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Why did you choose California instead of a bigger panel van conversion?

chockswahay

chockswahay

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T6.1 Coast 150
Hi Team, this is a genuine question. I (we) have previously owned 2 panel van conversions and now a recently purchased 2020 Coast. I am curious as to why people buy the VW.

First van…… 2013 6m Globecar based on Fiat Ducato bought new and sold 3 years later with 38000 miles for £8k less

Second van……2018 5.4m HymerCar based on Fiat Ducato bought new and sold one year later with 8000 miles for £8k less

Current van …..2020 VW Coast bought 2 months ago ……. Still in use ;)

Now here’s the thing…… we used to go on long adventures for about 8 to 10 weeks at a time all over Europe. In each case the Fiat vans were completely self contained, had inbuilt shower and toilet, full size fixed double bed, truck loads of storage space and enabled us to fully and properly go off grid. No need to keep messing about with pop up roofs, making up the bed etc etc.

We chose a VW this time as we wanted something a little bit more ‘car like’ to drive and we only intend to go on trips that last 4 to 8 weeks max.

I see that many people with VW’s tend to either still be working, settle for higher utilisation of camp sites, probably only go away for short breaks.

I could go on and on but this might lead to you (reading this) either losing the will to live ;) or resenting me and every word I’ve said:eek:

So then, what made you choose a VW with all of its associated limitations compared to something a little bigger, more comfortable, more space, standing room throughout, and generally more practical and suited to the purpose of going away for a few weeks in comfort?

I am not seeking agreement or condemnation, just curious (hard hat on and ducking for cover:D)
 
WelshGas

WelshGas

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Good question.
I wanted to go where a car can go. I've done a lot of canvas tenting in the past and the California is definitely an upgrade. If I want all the amenities of home then I'll stay in a hotel, preferably in the centre of things with parking. Bit difficult in anything over 2m.
Just because you own a campervan doesn't mean you HAVE to stay in it every night.
 
J

johna

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Highlands
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T6.1 Ocean 150
Like WelshGas said. Also when we looked around, we realised that every van is a compromise, whatever the size. Actually when the roof is up and the front seats swivelled, I think there’s more comfort in the Cali than some bigger vans. Also when sleeping upstairs, one of us can get up earlier if we want to, sit downstairs etc. Plus we didn’t want a huge lump of metal sitting outside our house.
 
C

cableboy

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Berkshire
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T6.1 Coast 150
In my opinion, the Cali is unique in that it's greatest weakness (size) is also it's greatest strength (size)

The reason I chose one is because I didn't feel I could justify paying for a vehicle to just sit on the driveway waiting for my next spell of annual leave. It's car-like size means it can be used for day trips/weekends as well as holidays. It will get under most height barriers and supermarket car parks not an issue.

My other half's parents have an 8+ metre long motorhome. Whilst this is obviously superior in terms of comfort, before they purchased a scooter they used to either take very long walks, or just stay in the van due to the difficulty in parking the thing - not an issue with a Cali.
 
Ozzy Pete

Ozzy Pete

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Carmarthen
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T5 SE 140
On all the campsites or places we have parked our VW California get more people talking than the biggest Motorhomes. After 7 years of ownership I still have no idea why.
Maybe it’s the dream that VW has created over the past 60 -70 years with their vans.
 
SnowbelleCali

SnowbelleCali

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Devon
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T5 SE 180
Having hired a large RV for two weeks grand tour of California, USA, a VW Cali Ocean for a two week tour of France ( with two large dogs!!) and a larger Roller Team Motor Home for a tour of Germany in lockdown we prefer the standing room of the larger vehicles and general comfort however as previous post mentioned we wanted something more car like and where a car can go- more convenient and less unwieldy. We have just bought a 13 plate California SE to help get us to our new place in the alps and to tour in. We hope it will give us the flexibility of not having to rush to get to our overnight hotel stop, having more room for our two dogs than the car, and crucially having somewhere to pull over to sleep and/or have a rest /tea break and not need to pay for hotels en route - unless we fancy a change or a bit of luxury!
 
