Build or Buy: Vanagon Camper for How Much!?

We’ll let you make your own decision on this one, but today’s Build or Buy seems pretty obvious to us. Check out these two Vanagon campers to see if you should customize your own, or pick one off the shelf (hint: you want to build one).

We’re sure by now you’ve seen how Vanagon Westfalia values have gone through the roof. Buyers are clamoring for anything outdoorsy, and these relatively simple campers are a hit across the country. The most sought-after model is the Syncro Westie with its all-wheel-drive system and raised ride height. But there’s also value in non-Syncro models too. So we’ve found two rear-wheel-drive Vanagons with pop-top roofs for you to compare.

Argument: Buy
Article: 1991 Vanagon Multivan

If you want a perfect, and we mean perfect Vanagon, this may be as close to perfection as you can get. According to the ad, this pop-top has been restored and improved from top to bottom. It has everything: heated Recaro seats, 2.2L Subaru boxer engine, lift kit, offroad tires, custom paint, and a whole lot more.

What this also has is an unbelievable price. And by unbelievable we mean “I can’t believe they’re asking that much!” Take a deep breath, then check out the ad on And for a price like that you’ll quickly notice what you don’t get for something this expensive: a full camper setup, a manual transmission, and, most importantly, all-wheel-drive. That’s right, this (really) expensive Vanagon is an automatic rear-wheel-drive model. We know things cost more in southern California, but this is a tough pill to swallow.

Argument: Build
Article: 1980 Vanagon Westfalia

On the other side of the spectrum, here’s a completely tolerable Westfalia for very little coin. No, it’s not perfect, so it needs quite a bit of work. But it runs and drives and stops. And it has new tires and it comes with new pop-top seals.

And it’s a complete camper, not a weak-sauce Multivan. Sure you could drop in a Subie engine, install a lift kit, and do one-quarter of the things the ’90 owner and you’d spend tens of thousands of dollars less.

In fact, this 1980 Westfalia is $82,000 less than the ’90 Multivan. Take a look at this ad for this Roanoke, Virginia van on