VW camper vans

Learn the difference between original and new VW Camper Vans, plus, VW Camper Vans for sale

Craig Hale
Aug 10, 2022

As a mode of transport, the VW Camper Van is as well known and iconic as the Mini Cooper. Although, just like we have seen with numerous iterations of the Mini, Volkswagen has tried again and again to recreate the icon and keep it relevant for new generations of drivers.

When we refer to the VW Camper Van, what we're actually talking about is the Volkswagen Transporter, a van that’s been in production in some form or another since 1950. That iconic version we all think of is the T1 Type 2 (T1), the original version of the Transporter that was on sale in the 1950s and 60s, and its popularity is such that serious classic car enthusiasts are willing to pay six figures for one. Seriously.

Older Volkswagen vans that still have the right look and feel can still be bought relatively cheaply, and as an aside, Volkswagen’s factory in Brazil still pumped out versions of that original T1 until 2013. So in the UK, you can still buy an imported original-ish T1, which is only six years old. Their value and scarceness make them kind of useless as a mode of camping, though. You hardly want to spend that kind of dosh on something, and then sleep in it and ruin its value.

While the old vans are iconic, they’re not exactly practical. It may have cut the mustard in the 1950s, but today they're as old hat as dial-up Internet. They’re epically slow too.

These days, the Volkswagen Transporter T6 is one of the best medium-size vans on sale in terms of quality, variety and overall capability, but it's its use as a camper van that interests us the most.

Volkswagen has modified the Transporter to create an all-out camper van - the Volkswagen California, and a spacious people carrier that you can sleep in - the Volkswagen Caravelle. Read for more details on each of these VW Camper Van models to see which one suits you best.

VW camper van models

Other VW vans

1. Volkswagen California

Best VW camper van for iconic looks

Used deals from £47,995
Monthly finance from £756*

The Volkswagen California is a VW camper van based on the Volkswagen Transporter. For a relatively small van, the California has the potential to offer an all-encompassing camping experience for you and your family.

With swivelling front seats and sliding rear seats ready to open up a dining area, and the option of a further row of seats in the back there's plenty of space for passengers while on the move. Those passengers then have plenty of options for sleeping, too, with bed space in the pop-up roof and a folding bed inside the van.

It might feel a little cramped if you're intending to cook using the built-in kitchen with a sink and hob, so the addition of the awning attachment to the side of the California helps to add a little more space to spread out and relax.

There are plenty of features to help make driving the California relaxing, too, with adaptive cruise control, two front seat armrests, air-conditioning, and a touchscreen media display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality all present.

2. Volkswagen Grand California

Best VW camper van for ultimate luxury

Used deals Limited stock

While the regular California is based on the medium-sized Transporter van, the Grand variation is based on the much larger Crafter. There are two variants - the 600 and 680 - which are 6 metres and 6.8 metres long respectively. The former gets the somewhat awkward-looking raised roof pictured above, while the longer van gets a more regular van-like roof.

Both have built-in beds, a kitchen area with gas hob, an onboard toilet and shower with a 110-litre fresh water tank, and cabin heating for when the engine is switched off.

Power comes from a 177hp 2.0-litre diesel engine and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with optional four-wheel drive on thee larger 680 model, and while prices start upwards of £80,000 new, it's not uncommon to see used deals going for far less.

3. Volkswagen Caddy California

Best VW camper van for budget weekends

Used deals from £36,995
Monthly finance from £617*

On the other end of the scale, Volkswagen's smallest Caddy-based camper is best suited to individuals who like to take short trips, but prefer not to have to sleep in a tent.

Power comes from a 114hp 1.5-litre petrol engine or a 2.0-litre diesel engine with either 102hp or 122hp, so it's not particularly fast. That said, the diesels should be capable of more than 50mpg, more than twice as much as the Grand California.

There are regular and 'Maxi' long-wheelbase versions, though neither is especially spacious. Standard kit includes a fold-out bed and a slide-out, mini kitchenette with a gas hob and some storage. Pricing for Volkswagen's smallest dedicated camper starts at under £35,000, which is nearly half that of the standard Transporter-based California. 

4. Volkswagen Caravelle

Best VW van for adaptability

Used deals from £39,995
Monthly finance from £703*

Also based upon the Transporter, the Volkswagen Caravelle is less of a VW camper van and more a comfortable place to sit during long journeys. It's available in two different lengths, and the fact it's relatively compact in its shortest form (less than five metres long and less than two metres wide) despite its van-like appearance makes it easy to drive wherever you want to take it. And once you reach your destination it's the perfect place to set up camp and enjoy an afternoon, or even a weekend, away.

The Caravelle doesn't offer any of the camping-specific amenities found in the California, but you can still form a bed-like surface by folding the rear seats, while anyone else hoping to share the space with you will have to be content with sleeping across the front seats. There's also a foldable table for inside activities if the weather turns.

