Volkswagen California For Vanlife: 12 Reasons Why It’s the Best

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Considering the VW California for Vanlife?

With a fully-built interior, pop-top, & great overall design, the Volkswagen California is a unique option.

But how does it stack up against other popular models like the ProMaster CityTransit ConnectRenault Trafic, Nissan NV200, & Mercedes Metris?

In this post, we’ll find out.

Here’s everything you’ll learn:

12 Reasons Why Vanlifers Like the Volkswagen California

The California is reliable, prebuilt, & looks good – but is it the best option for vanlife?

Here are 12 reasons why vanlifers like the Volkswagen California:

  1. No Need to Build Out: The California comes built out into a campervan from the manufacturer. So, if you’re not into DIYing, this van is a great option to look into.
  2. Great Aesthetics: Volkswagen has an incredible design theme, and it really shows. The interior and exterior of these vans are gorgeous.
  3. Smart Interior Design: The California vans come with super smart interior design that just makes sense.
  4. Comfortable to Drive: These vans are comfortable to drive for long periods of time.
  5. High-Quality Build-Out: Volkswagen is a luxury brand, so you can assure the parts used for the build-out are going to be high-quality.
  6. Long-Lasting Engine: The Volkswagen California vans all come with diesel engines. Diesel engines are known to be very reliable, and to last a long time.
  7. Pop-Tops Already Installed: All models of the Volkswagen California come with pop-tops installed, so you don’t have to purchase and install one aftermarket.
  8. Fits in a Standard Parking Spot: The Volkswagen California is just over 16 feet long and will fit into any standard parking spot (see dimensions).
  9. 4WD Option: Volkswagen offers a 4WD add-on for the California vans. This is a great feature if you plan to travel in icy conditions or venture to hard-to-reach campsites.
  10. Can Sleep 4: Although the California is the size of a standard minivan, it can sleep up to four people because of the pop-top.
  11. Tons of Safety Features: These vans are brand new, so they come standard with a ton of smart safety features.
  12. Good Fuel Economy: The efficient diesel engine in the California means it gets around 39 miles per gallon combined (see mileage).

7 Reasons Why Vanlifers Dislike the VW California

As with every vehicle, there are downsides to the California.

Here are 7 reasons why vanlifers dislike the VW California:

  1. Few Customization Options: Because these vans come already built out, there’s not a lot of room for your creative input.
  2. Bad Handling: Owners say these vans handle like a large minivan, which could be inconvenient for city driving.
  3. Poor Engine Range: The fuel tank in the Volkswagen California isn’t very large, so you might find yourself filling up super often.
  4. Pricey to Buy: These vans are incredibly expensive, coming in at around $70,000 USD (see price comparison).
  5. No Toilet or Shower: The Volkswagen California configurations do not come with a toilet or shower, so they may not be a great choice for full-time van life.
  6. Diesel is Expensive: Diesel engines are very efficient, but their fuel can get pretty pricey.
  7. Not Available in The U.S.: The Volkswagen California 6.1 is currently only sold in Europe. Volkswagen does not currently have plans to roll this van out in the United States.

 

The Volkswagen California Camper Van Configurations

The VW California (6.1) comes in 2 different configurations… but which is the best?

Here’s an overview of both models:

The Volkswagen California Ocean

  • Highlights: The California Ocean seats and sleeps four. It has a kitchenette with a fridge and stove area and lots of storage. The rear seats slide down into a bed at night. The pop-top in this van provides sleeping room for two additional people.
  • Van: Volkswagen California Ocean
  • Source: Road Surfer

 

The Volkswagen California Beach Camper

  • Highlights: The California Beach Camper sleeps two and seats four. It has a pop-top roof so you can stand up inside while accessing the slide-out kitchen. The kitchen contains a built-in gas stove and a small prep area.
  • Van: Volkswagen California Beach Camper
  • Source: Road Surfer

 

Cost, Dimensions, & Fuel Economy

Now that you know a little more about the VW California, let’s see how it stacks up against ProMaster CityTransit ConnectRenault Trafic, Nissan NV200, & Mercedes Metris.

 

VW California Cost

Cost: VW California vs ProMaster City vs Transit Connect vs Nissan NV vs Renault Traffic vs Mercedes Metris

ModelNewUsedPrice
VW California$73,385N/ACheck Price
Mercedes Metris$34,900$27,954Check Price
Nissan NV200$23,500$13,985Check Price
Ford Transit Connect$29,365$17,995Check Price
Ram ProMaster City$30,475$27,950Check Price
Renault Trafic$51,952$28,594Check Price

 

VW California Dimensions

Dimensions: VW California vs ProMaster City vs Transit Connect vs Nissan NV vs Renault Traffic vs Mercedes Metris

ModelInterior HeightInterior Length (cargo)Interior WidthExt Length
VW California55.5 inches101.3 inches66.9 inches193.1 inches
Mercedes Metris55 inches105.4 inches66.3 inches202.4 inches
Nissan NV20053.5 inches80.3 inches59.1 inches173.2 inches
Ford Transit Connect49.5 inches117.5 inches48.7 inches190 inches
Ram ProMaster City51.8 inches87.2 inches60.4 inches187.5 inches
Renault Trafic54.6 inches99.9 inches65.4 inches196.8 inches

 

VW California Fuel Economy

Fuel Economy: VW California vs ProMaster City vs Transit Connect vs Nissan NV vs Renault Traffic vs Mercedes Metris

ModelCityHighwayCombined
VW California36.2 MPG42.2 MPG39.2 MPG
Mercedes Metris19 MPG23 MPG21 MPG
Nissan NV20024 MPG26 MPG25 MPG
Ford Transit Connect24 MPG27 MPG25.5 MPG
Ram ProMaster City21 MPG28 MPG24.5 MPG
Renault Trafic24 MPG34 MPG29 MPG

 

Conclusion: Is the VW California Right for you?

There are a lot of reasons to like the VW California: It’s new, fully built-out, & looks great – but it may not be for you.

Biggest factors:

  • No Need to Build Out
  • Great Aesthetics
  • Expensive
  • Smart Interior Design
  • Comfortable to Drive
  • High-quality Build-Out
  • Long-Lasting Engine

So should you get one?

Maybe! We’d recommend the Volkswagen California for vanlife over the other great EU options (Mercedes Metris, Renault Trafic, etc.) for vanlifers who don’t want anything to do with building out a van themselves and like the Volkswagen brand and history.

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