S

SpuffingtonMe

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Essex
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Looking to buy
Interesting question. Particularly so given I was a bit of a Cali hater previously. Hate is probably too strong but I couldn’t see the point. That was when I was in a similar situation to yourself, owning other vehicles which were more self contained.

I’ve had three motorhomes (Rimor Superbrig, Hymer S640, Concorde Charisma) and a Westfalia KeplerOne. The Concorde was the last I had and although I had it for four years and travelled all over Europe in it & did the NC500 a few times, I got sick of constantly lavishing time and expense on it; storing it half an hour away and just general hassle. We sold it and were relieved…..for six months until we realised we wanted something we could sleep in but had minimal hassle attached and could easily store outside our house plus not have to have three vehicles but instead use as a daily.

We have two kids - 9 & 1. At the moment the focus is on day trips and less about camping other than just for me and my 9yr old. That will change as the youngest gets older/easier. We also have plans for a third child so the Cali was one of the only campers available which would work for 5 seats.

Yes the Cali is compromised. I do miss having onboard facilities, Alde central heating & hot water, insulated walls etc. However, I have a Porta Potti which does the job and this is our fun bus for long days out and adventures.

One day, when the kids are older and we have a house with a bigger driveway/land, we’ll look at getting another Concorde or Morelo A Class or Liner. But for the moment the Cali is perfect for our needs.
 
T

The Saint Essex

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Essex
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T6.1 Ocean 199
For us it is pretty much the same as everyone else. The small size that means you can go nearly anywhere in it, whenever you want.

I was bought up with touring caravans, but the hassle and need to plan felt too much. The Cali is on the drive, if the sun is out and the mood take us it's 15 mins to prep and get on the road. Would I go for a Cali if we plan to travel for months on end no, but for weekends and the fortnights summer holiday it ticks all the boxes for us and is an upgrade from a tent!

What I have really enjoy which I wasn't expecting is the benefits for my cycling exploits. Just throwing the bike on the back heading off somewhere for a ride, knowing I have somewhere to come back to where I can get changed comfortably, warm up, make a little food and have a relax before heading home.

Oh and of course you are the envy of everyone having a Cali!
 
GrannyJen

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Well,

Having spent the last six months on the dark side, in a 5.4m ducato....

I had a Cali for it's versatility. Second car, off road camper, lots of off grid, some on grid, some towing a caravan. My last trip was a 46 day cycling tour where because of the start points of our day a lot of the car parks we used were 2.1m or less height restricted. I could not have done it with something taller than 2m.

What I have now suits me perfectly. Unless they are height restricted car parks do not give me a problem - much, sometimes that extra width of the Ducato does. I love the fixed bed, on board loo, running hot water and not having the faff of having to shift everything around whenever I change what I am doing. I do spend around 100 days a year in the thing and to demonstrate how horrifying my lifestyle has become of the 56 days spent in it so far 75% have been on caravan club sites :cool:

Would I go back to a Cali? Well, yes, I have half a share in one on order and somehow I suspect more than half a share in it's use :D
 
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WelshGas

WelshGas

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I think another factor is " Where have you come from? ".
If you did a lot of tent camping, whether wild or campsite then a California is a definite Upgrade compared to public/foot transport + tent or car + tent.
If you are a first timer or a caravan owner then it can seem more of a downgrade at first. No hot water/loo etc but then the attraction of a small vehicle become apparent , where you can park, where you can visit and the ease of a vehicle on the drive that you can just get in and drive to anywhere. Silly things like a coffee stop at the services getting your coffee and paper and retiring to your own private lounge, all begin to make sense.
Keeping a California as a 3rd vehicle, parked/stored elsewhere and only used for pre-planned summer holidays is, as far as I am concerned personally, a complete and utter waste of money.
2 neighbours have motorhomes that were used for a 3 week holiday last year and haven't moved since.
 
