Pricing guides, services and appraisals -- no individual price questions please.


New member
Hi, I am currently researching to buy a 1980's VW Camper. However using the current Kelly Blue Book (both the print and free on-line web page I am finding a large dispairity between the the blue book and the private sellers prices for their campers.
For example, a 1982 diesel from S. California is advertised at 3500.00. The Kelly Blue Book lists it at the private seller price at 1300.00 even in mint condition with low mileage. The same goes for the 84-86 campers, the private sellers are listing them between 7500.00 to 12,000.00 while the Blue Book sets them in mint-condition between 3000.00 and 5,000.00 including add-ins like CD systems, applicances, and pop-tops.
I want to know what merits the dispairty between these prices. I am trying to get the most bang for my bucks but it makes me feel like I might being cheated?
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Capt. Mike

No pricing guide is perfect in a free economy. You have to look deep inside both their operation and their market.

NADA is written for banks & dealers. It is their market pricing; not yours. Kelly & Edmunds claim to be consumer oriented but in reality are written for financial markets and insurance companies. If you compare those three, you'll typically find a 50% swing. If they can't get it right, how can an individual?

Both use a limited market pricing that averages large numbers of sales that can drastically skew their pricing. For instance, they include auction sales. This may be vehicles that are being sold for parting out, confiscated or repo vehicles, and wrecked vehicles. A really ratty car is worth next to nothing -- say $100. Take a super, show-winning example that is legitimately worth nearly a new price, say $15,000. The "average" is $7,500. So right away you assume a high price example is over-priced. Now throw in that there are probably 100 of those $100 dollar cars for every show-room new and you can see where the "average" goes.

There is one guide that tends to reflect both the actual sales of cars that are graded, and does not do that averaging. It also gets its funding from ordinary subscriptions, not the high-dollar industry contracts. That is Old Car Price Guide by Krause Publications. [Any newstand; their own web site.]

It contains vehicle listings for anything over 7 years old with SIX different gradings. You DO have to understand the grading system. You're not going to find a #1 on the used car market -- these are national show winners. On the other hand, you'll see the wide disparity between conditions. A #3 is a good servicable used car. You'll see a lot more #4 & #5's than #3's. You're not likely to find the #1 & #2's except amongst the collectors.

They used to carry original MSRP's, but that was dropped years ago to make room for additional years and data. They may still have that or you might find an old issue via the used publications dealers listed in Hemmings Motor News.

That said, this is still just a STARTING POINT, not the final market value. It obviously lags as today's sales take months to show up in the system and pricing. It must be adjusted for the more valuable accessories. It does not recognize the "pedigree" of a true Class 1 show winner.

Experts in the antique and classic car business tell me (and it shows in the professional appraisals of my show cars) that a National 1st may be worth ~20%. A Sr. more and a Grand National 1st another ~20%. A Sr. Grand National will probably move the vehicle into the "Reserve Auction" bracket and can double the cars' price. These are your top museum pieces. That doesn't reflect so much the physical condition but that it has been expertly adjudged as being as near factory delivered condition as possible. Like the pedigree of Man O' War vs. the pretty filly at the Fair.

Anyway, back to the real world. VW Westies are, like it or not, a 'cult' car. That's not a bad thing but it indicates their value to their owners is not based on the basic transportation and finance considerations of a Kelly Blue Book. Values are skyrocketing. Certain options like the auxilliary furnace and 4wd command huge premiums. They are unique; nobody has yet made one just like it.

So I would suggest you get the Old Car Price Guide for a starter and be sure you complete understand their grading system. Then watch the classic and specialty markets like Hemmings Motor News, the VW oriented magazines and web sites. What I think you'll find out -- and I've seen it in action -- is that the Blue Books is pretty well useless when it gets away from the million model production run of Honda or Chevy.

Another pricing aspect that is rarely considered is which part requires upgrading. When you get to fixing up a potential purchase, you have to know what you can do, what must be hired, and what the ultimate costs will be. A $4000 dollar reman engine may be cheaper, in the long run, than a $1,000 dollar paint job that might be covering up internal rust. My personal rule of thumb is pay for body, interior and mechanics in THAT order. I think I've advised elsewhere for you to look at the price, add the amount necessary to bring it to the standards YOU want, and then ask if it's worth that much to YOU for the period you intend to own the vehicle.


