Used Van Buying Guide: Volkswagen Transporter T5 2003-2015

Just like the Golf in the car world, so too the Volkswagen Transporter has an unrivalled reputation for quality and desirability.

The T5 Transporter was introduced back in 2003, remaining largely unchanged until a facelift late in 2009 and was only replaced in 2015 by a heavily revamped model, badged T6.

Like its key rivals the T5 is offered in a variety of body types, with high and low roof models, long and short wheelbase, crew cab, chassis cab and a Shuttle minibus layout.

Volkswagen is one of the few manufacturers to produce its own camper van in the shape of the California, plus there's the passenger carrying Caravelle model. As a halfway house between a work vehicle and family car, many people chose the Transporter Kombi - a van we ran here for six months.

Engines available on a Volkswagen T5 Transporter

The standard T5 engine choice is relatively simple. Pre-2009 the T5 was offered with a four-cylinder 1.9 TDI with either 84PS or and 102PS alongside a five-cylinder 2.5-litre unit with either 131PS or 174PS.

After the facelift, in what many refer to as the T5.1, it’s simpler still as there’s a single 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder unit, though it is offered with a choice of outputs and transmissions ranging from a 84PS to a BiTDI 180PS.

The base 84PS unit in the T5.1 can be easily tuned to nearly double that, there being a whole host of options for adding power for not a great deal of outlay.

Inbetween there are 102PS, 114PS and 140PS steps up the ladder. Usually front-wheel drive, the T5 can have all-wheel drive via Volkswagen's 4Motion system, which unless you’re determined to reach the most inaccessible places, isn’t really necessary.

Volkswagen DSG automatics aren’t without problems in the long term. Volkswagen has recalled DSG equipped T5 models to replace the synthetic oil with mineral oil. The manuals are a safer bet long term.

Volkswagen Transporter T5 (1)

Maintenance on a Volkswagen T5 Transporter

Mechanically the T5 is relatively robust, with the biggest issues being based around the dual mass flywheel. It’s a common fault, indeed expect it to happen. Clues to its demise being rattling from the engine, a feeling like a misfire and juddering or knocking. Ignore any unusual noises at your peril. Catch it before it fails completely and you're looking at a bill of around £800, though if it’s disintegrated then it’ll need a bit more work - and money - to rectify.

Other known issues include problems with the exhaust gas recirculation valve (EGR), which fails. It’s a common, well-known fault, so much so that if your T5 is out of warranty it’s worth taking it to a Volkswagen franchise as often they will replace it out of goodwill. Don’t bank on that, though. It’s apparent when an engine management light comes on, its failure also resulting in it resorting to limp-home mode.

Another known, long-standing issue centres around the steering column. If it’s knocking the only way to fix it is to replace the lower knuckle of the column - even then it’s not always resolved. Try any prospective purchase from lock-to-lock on a test drive and listen out for clunks, though even new, low mileage T5 models often exhibit this knocking. Volkswagen is aware of the issue and is apparently working on a fix.

Any knocking from the suspension can be related to the bushes, while rear springs are known to fail. Check around the engine for oil leaks, particularly around the camshaft oil seal and oil pump. The 2.5 TDI is gear-driven, while the 1.9 TDI is belt-driven and needs a new cambelt every four years or 40,000 miles and will cost around £300 to £400 fitted.

Servicing should be every 20,000 miles or 2 years, a service costing anywhere between £180-£250 depending on mileage. Drive shaft splines are known to fail, if so you’ll be looking at a circa £400 bill to replace them.

What to watch  

  • If there’s rust it will have been damaged at some point. The T5 is very resistant to rot, even around common areas. Any rot, look at another one instead.
  • Don’t ignore any vibrations when it’s running, the dual mass flywheel is prone to failing, catch it early and it will cost you less.
  • The steering column in the T5 is known to knock. It’s a long-standing problem that Volkswagen has apparently yet to resolve. It doesn’t affect all T5 vans, but beware when buying one.
  • There really is no reason to buy a T5 without a full service history. People love these vans, and as a consequence keep them serviced. If there aren't stamps in the book then it’s been neglected at some point.
  • Window leaks are common. It's a good idea to keep any drain holes cleaned out. Pooling water can cause problems with the electrics. 
  • There has been reports of problems with the 2.0bi-turbo engine - apparently there is a known oil pressure issue with this engine, normally evidenced by a 'loud knocking noise'.

Looking for more used van buying guides? Click here

Volkswagen Transporter T5 (2)

Where can I get a van history check for a Volkswagen Transporter?

