VW California Ocean: Why This Campervan is Truly Awesome

The popular California campervan has been produced by Volkswagen for over 30 years. Its ultimate form is the VW California Ocean with inbuilt fridge, gas stove, and generous storage. Is it right for you?

We didn’t decide to become campervan owners lightly. It took years and numerous hired campervans to cement our choice – a VW California Ocean.

It’s an expensive purchase, probably second to buying your home, so needs to be looked at from all angles.

We found we had all sorts of questions before we purchased our campervan. So if you’re in that decision-making moment now, read on to learn more in detail about the VW California Ocean campervan.

How much is a VW California Ocean?

The price of a VW California Ocean depends on whether you want to buy new or used.

Buying a new California means that you can make it exactly yours. You can select the engine size, transmission, colour, wheels and tyres, entertainment system, and so on.

The down side is you will (usually) have to wait for the vehicle to be made at VW’s factory in Germany, and you will pay full price on a not-inexpensive vehicle.

Selecting a used California may be the way to go if you want to pay less than new price. You may not quite get the combination of optional extras you would ideally like, but you’ll get it immediately.

The demand for Californias has been very high over the last few years, so as a buyer it is worth seriously considering both routes to ownership.

Buying a new VW California Ocean

The cost of a new California depends on the base model specifications and any optional extras. There will also be on-road costs such as delivery and registration.

Although the VW California is a passenger car, it is built on a VW commercial van body. Because of this you need to visit a commercial van dealer to order one. Many VW dealers are both regular car and commercial van dealers, but check before you go van shopping.

California Ocean T6.1 base prices

At time of writing, these are the base guide prices you can expect to pay for a new VW California Ocean T6.1

  • 150PS 2.0TDI 7-speed DSG Diesel – £62,724
  • 199pS 2.0TDI 7-speed DSG Diesel – £65,550
  • 199PS 2.0TDI 4MOTION 7-speed DSG Diesel £68,796

On-road costs

In addition to the base price you can expect to pay the following on-road costs:

  • Delivery to Van Centre £620
  • Number plates £20
  • VAT £128
  • First registration fee £55
  • Vehicle excise duty (VED) 1st year £270

Total on-the-road price is therefore in the neighbourhood of £1,093.

Optional extras for the VW California Ocean

Not to be forgotten are the optional extras. Here is a selection of the main options available for a new VW T6.1 California Ocean.

Optional ExtraDescriptionGuide Price*
PaintCandy White£300
Paint – metallicsIndium Grey, Mojave Beige, Reflex Silver, Starlight Blue, Fortana Red,Copper Bronze, Bay Leaf Green and Pearl Effect Deep Black.£762
Paint – Two ToneCandy White/Ascot Grey, Candy White/Copper Bronze metallic, Candy White/Bay Leaf Green metallic.£2880
Kitchen TrimKitchen cupboard in Graphite Grey slate-effect with outdoor shower connection.£348
Bellows Canvas Sides Glacier BlueAvailable with Candy White/Copper Bronze metallic, Candy White/Ascot Grey, Reflex Silver,Indium Grey, Starlight Blue, Mojave Beige, Copper Bronze, Ascot Grey, Candy and Deep Black.£312
Bellows Canvas Sides Strawberry RedAvailable with Candy White/Ascot Grey, Reflex Silver, Indium Grey, Fortana Red,Candy White, Ascot Grey, Cherry Red and Deep Black.£312
Wheels18″ ‘Teresina’ Black, diamond-turned surface alloy wheels. 8J x 18.£936
18″ ‘Palmerston’ Black, diamond-turned surface alloy wheels. 8J x 18.£1254
TyresAll-weather tyres£162
Alloy spare wheel with original equipment tyre.£276
Audio and CommunicationsDiscover Pro navigation system including ‘Streaming & Internet’. Only in combination with We Connect Plus, 3 years Z23 at no additional cost.£678
SafeLockable storage compartment. Located in the wardrobe.£132
Comfort MattressComfort sleeping mat, for the “downstairs” bed in the living area.£318
Additional StorageStorage compartment package. Includes net pocket in roof and additional drawer in two-seater rear bench seat.£210
FlooringWood effect floor covering.£498
Driver AssistanceHigh Beam Assist. £162
Trailer AssistIncluding Park Assist, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera and Side protection. Only in combination with 1D2 tow bar; removable/lockable (including trailer stabilisation) or tow bar preparation 1D7 (including trailer stabilisation) at an additional cost. £576
Traffic Sign RecognitionOnly in combination with Discover Media navigation system ZIE or Discover Pro navigation system ZI8 at an additional cost.£282
Hill Descent Control 4MOTION base vehicles only.£120
Active Lane Assist with Side AssistIncludes Rear Traffic Alert.£474
Magnetic flashlightPlugs into 12V cigarette lighter socket.£84
Chrome package Includes additional chrome strips on the lower air intake, sides and rear tailgate.£462
Sports packageIncludes 18″ ‘Springfield’ Black, diamond-turned surface alloy wheels, LED rear tail lights, front and rear underbody guard, privacy glass and front fog lights with cornering function.£2640
Style package Includes 17″ Devonport alloy wheels, Silver, darkened rear LED tail lights, stainless steel front and rearunderbody guard with contrast finish on the front and rear bumper in ‘Black Frost’ metallic paint.£960
Driver Assistance package plus Includes Discover Media navigation system including ‘Streaming & Internet’, Traffic Sign Recognition, Active Lane Assist with Side Assist and High Beam Assist.£780
FuelFuel tank with a volume of 80 litres.£78
Towbar Removable and lockable. Includes trailer stabilisation.£768
Towbar preparation. Includes trailer stabilisation.£264
Mechanical rear differential lock4MOTION base vehicles only.£750
Electric Sliding DoorOn the right in the passenger compartment.£378
MudflapsFront and rear.£162
Awning Rail Housing and RailIn silver colour.£228
Driving profile selection‘Drive Select’ and Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) with dynamic chassis.£1458
First aid kitWith warning triangle and safety vest.£60
Tyre pressure monitoring systemShowing individual tyre pressures.£174
Four remote control folding keysBase vehicles comes with just two keys.£120
WindowsHeated front windscreen. £498
Stronger AGM batteryIncludes increased alternator capacity.£258
* All prices inclusive of VAT