New member
no your not being cheated,vw camper vans seem to hold there value among private owners,im in ohio,westy prices here are higher than the bluebook,in california and other western states prices soar and the vans sell,the bluebook cant measure the love of owning one of these vechicles,look hard and you can find them cheap i lucked out and did,took 2 years of looking at alot of rough high priced westys,if your trying to get a loan on one of these vehicles could be trying if they used the book to value the loan,also getting full coverage insurance for the value of your van can be tricky,hope this helps im sure i left out something as im about to nod off,ggod luck mojo :eek:

Capt. Mike


Not to be cynical, but I put the average appraiser in the same category as lawyers -- a necessary evil. If you have to deal with an appraiser who does this for a living for insurance companies and lawyers, duck, cover your ass with both hands and run like hell.

First, check with your State Insurance Commission. Most appraisors must be licensed and specifically for the field, such as autos. The last two the insurance companies sent to me didn't even have licenses; the 3rd was licensed but for houses and illness/injury. Go figure.

There are legitimate appriasers, and since you are talking basically antique or classic age cars when you're into the first 3 generations of Westies, you can find listings in Hemmings Motor News Services section. These will have much more experience than the guy out of the Yellow Pages.

I get my appraisals from a dealer in antique and classic cars. He better understands the value of condition, uniqueness, and the many intangibles that have an effect on true value. He is less likely to bother with the insurance/dealer mill books and more likely to have experience in older vehicless that have a very low turn-over.

Some states and many courts now accept the Old Car Price Guide as a legal source of values. NC even uses it for taxing purposes.

Mojo references getting proper insurance coverage. Most companies offer a declared value coverage where you pay by the insured value rather than "market" book rate. They will require appraisals and documentation, including pictures.

As a verification of Old Car Price Guide values, you should be able to find nationally certified AACA judges in your area (check with the local clubs) who might be willing to provide a statement of "class". What I mean is not an appraisal of dollar value but a statement that they have examined the car and find it meets the requirements of a particular Old Car Price Guide condition class. So if you've truely found a Class 2 car, you should be able take Old Car Price Guide and his classification to your insurance company.


New member
When I looked for an early VW Sedan, I found that footwork was the only way to assess value. I looked at 20 in the Seattle area priced from $800 to $5000 (this was in 1994). I found junk at all price levels, and a couple of "cream puffs." I finally bought a 1959 model in beautiful condition for $3500.

As far as Westfalias go, the prices for 89-91 camper models have dropped in the last year, based on Auto Trader prices. Now it looks like $14 - 16,000 will buy you one in excellent condition with under 100,000 miles. Earlier Westies are cheaper.

Good luck in your search.
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Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

mstandley Junior Member posted July 03, 2002 01:55 AM

Where can a person go to get accurate and reliable information on the value of Westfalia's? I'm trying to find Kelly book or NADA data to support my bank's need for hard data on the value a 1988 Westfalia we are trying to purchase ($12,000)

Any suggestions where our bank can get this appraisal/value data?

TJ Hannink Member posted July 03, 2002 11:22 AM
re: Vehicle Assessments

A. Cooper Member posted July 03, 2002 02:54 PM

There is already a helpful thread on this topic, found under "Getting a Westfalia" > "Pricing guides, services, and appraisals".

You -- or more correctly, your bank -- is no doubt concerned by the discrepency between the listed Blue Book val ue of the van and the price you intend to pay for it. I won't repeat what's already been said on the topic, but it seems if you want to use their money to buy the van, you'll need to play by their rules, and that probably means having an approved professional appraisal performed.

Westies often hold a special place in the hearts of their owners, so they usually sell for prices above listed book values.
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I just bought my first Westy, and I think I either need a kick in the pants for making a bad decision regarding value or a little moral support for a good first effort and what I'm hoping (but not holding my breath for)is not too bad of a decision for someone green on Westys,or maybe a little of both.

After reading all the regular used car pricing guides, and studying classified pricing for 84-91s for days on end, and getting a general feel for costs of repairs, I still think I may have made a stupid decision and am feeling a little less enthusiastic about the whole Westly thing.

