I'm curious as to why so many buy new Californias, especially given the outrageous cost for what is, after all, just a VW Camper. That first 3 years from new costs a fair whack of depreciation just to get that new car smell. So here I will spell out my case for a used Cali and allow other members to present their arguments for a new one (or indeed, some may wish to add support to my argument).
We’ve had a T5 2008 2.5 174 from new, still in excellent condition, done 132K miles, 100K on holidays. Paid £35K and still worth £25K
I just don't see the appeal of a new car. Is it the status of being able to afford the "ker-chink" of cash hitting the kerb as it drives out of the yard for the first time, £10k less valuable than it was thirty seconds ago and just ten minutes away from its first supermarket car park rash ? Perhaps it's the endless factory built-in failures and recalls that plague a new California, meaning it'll spend much of its early life at the Dealer's workshop ? Or is it the knowledge that those ridiculously expensive options will depreciate even faster than the car itself, leaving owners wondering whether they really needed the genuine faux leather rear view mirror surrounds with California motif that came with the optional Luxury Tack package.
If it's the assurance of a warranty that appeals then an extended warranty can easily be bought to cover a second-hand model.
Essentially the California hasn't changed since Westfalia produced the T4 California (LHD only) for VW some 20 years ago. When VW took over production of the Californiafrom Westfalia with the introduction of theT5 they struggled to improve on a design that had been perfected over many decades*, but still their marketing people managed to come up with a whole bunch of unnecessary options to justify a huge price hike. Brighter colours, slicker materials, electric everything. It certainly looked the part and in their bedazzlement no-one really noticed that nothing had actually changed.
In 2004 I bought a 2001 T4 California which I kept for 6 years then in 2010 I sold it for a 2007 T5 California which I kept for 8 years. Both were bought for a mere 50% of their new cost. Both lost nothing but inflation and were sold for what I originally paid for them. In both cases they had frustrated their original owners with problems within the warranty period, particularly the T5, whereas they spent little time in the workshop during my ownership.
I bought the T5 because the T4 engine only produced 102 BHP and the T5 with a tuning box produced twice that, otherwise I'd have happily kept the T4. It had the same layout as the T5 (or the T6) that Westfalia had perfected over many years. It carried 260,000kms when I sold it and it drove like new. It was very comfortabke to drive, it had the faimiliar captain's chairs, awning, table, cupboards, beds, sink, stove, fridge and storage layouts. Brandrup even sold a host of over-priced after-market gadgets for it, many of which they re-purposed for the later T5 and T6. The spring loaded roof never relied on hydraulics or electrics, it never caught its bellows in the canvas, never failed or asked to be returned to the workshop and it popped up or down with one hand in just seconds. The screen and buttons never failed, the roof never corroded, the parking heater worked and the 2.5TDi engine in the T4 was bullet proof. Of course the 2.5TDi engine in the T5 wasn't quite as robust and 2 litre unit in the T5.2 even less so, as VW attempted to minimise their parts catalogue by fitting a modified Golf engine. The jury's out on what surprises the T6 engines will bring.
So given the main function of a camper is to.....well, camp, choosing a new California over one from the last 20 years is not really going to bring about additional comforts. The instruments may be more modern and they may be nicer to drive with more safety features but the T4 would hold its own over a T6 when it came to pitching up and camping. Finally, the older ones are funkier with far more street cred.
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad so may folks buy new as they pay the massive depreciation that allows me to buy the same car for half the price three years later. I just wonder why they choose to be so generous to a complete stranger. The least I can do is make them a cup of tea.
*Westfalia was a very old camper conversion company in the German state of Westphalia that dated back almost to the last war. I onece visited their wonderful company museum that showed the evolution of the camper from it's humble beginnings in the early 50s. It was the best collection of campers I've ever seen. Unfortunately they went bankrupt in 2010 and sold the entire collection piece by piece for the princely sum of 200,000 euros, including selling an original 1953 T1 Camperbox with just 41 miles on the clock for 41,000 euros.