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After years of planning, you’re finally ready to invest in a camper trailer. As you deliberate between campers available on the market, your obvious options might be to go with the classics Bowlus vs Airstream.
Now, competition between the two is tough. The Bowlus is a predecessor of Airstream that only recently made its way back into the market. On the other hand, the Airstream is a refined trailer that’s become better over the years.
Now, competition between the two is tough. The Bowlus is a predecessor of Airstream – first introduced in 1934 and reintroduced to the luxury travel trailer market ten years ago. On the other hand, the Airstream is a refined trailer that’s been in production since the late 1930s.
If choosing between these two giants is proving impossible, you’re in the right place.
After much research over my own trailer purchase, I got all the details on these two trailers. Want to know what my conclusions were?
Bottom Line Up Front: If you are on a tight budget, an Airstream is a good value option, BUT if you need something that is top of the line, is super lightweight, requires fewer hookups and has off-grid capabilities, then the Bowlus is perfect (and holds it’s value over time, better).
Before I dive into a detailed comparison, here are the main differences between the Bowlus vs Airstream:
Main Differences Between Bowlus vs Airstream
The Main Differences Between Bowlus and Airstream are:
- Bowlus appeals to those who want the best travel trailer on the market, regardless of expense. Airstream targets RVers who want the look of an aluminum towable at a lower price point
- Airstream offers eight models in its range, whereas Bowlus offers only three.
- Airstream has multiple high and low-price range trailers, whereas Bowlus only has high-priced ones.
Travel Trailer Buying Guide
The first thing to consider when buying a trailer is the type of traveling you want to do. For example, long trips to remote and extreme climates will require a trailer with top-of-the-line amenities and off-grid capabilities. In contrast, a short trip to the nearest beach or your hometown can be done with an entry-level camper.
Space requirements refer to leg space, moving, and storage space. For example, those planning on traveling with more than 4 companions or pets need more area to move around in.
Another thing to consider is sleeping space.
Keep your budget in mind before you go shopping for a travel trailer.
If you’re buying second-hand, consider getting a second opinion and inspection from a third party. Check out this guide to learn how to buy a used RV from a private party.
If you’re buying new, consider the vehicle’s resale value. For example, new trailers might get a better resale value, but the depreciation can be considerable if you’re selling the vehicle shortly after buying.
Make sure to check the depreciation of older models with the same manufacturer if you’re planning to buy a new one.
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or have bought a trailer before, a warranty is important to cover any issues that may arise later.
Bowlus vs Airstream: A Comparison
The Bowlus is a lightweight and aerodynamic beauty. Hawley Bowlus, a famed engineer, and aircraft builder, originally introduced this stunning aluminum travel trailer to the market in 1934. Ten years ago, the company revived the Bowlus name and completely redesigned the original aluminum travel trailer for luxury off-grid use.
The Bowlus and the Airstream visual similarities are striking, but that’s by design. Well, Airstreams design, that is. When Bowlus returned to exclusively making aircrafts, Wally Byam took and used the original Bowlus design as the basis for the original Airstream Clipper.
However, we’re interested in knowing what’s new, improved, and different about the new Bowlus.
Build and Layout
The Bowlus models are made from sheet aluminum with 5,000 true aircraft rivets. Its interior components are built-to-last with marine-grade materials.
All Bowlus editions share the same floor plan or layout. All the trailers open at the front through a door in the middle underneath an arch. The rear end of the trailer tapers gradually.
Weight and Size
The new Bowlus trailers are bigger than the original and measures over 27 feet long. It’s just over 8 feet high and is 6 feet 8 inches wide.
Bowlus vehicles are extremely light, with 3,200 pounds in base weight, while the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) for all Bowlus models is 4,000 pounds. This is half the weight of comparably sized Airstreams.
Their relatively low weight and low aerodynamic drag make these trailers a breeze to tow without much effort. In fact, you can tow a Bowlus with a luxury mid-size SUV like a Porsche Macan or Bently Bentayga.
You can even tow a Bowlus with even an electric SUV like the Tesla Model X. They also have a low aerodynamic drag which make EV towing more efficient.
Storage and Space
The sleeping capacity of all Bowlus models is the same, with space for only 4 people, which can be a bit of an issue if you plan on taking along a larger group.
Storage space is ample for 2 to 4 people.