Considering this is a car that requires you to spend most of your camping time outside, there are a handful of cheaper alternatives that offer a similar outdoorsy experience including the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Rifter, but the Caravelle is by far the best when it comes to interior quality.

5. Volkswagen Multivan

Best VW van for the latest tech

Used deals Limited stock

The Multivan set out to replace the Caravelle in 2022, and blends van-like practicality with many of the creature comforts found in the rest of Volkswagen's car range, including the latest version of the Golf.

This is a seven-seater people carrier, though with a less common 2+2+3 format, which means the three-abreast seating is at the very rear. The middle pair of seats can swivel backwards to create an informal living area, and a fold-out table that sits on rails can slide backwards and forwards, too.

Every version gets a reversing camera, all-round parking sensors, and air-conditioning for all passengers, but the Style model (almost £12,000 more than the entry-level Life model) gets luxuries like heated seats in the front, electric sliding doors, a heated windscreen, and an upgraded digital dashboard. As it's new, there are very few used examples floating around, but as they become more popular, seeking out a high-spec Style model will be a good idea.

Power comes from a 136hp 1.5-litre petrol engine, a 204hp 2.0-litre petrol engine, a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 150hp, or a 218hp 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid which should be able to do nearly 30 miles on electric power alone. Charge this model up at the campsite and you could pop into town for free, but the cheapest Multivan eHybrid costs around £50,000 new, before converting it into any form of camper.

6. Volkswagen Transporter

Best VW van for DIYers

Used deals from £18,449
Monthly finance from £261*

This is the Volkswagen Transporter that the California and Caravelle are based on. This is the plain and simple van, and the fact it is much simple than both of those adapted versions makes it much cheaper as a result.

But all of that open space in the back (5,800 litres or 6,700 litres depending on the model length) is a blank canvas ready for transforming into whatever you want it to be.

The plan here is to get yourself a cheap-ish shell that can be modified however you please to make yourself your own perfect camper van. You can fit a double bed in the back, strap some surfboards to the roof, and you'll have everything you need for a weekend in Cornwall. Chuck in a leisure battery and a hot plate and you're not far away from driving a cut-price California.

VOLKSWAGEN TRANSPORTER BUYERS' GUIDE

7. ID. Buzz

Best VW van for electric fans

Volkswagen ID. Buzz MPV deals Limited stockVolkswagen ID. Buzz Cargo deals Limited stock

Volkswagen's first dedicated electric car - the ID.3 - was such a hit that the company has since followed with the ID.4 SUV, and a coupe version of that, the ID.5. Hoping it will be as much of a hit as the original T1, Volkswagen took its battery tech and applied it to the ID. Buzz.

It uses the largest battery from the ID range, which measured 77kWh. In the ID.3, this promises well over 300 miles of range, but the ID. Buzz sees range drop to just over 250 miles thanks to its size and poor aeordynamics. However, it is still more economical than some other electric SUVs like the Jaguar I-Pace.

Converting one of these into a dedicated camper van could prove somewhat tricky, and may require specialist EV knowledge, however using it alongside a tent or gazebo setup could prove a hit. Because it can tow 1,000kg (braked), you could even consider hooking it up to a trailer tent, though this will have a dramatic effect on its range.

The ID. Buzz combines electric solutions to the Caravelle and Transporter into one, so take note which model you pick. The regular ID. Buzz people carrier costs more than £57,000 new, while the ID. Buzz Cargo costs around £47,000 but comes without the extra seats and some standard kit.

8. Caddy

Best VW van for converting on a budget

Volkswagen Caddy MPV deals from £14,850
Monthly finance from £438*
Volkswagen Caddy van deals from £11,490
Monthly finance from £190*

The final option, and most budget friendly of all, is to take a regular Caddy van and set up the camping essentials yourself. There are two versions, including the Caddy Cargo van and the Caddy people carrier, both of which have at some point been available in larger Maxi forms.

Because the Caddy has been around for a long time, you can find relatively cheap examples which should leave plenty of cash to carry out your own conversion.

There are petrol, diesel, two- and four-wheel-drive versions, but be aware that the van especially is marketed at businesspeople so isn't as well equipped as the Golf on which it is loosely based. That said, it's far from uncomfortable.

9. Volkswagen Crafter

Best VW van for maximum space at minimum cost

Used deals from £19,900
Monthly finance from £345*

If you have grand visions (to create your own Grand California), the Mercedes Sprinter-sized Crafter should do the trick. Because its California counterpart has only been available for a few years, finding one within budget can be a challenge, but there are plenty of current and previous-generation Crafters to choose from.

Most models use a 2.0-litre diesel engine, though whether you prefer a model with front- or rear-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive, is a different story. There are also different lengths and heights to choose from, however we think the long-wheelbase model should prove a hit for conversions.

An electric version (pictured above) was launched recently, but it never really took off. That, and the fact that its battery tech is borrowed from the dated e-Golf rather than the new ID range, means it's best avoided.

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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