A BEGINNER’S HUNT FOR THE PERFECT VAN
September 21, 2019
THE SEARCH BEGINS
After several years of watching from afar, my interest in van life really reached a high point in 2017. The minimalist mindset, creativity, and freedom were some of the things that appealed to me. Based on my love of the outdoors and being able to drive to less frequented places, I had little interest in larger vans or RVs. I think the Mercedes Sprinter and Dodge RAM vans are great, but I went straight to the Volkswagen Westfalia.
I can’t tell you how many Craigslist ads I reviewed. A lot. I also happened to be road-tripping up Highways 1 and 101 in California during my search. That time was a great opportunity to stop and look at several VW vans that were for sale.
My campervan criteria were: diesel, 4×4, pop-top. What I really wanted was a recreational vehicle that could go into the back woods to boondock or parallel park in a busy downtown area with no problems. Versatility and the classic campervan look.
I QUICKLY DISCOVERED A FEW THINGS:
- Volkswagen vans require a lot of specialized maintenance and a lot of things go wrong. And there aren’t many specialized shops that will work on them. Since I’m not mechanically savvy…probably not smart. If reliability is a priority and you aren’t a mechanic, the VW Westfalia is probably not for you.
- Volkswagen Westfalias are expensive. I was looking at $40,000 – $80,000 for a 4×4 diesel Westfalia in excellent condition. Yes, there were cheaper VW Westfalias, but they all had issues that I didn’t have the expertise or time to address.
- Volkswagen Westfalias are the classic van camper. They are beautiful and a lot of people get good use out of them. For me, the cost simply wasn’t worth the benefit. I saw this vehicle becoming a time and money pit for me–something that took freedom from me instead of giving me freedom.
After several months of researching VW Westfalias and their advantages and disadvantages, I decided to go in a different direction. What I loved about the VW van was its size, maneuverability, classic look, and pop-top. It’s a minimalist RV. You won’t catch me in a giant motorhome trying to find a gas station that can accommodate a bus-sized vehicle while towing a Jeep Wrangler. Or getting stuck somewhere because of small route details I missed, like low bridges or narrow downtown areas.
So I went to Google and searched, “Vans that look like VW Westfalias.”
It probably sounds a bit ridiculous, but it worked! Similar to how the VW van has a huge following in California, the Mitsubishi Delica has a similar following in Canada. Fast forward to February 2018, and I purchased a 1991 Mitsubishi Delica in Vancouver, Canada. The van was imported from Japan and I found it on Craigslist.
Later I’ll go into some detail on where I found the van, where to get more information on Mitsubishi Delicas, how importing to the U.S. works, and how registration an titling on the U.S. side works. Trust me, it’s not that difficult!