Bowlus has engineered an impressive amount of interior closet and exterior hatch storage into it’s 27’ package, but Airstream does offer larger models with even more space
The Bowlus is a good contender for being one of the most fuel-efficient trailers on the market. Its aerodynamic design and lightweight aluminum build further lower wind resistance. It also has a low center of gravity.
Bowlus trailers were the first in the world to have lithium battery-powered systems that can last you up to two weeks or longer when you’re off the grid. Their lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries are much more efficient than traditional lead-acid batteries, with only a 20% capacity drop and longer service lives of 8 to 10 years.
Every Bowlus comes prepped for solar panels to further enhance their energy efficiency while providing a convenient boost to your energy reserves.
The entire system can be managed remotely from an app on your phone. You also get multiple charging stations in the interior for your electronic devices. Every outlet in the Bowlus is powered by a battery. Compare this to other RV brands where only select outlets can be used when camping off-grid.
Alternatively, you can charge your trailer using your tow vehicle via a 7-pin connector. A Bowlus luxury travel trailer can also be charged with 15 AMP circuits and 30 AMP services available at campsites. This flexibility is another differentiator for Bowlus. You can’t power an Airstream off a 15 AMP circuit because it requires too much power.
Pricing is the only drawback with the Bowlus. It’s a worthwhile purchase if you’re looking for the Bowlus’s luxury, off grid features, perhaps the nostalgia of the design. However, it can seem expensive if you’re not.
The Bowlus Endless Highways Edition is the most affordable model, which starts at $235,000. The mid-range Endless Highways Performance Edition starts at $265,000, while the Terra Firma, the brand’s most luxurious model, starts at $285,000.
If you do decide on one of these beauties, you’ll be happy to know that a Bowlus’s resell value is one of the best in the industry, so you won’t lose money on your purchase if you need to part ways in the future. In fact, you may even make some money on one that is kept in good condition!
Bowlus offers a 2-year limited warranty. Contact them directly if you need help with your warranty because they sell directly to consumers.
Users love the Bowlus for its stunning design and exteriors. Frequent and short-distance campers admire how lightweight it is and how easy it is to tow.
A common pain point among consumers is the compactness of the vehicles and their premium price tags.
- Aluminum body
- Off-grid for up to two weeks
- Aerodynamic shape
- Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries
- Available in three models
- Water filtration system
- Pet-Flex friendly
- GPS tracking
- Smart Brake Controller
- HEPA filter with UVC
- Less wind resistance
- Long battery life
- Better gas mileage
- Fuel efficient
- Best-in-industry resale value
- It can only accommodate 4 sleeping people
- More expensive
Bowlus Models Available
The same Bowlus has 3 different models and over 56 million customizable variations. Let’s check out what these models are.
This model has a distinctive door system that offers onboard privacy. Its main cabin area, bathroom, and bedroom can each become separate spaces.
The cabin space seats five and sleeps four members. The two sofas can be converted into 2 twin beds. There is also a separate master bedroom that can be modified to have a king-sized bed or two twin-sized ones.
The trailer has a cassette-style toilet with a separate shower that’s directly across the hall.
The kitchen is in front and has a small but spacious galley. It houses a two-burner range, a stainless-steel sink, fridge, microwave, countertops, and large cupboards.
Additional features of the Bowlus are a built-in cellular booster, cell-enabled router, private WiFi network, and heated floors.
Endless Highways Performance Edition
The Performance Edition comes with all the features of the Endless Highways and a few upgrades — one of which is the easily noticeable screen porch door.
If you’re a nature lover who loves sunny days as much as the night sky, then you’ll love this trailer.
The upgrade is the two large overhead skylights with wooden covers.
The next upgrade is the lithium-powered system featuring a double capacity of 600 amp-hours (Ah)/7680 watt-hours (Wh). This will easily last you 14 days for off-grid use and takes only 3 to 4 four hours to charge. The system can be connected to your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for remote management.
You also get an outdoor kitchen setup with a propane outlet that can power small appliances. Additionally, zero-emission enthusiasts will love the 110-volt outlet that charges electric vehicles for up to 16 miles.
Terra Firma is the most expensive model from Bowlus.
As an upgrade on both Bowlus models, the Terra Firma has all their features and then some.
To begin with, it has pet-friendly facilities. Heating and airconditioning can be remotely controlled so your pet is comfortable. There’s also a matching and color-coordinated pet bed and a drawer offering easy access to your pet’s feeding and water bowls.