Note that these guide prices are correct at the time of publishing. These RRPs are subject to change so check with an authorised van centre for up-to-date pricing.

Experience the joys of a VW California by hiring one first:
Where to Hire a VW California Campervan in the UK

Buying a used VW California Ocean

This is the route we took. There is no right answer as to whether buying new or used it better, it comes down to individual preference and budget.

If you buy new, you can spec the campervan exactly as you want it and you have the added benefit of being the first owner of the vehicle, so there is no wear and tear.

You will often pay a premium for buying a new car with a percentage given up to depreciation as soon as you leave the car dealer’s forecourt.

The VW California Ocean is renowned for retaining its value, so this is less of an issue with buying a new California Ocean than with typical car models.

Used VW California Oceans can be purchased privately or through a dealer. We found our ideal vehicle on the Volkswagen used vans website, and bought it from a VW dealer about 90 minutes from where we live.

We were happy to buy used but we had exact specifications of what vehicle we would like.

Our specifications in a used VW California Ocean

We had a list of ideal options when we were buying a California.

  • 12 months old or less
  • Less than 10,000 miles on the clock
  • 204bhp diesel engine
  • Discover Pro navigation system
  • Ideally the Comfort Mattress

We did compromise on the mileage and our chosen van didn’t have the Discover Pro system but managed to tick the rest of the boxes. As we were buying through a van centre, they offered a decent part exchange rate on our existing car.

We paid about £8,000 less than buying a new VW California Ocean, before the part exchange.

As we have children, nothing stays pristine for long, so we were happy to buy used and pocket the difference. Well, pocket some of it and spend a fair bit on van gear.

Used California Ocean websites

Should you wish to buy a used VW California Ocean privately there are many websites with used VW California Oceans for sale. Here are a few places to try.

VW Approved Used Vanshttps://used.volkswagen-vans.co.uk/en/vw/california
The AAhttps://www.theaa.com/used-vans/used-volkswagen-california
VW California Clubhttps://vwcaliforniaclub.com/classifieds/

How many seats are there in a VW California Ocean?

There are four seatbelted positions in the VW California Ocean. This was one of the major stumbling points for us in deciding to buy the campervan. 

We have always had cars which will carry five seatbelted passengers and had to think hard whether having only four seatbelted positions would be problematic.

On balance, it has rarely been an issue. We have a second car so if the occasion arises that we need to carry more passengers then we take a second vehicle. It happens so infrequently that it’s not a major bugbear.

Volkswagen manufactures a removable fifth seat to get around this problem.

VW California fifth seat

The main living area of the VW California Ocean has rails installed to allow the rear bench seat to move backwards and forwards to allow more boot space/more living space or to put the bed down.

The fifth seat is cleverly designed to attach to the rear rails for easy installation and removal.

In practice though, the campervan is not geared up for five berths. Your passenger would need alternative sleeping accommodation. Not an issue if the van is being used for transportation purposes only.

Another practical consideration with the VW California Ocean fifth seat is legroom. The rear bench seats will need to be slid back quite a bit to allow space for everyone’s legs.

This impacts how much boot space you have available. Again, not a problem if there is minimal equipment being transported but something to consider.

Lastly, the seat is quite large and unwieldy. When not installed in the California Ocean, it will need to live somewhere clean and dry at home. Ask yourself if you really need one as it could be just another bit of (heavy) kit cluttering up your garage.

What are the dimensions of T6/T6.1 California Ocean?