Ozzy Pete

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The vw California is a good vehicle but it in no way compares with a motorbike for excitement on Holiday.... But like everything needs must and my old knees wouldn’t take it any longer. And just like the long distance moto trips the camper is going that way for us. We are looking for more comfort in our dotage and lifting yourself through a hole 4’ x 2’ to go to bed gets more and more difficult after 1 knee replacement and another imminent . I’ve travelled the world by many means and now I want someone to pick us up, take us to the airport then take us to our 5 star hotel and cook all our food and wash the dishes.
It was fun but now time to move on....
 
V

Vagophile

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Market Deeping
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My initial thoughts on buying a California are summed up in my first post.
Over time, these reasons have become even stronger. Gone are the120 day stays in Greece, it's just not practically possible anymore. When we did that, having a motorhome stored in a secure compound three miles away from our home was acceptable and a motorbike was used for transport when the motorhome was parked up.
Now, we have access to a day/overnight/weekend van parked on the drive, ready to go at the drop of a hat and able to park in all of those U.K. car parks intent on excluding any vehicle higher than two metres.
 
bob_summers

bob_summers

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Donosti, Basque Country
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T6.1 Ocean 150
Coming from a non-Cali T5 to an Ocean arriving one day soon:
Height. Although the current van scrapes under some 1.9 barriers, (common on Spanish national park facilities to discourage campers) - which a Cali won't.
Only vehicle: Using the current van only at weekends for mountain trips, and for holidays. A car would do, but a van is easier when you come off the hill cold, muddy, and in need of a brew.
Parking: Living in a city centre, even a Cali won't fit in many underground garages designed for SEAT sized cars. A bigger van would have to be kept on a carpark miles away - nobody has a driveway.
Tenting: Controversially, I still love a night (or fortnight) in a tent. The best campsites are the ones you can't drive onto! Seems ludicrous to drive somewhere in a motorhome but sleep in a Mk5 canvas Vango.
 
Magic Bus

Magic Bus

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Nottingham
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T6 Ocean 150
The fact that we can park it on the drive and use it whenever we want to, with no faff. It’s big enough for the 2 of us and our small dog. It can also be parked in a normal parking space.Can be used for day trips, shopping and utility purposes.

Fuel consumption is also a factor - driven carefully I can get over 40 mpg out of my Cali. I see people like Bob Earnshaw getting 25mpg out of his large motor home.
 
The Tall Luthier

The Tall Luthier

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For me it’s all about the comfort/adventure ratio. As soon as you move away from a rucksack and one man tent you are trading off one for the other, more comfort for less connection to the real world ie adventure.
By the time you’ve bought your first 12m long Winnebago you’ve gone to the far end of the comfort scale and sacrificed the chance of most things will adventurous, scary moments will be rare.

A Cali is the centre of the scale for me. Any larger then I’m going to start believing that I need a TV, a toilet, a shower, satellite dish, a microwave, a blender, a foot spa etc etc in order to function as a camper. All these leads to a home from home, where is the adventure in that.

Adventure or things going badly is the ambrosia of travel, the nectar of human experience, they’re the stories we bring home and share with our friends with a smile and a bottle of wine.
 
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California_Ocean

California_Ocean

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Germany
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T6.1 Ocean 204 4 motion
Just sold our sailing boat and are looking for an upgrade - a bit bigger and more amenities like water-maker, generator, freezer. Vans and boats don't really compare, and I'm definitely a boater - I've done camping, caravaning, RVs - a big Chausson belonging to my mum and something enormous in Australia .. but if you want peace and quiet, and to really have some personal space, then nothing beats a boat at anchor - in my opinion.

So how did I end up with a Cali Ocean? ..... our boat base is Croatia and we spend a lot of time tooling up and down the motorways to get there. We needed carrying capacity for dinghy, outboard and all the other boaty bits so I wanted a van - but vans aren't that comfortable - so we decided to look at smaller camper vans - the idea being to maybe stop on the way and enjoy a bit of Austria, Slovenia, Italy on our way back and forwards ... and this snowballed into the odd weekend and day trips where we weren't using the boat - so we started looking at small, car like camper vans.

