Rockwood Mini Lite 2205S, a 2021 Winnebago Micro Minnie 1800BH, or a 2021 Forest River RV Wildwood FSX 178BHSK. Yes, those are new RVs that cost about half the price of an Airstream Basecamp.

Maybe going used with your Airstream will let you get a better deal? Not so much. We combed RV Trader and found some used Airstream listings. Here are the models and prices:

  • 2019 Airstream Classic 30RBT – $119,900
  • 2019 Airstream Flying Cloud – $94,900 
  • 2012 Airstream Flying Cloud 27FB Queen – $59,500
  • 2017 Airstream International Serenity 28RBQ – $79,500
  • 2018 Airstream International Serenity 23FB – $74,841 

Yes, that’s right, even an Airstream that’s almost a decade old is still quite costly. Although the price of a used Airstream, just as with any RV or travel trailer, is at the discretion of the seller, it seems like older Airstreams almost appreciate in value rather than depreciate. 

4 Airstream Alternatives to Consider

If you’ve budgeted for a travel trailer, an Airstream can easily eclipse your budget. The prices of an Airstream are on par with a Class A RV, which is between $50,000 and $100,000. If you’d rather have a travel trailer that’s priced like a travel trailer, that’s fair. 

Here are 4 Airstream alternatives that look a lot like the real deal. 

Timberleaf Teardrop Trailers

If you love the shape of an Airstream but can leave the metal exterior behind, Timberleaf is a great brand to consider. Their teardrop trailers have that same distinct sausage-like shape of the Airstream, more or less. 

Timberleaf also hand-crafts all their trailers from scratch, so you get the same kind of craftsmanship and quality as you’d expect from an Airstream. You are lacking the interior amenities, but this gives you the freedom to customize the inside of your Timberleaf as you want.

The Kestrel is 11 feet, six inches long and weighs 860 pounds dry. The Pika is 11 feet, 10 inches long and weighs 1,025 pounds dry. Timberleaf’s third teardrop trailer model, the Classic, is 14 feet long and weighs 1,400 pounds dry. 

We’re sure you’re curious about pricing, right? The base Kestrel starts at $7,800, the base Pika at $13,200, and the base Classic at $21,500.

Homegrown Trailers

Another manufacturer that produces travel trailers in that teardrop shape is Homegrown Trailers. Their sustainable, artisan trailers are better for the planet, and who doesn’t like that, right? The Homegrown Trailers brand was founded by Corey Weathers, who is today the company’s CEO, with Josh Moreman, Kirk Robinson, James Jenkins, and Eric Gertsman acting as co-founders.

You can pick from two trailer models: the Woodland or the Timberline. The Woodland is 6 feet, 9 inches tall, 7 feet, 5 inches wide, and 19 feet, 4 inches long. It weighs between 2,700 and 2,850 pounds dry. The Timberline is 8 feet, 11 inches tall, 7 feet, 11 inches wide, and 23 feet long. This trailer weighs 4,259 to 4,750 pounds dry.

Both Homegrown Trailer models can be solar panel-powered so you can use renewable energy to power your trailer. You can get up to 800 watts of solar power on either model, which is not too shabby.

As for pricing, the Woodland cost is by quote only, but the Timberline starts at $62,295. Considering this trailer can sleep five people, that’s a very reasonable price.

Happier Camper

Maybe you too will be happy with the Happier Camper, a travel trailer brand that uses the Adaptiv System in its trailers. What is the Adaptiv System, you ask? This modular interior system includes cubes that you can organize and then reorganize depending on what you want to do in the trailer. For instance, you can set up the Adaptiv System one way for eating and then another way for sleeping.

The modular components included in your Happier Camper are:

  • Cube locking and side wall hardware
  • Toilet cover component
  • Flush toilet system
  • Cooler cube
  • Gray and clean water hookups
  • Kitchenette cube
  • Countertop flip-and-lock extension
  • Outdoor patio table base
  • Floor panels
  • Nesting tabletop
  • Sunbrella cushions
  • Countertop lids

If you’re intrigued, Happier Camper has two travel trailer models, the HC1 and the HCT. The HC1 is 13 feet long with a dry weigh of 1,100 pounds. This trailer starts at $29,950. The HCT is 14 feet long with a dry weight of 1,800 pounds. The price for this Happier Camper starts at $49,950.

Bowlus Road Chief

We saved the Bowlus Road Chief for last because it’s about as close as you can get to an Airstream without owning an actual Airstream. The history of this brand goes back nearly 100 years. Hawley Bowlus, the same man who designed the Airstream, also created the Road Chief. 

Now, admittedly, these are more expensive travel trailers, but hey, they’re still a solid Airstream alternative.

The Endless Highways Edition of the Road Chef is a performance travel trailer that’s utterly luxe. The bedroom features a convertible bed, and you also get a lithium iron phosphate power system that lets you use power for up to a week without any power source. The exterior armor is reflective for your privacy, and there’s a bathroom too! This Road Chief starts at $190,000.

The Endless Highways Performance Edition is 26 feet long and weighs 3,200 pounds dry. This mighty Road Chief trailer can fit four people. It allows you to travel without a power source yet still get juice for all your electronics for up to two weeks. Also included is outdoor kitchen equipment such as a propane outlet and a 110-volt outlet. This model starts at $225,000. 

Final Thoughts 

Airstreams are one of the most sought-after and beloved travel trailers due to their long-term legacy, trademark shape, and beautiful aluminum exterior. If you have room in your budget for one, an Airstream is a trailer you’ll enjoy for years to come. Of course, with so many other great alternatives out there, it’s good to know you have options! 

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Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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