I bought this van at a dealership back in '95. It was priced at $13,500 at the time, which was pretty much at the limit of what I was going to spend. The mileage was at 89,000, but it sure didn't show it (I guess it was garaged most of the time by the first owner).
Here are the good things with the van: This car will haul just about anything! I removed the middle bench seat about 5 years ago to fit stuff inside and I haven't put it back in since. I've hauled a full sized pinball machine sideways, a large, awkward treadmill, a washing machine, a big screen TV, and a riding lawn mower. This car will also carry a small motorcycle, if you push the passenger seat forward and it can haul lots of lumber when the rear seat is folded down. I've been told that this type of van will haul a ton with the correct rated tires, which I had installed soon after I bought the van.
The van is great for trips. Just throw your stuff in the back and just go. I think most Vanagons have a folding rear seat that can double as a bed. I found this out two years after I bought the thing and was told by the dealer that it didn't have this option.
The bad things: The main problem with the Vanagons is the gutless, slow, powerless, 4 cylinder motor. It will do a great job about 80% if the time, but it's that 20% that will drive you crazy. Mostly, one will have problems with maintaining speed on hills or passing on the freeways. I'm constantly shifting down to a lower speed just to get some forward momentum. Also, if you have the AC on, (the AC works very good to keep the car cool) it saps away important engine power when you need it most. You know when the AC compressor kicks on, because the RPM's start dropping. I have to turn the AC off if I'm going up a steep hill.
The mileage as of 2002 is over 170,000 and the problems are starting to show. I've replaced the water pump, the starter, and the 7 foot plastic coolant tube that runs between the motor and front radiator (it developed a crack). I've heard that there might be head seal problems, but I've lucked out and haven't had that problem. I've also heard that you can't throw in just any coolant in. It takes a special $20 jug of VW coolant to avoid rust buildup. The only savings that I'm getting in repairs is by getting a friend to do the work. He's a German car nut and knows how to avoid upcoming problems with the motor. He's managed to get a few extra horses out of the engine and we are working on a plan for a future rebuild that will make it more reliable and to get more power.
Other nit-picky problem items are the seat belts and the door locks. These items require you to do a major torso twist to operate them. Another small thing is that you have to roll down a window to close the door all the way. This thing is still airtight! Make sure that the windshield wipers don't freeze to the window in cold weather. The wipers will strip themselves trying to do a full cycle. Of course, with a big, box-like van such as this, expect to be at the mercy of strong winds, and passing up places to park in the city due to it's length.
I really like this van for what it can do for me, but it's the motor that is the only drawback. If you can live with this "problem", then I recommend this van.
Amount Paid (US$):
1990Model and Options:
GL, 4 speed, AC