Pre-Purchase Checklist?


New member
Is there a pre purchase checklist looked around and could not find it if so please repost.. looking at an 81 and an 73 westy...


Capt. Mike

Sorry, not really one around. There have been some general posts in archives concerning individual purchases. Unfortunately, the best thing left is to go through all the boards and print out anything that seems to apply to those 2 model years.

Both are the air-cooled models so the water-boxer problems don't apply. Both are fairly early in their design phase. I'd hazard the guess that the '81 is normally the better purchase for functional camping because it has more bells & whistles like AC/DC/LP fridge, LP stove and double bed in the pop-top. But I had a '73 and it was a fine vehicle, having the boxer-4 by then, an improvement over the upright Bug engines of earlier models. The dual carbs where an improvement, but nowhere near as good as the FI of the '81.

Capt. Mike

This isn't a true check-list, but it's a start:

1. Beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Bentley shop manual for the year you're looking at. Check the engine & transmission numbers against the serial number to be sure it's one -- the year they claim, and two, the engine & tranny are correct for the model. Even reman engines have the same engine code stamped into them. Mismatched engines to vehicle cause a host of problems -- performance, finding parts & service, ancilliary systems like exhaust, fuel & ignition, and now days, the ability to meet EPA regs. The ease with which VW engines can be swapped out compounds the problem; many were swapped out just for economics, which also tells you what to expect from the rest of the vehicle.

2. See the Message Board Guidelines about valuation. The same trends run true for making any sort of vehicle check-off list. Prioritize your decisions. Understand the true cost of rust repair vs. mechanical repairs.

3. Many a judge or appraiser says 90% of their inspection is done from 20 feet in the first minute. If you spot problems and signs of poor care during your first impression, you can bet it will only get worse when you get closer. The owner with complete service records and paperwork probably took care of it right, too.

4. Look for signs of jury-rig or improper repairs. Silicone all over the weatherstripping means it leaks! Homemade panels, seat covers, bumpers and Westy replacements usually indicate everything else is jury-rig, too. Mismatched wiring, loose hoses, disconnected anything are all 4-alarm warnings. As are cheapo mis-sized batteries and signs of battery boil-over.

5. Look at the tires. Compare that to the tire posts under WHEELS & BRAKES. If it doesn't have good, truck-rated tires of the proper size & capacity, somebody has thrown safety out the window for cheap tires. If the tires aren't matched and worn evenly, assume it has suspension problems.

6. Have an independent, qualified mechanic check everything. Demand a compression & leak-down test. Check the output of alternators, A/C systems, heat. These are all expensive after purchase repairs. Side note -- check that the A/C hasn't had some temporary illegal freon substitute in it. Don't do it at the seller's shop of choice -- do it at yours or a VW dealer. It's worth the money.

7. Although rebuildable, worn suspension & drive train components are at least ground for appropriate price reduction. Shocks, CV joints, steering gear & dampers, tie rods & ball joints. Is it in alignment? I'd even consider demanding that as some condition of sale -- i.e. payment made after alignment proves satisfactory. If it can't be brought into alignment, it's probably been wrecked.

8. Never buy sight unseen; over the Internet; based on what seller says that's not in writing. Protect your payment option by a 3rd party (bank) holding payment based on delivery as advertised with right of refusal. Someone who won't agree to those terms is probably hiding something. Better to pass up a "deal" than get burned. Along the same lines, know your state's "Right of Refusal" laws and consider your ability to actually collect if invoked, especially across state lines.

9. You can make your offer contingent on conditions. Example, upon independent proof on condition; upon clear title; upon passing your state's EPA & safety inspections; disputes settled in your court jurisdiction; or whatever you think is appropriate.

10. New cars aren't the only ones getting sold with flood damages, rebuilding of "totaled" cars, lemon-law rejects. Insist your car's title be traceable and clean.

All of this said, you can find some real bargains that violate these tenents. That decision must be made on your knowledge of what's wrong with it, what you can fix or live with, and your resources to resurect a 'bad deal.' Pouring in good money after bad is not always a bad deal. It might salvage something down the road if you do it right and hold on to the vehicle long enough to get those benefits back out of it.

