Reliability of VW camper vans



Right now I drive a '97 Ford Explorer Sport with a large Thule box on top from B.C. to Sonora, Mexico twice a year. I’ve been looking at the VW camper vans, and they would hold all my stuff. Consumer Reports does not give them a very good rating. How reliable are they?


A close friend of ours is married to a meticulous and careful person. Even they had lots of problems with the VW camper van. They are inherently unreliable. The only upside is that there are many in Mexico, and it can be readily repared in case of a breakdown. I would buy an American van conversion, such as Starcraft, Funcraft or other.You will have at least as much space, a good heater, probably good A/C and much higher reliability. The VW van is very expensive to repair in the US. A van conversion is as easy to fix as a pickup truck.


I think if you look at Volkswagen’s overall reliability from the last 20 years, you’ll not find it to be stellar. Like any used car, you should thoroughly drive and inspect one before buying. It’s not as if they’re all junk, but I think the average number of repairs due to mechanical failure is above average.

Frankly, and I’m sure there are going to be some people disagreeing big-time here, I’d look at a Windstar or Grand Caravan or even a new Sprinter with a pop-up or fixed fiberglass camper roof. Even if their mechanical failure rate isn’t any lower, I’m betting price for repair is.


The other poster are right on. They do have thier charm and if you do your own work and you view the van as something of a project in and of itself, they’re okay. But the Vangons especially really do have dismal reliability records, which is especially bad because they’re usually used for road trips. Ask any former vanagon owner-- they’ll tell you about all the various trips where their vans crapped out on them. For many, that’s part of the adventure and hence part of the appeal of the VW van. Also, the mileage on them isn’t as great as you’d think, especially for as underpowered as they are.

In terms of a practical vehicle, though, there’s much better out there, although granted not as ubiquitous in the used market as the VW. Conversion vans based on American vans are pretty good, although many of them have add-ons that make them way bigger than a standard van, which I’m not such a big fan of.

The Dodge Sprinter based campers are defintely something you should look at if they’re in your price range. The Sprinter, in reality, is a Mercedes-Benz commercial van with decades-long track records of outstanding reliability. The turbo-diesel engine gets spectacular mileage for a vehicle of its size. But they’ve only been in the US market for a little while, so used ones are still pretty pricey.