VW Camper Buyers Guide
So you've decided which generation of VW Transporter would work best for you, but what about the conversion itself? Our VW campervan buyers guide should help when it comes to some of the more practical decisions.
What follows is a brief VW campervan buyers guide and is best read in conjunction with our guide to VW Campervan Conversions
Bodywork and Mechanicals
This area should form as much of your purchasing decision as layout and fixture / fittings. Sounds daft but a camper is still a motor vehicle and so could have any of the problems associated with buying a used car. Mechanically a full or comprehensive service history is always a good indicator as to its condition, as are old MOTS and mileage (although it isn’t always the case that a high mileage vehicle is in worse condition than a low mileage one). Campervans are quite large vehicles and so it’s not uncommon to have picked up the odd scrape and have been repainted, it’s the quality of the repair that can affect its value. As the age gets higher there is also the question of rust to consider and if it has been tackled in the past, how well and when was it done. Ultimately you need to satisfy yourself that you are confident to make a judgement on the base vehicles condition or seek the advice of somebody who is. A vehicle history check is always a must as you’d be surprised how many are not what they appear to be.
To Pop or Not
For some, this is perhaps the biggest consideration as it has an affect on number of berths, storage space, and vehicle storage. Pop-tops can come in the form of 2 or 4-berth and can be either solid sided or canvas based. Fixed hi-tops can again either be 2-berth or 4-berth respectively. The major benefit of the pop-top is that they are compact on the move and more likely to fit in garages, car ports and under height restriction barriers at picnic areas etc. While the fixed hi-top allows for a lot more permanent storage space.
If you are looking at buying a VW camper then the chances are it’s because you want to go camping. That might sound obvious although it’s important you don’t lose sight of what the van is to be used for. The majority come with twin gas hob and grill, cold water supply, 240v mains hook-up and a 2 or 3-way fridge as standard, which is fine for most uses although for all year round use heating may also be important. Other things to consider are Zig control units, water heaters, leisure batteries and onboard waste tanks, toilet, shower etc which all make life easier and can add value.
Many companies have offered VW camper conversions of over the years in the form of from new using a brand new dealer supplied vehicle or later in life using an ex commercial vehicle, most commonly sourced at auctions. The most well known from new professional convertors are Autohomes, Auto-sleepers, Bilbos, Danbury, Holdsworth, Leisuredrive, Murvi, Reimo, VW California and Westfalia. There are also a much higher number of smaller companies, particularly when looking at T5 Campers, offering either from new or later in life conversions.
Most VW campervan conversions run the campers fixtures and fittings along the drivers side (RHDvehicles), resulting in a bench seat dining arrangement and ¾ width bed. Although the long established professional convertors; Autohomes, Auto-sleepers, Bilbos, Danbury, Holdsworth, Leisuredrive, Murvi, Reimo and Westfalia also offered a non-traditional layout consisting of a central dining area (whereby the front seats are utilised to make twin single beds or one large double) and rear galley kitchen. Most even utilised LWB models to include a wet room / toilet area at the rear. Although built in lower numbers than the more traditional layout this arrangement does provide clear zoning of the interior space.
Within the average campervan are gas, water and electrical systems and appliances that should be checked as to their safety. The only way to do this is to have a qualified engineer conduct a Habitation Check. This involves visual and physical checks of all three systems along with other items such as opening windows and secureness of cupboards etc. A Habitation Check is an annual check and should not be overlooked from a safety perspective but can also highlight faulty appliances that can cost a lot of money to replace.
Other items to consider alongside our VW campervan buyers guide:
- Is it for leisure only or be a 1st or 2nd car?
- Is the quality of build the right standard for the asking price?
- What are the residual values should you not take to campervanning?
- What base vehicle equipment levels such as air conditioning are important to you?