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I want to be convinced to buy a Cali - help requested



I’m on the point of ordering a new California. At least, I think I am.

I’ve researched the options and decided what I want. I’ve visited dealers and had a test drive. I’ve learned an enormous amount from this forum (and thanks for that to all contributors). I’ve owned a lot of VAG cars over the years, and have had minimal problems. I usually buy new, look after a vehicle carefully and sell after about five years.

So what’s holding me up? Well, it’s the dismal stories of unreliability that I read on the Forum. I think the Cali concept is fantastic, but what about DMFs, DPFs, fridge problems and questions about charging the leisure batteries successfully? The fittings seem flimsy - OK I know they are designed to be lightweight, but the locks and the flexible door to the wardrobe look as thought they will break if you look at them. There’s now a post about how easy it is to dent the sandwich construction of the cupboard doors and how the selector knob above the windscreen falls off. The roof mechanism seems ridiculously over-engineered with a tendency to trap the canvas (even the fascinating and expensive Danbury “Doubleback” has a roof which is raised manually on gas struts with no electric motors to go wrong). I can’t help feeling that the Cali is brilliant in concept, but is just too complicated and not sufficiently robust to be practical.

Next year there’s to be a T6, but will there be a Cali option - I bet there will, but how long before it’s released? Not to mention the Marco Polo - but will it be sold in the UK and then it’d be another Mark I vehicle with teething problems. If there is a T6 Cali and a Marco Polo, then I guess that their release will have a big effect on the (currently excellent) residuals of T5 Calis.

One could buy a helluver car for £45k (I know that you couldn’t sleep or cook in it, but you could spend £20k on a good car and have £25k to stay in a lot of good hotels!). The trouble is that very few people will spend £45k on something and then admit that it was a mistake! So are there people out there who have had a trouble-free five-year experience and can convince me that my concerns are groundless?
hire one for a week end
30 k on the clock not issues (except roof will be repaired by vw) I feel if you treat the inside with care learn how things work before forcing anything you should be fine
we enjoy our Cali

The BIGGEST problem we had was when we had a night in a hotel and the rats in the car park ate the Cali wiring to the break master cylinder. so buying a car and using a hotel may not be the answer to trouble free motoring :thumb
Have just succumbed and purchased a new Cali (180ps) for delivery March 2015. I've owned VW's a number of times and can honestly say they are extremely reliable. The Cali is possibly over-engineered in some areas but then I can forgive any faults there may be, safe in the knowledge we can jump in and go whenever we want and sleep wherever we want (there are exceptions) without worrying about the car breaking down or a minor fault delaying us. Go for it, treat it with respect and enjoy yourself.
I would say don't do it. I hate mine, it's rubbish. The 400 odd nights we've been away have been terrible and we have to go away again this weekend. Awful!

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I think it depends on what you want out of it. If you want just another campervan with everything you could wish for then buy a caravan on wheels. If you want the whole VW scene and a Camper that's going to hold it's value (even after the new model is released), one where things sometimes do not work or go as you'd expect or even let you down (not often) then buy the California and get on with living with the freedom you'd expect from it.
We've had ours since May last year and have enjoyed 17000 trouble-free miles in thirteen different countries. In addition to five long trips we've had many shorter ones in the UK, sometimes with our grandchildren.
Last week we went to the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC and looked at dozens of different camper vans, including several T5 conversions. Despite some interesting layouts we came away more satisfied than ever with what we've got. Nothing is perfect and compromises have to be made due to the available space but overall the Cali stood up well in comparison to the competition.
Initially we thought that our appetite for the Cali experience would dwindle after two years and that we would sell it, but we are enjoying it as much as if not more than we did on our first trip. I also use it as a second vehicle : it is so versatile and literally a pleasure to drive.
We're already planning trips for next year and we intend to sell our lovely van in the Spring and take delivery of a new one.
We love it!
I would not persuade anyone to buy anything. You either want it or you don't.

I came on this forum a little over a year ago and was definitely persuaded not to buy one. What a heap of mobile crap on 4 ugly-looking alloys seemed to be the overwhelming consideration.

I hired one. It did what I wanted. tough luck if everyone else's ugliness on wheels did not. So on the basis that it worked for me I went and bought one. It has exceeded my requirements. Yes, I could have something bigger, more comfortable, more modern, more flashier, more look at me, more --- reliable? - no, it has not let me down yet so not possible,


It gets me everywhere even in small car parks, I can carry three sticky fingered brats in it and not get precious, it gets me everywhere - under low bridges, it is lovely to sleep in, it gets me everywhere - even passed "road closed" signs, I can use it year round, it gets me everywhere -even off flooded fields and through flooded roads, it's quiet to cruise all day long in, it gets me everywhere even when the sign says "campsite full"... "surely room for little me?".......

Quite frankly it is the most fun vehicle, go anywhere stop anywhere vehicle I have ever had.

I did not need persuading. I certainly do not need it now.

End of sermon ...

oh, did I say it could get me anywhere? It does.
GrannyJen, well said and these are the very reasons why people SHOULD buy one.
Uncertainty with regards to T6 and Marco Polo is what is still holding us back.