Go slow.


New member
When I first started to look for information on buying a Westfalia I came across a very extensive pre-purchase checklist. I am not sure if it was on this web site or another.

It was for air cooled models but was applicable to all Westfalias. Does anyone know the URL of that site??? Thank you,



New member
Here is the link to the Used Bus Buyer's Guide. It is a very exaustive list that if followed would probably take a weekend to work through for each Westy. This aside, there are some useful points to be examined when shopping.


I for one would like to stress that rust repair and paint are probably the most important items to inspect. I bought a 70 Westy that needed new rockers and corners. The paint was trashed, as the owner thought it would look nice spray painted gold. This body repair and paint job ran about $3000 (of course it wasn't a Maaco job), and that was with me completely stripping the exterior and removing all components. If I was to do it all over again, I would probably find a vehicle that had a good body and paint and just needed engine repair, etc. The bulk of the money I have into this vehicle was into body work and paint.

If it looks good with no floor holes or major body damage/rust and you are mechanically inclined, it's worth a second look...

Capt. Mike

From the Message Board Guidelines, #9:

My rule of thumb: pay for body first, then interior and finally mechanical. Those are the most expensive and hardest to complete in that order. "New brakes" aren't worth much next to "rust free, never wrecked."
But then what do I know?
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New member
I just wanted to post this message given my experience yesterday! If you are buying (particularly over the internet or out of town), be sure and have the owner's take it to get a complete inspection, BUT be sure to tell the mechanic you contact that he is NOT to give a copy of the inspection to the owner. I paid for a complete inspection on a vehicle and 4 hours later the guy sold the vehicle, and, of course, had a lovely set of fresh inspection papers to show the potential buyers -- when I talked to the mechanic he had said that the owner said he was taking the inspection papers and would give them to me. When I spoke to the owner of the vehicle, he acted like he didn't know anything about it.
The mechanics, however, were fantastic and followed up with the owner and gave him hell...(see posting: mechanics listing - calgary)
Learn from my mistake, grasshopper.


I just got back from a 3000 mile trip to pickup my new '86 syncro from N.C. A couple of thoughts.
Bend your local shops ear about buying from afar. They may know of a shop to take it to. Get ahold of the shop where the car is and tell them what you are doing. Make sure that they know that you are paying the bill. The shop where I got the car gave it a pretty clean bill of health and was very honest about the car. (Find other shops using this forum. The only problem I had was figuing out an escrow because I was going to have the car shipped, I didn't want to hold the guy up for his money, but I didn't want to part with it until it was on the truck. As it turns out I ended up driving it anyway (I'm not sure how much faith I have in car haulers) I send the seller 1/2 the money, and paid him the rest when I picked it up. It was a matter of trust on both our parts. (Work with your bank about an escrow. Finaly, in this day of the web and digital cameras you should be able to get many pictures sent via e-mail. I got about a dozen including little things like tire tread, close up of the seats, mattresses ect. I had no problems with the seller, in fact he repaired a water leak (at his expense) after I bought the car, but before I picked it up.

Finaly, a long cold trip from Asheville Nc to Bellingham, wa. The only trouble was the dreaded "vanagon syndrome" Luckily I was given the patch cord by my guy here "just in case" -4f in Kentucky with the car stuttering,,,. Plugged it it, ran like new.


Staff member
Buying a Westfalia? Protect Yourself from Vehicle Cloning

I found this great article by David Leonhardt, on it explains how to protect yourself from car cloning.


It’s all the latest rage – vehicle cloning. And rage is just what you’ll feel if you are the victim. Here is how it works. Thieves steal a car, usually a high-end “desirable” car or SUV. Then they take the vehicle identification number or VIN from a similar vehicle and slap it on the stolen car. Because each VIN is unique like a fingerprint, the stolen vehicle become a clone of a legitimate vehicle. Add some fake papers, and the thieves are ready to sell you a vehicle that looks perfectly legal.

