Campervan stalwart Volkswagen has just launched a new Motorhome Qualification Scheme to give campervan buyers greater confidence when buying converted VW vehicles. But what’s it all about? Let’s take a look in this handy guide.
With the popularity of staycations continuing to soar and campervans more sought after than ever before, many people are considering investing in a new campervan. Alongside buying a factory-built VW camper or doing a DIY conversion, you might also be considering buying an aftermarket vehicle from a conversion company.
But no matter how experienced you are, when taking the plunge and buying a converted camper, it can be all too easy to end up with something second-rate. After all, with so many conversion companies out there quality can vary considerably. From leaky roofs to poorly fitted units a lot can go wrong for the unwary buyer.
That’s why choosing a manufacturer accredited conversion company has become a popular option. VW has recently got in on the act by setting up a new VW Motorhome Qualification Scheme in the UK.
And when you’ve got your hands on a beautiful new camper, you’re going to need the best motorhome insurance to protect your investment.
Keeping your marvellous home on wheels protected against theft, breakdown and damage is vital when you’ve only just taken delivery. Give our team a call today to discuss the many cover options on offer.
How does the new scheme work?
It may surprise you to learn that VW is the only manufacturer to offer a truly factory-built campervan in the shape of the stunning California or Grand California models. No other rival manufacturer does this. Instead, they offer third-party conversions, although often officially approved.
For example, the Mercedes Benz Marco Polo offering is in fact a premium conversion of a V-Class MPV by specialist Westfalia.
Despite being available through authorised Mercedes dealers it isn’t factory-built by the company. The same goes for many other vehicles including the Ford Transit Custom Nugget.
But VW knows that with prices for a new California Ocean starting at £66,000 not everyone will be able to afford a vehicle fresh off the factory line. Instead, many people will opt for aftermarket alternatives.
And that’s where the Motorhome Qualification Scheme comes in handy. It means that camping fans will be able to purchase those vehicles, safe in the knowledge they meet VW’s own exacting standards.
Why has VW launched the scheme?
VW says that owing to the huge growth of interest in campervans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic it has taken the decision to launch the scheme.
It says that in the UK alone in 2020 its campervan web pages saw a 36% increase in traffic.
With more than 200,000 people starting the online process of building their own van on the site. While this is far off from buying one, the site allows prospective buyers to change the engine size, exterior paint job, interior, wheels and tyres, and a whole host of other components.
As one of the leading manufacturers of campervans, VW sees it as its duty to drive up standards and ensure customers are given peace of mind when it comes to the safety and quality of any VW camper.
Whether factory-built or aftermarket conversion, if it’s got a VW badge on the front then buyers should be assured of the highest quality.
How the scheme works
The new scheme doesn’t mean you should expect conversions to be built to quite the same standard as a California. But the scheme does ensure converters which are awarded this coveted status have a number of things in place to support customers. To achieve the standard a converter must:
- Achieve National or European Type Approval for its vehicles. Type approval is the process by which vehicles are certified as meeting all EU safety, environmental and conformity of production requirements before being placed on the market. This means the vehicle has reached the highest standards of safety rules, noise and emissions limits and various production requirements.
- Pass stringent National Caravan Council standards. This means you can be sure the vehicle complies with all the industry construction regulations and standards.
- Have a three-year trading history. A company can’t just be set up and then get okayed under the scheme. It needs a substantial trading history to prove it’s got what it takes.
- Register on the Bodybuilder Database. The Bodybuilder Database is an international information platform through which converters can call up extensive technical data quickly and easily. A converter will be able to access guides for designing and building add-ons and conversions, find current VW information and easily get in touch with the local VW representative. This means the converter should be able to get help from VW every step of the way.
- Provide a minimum of £5 million liability insurance. If something goes wrong with your campervan and it was the converter’s fault then this will provide cover in the event of compensation claims for injury or damage to you or your property. A useful addition to the motorhome insurance cover that you already have.
- Commit to matching the warranty of the base vehicle. Owning a VW campervan should be a worry-free experience when it comes to maintenance. And VW goes to great lengths to ensure you get that. When you buy a converted VW campervan, you also want to know that it’s built to go the distance. That’s why VW has made sure an approved converter will offer you the same comprehensive warranty on the vehicle to cover you against defects and repairs.
VW really has asked these companies to go the extra mile to achieve approved status!
Factory-built VW California versus VW van conversion
A common question often pondered by prospective purchasers is whether a VW conversion will hold its own against VW’s in-house designed and built California? Is it better to go with the vehicle that’s already purpose-built and ready to go, or to buy a van such as a VW T5 or T6 and get it converted?
Here is a quick rundown of the VW California vs Transporter conversion debate.
