Used VW camper vans

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

Simon Ostler
Aug 16, 2021

As a mode of transport, the VW Camper 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.

When we refer to the VW Camper, 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 for 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 makes 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 vans

1. Volkswagen California

Best VW camper van for sleeping

Used deals from £46,995
Monthly finance from £624*

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 with heating and a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality all present.

2. Volkswagen Caravelle

Best VW camper van for adaptability

Used deals from £40,000
Monthly finance from £639*

Also based upon the Transporter, the Volkswagen Caravelle is less of a VW camper van and more a comfortable place to sit. It's available in two different lengths, and the fact it is relatively compact in its shortest form (less than five metres long and less than two metres wide) despite it's 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, 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 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.

In the cabin, there's the same 6.5-inch media system found in the California, along with climate control and adaptive cruise control.

3. Volkswagen Transporter

Best VW camper van for value

Volkswagen Transporter front three quarters view with side opening

Used deals from £17,490
Monthly finance from £396*

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.


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