What is our primary objective in owning a Kombi? Well, I hope that having fun is the top reason. That may be the enjoyment of driving it, the mass attention you receive anywhere you go with it, the brother/sisterhood that you become a part of or any other aspect of enjoyment. However, we can lose sight of the fact that this is a significant amount of money in an asset.
As I’m sure you’re aware from my previous posts, I highly recommend doing a restoration as opposed to simply buying a Kombi from Brazil as there are quite a few things you would need to worry about. Could you buy an “as-is” kombi and then flip it for a few grand? Maybe (and likely “probably” if you hold on to it for 5-10 years given the market), BUT for just a little more, you could have an asset that you KNOW is not a bondo bus and you can see the entire process.
Of course we don’t want our bus to deteriorate due to shortcuts from a previous restoration but when you think about it with your left brain, that’s profit lost down the road. Most of us buy a kombi for the enjoyment of it but believe it or not, some folks are buying them as a hedge against inflation or just another piece to diversify their portfolio. I’m sure they enjoy at least the occasional Sunday drive but that is the other end of the investment spectrum when it comes to VW buses.
No one can predict what the market will do but just take a look at some facts. The market for VW buses skyrocketed in 2012 when a rare German bus sold for $212,000. Brazilian buses then became highly sought after because “normal folks” could afford them. This year, a Brazilian made VW bus auctioned for over $100k. I can tell you as someone with his ear to the ground helping folks buy Brazilian buses that the market has not cooled a bit. Every six months, I seem to be shocked at what suppliers are asking for builds. Now, the fact that the market hasn’t baked in yet (and this is IMPORTANT)…THERE ARE NOT AN ENDLESS SUPPLY OF BRAZILIAN VW BUSES!
You can go look at my first post explaining the history of the VW bus in Brazil (https://vwbusguy.com/the-story-of-the-kombi-bus/). One bullet point to know to understand the supply issue to come is that Brazil didn’t produce a lot of buses relatively until VW decided to ship all their parts and machinery for the split window bus from their Wolfsburg factory to Sao Bernardino do Campo (just south of São Paulo). The bay window came into production in 1968. VW continued to produce the split window bus in Brazil until 1975. Starting in 2014 or so, exporting split window buses to Europe and the US started to become a major industry akin to an actual gold rush. What happens when all the gold has been mined?
Simple supply and demand rules can tell you the answer to that. It could very well be that the price stabilizes but when folks really want something AND they have the money, the market adjusts. My opinion is that prices will go up from where they are now. Then, we’ll reach an equilibrium where those that want to cash in on their profit will sell their kombis and the price will stabilize there.
To wrap it up, if you have an asset that can appreciate the way the market is right now, why not pay that little extra to get your kombi done right so you’ll maximize that investment. I’m not even biased here as it would be a heck of a lot easier for me to tell folks to just buy an as is bus since they’re more affordable (in the short term) and can be shipped sooner than a restored bus. I’m a firm believer though that doing it the right way will always get you ahead in the end.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me via IG, through my site or give me a holler.
Owner, VW Bus Guy