If you commission a conversion then you should get the opportunity to tailor the vehicle exactly to your individual taste. You can choose all the equipment you need and a look you love – it’s a great way to express your individuality through your camper. Many conversions will feature bespoke fabrics, lighting, features and internal and external colour schemes. But if you’re fitting out your conversion to look like the inside of your dream fairy castle then this may affect resale value.
That said, there are plenty of cool and classy tweaks you can make to a California if you’re buying off the production line. Remember though, for every tweak or change you make the cost will mount up.
Some conversions from premium converters can end up costing even more than a California. You can spend big money on a converted camper if you’re looking for a top-of-the-range product. When weighing up the options be sure to make an accurate assessment of costs. It’s easy to do on VW’s website, but not quite so easy when communicating with a conversion company – unless you go with one of the highly professional outfits out there.
Fixtures and fittings
A California will have different fixtures and fittings to a converted VW – and this can be a good or a bad thing depending on your individual style. If you’re looking for a thoroughly clean and modern design, dominated by smooth white fixtures and fittings that have a cool and sophisticated air then factory-built could be the way to go. It’ll certainly feel more like a minimalist New York hotel room than a glitzy palace on wheels. Robust and well thought out, it’ll take you weeks to discover all the subtle design touches around a factory-built model.
Many buyers have found the quality of the integrated fixtures and fittings in a factory-built California to be far better than in most conversions. Van conversions also have a tendency to squeak and rattle more than factory-built vans. It’s clearly more difficult for an after-market conversion to get the same level of fit as the factory can. But it is possible with the right level of workmanship.
Something that’s often overlooked by buyers is the difference in heights. Owing to the installation of pop-up roofs, many conversions will end up taller than the California. This is an important consideration when entering car parks in the UK and Europe.
Resale values of conversions vary widely, while a California is much easier to value. Indeed, such is their quality, many Californias hold their value very well. While demand means some careful owners even make a profit on resale!
Factory-built Californias and Grand Californias definitely have more cache than conversions. VW takes enormous pride in its California products, so they’re never going to be anything but exceptionally well thought through. They really have a huge curb side appeal.
If you’re selling a conversion then any buyer will ask about the workmanship and whether there are any guarantees of the work.
Clearly if you choose one of the companies approved by VW then you are far more likely to get the price you’re hoping for.
Buyers always want to feel confident when making such a large purchase – the VW Motorhome Qualification Scheme goes a long way to securing that.
Which companies have been certified so far?
Although the scheme was only recently launched, already three UK converters have been certified. These are:
- Hillside Leisure – Established in 2004 by two brothers, Hillside Leisure builds and sells a range of campervans from its factory in Derby. Motorhome Design Awards winners in 2017 and 2019, the company specialises in well crafted, high quality campervans and motorhomes great for holidays and everyday use. They’re confident they’ve got a camper fit for any adventure.
- Jerba Campervans – Jerba is the only Volkswagen Motorhome Qualified Converter in Scotland, indeed, the only one north of the East Midlands at the time of writing. The company is 100% employee owned and specialises in camper conversions of the VW Transporter T6.1. If you want to try out their products before you buy then they have three available for hire. What a great way to see if this conversion company is for you! The company also has its own patented pop-top roof design that it fits to all its conversions. If you have your own VW T6.1, T6 or T5 and are looking for an elevating roof, then fitting the Jerba pop-top roof is a service they offer.
- Rolling Homes – This small, family run Shropshire business prides itself on its sustainability as well as its high quality luxury product. They convert a range of different vehicles and offer both new and secondhand campervans. They’ve got lots of bespoke options for you to choose from. Want a place to store your bikes? They’ll sort it. Want seatbelts for your pets? You’ve got it. Want a solar panel added to your roof? No problem!
Remember there’s always the option of converting the van yourself. Read our ultimate guide to converting your campervan for a blow-by-blow rundown of exactly what you need to do. If you’ve got the time and skills then a self-build can be a great option!
Motorhome insurance with Motorhome Protect
When you’ve spent so long searching for the very best campervan for your needs, it certainly pays to get on with finding the right motorhome insurance for your budget.
The team of insurance specialists at Motorhome Protect are dedicated to launching you on your next adventure and finding you the best policy suited to your individual circumstances. Policies arranged through us can include the following benefits:
- Unlimited cover across all the countries that are part of the European Union.
- Cover of camping personal effects for up to £3,000.
- Up to 6 months to complete a self-restoration.
- Cover for motorhomes with a value up to £150,000.
- Unlimited mileage cover.
- Consideration of all claims and convictions.
Call Motorhome Protect today for a motorhome insurance quote.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.