I was hoping to use the Old Car Price Guide that you recommended by Krause Publications. However, according to their website, the price guide only covers 1974 and older. Is this correct?

I think I got messed up on the value of a well used vehicle verses a gently used powder puff. The vehicles that I'd found in the classifieds without rust and less mileage, and somewhat restored or repaired, were either way out of my price range, or the vehicle was gone already when I called. The vehicles that had some rust, with average high mileage with little restoration were usually available with a substantially lower price, but still substantially higher than the Blue Book value.

When I found the vehicle that I purchased, at first, I thought it was a good deal because it was substantially cheaper than a non-rusted one and I was told it was "superficial" rust on body seems, and around a window seal and a few other minor places, and should be easy to take care of. It didn't look terrible to me and I was out in the middle of nowhere and with no one competent around to inspect it for miles and miles. It also ran, with an engine that was taken out of another vehicle. I offered less than the asking price to help cover the rust problem and the seller jumped at the offer without any counter offer. I got the impression that the seller was extremely happy with my offer and might have taken much less. After thinking about the fact that these "superficially" rusted vehicles don't seem to me to be moving on the market and the seller's eagerness to take my much lower offer (but still way above Blue Book), I started wondering about the value of a vehicle with "surface" rust and whether I'd made a bad decision.

After reading all your message boards on rust, however, I'm still confused as to whether there really is such a thing as "superficial" rust or if I can count on any rust being an extremely expensive problem. Now I'm wondering if the lower price that I thought would cover the cost of repair wasn't really enough. I'm wondering how much "minor" rust should lower the cost of the vehicle and whether it is ever really worth buying a Westy that has "minor" rust unless it is at Blue Book value or less.

I'm also now wondering if I should put this in the rust thread instead of the pricing thread... ;-)

I realize that you can't comment on my specific situation but a I'd love to hear what an "experienced" Westy owner would think about how the "slightly" rusted NON-powder puff compares in value to the non-rusted more gently used version, and how much it decreases the value of the vehicle. One site I read (unfortunately after I bought the vehicle) said to take off 3000 off the price for any rust at all. Is this an exaggeration? Is a vehicle even worth more than Blue Book if it has "surface" rust, higher average miles and no restoration to speak of?
Did I let my enthusiasm lead me down the wrong path?

I would be ever so greatful for any opinions.


The short answer is everything is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It sounds like you did many of the right things finding out what westys are selling for in your local market. Valuations differ widely across N.America. (Syncros are worth twice as much in Colo, the N.W. and Alaska for example) The one thing that e-bay has done is determine the price of everything! I tend to think that cars that sell on e-bay sell for somewhat less than true market value because of the "sight unseen" factor, but it does give a base line.

The one caution I think you missed was finding and using a experianced vanagon mechanic to look over your potential dream. Perhaps you were indeed victim of your enthusiasm.

On the rust side, I live in a climate where rust is not much of a problem (Pac. N.W) but I also live in Northern Ontario Canada, where rust is a real problem. (Road salt being the enemy of all cars) The reason that cars are advertised as "west coast" or "California Car" is becasue of the lack of salt and the resulting rust. These cars command a premium over otherwise similar cars for obvious reason.

The first suggestion is to have a competent third party to look the car over, looking especialy for dangerous rust in the running gear. A car that is full of cancerous holes is probably too far gone to make sense to repair, although it can be done. On the other hand paint bubbling here and there along the seams can be dealt with fairly simply. Rust that just looks bad may be your price of admission to the club. (I used to drive an old truck that was rusted up to the door handles, but it was mechanicly sound and safe,,, so what if my feet got wet!)

The other big problem with rust nowdays is that few body shops want to deal with it. They make their money doing insurance collision work, and they don't have the time, (or the skills perhaps) to do rust restoration. On the bright side, if you get bitten by the westy bug, these are skills that you could develop and repair/restore yourself.

On a final note,, if you REALLY think you got ripped off, talk to a lawyer about turning back the deal. I suspect that it would be hard. Westys all take a certain amount of tinkering, and they all have at least one thing wrong with them. Part of getting bit by the bug is the learning of the process.

