nimblecamper caddy camper california vs camping box diy - VW Caddy camper (California) vs Caddy camping conversion (DIY or boot jump/camping box)

VW Caddy camper (California) vs Caddy camping conversion (DIY or boot jump/camping box)

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Which one is better – the factory-built small camping van VW Caddy Camper or the standard Caddy converted to a camper using a DIY or ready-made camping box (boot jump)? This post will compare three options: buying a VW Caddy and converting it yourself into a camper, or buying a camping box / boot jump or buying the VW Caddy California Camper with everything built in.

If you Google “VW Caddy camper” you might see various results – some talking about the standard Caddy and its conversions to a camper, whether using a ready-made camping box (boot jump) or a DIY conversion. But there’s also a VW factory-built Caddy California Camper. Is it worth bothering with a DIY conversion if you can buy a complete camper? Let’s dig into it.


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The best budget car tent you can find:
ARPENAZ BASE M tent

Confirmed to fit: Sharan, Touran, Berlingo, Caddy, Partner, Kangoo, Combo
At around 100 GBP - 120 GBP, it's a bargain that does the job of a 300+ GBP tent

See my full review + video here arpenaz base m car tent BUY NOW
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Or see my full review here
pressure solar camping shower 10 litres 600x600 1 - VW Caddy camper (California) vs Caddy camping conversion (DIY or boot jump/camping box)

Pressure solar camping shower (pumped) – 10l
£49.99

This camping shower is easy to transfer and doesn’t need to hang in the air – it has a built-in pump that lets you pressurise the chamber and shower or use it in the sink anywhere. It’s black, so the longer you leave it in the sun, the warmer the water will be (or just leave it in a hot closed car in the summer).

  • Lightweight: 870 g including the bag
  • 10 litre capacity | On/off button on the handle to prevent waste
PORTABLE CHEMICAL TOILETS FOR CAMPING - 20L

4.2/5 stars
- Clean water tank up to 50 uses - tank capacity: 16 litres - a seat with antibacterial coating, a lid and a tank that prevents odours and mould

portable toilet £89.99 - BUY NOW
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Small, foldable and sits 4 with plenty of space for food preparation
foldable camping table and chairs BUY NOW
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Price & Feature comparison table

I will be comparing the VW Caddy Life with the VW Caddy California (SWB – short and LWB – Maxi versions). I won’t be comparing the van version as their interior features & comfort are too different. The Caddy Life is very close to the California in terms of standard features and sizes except for the special camping ones that the California brings to the table.

VW Caddy
DIY Camping conversion
VW Caddy with
a Camping box (boot jump)
VW Caddy California Camper
Price new
Average price used (year 2015)
none found (one 2013 for £16,995 / 19,893 EUR on eBay). There are other used campers – those aren’t the original VW factory ones, but privately custom-made.
Camping box
DIY: £100 – £850 (0 – 1000 EUR) (upper limit is really up to you)
TOTAL PRICE NEW
from £24,753 (Short)
or £28,823 (Maxi)
from £25,421 (29,756 EUR) (Short)
or £29,491 (34,520 EUR) (Maxi)
from £29,965 (Short) or £31,285 (Maxi)
Note
the minimum 100 GBP is a price for some basic material for a DIY bed. Doesn’t include comfort items like curtains, foldable bed, storage solutions – which will add several hundred to the price, but still remain as the cheapest option.
Lower price range camping boxes will have less fancy features but should cover all basic needs (bed, storage, kitchen). They will not cover curtains or other storage solutions around the car. See camping box comparison below.
Comes with all basic camping needs covered (kitchen, bed, storage) + adds more comfort on top (curtains, more storage). See camping box comparison below.
Total length
450 (Standard), 487,8 (Maxi)
450 (Standard), 487,8 (Maxi)
450 (Standard), 487,8 (Maxi)
Bed
you can make yourself up to 225cm
typically 200cm
200cm
Boot width (cm)
155 (2nd row doors) / 117 (trunk)
155 (2nd row doors) / 117 (trunk)
155 (2nd row doors) / 117 (trunk)
Boot height (cm)
126
126
126
Storage – front
per chosen model + DIY
per chosen model + camping box option
all built in and quite a lot!
Comfort (interior)
per chosen model + DIY additions
per chosen model + camping box options
5/5 – integrated fly screens, LED lights over the bed, storage bags over rear windows, (optional) 1.4m2 panoramic glass roof + magnetic curtain

