First and foremost, find a good Vanagon mechanic to give the van a pre-purchase inspection including a compression test of the engine. This should run around $90, but could be the best $90 you spend.
If you are looking for a good deal and aren’t in a rush, take your time. We found ours on Craigslist which, in our opinion, is the best place to get a deal, but also perhaps the most riskiest (which is why a pre-purchase inspection is so important!). Using the Craigslist app for iPhone, we constantly scoured Vanagon listings in all areas of the East Coast. It took us about 1-2 months of searching to find our van. Regarding dealers, we believe that GoWesty is the best and most reputable.
Our van didn’t appear clean and beautiful with its exterior rust, plus the interior was REALLY dirty (we had it detailed multiple times and cleaned it ourselves). However, a mechanic put it up on a lift and saw that it was solid and mechanically in decent shape. Most importantly the cylinders were all strongly firing. So, we bought it.
Note: If you go with a Vanagon (here are some reasons why we bought a VW Vanagon), regardless of how clean it appears, it will definitely need maintenance.
If you’re interested in learning more about the costs of Van Life, watch the quick video below, or you can read our blog post about van life costs.