Good luck, don't get discouraged. Remember you are driving a 20+year old classic, and that everything you do to it will make it more valuable. (I wouldn't sell my syncro for twice what I paid for it)


Capt. Mike

Old Car Price Guide covers most vehicles through about 7 years past, i.e. 1998 at this time. I have a little trouble understanding why you didn't just buy a $5 copy rather than buy a vehcile because you thought it wouldn't be in there.

This site does NOT appraise cars or offer guidance beyond providing you sources of appraisers and guides, plus member comments on their experiences with either. Guideline #9 is rather clear about that and that this is not the appropriate forum to determine "If I got a good deal." As icarus says, value means something to only two people -- buyer & seller.

Westies generally draw more than the book values for several reasons, scarcity of good ones and the 'cult' following among them. These are legitimate values and you must be prepared to pay for that. Books are averages; books get information from more public sources like dealers, auctions, etc., -- rarely from an individual sales. Books are written to a market. NADA, Black Book, Kelly tend to be written towards dealers or insurance companies and thus low-ball. 4 $500 dollar junkers and a $30K creampuff still only AVERAGE $6,500! But that doesn't mean the $30K one is not worth it. Old Care Price Guide -- within the limits given on this site -- is the best of a handicapped field because it at least interprets for 6 defined classes of condition, but it is still the result of primarily auctions and antique sale reports. The descriptions of each class are given in every issue and are quite clear.

Per that same guideline, "superficial" rust is still an individual determination and then must be considered based on WHERE it comes from. Most would consider superficial rust to be surface rust on the OUTSIDE of the panel, i.e. from scrapes, worn thin paint, chemical attack (sap, bird poop). Any rust that comes from inside and is working to the surface -- where you can't visibly inspect the back side -- has to be considered severe, regardless of size, until source and extent are determined. For a "seam" to be rusting, one must assume the panels behind and the flanges that formed the seam are rusting and CAN'T be fixed from the exterior. A 'bubble', like often found on rocker panels, lower doors and pillars or around the windshield usually indicate a full-blown cancer inside that is just now working to the outside. Many or most of those voids do have drain holes and can still be inspected with the new little wand lights, flexible inspection lenses and mirrors.

Publications are a guide only. They do not absolve the buyer from determining the true condition and history of the vehicle. 150,000 miles with a fresh factory reman engine is WAAAAY different than 150,000 miles with a "fresh" junk-yard engine. The only thing I can suggest to you now is go to Hemmings Motor News, contact an appraiser (some will do preliminary via photos) and find out what condition you bought. Then make the best of it. Bite the bullet, do the required work and enjoy the vehicle. Amortise the final cost over the years you will own the vehicle instead of 'cost today.' Put the expense, if indeed there was an 'overpay' under College of Hard Knocks and failure to follow the many warnings, suggestions and sources offered on this site.

Capt. Mike

For Sale: 1966 Westy

"1966 VW Westfalia Campmobile. Beige with gray vinyl interior. A42 Westfalia option camper package including sink, stove and fold-down seats. Roof rack, no pop-up roof, 22,000 original miles, meticulously maintained since new."

Interested? Willing to dig deep in your pockets? What would you be willing to pay?

OK. This is not a real ad. This is a report of a sale at the Pebble Beach auction August 21, 2005. Let me give you a hint -- $98,999 wouldn't have brought it home! No, that's not a typo. This particular example brought $99,000. From a "very determined" woman.

My most recent editions of Old Car Price Guide shows a 1966 VW camper in Class 1 (national show) condition at $27,500. This is not a restoration but an all-original. The original owner bequeathed it to a neighbor with the stipulation he "take good care of it." I think it's safe to say he did -- without a doubt the best original Westie in the world. I should have such a neighbor!

Do you now get my drift -- and that of Guideline #9 -- that value means something seen only in the eyes of the beholder? The article mentioned nothing of the background of the buyer. It did indicate the final bidders were an anonymous phone bidder and the winning lady. We will presume it evoked memories.


New member
value and insurance- worried

Has anyone dealt with an insurance company concerning the wreck of a restored Westy?
Say you have one that a company like GoWesty would sell for $90,000. But the Bluebook is a fraction of that...I've heard lots of advice, but has anyone dealt with the actual situation?