The following write-up is a short head-to-head comparison outlining the major differences between the Vanagon and Eurovan (with a little bit of personal opinion tossed in for fun). Opinions subject to change!
Some quick facts:
The VW Bus and Vanagon Westfalia and VW Eurovan Winnebago campers are technically "van conversions." At GoWesty, we only buy and sell 1986-1991 Vanagons and all-model of Eurovans. We do not buy and sell any pre-1986 Vanagons or Buses as a general rule.
The Vanagon camper was converted to a camper in Germany by the Westfalia company. The Westfalia camper conversion was offered in the USA up to and including the 1991 year-model. Vanagons are rear engine, rear wheel drive (or four wheel "Syncro") vehicles with lots of ground clearance.
The Eurovan Winnebago camper was converted in the USA by the Winnebago company on an extended chassis version of the Eurovan. It is 15-1/2 inches longer than the regular CL, MV, and GLS Eurovan models. The Eurovan Winnebago camper was offered in the USA in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. The Eurovan is a front engine, front wheel drive vehicle with much less ground clearance. It is a completely different animal.
If you were to compare the two vehicles' top 30 attributes on paper, the Eurovan would beat the Vanagon 26 to 4. The Eurovan is in fact superior to the Vanagon in ALL respects, except for these:
1) Ground clearance: The Eurovan must be lifted and leveled to even consider off-roading... and even then, see #2 below. For more information on our GoWesty Eurovan Lift Kit, click here.
2) Turning radius: Vanagons have a 96-inch wheelbase, and turn as tight as a forklift. Eurovan campers have a 136-inch wheelbase. Although this makes for a more comfortable highway ride, they have a very large turning radius. This makes them much less maneuverable, especially in tight off-road types of conditions and for everyday parallel parking.
3) Quality: The quality provided by Westfalia in Germany is simply superior to the quality offered by Winnebago in the USA, hands down, no question about it. Westfalia fit, finish, materials—it's all better, and made to last. Winnebago stuff... it gets the job done, but it's not nearly as elegant or long-lasting.
4) "Something": I can't put my finger on it, but there is something... Vanagons are "cool," interesting, and unique. Eurovan campers are pretty cool and unique, too, but compared to a Vanagon, well, they just ain't as cool, pure and simple. The Vanagon is the last of a now dead breed: rear engine, rear wheel drive, sit-over-the-front-wheels, lean-over-the-steering-wheel-listening-to-groovy-tunes kinda rig. It is a lifestyle choice. It's... it's... it's... well, I just don't know what it is, but it is "something."
But let's be clear: Other than those four things, the Eurovan Winnebago camper is superior in all respects. It is newer, safer (dual air bags on '97-newer models, ABS, traction control), quieter, more powerful, less problematic mechanically (and you're more likely to find a VW dealer willing to handle repairs), has better ventilation with AWESOME AC, is fully equipped with power everything and cruise control, and has a much more thoroughly equipped camper section: a larger frig that works WAY BETTER, built-in furnace, gray water tank, more cabinet space, fresh water at sink AND at rear hatch, and greater LP gas capacity. This is why I stress: If one were to compare the top 30 attributes of the Vanagon Westfalia full camper to the Eurovan Winnebago full camper on paper, the Eurovan would win 26 to 4. BUT: Those four things are pretty important to some people... So much so that they are willing to put up with....well, WITH ANYTHING!
So, are you a Vanagon or a Eurovan person? If you have had VW Buses in the past, you will probably think an '86-'91 Vanagon is pure heaven. They are just like the Bus, but... well, fixed. Roomier, quieter, more power, more amenities (like a heater that WORKS), more reliable, easier to work on, and longer lasting. Simply put: a better Bus. The Eurovan, as I stated before, IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ANIMAL. Typically, folks with VW Bus memories HATE IT. If you want to do any real off-roading, you are definitely NOT a Eurovan person.
On the other hand, if you are an open road, mountain-pass-at-highway-speed, intolerant-of-high-ambient-temperatures kind of person, Eurovans are THE BOMB! If you don't know for sure, you should find a Eurovan Winnebago camper or Eurovan Westfalia Weekender to test-drive and compare it for yourself to see if it is your bag. We usually have both Westys and Winnies to compare here at GoWesty. As far as price is concerned, a trouble-free '86-'91, thoroughly gone-through Vanagon Westy will be HARDER to find and can cost MORE to purchase than a run-of-the-mill Eurovan Winnebago camper.
Now, I own a 1979 Bus and a 1987 Vanagon Westy myself. But the last time I had to drive across the desert to Utah and back in the middle of July, you better believe I took one of the Eurovans we had here for sale. It was 122 degrees on the road and we had little bits of ice spitting out of the dashboard vents. Now, that's A/C! Would I want to drive a Eurovan everyday? No, I don’t think so. But then again, I happen to be in the unique position to be able drive one anytime I want without actually having to own one exclusively. So I'm probably not the guy to ask. You just have to touch and feel and drive both to answer the question:
Are you a Vanagon or a Eurovan person?