Hated them all until I hired a Beach over winter to collect the dinghy - blown away - comfortable, commanding driving position, all the car amenities like ACC etc ... and heating!!. Within a few weeks we had bought the Ocean. It goes through car washes, it goes under height restrictions, it is more fun than I expected and we've been up tiny Italian serpentine roads where the mirrors needed to be folded in - no chance in anything bigger. It's a keeper IMO.

Here is the Beach that prompted the daftest spontaneous purchase of my life so far ...

20220105_074235.jpg
 
johnyboy

johnyboy

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Initially was primary vehicle, now secondary. Fits on the drive. Fits down small lanes. Nature abhors a vacuum
 
chockswahay

chockswahay

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Scotland
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T6.1 Coast 150
These are great replies team! Please keep ‘em coming!

My wife berated me once I told her about starting this thread :oops: for failing to mention that the reason we sold the HymerCar was because we were missing having a boat…… so it went……..and we bought the boat we have really wanted since 2004 when we bought our first yacht. Then we found ourselves sailing along and anchoring in lovely quiet bays looking at parked up campervans/motorhomes and thinking ‘how we miss campervan adventures!’…….. so now we have both (yup, deffo spending the kids inheritance:D)

Our son is on his 3rd VW van (T6 Kombi) and put pressure on us this time to buy a ‘proper campervan’ ……. It wasn’t difficult to cave in!

So for us the smaller size and limited space is something we are having to get used to. On the other hand the VW is SO much nicer to drive than the Fiat’s we had. It is more sophisticated, quieter, and considerably more fuel efficient. Of course easier to find parking space and just about goes anywhere a large car will (we did have some right royal scary moments in both Fiats in Spain and Italy:D).

The problem is (will be) finding all the time to go sailing, touring in the van, working on the house, see children and grandchildren blah blah blah :)

The plan also was for it to be our primary (only) vehicle however since our ageing Peugeot 107 passed its MOT and had a full service a couple of weeks back it is difficult to use (justify) the van for just nipping down to the shops etc or simply going on a journey where the van would be an idle luxury, especially as the little car does around 60 mpg and fuel prices have gone North recently!
 
soulstyledevon

soulstyledevon

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Big vans are for Dorks…!!!

Joking aside, talk to any locals at tourist hotspots and understand how they’re getting fed up of big vans.
More each year, getting bigger and bigger. Yet the little Volkswagen doesn’t attract anywhere near the same anger. Why? Because it’s compact, non ugly and fits in the same space of a standard car.

At the end of the day, if I wanted more facilities, I would book into a hotel with proper comfort and convenience…
 
M

Mehdime

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Ireland
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T6.1 Ocean 204
We always knew we'd love a camper van. We're a very outdoorsy family. Hotels and city breaks are fine but have never been our thing. My parents had a converted Peugeot J9 in the 80's and my best childhood memories were definitely of the camper van trips (the good old days when seat belts at the back were not mandatory and we could play or sleep on the bed at the back while the parents were driving).

We regularly looked at "proper" large camper vans but always ended up coming to the conclusion that they didn't make sense for us. Always the same issues:
  • We only have on-street parking available and no space for a large van. A large camper would have to be stored off-site half an hour or an hour away from home. The hassle of having to go get it means we'd only use it for week-long holidays and not day or week-end trips. Since we both work full-time and have kids in school, we'd end up spending €50k+ on something we'd use at most 2-3 weeks / year. Made no sense.
  • We spend most of our time in Ireland and Brittany - places where roads are tiny. Driving a large van there would be too stressful (it gets stressful enough with a large family car).
  • We love the coast but many car parks on the coast of Ireland and France are height-limited. A large van would just be a pain for the places we enjoy most.
I always knew about the California but always dismissed it as little more than a glorified and insanely expensive family car. It's doesn't have a bathroom after all so didn't qualify as a camper van in my mind.