One Mercedes dealer told us the Marco Polo camper van is coming in April 2015

One VW dealer told us the T6 Cali is coming in 2017

One VW convertor said T6 Cali is coming in 2018!

When spending £55k on a specced camper, I'm holding off until there are some actual facts.

Will VW launch a T6 commercial van in 2015 but still sell the T5 Cali at the same time?
if you wait until a unconfirmed date of 2018 or 2020 release date for a T6 Cali you will miss a lot of Cali camping - life is far too short its only money you cant take it with you.
If you need convincing to buy a Cali then you don't want it bad enough - sorry. :D

If you're waiting for a major manufacturer to release factual details of a distant possible upcoming vehicle then you have a long wait - sorry. :D
Your concerns aren't groundless but you may want to adjust your expectations. You won't find anyone on here who hasn't had an issue with their Cali. Remember that a Forum mainly exists so folk can get advice from other users on problems they've encountered. Reports of problem-free use are less frequent and, quite frankly, not very interesting. And I don't know of anyone who has owned a car for 5 years with no issues either.

After 4 years and 37,000 miles I haven't had any of the issues mentioned in the original post - but I've had others. None would put me off buying another Cali tomorrow.

It's good to do your research before shelling out a serious amount of cash. And hiring first can de-risk the decision. However, the evidence shows that all second hand Cali's are in strong demand (and residuals are very good) so you could buy now given what you know of Cali's, wait a couple of years and miss out on living life or buy an alternative camper which hasn't been tested by 50,000 owners. But only you can decide.
I totally agree.
Just to clarify that, when I said we'd had 17000 trouble-free miles, I didn't mean that we haven't been frustrated by a few minor niggles that have been well documented on the forum. And, of course, we've been diagnosed with the dreaded roof corrosion. But the corrosion will be fixed (eventually) and the niggles have receded. None of these has prevented us from using the Cali to the full.
More importantly we've had some wonderful experiences that we shall treasure. We have no regrets.
Hi Poole,

We bought earlier this year, and all the same questions were in my mind at the time. What do I think now we are on the other side of the financial precipice?

I've not had major issues, but we've had a few smaller ones. Some will say that every vehicle has it's issues, but I have owned many cars, and I have to say the niggles you get with the Cali (for me at least) seem to be a thing of the past on most modern cars now. Now reflect that the Cali is a 10+ year old van, and it perhaps is not surprising.

Ditto the dealers. If I got the service from BMW that I got from VW Commercial, I would be stunned. Again, right or wrong, I think you have to adjust expectation. These guys are not selling 100's of these things to retail buyers.

I"ve learned to take a slightly more "relaxed" approach to how I interact with VW, let's just say. In summary, in 10,000 miles we've not had anything that has made me regret buying the Cali.

Re: the T6, Marco Polo etc. Others have said, you can wait forever. There will always be the temptation of something new over the horizon. Think carefully before you make your move of course, but once you've decided don't worry about what you may be missing when the T6 / MP is released. Again, a view from the "other side", I would be extremely wary about being an early adopter of these vehicles. One good thing about the T5 is that it is somewhat tried and tested.

There is lots (too much to bore you with) that I really like about the California, both as a vehicle and a camper. I haven't regretted buying it, and I would likely sell all of my other toys before I parted with it.

As others have also said, hire before you buy is a great idea.

Check out some of the member web sites here. There are some great adventures happening. Speaking of which, I'm off to the New Forest!

I look forward to hearing what you decide :D

Can't understand why anyone in this position just doesn't purchase a 2nd hand one, the depreciation has already hit, loads of lovely low mileage ones available.

Buy one tomorrow, use it until late spring and if it's not for you sell it on, probably 'cost' you £2k maximum.

Buying an average new car for £20k will cost you way over that in depreciation by the time you've left the forecourt.
We looked at them when they first came out; I just found them a bit too clinical and dull.
Then the T5.1 one came out and a few issues seemed to have been ironed out and we preferred the look so found a pre reg delivery mile one (in Preston!!) and bought it.

We've had ours three years and had more than our fair share of issues - the most recent requiring 8 weeks without it; VW just couldn't find out what the problem was and tried all sorts.

However we are incredibly pleased to get it back; we had a wobble where we thought about selling it but replace it with what?

Nothing does the job as well, looks as "factory" and well made or depreciates any slower.

If you do find you don't get on with it, valet it and sell it again. Yep they are a complex beast and things go wrong but I'm sure that's the same with aftermarket conversions too.

It's given our family (me, wife, two kids and a dog) the best holidays of our lives. We love it (until it breaks down again!).
Of course there is a nightmare scenario waiting for those who wait ...

Out comes the MP. The rush of those wwho waited to buy cause sales to go through the roof and discounts to fall through the floor. There is after all no second hand market.

Just as unforeseen problems with the bellows come to light, just as it's being realised that those bright, ultra modern shine surfaces are a nightmare for those with young kids, just as traditional vito rust problems start to manifest themselves....

