Buying a VW Westfalia or VW LT Camper Van
Living The VW Van Life
Trying to find the right camper for a family is very difficult. Finding camper with everything that you want it to have is almost impossible.
We bought our first camper a Fiat Burstner 647A2 in 2003. This was a left-hand drive 5 or 6 berths with a garage. It had the 2.8 fiat diesel engine fitted and had covered only 25000 miles. A 2000 model that drove perfect. At the time of buying it, I thought I had a great camper that would last 7 years.
This was a good buy as we imported it in from Germany and enjoyed some excellent holidays in it. Yet as always it had its faults which I did not notice when I bought it.
There was no awning, air con, no swivel seats. The windows and locks were of poor quality. The gearbox jammed in gear at a roundabout and would not come out. Costs £2500 to repair. With 25000 miles on the clock and no signs of any problems.
We joined a rental company scheme and had rentals. With this, we bought an awning, bike rack, new windows etc. This cost around £5k. Unfortunately, the next rental was the last. The motorhome was damaged by the driver and we were settled.
We did a lot of looking around and decided to shrink down to a VW Westfalia Florida. After doing some research we found that this camper on paper was perfect for a family of 4.
It did not quite work out that way, and it is always advisable to view and try one before you actually buy one.
It came with:
- 2400cc diesel engine
- sliding side door
- shower – JOKE
- adjustable seats
- underslung gas tank
The prices in the UK were stupid, around 10k for one. I subsequently found one on eBay and was outbid at the last minute. 5 minutes later I had an email from a company in Wales stating they had a left-hand drive VW Westfalia Florida to my exact specification. It was the one I had just lost the bid on. They wanted £4k more than I had almost bought it for. I politely told them what I thought them and wished them all the worse.
Buying From Europe
I waited patiently for another week and eventually managed to get almost the same VW Florida for 1000 euro less. I had bought it in Germany on eBay but not actually seen it in the flesh. It was a gamble as I needed to fly out and get to it and then hope that it was as good as it looked. It turned out to be my lucky day. I was happy when I picked it up and drove it back a couple of weeks later.
The VW Florida is a great small camper. It fits into a normal parking space and turns on a sixpence. You will not believe the turning circle on it. You can go almost anywhere a car can go. It has more than enough features on it to keep most people happy and is fairly economical when cruising at 65 mph. Obviously the mechanicals will need to be looked after on an older vehicle and on these the exhausts are prone to rust and holes.
The seating is superb as the seats face front or back depending on travel or eating. They also lie flat to make a nice big double bed. Unfortunately, the front seats do not swivel around, and the back doors do not open properly. The shower is very small, and a complete waste of time. The portaloo is tiny and right in front of the door so you struggle to close it. If anyone opens the door he or she has a great view. Space is cramped at the best of times.
Seating wise, you can easily seat 7 people. Seat belts are fitted for 6 which is superb and all can be forward facing. This help when traveling long distances.
I used mine in the UK for a few small trips with my bike. For 2 people it is quite comfortable, for 4 it is a different kettle of fish. We decided to give it it’s first trip abroad to Switzerland with 2 kids in tow. Bikes on the back and all the gubbins. The first problem was getting all the stuff in that we wanted to carry and still be able to use everything.
It was not going to happen. We had to slim down the clothing, bedding etc. We even had to take less food as there is not a lot of storage space. Once on the route, it was ok. The kids could face the front which avoided any travel sickness issues and the journey was pleasant.
Economy wise it was ok, and everyone was able to sit in comfort. To actually travel in the VW Florida is a pleasure. Parking is superb. We stopped in a McDonalds in a normal parking space without issues.
Toilet Issues On All Small Vans
The biggest problem was the toilet. It fitted into the shower compartment, but to use it you had to keep the shower door open. Not good if someone needed more than a tinkle. There are thousands of people who have bought these type of day campers, or weekend breakers who do not really apprecaite how often you need a toilet either in the night or first thing in the morning. It is ok getting up and taking a leak, but not so good when you need more. This is a serious consideration if you are thinking of using your van for anything more than a weekend traveller van.
Up to now, everything was running ok. We could make a cup of tea and enjoy cooked food on the grill without to much fuss. The cooker is at the back so you can use the side door without any issues.
In the evening when bedtime came the problems started. We pulled out the kid’s bed to set it up. This reduces the space in the camper so much that you are bent in half when you need to move anywhere that is not near the cooker. The bed for the kids is a really thin mattress that just about works. There is no space for them to sit up so they have to lie down all the time. My kids like to read and this was a big issue.
With the bed out the downstairs seats become impossible to sit in, so this also has to be converted into a bed. The space between each means that you might as well go to bed as well as you cannot do anything else. This is when the problems are at it’s worst.
Going to the toilet in the middle of the night is not easy. For the kids, they have to stand on your head when they get out of their bed and you have to wathc them climbing down. For the adults they have to lie almost flat to get out of the bed and sort of crawl out sideways to do so.
That one holiday was enough to convince us to return to a normally sized camper. If there are more than 2 of you then I would not recommend a VW LT Florida. Stick to something a bit bigger. They cost more but the value of a decent holiday is worth it. God knows why so many T4 and T5s have sold. You cannot enjoy a holiday in one of those unless you are actually in the same place for the duration of the vacation and there are toilets and showers provided.
The VW Florida is great for 2 people. It allows you plenty of storage space by using the space above for all your bits and bobs. It also means you can put the bed out when you are ready and is perfect for this on a budget. You could quite easily use it as your car and camper in one. It’s bigger than a type 2, but fits in the same place when parking.
Great little camper for everyday use and holidays for 2 people.
- Compact size means easy parking
- Great turning circle
- Economical for a Camper Van
- Fitted gas tank
- Seating is a bonus
- No fitted toilet
- Toilet space very cramped
- Not recommended for 4 people
- Front seats do not move
- Not much space for bedding, clothing etc if more than two
For those who are not too fussy and there is only two of you they are a great, cheap little camper. They are usually quite reliable and ideal as an alternative to a car.
Recommended for two people. Not recommended for 3 or more unless you are good in tight spaces.
The Most Popular VW Camper If You Can Afford One
VIDEO – 3 MILLION VIEWS
Living the Vanlife in a VW Camper