Everyone wants an Airstream, but that classic look comes at a price. Yes, they are expensive but why are Airstreams so expensive?
In this article, we are going to take them apart (figuratively speaking) to see why they have such high price tags.
- Why are Airstreams so expensive?
- How are Airstreams made?
- Where are Airstream trailers made?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final thoughts on why Airstreams are so expensive
Why are Airstreams so expensive?
Airstreams are expensive because they’re made from aluminum, there is a lot of detail put into their design and production, and they require a hefty investment from the company.
It takes approximately 350 hours of handcrafting to build an Airstream, this being one of the biggest reasons why Airstreams are so expensive.
Quality does, after all, come at a price.
How are Airstreams made?
Airstreams are made from polished aluminum, which makes them lightweight to tow and gives them their signature look.
The aluminum shell is stretch-formed over a skeleton of steel ribs. Consequently, the exterior is sleek and shiny giving it that infamous look with precise rivet heads dotting the panels.
But there’s a lot more to making an Airstream than that.
Let’s start from the beginning.
An Airstream starts life as a 3d model and through customer feedback on what owners want and use their Airstreams for.
They even go as far as to do research on what the latest interior design trends are to use in their lineup.
After all the info is gathered the R&D department gets to work on the layout and 3d design before any new generation airstream goes into production.
Building the components
When the design on the computer is done, the first step is creating the pre-cut wooden floor in a “dummy” airstream body on the level floor inside the factory.
This ensures that the Airstreams don’t get wrinkles or bends later on in life.
It doesn’t matter what Airstream model is built they all consist of 5 components:
- Left Side
- Right Side
Each of these components starts life as a flat sheet of aluminum. The front and rear components are shaped using a method called stretch-forming (this is when any material is pulled over a preshaped mold to gain that form.)
At Airstream, this procedure is not automated, so it’s all on the person operating the machine, who must not strain or rip the aluminum.
In the factory, there is a large CNC router that cuts out the doors and windows on the side panels as well as drills the holes for the rivets.
The aluminum square stock is pre-bend to half hoops and used on the side assembly jigs, where the side panels will be riveted to them. The Airstream’s stiffness and strength are derived from these square stock half hoops.
After the side panels are riveted to the half hoops the 5 components then get riveted together to form the shell.
While the body is assembled, the windows and doors are assembled in another part of the factory. Everything apart from the glass is made in-house by hand.
After the door and windows are installed, the total number of rivets used on an Airstream is over 3000!
Once everything is riveted together, the body is picked up and lowered onto its chassis and fastened securely. Now another Airstream is ready for the road but without an interior.
Before interior work is done, the rolling chassis goes in for a high-pressure shower for 25 minutes, not to clean the Airstream but to test for leaks.
In that entire 25 minutes, there is a man on the inside inspecting every single rivet.
Once the body is deemed watertight they start insulating the panels on the inside, they use ECO-BATT insulation that is made of sand and recycled glass.
After the insulation is installed, the next step is to install the interior cladding. This is also riveted on and then the shell is complete and the trailer can move over to the other side of the factory for the interior installation.
All the furniture inside an Airstream is handmade at the factory.
Fridges, ovens, microwaves, and other commercially available electronics are externally sourced and installed.
The Elda central heating system is installed before the final furniture installation.
Once the interior is fitted, the Airstream is off to its final stop inside the factory, the quality control team.
Here everything is thoroughly checked and tested, from the furniture to the integrity of the gas system.
If anything needs adjusting there is a dedicated finishing team to sort out any problems so that when the Airstream leaves the factory, it’s in tip-top shape and can be put straight to use by the eager customers.
Where are Airstream trailers made?
Airstream trailers are made in Jackson Centre, Ohio, United States.
Even the Airstreams constructed for the international market are produced in the US and then shipped around the world, from Austria all the way to Taiwan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Airstreams worth the money?
Yes, Airstreams are a high-quality product that is worth the money.
They are built to last and hold their market value better than other brands.
Although they are expensive, they are a wise investment that will last for generations.
How much do Airstreams depreciate?
If you take care of them, there is virtually no depreciation and, at the worst, you may lose 30% over many years.
Airstream is known for having the best resale value among all trailer manufacturers or RV’s and these trailers are a great investment that will provide plenty of memories and fun while holding their value.
Do Airstreams leak?
After many years wear and tear can break down the sealant and rubbers on an Airstream, causing them to leak, however, newer models should not have any problems with leaks.
And even if you have an Airstream with a leak, it’s very easy to replace rubbers and sealant across their entire lineup. So your Airstream can be factory watertight again in no time.
How long do Airstream trailers last?
A well-maintained Airstream trailer can easily last well over 40 years.
Incredibly, over 75% of all Airstreams ever built (spanning over a time period of almost 100 years) are still on the road to this day.
Final thoughts on why Airstreams are so expensive
Airstreams are a wise investment that will last for generations.
They have the highest resale value of any trailer manufacturer and can easily be passed on to future generations while still being in mint condition.
The Airstream factory is located in Jackson Centre, Ohio where they assemble these high-quality trailers by hand with an emphasis on quality control.
A lot of man-hours go into crafting these incredible trailers, making the high price tag, well worth it.