When the police come knocking on your door, you have no legal recourse – you have to hand over the stolen property. Statistics show that this horror story is happening to more and more people ever year. In 2007 there were over 1.3 million cars stolen cars in the US, with over 250,000 or 1 in 5 of these stolen vehicles sold to unsuspecting victims. In the UK, this is being called that fastest growing car crime. And Canadians are being hit just as hard.

But you can avoid being a car clone victim. Here are nine tips to protect you from ending up the proud owner of a stolen car.

1. LOW SALE PRICE: If the car seller is asking a ridiculously low price for the vehicle, inquire why. Smart buyers usually research car prices online before purchasing. To check current car values simply search for a similar vehicle on a popular car classified website. If the vehicles asking price is significantly lower, be suspicious the car could be stolen. The thief may be asking the lowest possible price to rid them of the vehicle quickly.

2. PHONE NUMBER: Always ask for the seller’s landline before your first meeting. While cell phones are convenient and increasingly common, it will be next to impossible to trace if the need arises. If the seller refuses or states that they only have a cell phone approach with caution. Be extra vigilant in your dealings with this person since it will be very difficult to find them if they suddenly disappear.

3. REGISTRATION ADDRESS: Ask to view the vehicle in the daytime at the address listed in the registration papers. If the seller refuses and instead asks to meet in a public place, make sure there is a valid reason. Even if the seller gives a good reason there is a higher probability that the vehicle is stolen. If you still feel the seller is legitimate and the vehicle is not stolen be aware that he/she could be hiding something serious about the car.

4. INSPECTION: Why view the car in the daytime? So that you can inspect the whole car very carefully. Look for any signs that people tampered with locks. Replacement locks (replacing those broken when the thieves stole the car) are a giveaway. Check hidden places in the vehicle to see if the paint color has been changed, which might also disguise a stolen car.

5. REGISTRATION PAPERS: The registration papers will give you some clues about the vehicle. Make sure the license plate on the car matches the number on the registration papers. Make sure the owner’s name matches the sellers – and ask for picture ID. And make sure the VIN on the registration papers and in the windshield match.

6. MAINTENANCE RECORDS: Other papers you should inspect very carefully are the maintenance records, which are not only a good way to see if the car was stolen (thieves never have the maintenance records), but also will give you a hint of how well the car has been taken care of. Plus a check for mileage over time on the maintenance records is one good step to ensure that the seller did not tamper with the odometer and is not trying to sell you an older car for a newer car’s price.

7. VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER: Check the VIN – Every vehicle sold has a VIN. This number should match the number on the title and registration. The VIN is located on the driver's side above the dashboard, inside the driver door and under the hood. Look for any signs that these numbers could have been tampered with. If the windshield contains slight damages, such as scratch marks around the area, there is a strong possibility that the VIN has been replaced. If so, the car is probably stolen.

8. INSURANCE: Sorry, but more paperwork can help. Ask to see the insurance papers, and again check that everything matches. If the vehicle is uninsured, it might be stolen or have other problems. If the seller can’t provide insurance papers, this is probably not a car to buy. If they do provide the papers, call the insurance agent to verify. The agent will be only too happy to speak with a potential client like yourself.

9. INTUITION: Of course, trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...especially if the selling price is oddly low. If you feel suspicious about a vehicle or the seller, walk away. Even if the vehicle was not stolen, reconstructed after flood damage or older than it appears, it’s not worth taking the risk. There are plenty of other cars available.

It’s been shown that one in three used cars has something to hide. That could be outstanding credit, its mileage turned back, been in a serious accident, flood damaged, or in fact been stolen. Keep in mind that most private sellers are not thieves, but rather honest, regular folks like you. If you really want to sleep well at night – and what’s the point of getting “that great deal”, only to lie awake worrying about it? One way to stack the odds in your favor is to buy only from a reputable dealer with a strong community reputation. Not only will the chance of buying a problem vehicle be much smaller, resolving any issue will be much simpler if the need arises.