VW campervans hold legendary status among the campervanning world. The older models are some of the icons from the 1960s and 1970s. They epitomize those decades of free-living hippies breaking free from the shackles of society to change the way in which we viewed life.
Nowadays they come in all shapes and sizes, but it is the classic ones which turn heads. And despite looking like a loaf of bread on wheels that is about to topple over, when they cruise by, they give off an aura like an old Rolls-Royce or Jaguar.
But nostalgia aside, have you ever looked at a VW camper and asked yourself , “Can I make money with one of these?”. Well, if you are reading this article, the chances are that you have, and you have come to the right place
In this article we will take a look at the iconic travel vans from an investor’s perspective.
You will learn about the different models, what makes them valuable, and whether you can make money off of them.
So let’s dive into the rich history of the world’s best loved vehicles to find out whether VW campers are a good investment.
What are the different types of VW campers?
Good investors buy with re-selling in mind, and that means having knowledge of your asset.
All VW campervans have unique pros and cons. Whilst small and nimble ones appeal to some, it is the larger, more comfortable ones that are more popular with others.
Knowing about the different models and what they have to offer will help you to identify which ones carry the most resale value.
By this, you will then be able to see who your most likely buyers will be.
The smallest of all VW campervans, the Caddy California is around the same size as a small van, but clever design means there’s enough space to sleep. Being a smaller vehicle means the Caddy California can access nooks and crannies which VW’s larger campervans cannot.
Although, a smaller size does limit comfort, and of course means that Caddy California only serves as a bed/transport combination.
The one we all know and love. Each generation of models has helped make lifelong memories from countless road trips. But ironically, the vans were never designed with campervanning in mind, and require converting.
The older Transporters are the iconic ones. They feature the rounded rooftop and bug-like body. The first three VW Transporters fall into this category, and they are the VW T1 (Type 2), VW T2 (Type2), and VW T3 (Type2).
In the 1990s VW changed the Transporter’s body to a more square shape, and since then all Transporter models have followed suit.
These models are the T4 – Transporter, T-5 Transporter, T6-Transporter, and recently announced T7-Transporter
Whether vintage or newer, all Transporter models are medium sized vans. Converted to campervans, they have enough space to either build a bed or a seating/table arrangement.
And in recent years VW also began producing the California Ocean model. The California is a ready-to-go campervan based on the Transporter model, and so doesn’t need converting.
VW’s modern range of large campervans, they offer the most space and comfort. And there is a cooking unit, dining table, as well as sleeping area all packed in. But, what you gain in comfort, you lose in manoeuvrability, meaning the Grand California will struggle to get to places which the Transport and Caddy can.
VW campers as an investment
Now you are familiar with the various VW campervan models, let’s talk dollars and trends.
How much will I need to invest?
There is no fixed price as it depends on a few important factors:
- Are you buying 1st or 2nd hand?
- The model
- How well you maintain it
- The changes you make
- Do you need to ship it?
Obviously it’s only the newer models which can be bought brand new, and will set you back an initial investment in the mid to high five figures. Caddy Californias are the cheapest and Grand Californias are the most expensive. New Transporters are somewhere between.
For vintage Transporter models, it can vary greatly, but they tend to range between the low to mid five figures. It all depends on their condition, the conversion type, and their age. And it is supersizing that, despite being a classic car, most retro VW campervans will be a much friendlier initial investment than brand new ones.
Another expense to consider is shipping. VW doesn’t sell campervans in North America. It’s not cheap to ship a vehicle across the world, so make sure to factor that into expenses.
Maintenance and modification costs depend on the individual. How often you drive the campervan will impact how often you service it.
Older models will need more frequent tender loving care, and will also be more costly to source parts for. And as you can imagine, a more sophisticated modification, like installing seats and a table, will cost more than simply removing the back seats and building in a bed.
How can I make money on A VW camper investment?
To make money on a VW campervan,. you need to increase its value, and this can be done in a number of ways.
For the most sought after vintage Transporter models like the T2, you can either buy an already-converted one, or search for an original.
If already converted, then it’s likely peaked in value, and to sell it on for more you will have to wait a few years. But if you’re lucky enough to find an unconverted one, you can profit much faster. There’s no need to wait for it to age, when you can get on with converting it straight away. Depending on the condition you, you can find retro, unconverted Transporter models starting in the low five figures.
For newer models there is more opportunity to increase value. There are plenty of unconverted second hand Transporters out there. Fix them up, install either a bed or seating area and then resell. You could even build some sort of system on the outside to attach a gazebo/tent to.
Finally, once spruced up, there are plenty of ways to sell your campervan asset.
VW campervan communities are rife, and there are plenty of online platforms dedicated to buying and selling them. This gives you a high chance of finding your target customer in a short time.
Finally, you could go to an auction. This is the riskiest option, but the reward could also be enormous. All it takes is a pair of keen buyers to enter into a bidding war, and the price of your VW campervan could go through the roof.
Do VW campers hold their value?
This depends on demand, and it’s the most sought after Transporters which seem to fare best over the years.
But modern campervan-ready VWs like the California also do well. They are estimated to retain around 75% of their value after 3 years. These appeal to buyers, even when older, thanks to being built for purpose. They take away the need for any sort of conversion work, meaning happy campers!
However, it might not be a great idea to buy one as an asset. They leave the factory as campervans, so you won’t be able to convert them.
You can use this handy value calculator to get an estimate.
VW campers: a good investment?
In the grand scheme of things, there are not too many ways in which you can make money from a VW campervan. Older models don’t tend to sell like other classic vintage cars do, and newer ones are hard to increase in value. So based on this, you could say no…
However, we looked at things from different angles, and one option did stick out.
Looking for a cheaper and unconverted older model will give you the best opportunity of cashing in on your VW campervan. It may require some repairs and a lot of effort just to get it in working order, but shop around for the best parts and labour prices, and you can minimise these.
Once up and running, get on with the conversion. Make it unique with a touch of style, but most importantly, make it practical, comfortable and reliable.
Then look for a buyer. One of the reasons why older models could be the best investment is that they appeal to a broad range of potential buyers. They provoke happy memories in older generations, and look cool to younger ones. No matter a person’s age, a retro VW campervan looks stylish.
We cannot give you a profit estimate, but what we can say is that VW campervans are in no way, shape, or form a passive money maker.
Any profit you do make will reflect the effort you put in to improving the vehicle, and how well you maintain it.
And if in the end you decide to keep it, well then you have a personalised VW campervan to go on road trips with. And that is a priceless investment.