Along comes VW, or Westy, with the T6 Cali and "all those problems that we knew about are all now engineered out".
As someone who has been looking to buy a Cali and has followed the forum faithfully for over a year and attended a meet my feelings are...

If you want a camper van of the size, capability then the California is best SWB version out there.

The new pop-top Westfalia is probably the best alternative but the internal layout / configuration has to appeal and will not suit all - I have only seen the pricing for the high top but to get an equivalent specification is more expensive.

The reason I have not currently ordered is the main roof corrosion. It's not acceptable to me to buy a vehicle that will corrode within 12 months potentially, I want VW to implement a true fix (not a respray) and then I will happily order.

I share the concerns of waiting for the T6, personally I'd rather have a T5 with hopefully most of the issues ironed out than a brand new vehicle with new issues.

I think the Marco Polo is an unknown quantity and there is no official confirmation that the full fat version will ever come to the UK. Based on pricing I would also assume a price premium for the Marco Polo over the California.


If your reservations come from concern about the sturdiness of or issues with the car as such, let us put in some counter weight. Ours is over 6 years old, has the 2.5 l 5-cylinder TDI, it's a 4-Motion, so more stuff that can break, and has air-suspension, so still more stuff that can break. We have just gone through the 100.000 km on the clock this summer. Outside normal maintenance and care, and having to exchange the occasional light bulb, WE HAVE NOT HAD ANY ISSUES WHATSOEVER YET (knock on wood!). No corrosion on the spoiler, none on the roof. And when on a trip, we are not squeamish about heavy use, pushing the car a bit off road (see our contributions here on our off-road course with our Cali, or about some of the roads we drove on in the Alps or in Norway - inland Iceland is next on our roster!). it is our only car, so we also use it for regular runs. When not in use, the car is always in an indoor garage, that helps, probably. Perhaps we have just been lucky?

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I'm waiting to decide whether to take the plunge. Have reservations re t6and mp, but kids are 7 and 4 so we want to do it whist we still have them. Hire cali coming tomorrow pm ready for a weekend in the lakes. Excited, but nervous as have been thinking about it for so long the whole family will be gutted if it isn't for us! Will let you know how it goes!
We have had our beloved Zebedee Zebra for a year tomorrow! We have done 63 nights away......I can guarantee we would NOT have done that before we had the Cali. We have found a lovely community of like-minded Cali owners (you won't get that with a MP).

We have had some of the most special times ever.....priceless memories and the best way ever to to get your pre teen off the gadgets. Playing board games. Shadows with the torch.
Taking her friends away too.

Oh and travelling with the dog (and sometimes the hamster too!) Few hotels would be that flexible. more than on any car. Wow factor....definitely from Ferrari owners to police to dating!

Only you can choose......
Hi Poole :hello , i'm also sat on the fence at the moment but maybe for different reasons. We have hired a T5 conversion and a Cali, loved both but found the Cali far better all round. Last week we visited the NEC motorhome show and looked at loads of conversion companies T5s and agreed for £40-48000 there is nothing to match the Calis' package. Conversions that were over 40 grand with grey carpet over all the walls, limited storage underneath and behind the rear seat, no heated seats, low power engines, manual roofs that you have to tie down, no climatronic, no main dealership support etc. etc. With the Cali residuals thrown in as well there is no comparison. Also why wait 2-3 years possibly for a T6 Cali, it will defo be more expensive, have new teething problems and you have lost all that time waiting.
My dilemma is over the price! and how best to afford it. I see there have been lots of 3-4 year old Calis for sale recently at approx £35-38k, is it wise to "save" £10k and buy one of these with no warranty and possibly pickup somebody else's wear and tear repairs etc. or is it best to go the whole hog and buy a brand new one with your own spec and full warranty.
Any advice and comments appreciated.
We had a 180 dsg on order, cancelled it 2 weeks ago. it's not just this forum with pages of problems have a look at the German forums, however VW do seem to respond to there home market.
Whilst all you folks on the fence about buying a Cali spend the weekend trying to work out if you should buy one or not... consider this: we're off camping tomorrow. Woo hoo. Get it spent... tomorrow may never come!!
Only you can convince yourself, we have had weekends and holidays away with lovely views and special memories and being able to not think about all those undone jobs and the daily grind you experience on that treed mill. I certainly would not have gone away so often if I had to pay to stay in a B&B. It's independence and a cosy place and somewhere just to sit in on an evening at your favourite venue after a day at work, eating fish and chips or using it as a picnic venue. It also drives very well and is a comfortable cruiser.
I went around the NEC on Sunday looking at the VW conversions, where you can pay to upgrade from 84bhp I think, to 102bhp? or something like that! no thanks ....I might be doing them an injustice but they also seem to use chipboard type stuff inside which looks like it comes from a 1970's kitchen. In my view, there's nothing in the VW market as good as a Cali, I didn't see anything I'd want instead. Yes it's had some issues, but it's a complicated thing and the corrosion is disappointing but VW are dealing with this. Would I buy it again with what I know now - yes I would.

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