Which is the best VW T5 for your campervan?
The VW T5s come in all shapes and sizes: with long and short wheelbases, as delivery vehicles, limos, eco-mobiles and terrain-tearing machines. Bag the right base van and your conversion shouldn’t present too many problems. Get it wrong and you could be shelling out for equipment that’s only going to be stripped out, using up time and budget and landing yourself a camper that doesn’t suit your lifestyle.
Steering you around that pothole, we’ve compiled a list of all the questions to ask yourself before buying your T5.
While the wheelbase (n. the measurement from the centre point of the front axle to the centre point of the rear axle) only differs by 40 cm between long and short wheelbase T5s, your choice can make a world of difference to carrying capacity and day-to-day drivability:
Unless you need the extra storage space, the consensus favours the SWB for its far greater maneuverability.
Though most automatically side with the tailgate, there are a few things to consider before you shut the door on this question.
There’s no denying tailgate has earned its place in the people’s hearts, or that it will earn a top price for a converted T5. It provides rain cover and shade when up, affords better rear visibility (no central pillar blocking the view) and is easier on the eye than barn doors. But those perks come at a price. A tailgate is difficult to open in a tight space, and when parked nose-in you’ll need to be mindful of passersby
It can carry 4 bikes but it will take 2 to hold the door up when this is loaded. Disfavored by fleet managers, there finally far fewer vans with tailgates, making them a whole lot pricier second-hand and the pool of vans to choose from a whole lot smaller.
As a rule, most T5s come with barn doors due to the fact that trade buyers (and therefore most of the vehicles in the pre-owned market) need the option of loading with a forklift (where a raised tailgate obstructs a forklift mast). Though we’re swimming against the tide here, we like them because they’re easier to access (especially in a tight spot).
They make it much easier to load a roof rack and can be opened by one person with a loaded two-bike rack mounted on the nearside (driver-side) door.
Finally, the much bigger reserve of pre-owned barn door vans will increase your options for a good donor at the right price.
If you still only have eyes for the tailgate, there’s always the option of retrofitting one. Unless you’re planning on undertaking the work yourself, however, it will likely cost you more than finding a vehicle with a tailgate already in place.
Lisa's tip “get a barn door awning for a sheltered spot to enjoy the view”
A handful of T5s come a sliding door on both sides, an adjustment which can completely shake up the dynamic of your interior. Most find double doors a matter of preference, but there are several pros and cons to factor into your decision:
The factory produces 3 different roof heights for the T5:
T5s are available in a spectrum of stock VW colours but Candy White, India Blue and Silver are the most common.
At the end of the day, if you aren’t one to quibble over colour, you’ll have a much wider pool of vehicles to choose from. But other colours (particularly metallic finishes) are more widely sought-after and therefore will hold their value, making them easier to sell in the future. Excluding silver, however, you should expect to pay 10-20% more for a metallic finish van.
Designed by the motoring magicians at VW, any of the T5’s tdi engines will go the distance and are expected to travel 250k or more with regular servicing. But when an engine can have a big impact on your driving experience and make a sizeable difference in running cost, it’s worth getting your head around the different types. Many choose to start their search with a decision on engine type.
Dealer prices are, generally speaking, around 20% higher than those of private sellers and lumbered with the additional cost of VAT. But dealers aren’t all bad news. They’ll usually allow you to place a deposit on a vehicle long enough to carry out an RSC check, where a private seller would give you an odd look for even asking... They’ll also offer a warranty on your vehicle (but bear in mind that to take advantage of this the dealer must be nearby).
tdi: turbocharged direct injection engine, the efficient, low-emission diesel engine developed by VW. Figures in front (1.9, 2.0, 2.5) refer to size in litres.
bhp: brake horsepower, an engine's total horsepower before the loss in power from alternator, gearbox, water pump and other components.
T28/30: Refers to the maximum gross vehicle weight, or “payload”, in tonnes (28 = 2800 kg or 2.8 tonnes). 2800kg or 3000kg, minus the 1800kg of the SWB chassis leaves a capacity of 1000 or 1200kg.
mpg: miles per gallon, the number of miles a full tank will take you. Obviously the higher, the better for your pocket and the environment.
Once you have chosen the “type” next you want to find one in great condition - read our guide