Can You Live in an Airstream Camper Legally? (Legal RV Living)


live in airstream legally lg

Lots of people love Airstream trailers, those iconic, silver, retro-looking RVs. And many older or artistic folks love to travel extensively in them. But can you live in an Airstream camper legally?

As a general rule, it is legal to live in an Airstream camper. However, certain state and county laws may prevent or restrict it and require permits when parked on private property. Living in a campground or mobile home park will always be legal though.

In my experience, it shouldn’t be a problem, especially if you own the land you are parking the Airstream camper on. At best, you’ll need some permits or city permission to hook up your RV to utilities just to stay on the right side of the law.

Of course, it also depends on where you live.

Many states in the US don’t have any laws against full-time living in an RV. Parking it in your backyard may prove tricky if you don’t have enough space to go around the house. And then there is the concern of getting freshwater supply, electricity, gas, and sewage hooked up to the Airstream camper.

But most cities don’t have any laws against full-time living in an Airstream camper.

If you move out of the city, smaller towns or rural areas have even more relaxed rules. So if you’re thinking about living on a farm your uncle owns, the good news is you won’t face any legal issues.

However, big cities might have some ordinances and codes that demand your Airstream camper follows standard requirements.

Can You Permanently Live In An Airstream Travel Trailer?

Yes, you can permanently live in an Airstream travel trailer, but it is going to be tough.

An Airstream travel trailer is designed to, well, travel. It is not designed for permanent living, like dedicated tiny houses and tiny homes. Sure, if you’re dedicated enough, you can make it your permanent residence, but you’ll have to go through the local laws inside city limits.

There are no federal government mandates against permanently living in an Airstream travel trailer, so legally speaking, you won’t have any trouble. However, who knows what the local governments are going to cook up next, so it’s better to be prepared.

However, where you park is just as important.

Your own property can be your permanent dwelling. Unfortunately, different residential areas have different local laws about making an Airstream travel trailer your permanent home. You won’t be getting into any legal trouble when parking your Airstream as a property owner.

But if you’re planning to park it somewhere else like a mobile home park, you’ll need to do some proper research before doing so.

Of course, you can move around the Airstream travel trailer using the truck and still live permanently inside it. I actually recommend doing that, so you can enjoy what RV full-time living has to offer.

From urban areas to national parks, there are perks to having a mobile home that isn’t a permanent structure.

Where Can I Park My Airstream RV to Live?

Now, if you’re considering permanently living in an Airstream travel trailer, you have to consider a place where you can have easy access to power, freshwater, and proper sewage.

You can definitely park your Airstream travel trailer on your own property and own land. But other good choices include:

  • RV Campgrounds
  • Mobile Home Parks
  • State and National Parks (will have a maximum stay limit)
  • National Forest Land (typically free but without hookups)

However, you’ll still need access to all the amenities, especially if you have children.

Even emptying the septic tank can be a problem if you are not parked at a location with proper drainage. It would be better if you park it on your private property, just to have ease of mind.

But with a generator and a plan to refill freshwater & propane and occasionally dump your waste tanks, you can go almost anywhere!

Airstreams come with a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping space, and a lounge with entertainment. They also come with exterior and interior lighting, as well as air conditioning. All of these things sound wonderful, but if you want to use them to their full extent, you’ll need to have shore power.

Shore power is basically electricity provided by a campground, trailer park, or your own home.

Its conditioning wouldn’t work to its full potential unless you have an electrical hookup. That’s not all. You also need a freshwater supply for washing dishes and taking a shower. You also require proper disposal of your sewage.

So, in short, look for a place where you have easy access to utilities, healthcare, education, and entertainment. That would be an ideal place for living in an Airstream trailer legally.

Can You Live in an Airstream without Hookups?

You can live in an Airstream trailer for up to 2 weeks without hookups by conserving power and water, having a generator and or/power inverter to convert the battery power to 110v, and having a plan every 10-14 days to dump the black tank, recharge the batteries, and refill the freshwater tank.

So it’s not possible to do this in a permanent location without occasionally moving it. Again, if you don’t have access to hookups. There are many pros and cons of full-time Airstream living. A recent article explores them in great detail.

In my experience, you can live in an Airstream without hookups for a little while. After that, it will become a giant pain in the back to do everything manually and not even use your air conditioning to its full potential.

Sure, if you are going to live in an Airstream for a day or two, you can manage without hookups. But if you’re looking to make an Airstream trailer your permanent home, it is downright necessary to have proper hookups to make your day-to-day life exponentially easier.

Of course water, electricity and sewage are important factors to consider.

But also don’t discount the importance of entertainment. Getting a high-speed Internet connection, whether it’s a DISH satellite or something else, is a necessity.

Or you can go for Dish or DirecTV for your entertainment fix. Here’s a recent article discussing which one is the best for your use. What really surprised me was how much cheaper it can be going that route.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What States Are the Most RV Friendly?

Each state has its own laws and ordinances regarding RV living.

Some are friendlier than others and make RV life a breeze, while others have laws that somewhat hinder full-time RV living. Thankfully, none of the states are hostile towards RV owners. But it is a good idea to be aware of the local zoning laws and local regulations.

Full-time RVers recommend a couple of states that are actively trying to make life easier for RV lovers and easing state laws.

Here are a couple of states that are popular among full-time Rvers for good reasons:

Florida – The state of Florida has beautiful weather and some pretty amazing sunsets. They also have very lax rules regarding RV living. They even allow you to hook up utilities without much fuss. A home base close to the ocean? That sounds awesome.

Colorado – Colorado has been steadily leaning towards RV living and is introducing restrictions on Airstream trailers and RVs. They are also making the process of obtaining a special permit/building permit easier and less expensive.

