So when do you call it a bus? When is it called a van?

2y ago


So, if you go to most car enthusiast and say "I'm thinking of buying a VW Van", the first words they utter will probably be "It's called a bus"..........Why?

VW Microbus

So VW vans are called buses, or is it VW buses are considered vans? Either way, I'm already confused and I'm no more then two lines into this article. No matter the wording, back in 1950 Volkswagen released to the world the first "MicroBus". Actually, the DKW Schnellaster had put out the DKW F89 L in 1949, but they called it just a van. So the first microbus was actually called just a van, even though it actually was a microbus in denial. Or was it that the VW microbus was a van in denial? I am now two handfuls of hair balder.


The term "mini-van" didn't come about until the 1980s with the Dodge Caravan. Though Ford did have a concept kicking around in the early 1970s called the Carousel. They where touting it as a "garagable van" though, not as a Bus.

Ford Carousel Concept

First Gen Dodge Caravan

So, you would think you could conduce that all Volkswagen vans are considered "buses" and anything else is just a van. Nope, that would be a misconception. If you speak with most VW bus fanatics, they will roll their eyes if anything past the Type 3 is called a "Bus". They themselves, have a big debate amongst each other on what the designation should be.

2014 VW Bus?

So, being a Volkswagen "Bus" driver myself, I posted the same question to my trusted VW bus fans on various online forums to see if I could find that elusive answer. The forums combusted into a sea of savage flames accusing one another on not knowing the true facts and others calling the next one "idiot".

VW VANagon "Bus"?

The best answer that I could find was, "If you sit on the front seat, it's a bus. If you sit behind it, then it's a van." Which made perfect sense to me.......wait, no it doesn't. The early "Vans" of the 50s and 60s had similar setups as the Volkswagen type 2 and I don't remember any of them being called a "Bus".

Early GMC Van

So in conclusion, I'm am now bald and still clueless. Is there an answer to this aged old question? The world, may never know, and I sure as has hell don't.

1990 Chevy Van

Join in

Comments (2)
  • It´s quite simple (at least I think so): Does it have windows on the side-walls and on the back? Then it is a bus. Does it have solid walls and a solid back-door, it is a van. Think about the A-Team-van. Nobody ever said, it was a bus...

    6 months ago
  • I drive a 1978 VW Bus and yes, to me it is a bus. There are many arguments that can be made for or against, this is just my personal feeling. It's a bus because you sit over the front wheels, like you said, and also it has a large, flat steering wheel. Once you've driven a bus, you'll realize there is nothing else quite like it. From sitting up high in the seat to the large flat windshield, which gives you an almost movie theater-like view of the road, this is not an experience you can replicate in a van.

    I know a lot of people use the terms interchangeably, and rarely do I try and correct someone if they call my bus a van. But look no further than VW's own advertising and dealer literature from the 50s-70s and nowhere will you see the word "van" appear. They were actually referred to a lot as station wagons in the early days, since that was their target market and they often boasted about how much more cargo/people you could haul vs. a standard wagon.

    I'm not sure exactly the word "bus" made its way into the conversation but I think like "beetle" before it, the term originated from what most people used to describe it and it just stuck from there.

    Now what about the Vanagon? It has to be a van because it has the word "van" in the name, right? Well to me, this is still a bus. It meets the same criteria of having a large, flat steering wheel, the driver's seat over the front wheels, and a large, flat windshield. Also, Volkswagen produced an emblem for the rear that says, quite simply, "BUS". The part number is 255853689 if you want to look it up.

    2 years ago


5 things you didn’t know about The Grand Tour Game