See my full review of VW Caddy as a camper (DIY or camping box)

VW Caddy Camper California camping equipment vs Campal camping box

I’ve chosen Campal camping box as a benchmark for this comparison for these reasons:

  • it’s reasonably priced, yet offers good balance of features
  • it looks and behaves very similar to the camping box in VW Caddy California (similar features)

VW Caddy Campal camper box (the £1400 / 1638 EUR versions)

At £1400 / 1638 EUR, you are looking at a total price for a new Caddy Maxi with the Campal of
£30,023 (35,143 EUR)
+ £200 curtains
+ £200 additional storage
= £30,423 (35,611 EUR)
(there’s also cheaper camping boxes, so this option wins almost every time – only if you go for higher price range camping boxes it’ll cost you more in total, but you’ll also get more features for that).

6 person inflatable camping shelter air seconds base connect 11 - VW Caddy camper (California) vs Caddy camping conversion (DIY or boot jump/camping box)
6-person inflatable camping shelter – air seconds base connect – £299.99

Don’t like fiddling around with poles? This inflatable car tent might be the right choice for you. The sheet + poles make joining it to your car even more flexible. It has two large openings on opposite ends, giving you a choice of which side you’ll attach to the vehicle. It fits most MPVs – tailgate or side-door, you can connect it from two ends

  • Height: 2.25 m (opening for tailgate 1.75m) | Floor area: 6.25 m2 (2.5×2.5m) | Comfortable for 6 people
  • Openings on 4 sides (2 suitable for a car) | but only 1 mosquito net
  • Weight 13kg
  • Easy installation: Rapid pitching thanks to its all-in-one inflatable structure (requires a separate pump though)
  • The fabric filters UV rays with a UPF of 50+, Waterproof, good quality – tested in long rain and strong winds, it holds up pretty well (relatively to the price)
Inflatable luxury for 6 people (3 bedrooms)
+ 170cm opening for any tailgate

Fits MPVs, SUVs, Bedrooms:140x210 cm | Stand-up living room:7,1 sqm with zipped basin groundsheet
Fresh fabric: reduces heat inside your tent in the sun

6 person inflatable tent £549.99 - BUY NOW
at Decathlon UK
dometic 1 - VW Caddy camper (California) vs Caddy camping conversion (DIY or boot jump/camping box)

Dometic HUB Air Modular Shelter
£624.99

This car/suv tent offers very cool design and I love the versatility – fits SUVs, MPVs and campervans. You can pitch it freestanding on the beach, on-site with your camper or as valuable shelter when off-roading with your 4×4. Best feature is the ability to REMOVE (unzip) ALL 4 WALLS – making it an awning + tent in one!

  • Width:230cm, Depth:230cm
  • Attachment Heigtht: 180-210cm (fits tailgate as well as side door, MPV, SUV, Multivan)
  • Windows have mosquito nets
  • Weight: 13.8kg

Conclusion: …and the winner is…

As you can see, they are pretty similar. I’d say the Campal built is nicer (wood) – but that is subjective and you can’t tell the build quality from the pictures. Unless you go for a top range camping box, it’s cheaper to choose a VW Caddy Maxi and buy a camping box, than to buy a VW Caddy California Camper. Plus you will get more options that way as there’s plenty of camping boxes with different features available. You will need to sort out curtains or LED lights yourself though.

With the DIY alternative, it’s always cheaper + with the added benefit of having it your way.

The best option in my humble opinion is to get a good used VW Caddy Maxi Life and depending on your preference, either get a camping box or do a DIY camping conversion.

If you have more money than time, then get a shiny new VW Caddy Camper (California) and don’t worry about anything else. Or search for a used Caddy Camper that might not be the official VW Camper, but a custom made one, as good as any nonetheless.

You should look at any VW Caddy (Maxi) and a camper box or a DIY camping solution

  • if you want to save money (huge savings – 10,000 or more if you buy a used Caddy + a new camping box)
  • if you want to customise your camping box
  • if you want wood instead of steel and plastic
  • if you want to make the camper interior yourself
  • if you want it customised to your needs (i.e. fit a bike, a dog, have a mini toilet, a laptop table etc)

You should look at the official Caddy Camper (California)

  • if you don’t mind the higher price
  • if you want it quickly and hassle free
  • if you want the latest VW Caddy model
  • if you want a massive panoramic roof window (1.4m2)

Read next: What’s the difference between a camping box, a teardrop camper / micro camper or a DIY conversion?



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