You think “campervan” and you think “big vehicle”. Actually, the size of the VW California Ocean doesn’t differ much to other luxury family cars on the market. In fact, it’s less wide and not as long than the models featured below:

CarLength cmWidth cmHeight cm
VW California Ocean490419041990
Audi Q7505219681740
Volvo XC90495320081776
Landrover Discovery495620001888

It makes the VW California a viable option for tight driveways, narrow lanes and less than generous parking spaces.

Another bonus with parking the VW California is the side sliding door. If you find yourself parked up in a tight spot, you can always exit out of the sliding door rather than having to open the front doors which require more space to swing outwards.

Interior dimensions of a VW California Ocean

VW states that the living space in the VW California Ocean is 4 square metres.

We have always found the space to feel airy and generous, especially if you can put the roof up and push the rear seats back.

For day-to-day use, this spacious living area is very comfortable and useful. If time is spent in the Cali – for example in our case with school pickups – having usable living space is a huge bonus.

Layout of the VW California Ocean

The VW California Ocean has a familiar campervan layout, which has been tweaked and perfected over 30 years.

Kitchen/living area

The VW California Ocean kitchen has a two-ring gas stove, sink with cold tap, and top-loading fridge. These features sit below a hinged glass worktop with two sliding-door storage cupboards below and next to a wardrobe cupboard.

As this is a European-made vehicle the whole camping unit is on the UK passenger (left) side, as the side sliding door is located on the UK drivers’ (right) side.

The driver and passenger seats can be turned around, and together with the clever slide-out table, create a cosy and surprisingly spacious living area with plenty of room for four people.


The VW California Ocean has plenty of storage. As well as the kitchen cupboards and wardrobe cupboard, there is a large storage drawer under the rear seat, an overhead locker above the passenger seat, and a useful cupboard with shelves in the boot area.

Pop-top roof bed

The Cali Ocean has an electrically-operated pop-top which gives additional headroom for the living space, and at night turns into a comfortable “upstairs” bed.

The upstairs bed has a mattress on top of a sprung base and is quite comfortable. There is LED lighting provided and a 12V socket for charging appliances.

Downstairs bed

The downstairs bed is created by sliding the rear seat forwards and pushing the seat backrest flat using a release catch. A sleeping mat, or comfort mattress, then unfolds from the boot area creating a 2-metre long narrow double bed.

With the motorhomes we’ve hired in the past, one of the things we have loved the most is turning the entire back end of the vehicle into a giant bed and being surrounded by windows.

You get this benefit with the VW California Beach. We considered buying a Beach rather than the Ocean because of the sleeping area sizes but the Ocean won out in the end.

For us, one downside of buying the VW California Ocean was the downstairs bed width.

What are the bed sizes in the VW California Ocean?

The bed sizes in the VW California Ocean T6 and T6.1 models are as follows:

VW California BedWidth cmLength cm
Downstairs bed115200
Pop-top roof bed120200

Compare this to standard domestic bed sizes:

Bed Type (UK)Width cmLength cm

Considering two people sleep on each bed, they are quite tight for width space, especially the downstairs bed.

Depending who sleeps where on a particular night, it is possible for the two people sleeping downstairs to top-and-tail to get more head and breathing space.

It should be noted that VW suggests 300kgs as the maximum load for the pop-top roof bed.

What size is the VW California fridge?

The fridge built into the VW California Ocean is a 42-litre compressor top-loading fridge.

We have found a chest fridge is far better than a front-loading fridge. Items can move about when you’re driving and can fall out when you open the fridge door on a traditional camper fridge with a side door.

A chest fridge can be packed more efficiently than a front-loader, giving more usable space as you can load it right to the top.

To make the most of the space, we bring multiples of one-pint milks rather than have one large four-pint container as this offers more flexibility with the space available.

Fresh water tank

The VW California has a 25-litre capacity fresh water tank for drinking and washing.

It feeds the tap in the kitchen sink, and also the rear shower if you have this optional extra fitted.

The fresh water tank can be filled via the external water filling point. This has a key-locked cap. It is emptied for cleaning and/or refilling by turning a lever in the boot area cupboard.

Waste water tank

The VW California has approximately a 30-litre capacity waste water tank. This can be emptied by rotating the lever in the kitchen cupboard below the gas stove. 

If the waste tank is quite full, it may take a few minutes to empty. This “grey water” is best emptied on grass or somewhere it can soak or drain away easily.

Does the VW California have a toilet or a shower?

No, the VW California Ocean does not have a toilet built in.

Unlike motorhomes, campervans generally do not have toilets built-in. The exception in the Volkswagen fleet is the Grand California, which is their answer to a coach built motorhome. This has a full wet room installed.

As a family of four with young children, we find it wholly necessary to have a toilet on board. We own two portable toilets, which we have to suit longer or shorter trips away.

VW California shower option

The optional extra shower is cold water only and is fed from the on-board 25-litre capacity fresh water tank.

The pump and motor to power the shower are installed just inside the boot of the VW California Ocean on the left-hand side, below the storage cupboard.

Although it’s cold water only, it is a handy option to clean the sand off if you’ve been on the beach, rinse off your bike, or de-mud the dog.