Oregon – If you’re looking for beautiful scenic views in the mountains, Oregon has you covered. Multiple cities in that state are very RV friendly. The city of Portland is supporting communities that have RV parks and full-time RV living.

States like South Dakota, Nevada, Texas, and Washington all have open spaces.

Generally speaking, the more space a state has, the lesser the restrictions on RV living will be. They also have fewer restrictions on permanent structures and permanent dwellings, which include tiny homes, tiny houses, and of course, RVs.

These states aren’t looking at every square foot of your property and certainly won’t care if you have an RV parked 24/7.

This is considering that you have the option to move states. Sometimes, circumstances restrict you to your own state, and moving is just not feasible. Then I recommend learning all the local laws regarding living in an Airstream camper legally. This way, you’ll be better equipped to deal with any zoning laws in a clear and legal way.

Some states go easier on tiny homes, so if you’re just looking for a permanent dwelling, it would be wise to consider a tiny house to invest in, especially if you don’t plan on moving the Airstream camper around using a truck.

I also like to touch upon the weather here.

If your state has extreme vendors, you’ll need to winterize your RV. It is not a tough process but does require a thorough examination of your Airstream camper. Properly insulating the camper so that any heat you generate doesn’t escape is of paramount importance.

Making sure the windows and the roof is also sealed helps a lot in keeping your heating bills down. Speaking of weather, if the weather is humid or arid, the RV equipment will have a harder time surviving.

Here’s a handy recent article that explains how long the average RV equipment lasts. Of course, everything wears out eventually in an RV, but there are things you can do to extend the life of your RV’s equipment by 25% or more!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Lastly, I think we should talk about your personal safety inside the Airstream camper. Normally, if you park on your own property and have proper fencing, there shouldn’t be any safety concerns. Of course, this also depends on which state, city, area you live in.

Some areas have high crime rates, so it would be better if you protect yourself against any intruders. Of course, locking all the doors and taking general precautions you take inside the house apply here as well.

If you’re living in a rural area, emergency services will take a longer time to reach you. So when you are planning on living permanently in an Airstream camper, map out where all the hospitals and police stations are and plan accordingly.

How Do Taxes Work If You Live in an RV?

Generally speaking, taxes work exactly as if you’re living in a house. But you do need 1 official address (which can be a PO Box) as your legal address. That can be where the RV is parked if there is a mailbox for that address. Or it can be your home if you also own a home.

But if you travel across the country and don’t have a home base, it would be worth making your official address in a state without a state income tax. But you’ll need to get a driver’s license in that state and register the RV and your truck there also.

Now in terms of what you pay, there are some IRS rules that won’t necessarily apply when you live full-time in your RV.

I’m talking about special deductions and credits, which surprisingly also apply if you don’t live full-time in an RV.

RV Sales Tax – The RV sales tax is deductible. All you need to do is itemize your deductions and deduct any tax you paid while paying for the Airstream camper. It is as simple as that.

RV Interest – If you’re living full-time in an RV, you can claim it as your permanent home. So any interest you paid throughout the year is deductible. Of course, you’ll need to live full-time in an RV and itemize your deductions before you can claim the Airstream camper as your home.

Business Deductions – A lot of full-time RVers own businesses. This allows them to take business deductions into consideration.

Thankfully, most of those work exactly as if you lived in a home. So if you are, let’s say, blogging full-time while living inside your Airstream camper, you can claim Internet for work, the equipment you bought for work, and even office supplies. All of those are deductible.

Another thing to point out here is that you can get a home office deduction.

However, the space you claim as an office space should be completely separate from the rest of the living area. As Airstream campers are already limited in space, having that distinction is very challenging.

You also have to declare that the Airstream camper/home office is primarily used as a business space. This can only work if you are living in your home and use the Airstream camper as a separate office.

I am by no means an expert on RV-related taxes or the normal taxes, either.

So if you’re in doubt, it will help if you consult localized legal material or, better yet, contact a tax professional. I understand that it is another expense, but it is always better to be on the good side of the IRS.

Are Airstreams Better Than Other Trailers?

Short Answer: Yes.

Airstreams are built to last. When compared to traditional trailers, they have a longer lifespan. Usually, Airstream campers last around 40 years and more.

The company boasts about longer-lasting value, aerodynamics, and premium materials, and in my experience, they have every right to do so. While the Airstream campers are a bit expensive, they do retain their value over time and are generally sturdy enough to last decades.

Is Airstream the Best Travel Trailer for Full-Time Living?

That depends on your personal needs.

While yes, the Airstream campers are built well, they can be a bit small when compared to a Class A or fifth-wheel RV. If you have a larger family, you’ll have a cramped-up experience, which probably won’t be pleasant.

But if you are a retired guy like me, maybe, you’ll have a lot more fun living in a compact space. But a fifth-wheel will generally have a lot more space and amenities for a smaller price tag.

In terms of comfort, the Airstream camper is well-crafted and has all the utilities you’d need for full-time living.

However, there are other travel trailers that may suit you better for full-time living.

Northwood Arctic Fox, Forest River R-POD, and Airstream Bambi 19CB are all great options to consider. But if you are an Airstream camper loyalist, you won’t go wrong because it is one of the best travel campers for full-time living.

Nomadic Couple Living in an Incredible Vintage Airstream - Interview & Tour

Conclusion

Yes, you can live in an Airstream camper legally without the worry of Mr. Law knocking on your door.

All you need to do is figure out hookup options and see whether your city has any rules against permanent living in an RV. You also require some space to park the Airstream camper.

After that, it’s smooth sailing from there on out.


Image by Steve Adcock from Pixabay

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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