Used Volkswagen Transporter T5 buying guide

When the Volkswagen Transporter T4 ceased production in 2003, the commercial vehicle market waited with bated breath. Would the T5 live up to it’s predecessor? Many other manufactures were suffering with quality issues during this time due to cut backs, quality control didn’t seem a priority, would Volkswagen follow suit?

The T4 was an incredibly successful model and it lead the way for more refined commercial vehicles, creating a new benchmark. With this increase in quality, many more people started using the Transporter as an everyday vehicle. The T4 behaved more like a car, it would cruise happily at 70mph with respectable economy, relatively quiet too. There were various models and engine types, the most notable was the 2.5 TDI.

This particular engine was famous for it’s effortless torque and reliability, able to cover half a million miles with low maintenance. This proven powerplant was so reliable Volvo and Audi used it in their vehicles.

Volkswagen Transporter T5Launched in 2002 with official production in 2003, the Volkswagen Transporter T5 offered 2 engine types for the UK market. The 1.9 TDI PD and the 2.5 TDI PD, both having various power outputs. The T5 model featured an in-dash gear shift which dramatically reduced cabin noise, there were 3 gearbox types 5 and 6 speed manual and DSG automatic. The build quality was far superior to it’s processors and way ahead of it’s class.

In 2004, the T5 won most prestigious van of the year and many other awards throughout it’s reign, once again Volkswagen raised the benchmark, an iconic vehicle through and through, however it wasn’t without it’s problems.

If you’re looking to purchase a used Volkswagen Transporter T5, there are some basic steps that apply to the purchase of any used vehicle that we’ve put together in simple steps.

Vehicle check – Vehicle checks can be carried out online, a simple fast way to check a vehicles history including mileage, whether the vehicle has any finance outstanding or any markers with insurance companies ‘total loss’ and any claims against the vehicle.

  • HPI – You can carry a HPI check out online by clicking here.
  • MOT and history check – You can check the vehicles MOT status free by clicking here, this also gives a brief history of the mileage, click here and enter your vehicle details.
  • Service history – It’s imperative to have service history, this not only confirms the vehicles has been maintained to the manufactures schedule, it can also be a guide for checking to see if the mileage is genuine.
  • Professional vehicle check – We strongly recommend this method as it will give you complete peace of mind, especially if you’re buying privately. This thorough inspection will not only check the vehicles mileage and if it’s been involved in an accident, an AA check will also include mechanical tests to see if the vehicle has been well maintained.

Spot check

Here’s a brief list of common faults on the Volkswagen T5:


  • Ensure the vehicle has had a recent toothed belt change including water pump and tensioner. The water pump and tensioner are just as important as the toothed belt as they are prone to failure after exceeding their serviceable term. So please look for all of these items not just the belt. Our recommendation would be to have them changed by a Volkswagen specialist using genuine parts, it may seem a bit extreme however it will instill pure peace of mind.
  • Check to see if the vehicle is running smooth, even with high mileage vehicles, if maintained correctly the Transporter powerplants should be silent and smooth, if there are issues on idle, they could be:
    • Fly wheel – Duel mass flywheels are prone to failure, unfortunately this is one of the weak sport of the T5. The Solution – replace with a genuine Volkswagen component or a solid state aftermarket model. his will cause vibrations, hunting issue on idle and juddering when pulling away and changing gear.
  • Steering column – to test the steering, try lock to lock, it should be smooth without any noises.
    • Whining – this will be the pump, could be due to poor servicing or on high mileage vehicles wear and tear, this can cost in excess of £500 to put right.
    • Knock on lock to lock, this can be the steering rack, again this can cost up to a £1000 to rectify.
  • 2.5 Models – It pains us to say this however the 2.5 PD TDI engine is prone to so many issues we strongly advise you to either steer clear or have a full inspection by trusted firm such as the AA or RAC, many local garages and specialists can carry this out too. The 2.5 engine was such a problem, Volkswagen finally discontinued the power plant from it’s range replacing with a the Bi-Turbo PD TDI unit. Here’s a list of issues the 2.5 PD TDI suffer from
    • Cylinder heads AXE, AXD and BNZ models –  Budget around £2000 for replacement.
    • Injectors – Common with many issues, budget around £700 each for genuine replacements.
    • Camshaft – Camshaft failure is one of the most common issues due to poor servicing, not using the recommended engine oil at the correct interval. Replacing the camshaft is terminal in our opinion.


The T5 is now maturing so inevitability there are going to be vehicles out there that have minor rust issues. As the T5 is now approaching 15 years old you would expect to see some rust issues however nothing major, the T5 never suffered from serious rust issues due to it’s galvanized and well protected body. If there are severe rust issues this could be due to a poor repair. Check the colour match, door gaps, door shut and panel gaps, ensure the’re all even, a quick and easy way to check this is with a pound coin and make sure the gap is even from top to bottom.


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