Everything changed last year. Suddenly, the California became the obvious solution to what we'd been spending years looking for. What tipped the balance for us:
  • The realisation that it was the size of a normal car, which means that we could park it at home. And that means we could sell our car and use the California as our only car (we don't commute by car so our car is really only used for travel and the odd trip to IKEA). That made the finances look a lot more palatable. It's still very expensive - but it's at least be something we'll use almost everyday rather than just 2-3 weeks a year and it removes the cost of having car on top.
  • It's the size of a normal car and fits in most/all height-limited car parks, which means we can still go to all the places we love.
  • Did I mention it's the size of a normal car? That means we can still go to all those tiny Irish and French roads and villages we always go to without stressing that we'll get stuck somewhere.
  • It's the size of a normal car, which means we can park it right in front of our front door. And that means we can use it for the day- and evening-trips to the beach that we currently do with the car. It will make what we already do so much easier and more enjoyable.
  • Since it's parked at our front-door, we'll also be able to use it for ad-hoc week-end trip to the West coast of Ireland when the weather looks good.
  • We were in the middle of planning a renovation for our house. It suddenly dawned on us that, if we're being really honest with ourselves, we really couldn't care less about fancy sash windows, trendy furniture or sophisticated heating systems. None of that stuff has ever made us happy - and quite frankly we never notice it when we visit people. So we drastically cut our renovation budget to the absolute bare minimum and freed up the money for a California instead. Yes it's expensive. But it's a lot less expensive than what most people spent on doing up their house. In our case, we know doing up our house won't make much difference to us - but having a camper will mean the world.
  • Final bit on the cost front: realising that the very slow depreciation of the California vs a normal car meant that it was in fact the same cost as a normal car in real terms, was very useful too. The upfront cost is high. But when all is said and done, it's no more expensive than a good regular family car.
  • Last but not least, covid had us do a a lot of soul searching - as it did for most people I imagine. We don't know how healthy we'll be in 20-30 years time when we can retire. We don't even know if we'll still be alive. But we know that we're still reasonably young and healthy today. So we might as well focus on enjoying today and the next 20 years. We're still planning for the long-term and making sure we have good savings and pension funds. But we've definitely changed the balance of how we think about our time and money to bring up enjoying today to the fore-front. We spent years longing for a camper van but being held back by the cost. That barrier has now fallen.
  • And yes, the California doesn't have a bathroom. It's also a tight space. Definitely a compromise. But for all the advantages it has, it's a compromise we're happy to make.
 
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Multi1100

Multi1100

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119
Location
Netherlands
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T6 Ocean 150
Like WelshGas said. Also when we looked around, we realised that every van is a compromise, whatever the size. Actually when the roof is up and the front seats swivelled, I think there’s more comfort in the Cali than some bigger vans. Also when sleeping upstairs, one of us can get up earlier if we want to, sit downstairs etc. Plus we didn’t want a huge lump of metal sitting outside our house.
+ 1, and the very low depreciation, especially since we use it also as a daily car.
 
scottk

scottk

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104
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Aberdeen
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T6 Cali On Order
For us, we are both working so long holidays are out until we retire. The size and ability to use it as a second car are what swung it. I was undecided between a beach and ocean but as there are only 2 of us the ocean made more sense.
We have rented and I really hope we have made the correct decision. I hillwalk a lot so, on weekends away, the van will be used.
 
Multi1100

Multi1100

Messages
119
Location
Netherlands
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T6 Ocean 150
What surprises me a bit is that most reactions imply that the owners are mostly using it as a day/wknd vehicle. We use it for long stay (3-4weeks) vacations as well and are very happy to do that. Laying in the top bed, it's like your almost sleeping outside (like in a tent), seeing the sun rise from your bed. Vacations in Norway, Denmark, Italy, France, Scotland, Spain and instantly decided get away weekends (hey, the weather looks nice, let go!). We hardly wild camp by the way, mostly stay on camping sites with showers and toilets

Our motto for the Cali; its a luxurious tent with an engine and wheels....big whites are caravans with an engine
 
TheDoc

TheDoc

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South West
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T6 Beach 150
I was looking at some old photos over a bottle of wine last year, came across one of my old T2 VW, and thought I could do with a camper again. Dropped a question on the forum, someone suggested I consider a Beach, so I drove to a dealer on the weekend a bought one. So mine was an impulse buy with no real thought but I’ve had some fun in it so far and there’s plenty more to come.
 
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