Why are Airstreams so expensive

Wondering why are Airstreams so expensive?

Purchasing and owning an Airstream trailer is a “bucket list” item for many people, however sometimes people are shocked when they find out how expensive Airstream campers actually cost.

Some people may even wonder if Airstream trailers are worth the money.

Airstreams are hand-built and constructed

All Airstreams are built in the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio and the company employs about 800 people to manufacture the Airstream trailers.
The video below gives a time-lapsed view of the custom work that goes into assembling each Airstream trailer.

Quality Materials means long-lasting trailers

Airstream trailers feature a double-sided aluminum shell on a steel frame. Each piece of aluminum is bent and cut and fit into place by skilled workers. It’s not surprising to see a 1970s or even a 1960s Airstream being pulled down the road or pulling into a campground. The aluminum shell and frame take a lot more of the normal wear and tear than the other RV models that are mostly fiberglass.

It’s rare to see an SOB (Some Other Brand) camper trailer that has maintained its classic looks once it gets older than 10 years. There’s a reason that a lot of RV campgrounds have “age restrictions” on campers older than 10 years. Most of the non-Airstream camper trailers are not desinged for a long life, while Airstream trailers are often handed down from parents to children to continue the Airstream legacy.

Why are Airstreams so expensive - Airstream interior
Photo by Airstream Inc. on Unsplash

Labor Costs are higher for Airstreams

Another reason why Airstreams are more expensive is the higher labor costs in building an Airstream. The typical Airstream takes about three times longer than other RV camper trailers to build. So the higher price of the Airstream represents the increased number of hours in manufacturing one. Many of the parts to an Airstream are hand cut and installed by skilled Airstream technicians.

Airstream trailer with awning
Photo by Airstream Inc. on Unsplash

Renovation potential of Airstream trailers

Because of the higher quality of materials and the fact that Airstreams tend to have a long lifespan, there’s a big market for renovating old Airstreams and updating their interiors. In fact, there is a large network of Airstream renovation specialists that focus on restoring and updating old Airstream trailers. 

It’s impressive to see the transformation of some of these older Airstreams from the 1950’s and 60’s updated to more modern and fashionable interiors.

Airstream trailer lit up at night

Airstream is an iconic piece of Americana

Ever since Wally Byam introduced the first “Airstream Clipper” in 1936, Airstreams have represented an indelible part of American history. Their sleek, curved aluminum shells are easily recognizable throughout the world. Airstream was one of the only travel trailer manufacturing companies to survive the Great Depression and World War II.

Airstream trailers have been used by NASA as a Mobile Quarantine Facility for returning Apollo astronauts and by the US Air Force.
Following in the footsteps of NASA, Space X has been using Airstreams for housing employees at its Texas facility.

Airstreams have a high resale value

Another reason why Airstreams are so expensive is that Airstreams tend to have a much higher resale value than other RV camper trailers. Because even older Airstreams are in demand, there is much less depreciation of their resale value. Slighted used Airstream models can sell for just a 25-30% discount from full price depending on the trailer’s features and upgrades. Even a completely gutted older Airstream trailer needing a complete renovation may fetch $5000 or more depending on the year.

Now during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Airstream dealers are seeing extraordinary demand along with limited and constrained supplies of new Airstreams from the Johnson City Airstream factory.

The loyalty of the Airstream brand

Airstream trailers has one of the most loyal brands. Some Airstream owners pass their older Airstream down to other family members, while other Airstream owners keep upgrading and buying newer Airstream models.
Some  RV parks even cater exclusively to the Airstream crowd with Airstream-only campgrounds.

Row of Airstream camper trailers
AutoCamp @ Russian River near California Wine Country

Glamping Airstream campgrounds featuring custom Airstream trailers have also sprung up across the country, expanding the Airstream mystique.


Want to find out more about buying an Airstream trailer?

If you’re ready to jump in and buy an Airstream trailer, do your research regarding the best model, floorplan and if you should buy a new Airstream, a slightly-used Airstream or an older Airstream in need of renovations.

I found this book very helpful when I was starting to look for an Airstream to buy. It’s full of great tips and available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.

We do participate in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, so if you buy thru our link, we make a small commission, but at no extra cost to you.