GPS tracking lets family and friends access your location and estimate your arrival.
Another useful feature is a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter with UVC (Ultraviolet-C) that gives you access to clean air no matter where you are.
You also have provisions for fresh and odor-free water from a two-stage fresh water filtration system. The filtration system includes a carbon filter to remove bacteria, sediments, chlorine, and other chemicals from the water.
The Terra Firma comes with a SmartBrake Controller. This brake controller is integrated with Bluetooth and comes with a triple-axis and motion-sensing accelerometer. This means you get a highly-responsive and smooth braking system for any tow vehicle without needing modifications and a seamless tow vehicle transfer with memory profiles for specific vehicles.
All models are built to order with opportunities for bespoke interiors and color combinations.
There isn’t a camper who hasn’t heard of the iconic silver bullet of trailers, the Airstream. First built 1936, the Airstream trailer is quite popular and common among trailer travelers.
Let’s check out how the in-demand Airstream keeps up with the Bowlus.
Build and Layout
The Airstream’s aerodynamic design is patented and easy to identify on the road.
The body of the Airstream trailer is made from treated aluminum alloy. Aluminum keeps the total weight down while adding durability to your trailer. This isn’t anything new, however, since the same can be said for the Bowlus.
The flooring is built from Transcore, which is a composite of inert recycled glass and polypropylene. It makes your floors waterproof and resistant to mold, mildew, insect infestation, and water damage.
Airstream has more variations on their interiors, but they all open on the side and have the same rounded rear ends.
Weight and Size
Airstream offers a variety of sizes and configuration options.
Their biggest models are up to 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 6 to 9 feet tall. Their base weight is 8,375 pounds with GVWRs of 10,000 pounds.
In contrast, their smallest model is 16 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 6 to 8 feet tall. Its base weight is 2,650 pounds and has a GVWR of 3,500 pounds.
If you’re looking for a trailer that your SUV can pull, go for the Bambi, Caravel, or Basecamp models.
Storage and Space
When it comes to storage and space, you get more options with Airstream than Bowlus as a result of being able to select a longer trailer.
Airstream’s bigger trailers come with lots of storage space while the smaller ones have relatively less.
The sleeping capacity of Airstream models can accommodate 4 to 8 people.
Airstream has a range of vehicles with different weights and sizes. Their design is one of the most aerodynamic on the market. Because of this, fuel efficiency is generally 20% better than other similar models.
With Airstream Power Plus, Airstream shifted to lithium batteries for its travel trailers; however, their power systems are less advanced compared to what’s offered by Bowlus.
You can upgrade to dealer-installed LiFePO4 batteries on some models. Some of their trailers also come with solar panels.
Airstream trailers also have multiple 110V outlets and USB ports so you can conveniently charge your electronic devices while on the road. Still, you will need a generator when parked overnight.
If budget is a significant factor, go for one of Airstream’s compact travel trailers. These are cheaper than those from Bowlus and will cover all your needs.
The typical price range of Airstream’s lower-end vehicles is $43,900 to $89,900 while higher-end models are between $103,900 to $179,000 — cheaper than Bowlus.
Airstream trailers come with a 3-year bumper-to-bumper warranty that’s transferable to second owners too.
You also receive 3 years of Coach-Net 24/7 Roadside Assistance with your purchase.
Airstream is loved by its users. Most consumers find their trailers to be in great condition even after years of use.
Another thing Airstream owners appreciate is the trailer’s resale value in comparison to competitors. Even a refurbished or vintage model commands a good price.
Recently, an increasing number of Airstream buyers have been dissatisfied with their purchase, As the global demand for RVs has spiked during the pandemic, Airstream and other mass market RV companies have struggled to deliver complete travel trailers without quality issues or missing systems
- Aluminum body
- Solar panels
- Smart Control Technology
- Lithium battery
- QuietStream Climate Control
- Three-year warranty and roadside assistance
- Rear hatch
- Stereo system
- Panoramic windows
- Available in 8 models
- Fuel efficient
- Sleeps 4 to 8 people
- Great resale value
- Many size variations
- Requires lots of maintenance and upkeep
Airstream Models Available
There are eight models available in the Airstream lineup.
The Classic has 4 layout options, is 30 to 33 feet, and has 2 axles. It sleeps up to five people and has the biggest storage space among Airstream models.