Many companies offer a van history data check and we’d recommend using one, even if a used car seller says this has already been carried out. Better to spend a few pounds and be safe than sorry – and checks can be carried out online, via mobile phone or by apps on tablet PCs.

HPI Check Download (1)

HPI is the best-known vehicle history check companies - so much so that "HPI check" has become the generic term for checking a car's background.

There are two levels of cover: basic and the full HPI check. The basic service will tell you whether it has finance outstanding, has been stolen or written-off and has been exported/imported.

The full HPI check has a £30,000 guarantee and adds:  finance agreement details, mileage discrepancies, MoT history, write-off details, number of previous owners, CO2, Vehicle Tax info, stolen Logbook check, if it's recorded as scrapped, market valuation, past/future values and full plate change history.

HPI offers a clone check on its full HPI check service.

How much does an HPI History Check cost?

There are two levels of pricing for an HPI car history check - £9.99 for the basic service and £19.99 for the full HPI check. 

As with other vehicle history check providers, there's a discount on offer for multiple checks. HPI charges £29.97 for three checks that can be redeemed within three years.

 

Single check cost

Multiple check cost

Basic HPI check*

£9.99

-

Full HPI check*

£19.99

£29.97 (for three)

My Car Check  Mycarcheck (1)

My Car Check is a well-established car (and other vehicle) history check provider. It has been operating since 2005 and performs more than a million look-ups every day.

It's one of the cheaper on the market, with £3.99 and £12.99 history check options. The basic check will tell you if it's stolen, exported, a write-off, scrapped, its vehicle details, a valuation and MoT status and history. Go for the full check and you'll get a report into the vehicle's finance history and a £30,000 guarantee.

How much does a My Car Check Car report cost?

There are three levels of pricing for My Car Check, including - unusually in this market - a free option. This checks the vehicle's details, MoT history and gives a valuation

The basic level of history check is £3.99, its full-service options are a single check for £12.99, a three bundle for £19.99 and the five bundle is £24.99.

READER OFFER: Get an extra 10% discount on a full history check, 3 or 5 bundle if you use voucher code HJ10 at the checkout.

 

Single check cost

Multiple check cost

Free history check*

Free

-

Basic history check*

£3.99

-

Full history check*

£12.99

£19.99 (for three); £24.99 (for five); £74.99 (for 20)

Total Car Check History ChecksTotal Car Check Copy

Total Car History may not be the best-known of the vehicle history and data check companies, but it does claim to be the cheapest full check - both for individual checks and those done as a multiple. 

How much does a Total Car History Check cost?

The basic check will confirm basic details, such as mileage and MoT history, while the £8.99 full check will tell you if it has been written off, has outstanding finance, scrapped, VIN check, stolen, a valuation and a £30,000 guarantee.

 

Single check cost

Multiple check cost

Silver Basic Check*

£1.99

-

Gold Full Check*

£8.99

£14.99 (for three)

Volkswagen T5 Transporter Pricing

The T5 has been around over a decade and strong sales means there are plenty around. Prices start at around £3500 for the earliest, these likely to be hard-worked, poorly looked after or galactic mileage models.

Around £5000 starts to get you better looked after examples, even basic panel vans are desirable at this price as many convert to campers. Combis, with second row seating make good family vehicles and command premiums, some sellers asking strong money for them. It’s not uncommon to see £30,000 T5s for sale, the desirable California camper often costing another £10,000 on top of that.  

To find the latest deals, visit: Honest John Vans For Sale

Volkswagen _transporter _main

What we said

As you would expect of a Volkswagen, build quality is excellent and the Transporter enjoys some of the best residual values in its class. It’s also well equipped and every model comes with ESP traction control, hill hold control and driver and passenger airbags.

Helping the Transporter further its case as a fine van for driving is its supple suspension that makes light work of most battle-scarred roads. Even when fully loaded, the Volkswagen is more than able to deal with speed bumps and ruts with calm efficiency."

Ask HJ

What's the knocking in my 2008 Volkswagen Transporter?

What's the knocking in my 2008 Volkswagen Transporter?
Knocking noises are usually related to the suspension. Bushes and rear springs are common failure areas on the Volkswagen Transporter T5. Alternatively, if knocking is heard from the steering, then you might need to replace the lower part of the column. For the full list of known issues with the Transporter T5, see: https://vans.honestjohn.co.uk/van-reviews/volkswagen/transporter-t5-2003/?section=good
Answered by Dan Powell
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