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CHOOSING YOUR VAN

The most common vans used in van conversions are the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge ProMaster. We’ll break down some pros and cons, and some similarities and differences of each van below – hopefully it helps!

MERCEDES SPRINTER

The Sprinter is the most popular van used in van conversions as they’ve been around the longest. Because of this there are plenty of Conversion layouts and tips already available online. The Sprinter can come in 3 different roof heights (Normal, Medium, and High) and the tall-roofed option comes in 3 different lengths. It is also available in 4x4. Most Sprinters are diesel engines, which are known for their power, good fuel-economy, and for being long-lasting. The latest Sprinter van versions are now available as both diesel OR gasoline engines.

PROS:

  • Many conversion layouts, etc. already online

  • 3 roof heights AND 3 van lengths

  • Longest van option on the market

  • Available in 4x4

  • Diesel Engine (Now with the option for both Gasoline OR Diesel)

  • Tried and True for Vanlife – There’s a reason they’re the most popular!

CONS:

  • High starting cost

  • Maintenance can be pricy and parts harder to find

  • Usually repairs need to be done at a dealer or specialized repair shop (more $$$)

  • Does not have highest roof option

FORD TRANSIT

Although Sprinter Vans have been around the longest and are the most popular for van life, the Ford Transit is becoming increasingly more popular amongst the Van Life enthusiasts. The Transit is known for its similar size and look to the Sprinter as it also comes in three different roof heights and lengths. The Transit comes at less of a cost when comparing it to the Sprinter. The Transit does not have a 4x4 option, but it does have an all-wheel drive option. If you’re in America, unlike the Sprinter, the Transit can be repaired by pretty much any mechanic and its parts are usually much more readily available.

PROS:

  • Cheaper than Sprinters

  • In the U.S. Transits can be repaired by almost any mechanic (less $$ + more options)

  • Available in All-Wheel Drive

  • 3 Roof Heights AND 3 van length options

  • Higher roof than Sprinter

CONS:

  • Not as long as the Sprinter (and other van options)

  • Not as Wide as the ProMaster (and other van options)

  • Harder to find used vans

  • All-Wheel Drive Transits are only in 2020 models and up

  • Transits are not available with diesel engines if that is something you’re looking for

DODGE PROMASTER

The ProMaster has become popular lately with the VanLife community. The widest of the VanLife options, the ProMaster’s 159” wheelbase allows for a standard full-size bed to fits from passenger side to driver side of the vehicle. When planning your van design, it will become evident that the sleeping arrangement can take up either a lot of room, or a lot of time for the break down/set up design. This is a definite advantage in my opinion. ProMasters are also made in Front-Wheel Drive, unlike the Sprinter and the Transit, which supposedly allows for better handling in snowy conditions and better fuel efficiency. 

PROS:

  • Widest Van option allowing you to fit a standard full-size bed in the WIDTH of the vehicle

  • Has a very boxy frame, which can make it easy to work with in the conversion process

  • Lowest starting cost

  • Front Wheel Drive may allow for better handling in snowy conditions and higher MPGs

CONS:

  • Front Wheel Drive is the only option

  • Harder to find used vans as they’re newer on the market

  • I’ve read that they have a tendency to have mechanical issues (A warranty and good maintenance will hopefully help to address this)

WHAT ARE YOUR NEEDS?

LONGEST- Mercedes Sprinter

WIDEST- Dodge ProMaster

HIGHEST- Ford Transit

If you’re looking at getting a van for your adventure vehicle, or for “Van Life” chances are you’ll need some sort of sleeping arrangement, but there are other things to think about as well. Vans can have anything from lights, electrical outlets, a kitchen, running water, fans, heating/ A/C, TV’s, toilets, etc. These are all important things to keep in mind when starting your Van Build.

 

How much room do you need? This will usually depend on how many people will be staying in the van and for how long. You’ll want your time in your new van to be enjoyable, so taking into consideration how many people will be in the van, how long they’ll be in the van and what accommodations you’ll want to make your time in the van the most pleasant is important stuff.

 

To-date, we’ve built out 2 vans. One is a 2009 Ford E350 and the other a 2017 Mercedes Sprinter. The Ford was the first van build and was done on a tight budget. The second van build was done on a Sprinter and on a much larger budget. 

 

We’ve done hours and hours of research on how to get the most out of a small budget (I’m talking in the hundreds, NOT thousands, of dollars). We’ve also done hours and hours of research on how to effectively and efficiently maximize a larger budget to get your Van Build to be the beautiful, cozy home-on-wheels you’ve always wanted. Not only have we done the research, but we’ve DONE IT! We’ve done both van conversions from scratch and we have tons of information to share with you. From How-To’s, to Do’s and Don’t’s, Tips & Tricks and much more. After all the different websites, videos, books, etc. we figured it’d be extremely helpful to have a site that would give you all the information you need in the most organized way possible. This website is EXACTLY what I wished there was when we started our Van Build, so hopefully others find it helpful too!