This model comes with Airstream’s Smart Control Technology so you can control your air conditioner settings, lights, awning, and more from your phone.
Other features include a rear-view camera, fusion touchscreen stereo, LED doorbell, power awning, QuietStream Climate Control, powered beds, 60-inch HD projection, and more.
The second model, the Pottery Barn, is a special edition trailer that has been designed in partnership with Pottery Barn. It’s a combination of Airstream’s iconic features and Pottery Barn’s signature collection.
Pottery Barn offers options for 2 floor plans, 2 axles, is 28 feet long, and sleeps up to 5 people. Like the Classic, it’s equipped with Smart Control Technology.
The Globetrotter has 6 floor plan options, is 25 to 30 feet long, can sleep 6 people, and has 2 axles.
This model also has a Fusion touchscreen stereo system, rear-view monitoring, and QuietStream Climate Control. What’s new in this edition is the modern interiors, the convertible U-section dinette, aluminum tail lights, and solar panels.
The International has as many as 11 floor plan options that measure 23 to 30 feet in length. They all sleep 4 to 6 people, have 2 axles, and come with a rear hatch that is typically only seen in special edition travel trailers.
Other features include the JL stereo, rear-view monitoring, power awning, QuietStream Climate Control, and an optional solar panel upgrade.
What I liked most about this model are the rear hatch and panoramic windows that bring you closer to nature.
Moving on to the most popular trailer from Airstream, the Flying Cloud.
This one has 13 floor plan options with lengths from 23 to 30 feet. It sleeps 4 to 8 people and has 2 axles.
It features the same rear hatch, JL stereo, solar panel (optional), rear-view camera, and QuietStream Climate Control.
Let’s take a look at Airstream’s compact trailers starting with the Caravel.
The Caravel has 1 axle, sleeps 4, and has 4 possible layouts that measure 16 to 22 feet.
Despite the fact that it’s smaller, it has all the basics plus a few bonus features. With it, you can still enjoy QuietStream Climate Control, the JL stereo, solar panels, and rear bumper storage.
It also has panoramic windows, so you never feel too enclosed.
The Bambi is another compact trailer that sleeps up to 4 people. It has an axle, is 16 to 22 feet in length, and comes with 4 layout options.
Other features include a JVC stereo, solar panels, an exterior storage compartment, overhead storage, and more.
Airstream’s smallest trailer sleeps 4, comes with a bathroom, a kitchen, and a lounge area. The lounge conveniently turns into a bedroom. It comes in 16 to 20-foot models, has 2 floor plan options, has 1 axle, and can be solar-powered.
Are There Any Alternatives?
Are Airstream and Bowlus too expensive for you?
You could consider this Oliver travel trailer. Check out how they stack up in this Airstream vs Oliver Comparison.
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option, you’ll like this list of Airstream Alternatives. You can also consider Homegrown trailers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Yes, Airstream trailers need more maintenance than other trailers. Airstream’s clear coat over their aluminum alloy can start to peel after just a few years.
Answer: Airstreams can last for up to 40 years.
Answer: Each unit of the Bowlus trailer is hand-crafted in Southern California.
Tips to Remember When Buying Camper Trailers
- Always check if the camper is compatible with your towing vehicle
- Look for add-ons that the dealer can throw in. Good add-ons are not only practical but can improve the resale value of your camper.
- Are you buying an old camper? Look for external damage that might allow you to negotiate a lower offer.
- Consider financing options from some of the Best RV Financing Companies.
- Consider the storage available based on your storage requirements.
- Look for the availability of power outlets.
Verdict: Bowlus vs Airstream
Bowlus vs Airstream — which one wins out of the two?
If budget is a major concern, but you still want ample space, I recommend looking at the compact travel trailers from Airstream. Its high-end trailers are also an excellent option for those who want to take longer journeys without sacrificing comfort.
If you can stretch your budget just a bit… Bowlus luxury travel trailers are the better all around option.
They offer more features, higher quality, better materials, better layouts, and an amazing resale value. If you want to camp off-grid, Bowlus is definitely the way to go since Airstreams need hookups to be fully functional.
With a Bowlus you can camp off grid for up to 2 weeks in a fully functional, and completely luxurious travel trailer. It’s also lighter to tow around for people who don’t have heavy-duty vehicles. Stylish and modern, the upgraded edition offers everything a camper would want.