Why We Chose To Live in an Airstream (instead of a tiny house)!

Why we chose to live in an Airstream instead of a tiny house Have you ever heard the saying, “You can have things fast, cheap or easy, but you can’t have all three?” I’m not 100% sure that’s the exact saying, but that iteration would be the short version of why we chose to live in an Airstream instead of a tiny house. But lucky for you, I’m going to tell you the long version of the story like a grandma who has had too much wine.

Before I get into the knitty-gritty of our choice, I want to preface this post by saying that I do consider our home a tiny home, just as I would consider tiny homes built on trailers “RVs”. Honestly, I don’t think labels are important. What’s important is spreading the message about smaller, happier homes. Alright! End of rant.

When we started this journey three years ago (OMG, THREE YEARS!), tiny houses weren’t really a thing. Or, if they were a thing, I didn’t know about it. And maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit, but I didn’t have the imagination to imagine the existence or explosion of the tiny house movement. However, if I had to make the choice again, I would still choose an Airstream over a tiny house due to our limited time and budget. 

Airstream from Back before and after Limited Time
We had about 3 months to create a working home. I had just landed a new job in a new city. And that job was (and is) a full-time, traditional job, so it was important for us to quickly create a home. George, my husband, was transitioning to working for himself, so his time was more flexible. That being said, he did not have time to stop working completely. We had already moved out of our previous home and we were living temporarily with my in-laws, so we were feeling the pressure to have our own place. An Airstream already had the foundation of a home. We didn’t have to research how to build a home from the ground-up. Yes, we did some research on how to fix the AC or how to fix the stinky smell in our pipes, but we already had a some-what-usable bathroom and a kitchen. And that’s the important part!

Limited Budget
When George and I started this journey, we were newly married and cash-strapped. We had about $5,000 in the bank. That’s it. We knew we needed to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. We took a huge (to me) risk by investing the $5,000 to buy the Airstream, but the risk has paid off. As we worked, we used that money to renovate the Airstream. (It cost about $1,500 to renovate the Airstream and you can read about that process here.) We used parts from the Airstream, stuff from our old home, and reclaimed materials to renovate our home on the cheap. We could not have built a traditional tiny home in three months for $6,500. I’ve seen a wide range of tiny house costs online, but according to a few articles I’ve found, like this one, $25,000 is about average. And if we had more time, I guarantee, we could have spent less in our remodel.

Now the question is, if I had unlimited time and a bigger budget would I still chose to live in an Airstream over a tiny house? And the answer is… I don’t know. I love our Airstream and I’m super proud of it. On the other hand, I’d like the challenge of building a tiny house and I’d like to truly customize a home to our needs. But in my world, as in most people’s worlds, there will always be limited time and limited budgets.

What would you chose– a tiny house or an Airstream? Talk to me in the comments!


12 thoughts on “Why We Chose To Live in an Airstream (instead of a tiny house)!

  1. bolerama

    I always enjoy your blog and look forward to your updates. A tiny house or an Airstream? My first choice would be an Airstream (yes, I have one, but it’s a little small for full-time living). Travel trailers are well laid-out. As you said, they are ready-to-use homes! Many tiny houses seem a little haphazard in their layouts. I would never want a loft for sleeping, just for storage. I’m always curious why people build tiny houses on trailers for the purpose of traveling to state parks, etc. Those seem like heavy, wind-resistant beasts to tug around. On the flip side, I live on the Canadian prairies, and it’s too cold to live in an Airstream or most travel trailers. I would require a tiny house on a foundation with a sealed vestibule to keep the winter air out. Oh well, it’s just dreaming for now! Your Airstream is perfect! You are an inspirational couple — living the dream!

    1. melanie Post author

      Thanks for reading, Lisa. You might be able to make an Airstream work in the cold, but you would have to add extra insulation and if you weren’t pulling it and put something around the outside so air wasn’t getting under it. I know this couple used hay bales to skirt their trailer and they own a tiny wood stove company. Just something to think about!

  2. Claudia Lott

    i can’t really say much, because i have never lived in either, but me and boyfriend would love the Airstream because after we get one and fix it up, we are wanting to travel in it! And just living in a tiny house is cute, BUT you can’t travel with style!!;P

  3. Kassie22

    I stumbled across your blog because my fiancé and I just bought a vintage Airstream to live in. We’ve been contemplating it for awhile for all the reasons you have mentioned throughout your posts. I can’t thank you enough for sharing all your experiences, because in many ways it’s truly daunting (but incredibly exciting!) As we renovate, I can already tell it’s going to be a huge resource for us!

  4. Courtney

    Like you, we chose an Airstream but for some different reasons. The main one is that we want to travel, a lot. We’re stationary now but plan to hit the road full time next year. Tiny houses can be built so that they travel well but they were not designed for it, like an Airstream is. Plus you can run into a number of issues with parks/campgrounds not accepting tiny homes. We also liked the Airstream for it’s clever storage, durability and (of course) it’s cool looks. We love watching Tiny House Hunters and other similar shows but for us, our Airstream is our perfect tiny home! Thanks so much for sharing the details behind your decision!

  5. Heather Hunter

    I am so grateful to have found your blog! I’m moving out on my own soon after over 15 years of marriage and this seems like an option that I could afford better than rent and not be throwing my money away. My only concerns are the Ohio winters,power and plumbing, but I can’t wait to read more and learn from your story!

  6. Barb

    I’m on the hunt for an airstream right at this moment. My plan is to install a tiny wood stove for heating. I love the idea of skirting the airstream with straw bails for the winter. I just found your blog when searching for ideas of how to keep one warm and I so happy I did! The kitchen would be the most important space for me as I cook from scratch and make fermented vegetables in an effort to regain my health.
    I came across about 5 1/2 yards of oatmeal colored wool fabric at a thrift store today and left it there. I am downsizing after all..

    Can you think of any reason I should go back and see if it’s still up for grabs?

    1. melanie Post author

      Barb, congrats on making the decision to live small. I suppose you could use that fabric for curtains, but it’s up to you! Good luck on finding an Airstream!

      1. Barb

        Wow, the search is proving to be a challange. Just made an offer on one this weekend and the guy accepted an offer for the same amount from someone else! The reason I know is he accidently called me to discuss the details and thought he was talking to the other person even though I identified myself. Funny thing is what I thought i might end up doing is lining the walls behind the beds with the wool fabric so that it would be a bit more insulated. This particulat airstream had tuffted velvet all along the walls behind the beds and sofas like a narrow headboard. It was in great condition too. Feels unfair, I looked at it first….made the offer. He said he wanted to show to someone else and would accept best offer. This one was not meant to be I guess…. oh well, onward and upward!

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