First Things First.
Are Vanagons, Westfalias (affectionally known as a 'Westy') Reliable?
What?! No foreplay? You just want to get right down to business? At least buy me dinner first!
Are Vanagons reliable? An oft-asked question. And my reply is always the same...Yep.
Only if you wax on/wax off exactly the way Mr. Miyagi taught you.
'91 Bad Ass Adventure Vanagon
So you wanna buy a van? More specifically, you wanna buy a VW Vanagon?
This page is here for two reasons;
To help others who are considering a van purchase.
To showcase and log the love, work, determination, enjoyment and frustration (yes, frustration) that goes into owning and driving one of these classic vehicles.
Some notes about this page;
The viewpoints and opinions on this page are solely those of my own. I do not claim to be an expert and often I need to reach out to others much wiser than I within the van-o-sphere. I have however, since 2003, owned 2 of these beauts and performed many upgrades and logged countless miles leaning over the steering wheel and staring out that great big beautiful windshield.
I've also had the good fortune (depending on how you look at it) of loading my Westy onto a flatbed tow truck on several occasions. Like. Several. Occasions. If nothing else, I am an expert on awkward tow truck conversations.
The Vanagon community has been super helpful and engaging. This page is one way for me to give back. If you have a question about anything van related and can't find help elsewhere send me a message through the contact tab. I'd be happy to sound like I know what I'm talking about.
Take my advice for exactly what you paid for it.
Lastly, this page is ever evolving and changing with updated info and opinions. So, check back often.
Follow all our Westy Adventures on our travel IG account
Here's the deal...there are rumours and opinions out there that Vanagons are unreliable. Heck, even the folks at Live Work Wander eventually gave up on the platform after building like, only two of the most legendary Vanagon rigs evah, Falkor and Ripley. But, it is my opinion that it is not necessarily the Vanagon that is unreliable. You have to consider you are driving a vehicle that is, at best, 28 years old (at the time of this writing). ANY classic vehicle of that age is going to need love and upkeep and maintenance and countenance. And understanding. So. Much. Understanding.
And nowadays the environments, driving conditions and the types of miles people are putting on their Vanagons is way beyond what the Germans considered when they dreamed up the miracle of an RV crammed into 80 square feet. You cannot subject a Ballerina to a CrossFit workout and expect an injury free experience.
All this is to say...and I mean this with absolute sincerity...some of the best experiences and trips we've had have come out of breakdowns. Breakdowns create a circumstance to slow down and reevaluate. Breakdowns give you opportunity. You end up exploring a town or destination you would never have chosen when you originally set out. Wherever you are...you're there!
There is sooo much you can do to make these vehicles less susceptible to fault but...eventually that alternator is going to go. Probably when you're 20 miles up a mountain fire service road. Ask me how I know.
So...if you're a roll-with-the-punches kind of person, then a Westy is a great adventure vehicle for you to consider. But, if you are the kind of person who's level of commitment to resiliency resembles that of a Kardashian's love life, well......
So, why buy a Westy?
Because there is truly NOTHING else like it.
Find me another vehicle that has a fridge, a stove, sleeping for 4, storage for clothing, storage for food, can easily park in a major metropolis, pulls u-turns like a teenager doing doughnuts in an empty mall parking lot during a snow storm AND where you can walk from the driver's seat to the "living room" and be setup to camp or sleep in literally 30 seconds. Go ahead. I dare you. I double-dog dare you. Find me that vehicle! I'll wait.
It doesn't exist.
The Westy is a unicorn. A unicorn you can drive. And party in.
Plus...they are just soooo uber cool.
Everywhere we go, people want to talk. People always have a story or question about a VW van. "My dad used to have one." "Is that thing 4x4?" "When i was a kid..." "Far out, man."
As Rod Tidwell would proudly exclaim, a VW van has the Quan. You know!?
Admittedly, there are options.
Earthroamer or Earthcruiser? A lot of deniro..and YUGE! (but yes, the bad-ass factor is pretty high on these)
Four Wheel Camper? Really nice but you still have to exit the vehicle to camp or sleep. Plus, have you checked out the turning radius on a Tacoma truck? Can you say 8 point u-turn on a dirt road? What-up Toyota?!
A Jeep with an Ursa Minor camper is a good option, too. But, tight sleeping quarters and no stove or storage.
I'll say it again...there is truly NOTHING else like a VW van.
If you get a good van, or if you put enough love and maintenance into it (read: hundred-dolla-bills, yo!) you will go through periods of pure bliss. Driving a Vanagon is magic.
That retro, vintage-vibey, hanging-over-the-front-end driving experience where everyone wants to say 'hello' compounded by the sheer practicalness of it.
That! That's why you should buy a Westy.
How much should I spend? How much ya got, kid?
This one's actually pretty easy. You have two options. Under $20k and over $20k.
I always tell people to budget $20,ooo to start. Yep. 20G minimum! To start! Dreams are free, but reality costs money.
Look, you're gonna find a van for $10k to $15k. Then you're gonna want to (read:need to) put in about $5k in maintenance and upgrades.
Or...you can buy one that's already been looked after and upgraded. But, you will pay for this. And don't even get me started on the price of a well refurbished Syncro.
But, compare this to what a brand new adventure rig will set you back. Heck, there are trailers that cost 4 times as much...and then you still need a truck to pull it.
I'll leave you with this quote from Eric Schlosser...
"Fast food is popular because it's convenient, it's cheap, and it tastes good. But the real cost of eating fast food never appears on the menu."