Whats the best van? - Sprinter vs Transit vs Promaster - Van Conversion Comparison Guide

DIY Van Conversion Guide: Whats the best van for a van conversion

Welcome to our comprehensive guide comparing the top players in the van conversion game - the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ram Promaster. Sure, there are other vehicles, but these are the best of the best when it comes to camper vans.

Whether you're a seasoned van lifer or a newbie looking to dip your toes into the freedom of the open road, our detailed comparison will help you make an informed decision. We've leveraged our experience and insights from industry professionals to bring you a head-to-head comparison of these popular camper vans.

Remember, choosing the right van is a crucial first step for your bespoke van conversion. So, gear up as we delve into the specifics of each van model, aiding you in your quest for the perfect van life. Make sure to keep reading our blog for more insightful content about DIY van conversions, professional conversion companies, and more.

Our mission is to provide you with the best resources to help you embark on your van life journey.

Buckle in and get your notebook out, we're going on an adventure!

Here's your crash course template on purchasing a conversion van:

  1. Overview of the Mercedes Benz Sprinter
  2. Pros and Cons of a Mercedes Sprinter van conversion
  3. Overview of the Ford Transit
  4. Pros and Cons of a Ford Transit van conversion
  5. Overview of the Dodge Ram Promaster
  6. Pros and cons of a Dodge Promaster van conversion
  7. A recap comparison between the three main conversion vans
  8. 2WD VS 4X4 VS AWD van conversions
  9. Gas vs Diesel van conversions
  10. Campervan towing capabilites
  11. Important questions to ask yourself

Want more great advice & content delivered to you weekly?

Join our free weekly newsletter! You'll receive weekly video blogs with more actionable advice, tricks, and behind the scenes work that happens in our custom van conversion shop!

Without further adieu, Let’s d(r)ive in.

What’s the best van chassis to convert a van conversion?

Mercedes Sprinter Van Conversion Overview

    sprinter van conversion

    Mercedes Benz Sprinter van conversion details:

    Ah yes, the ever-so-popular custom sprinter van conversion! The Mercedes Benz Sprinter van is a popular choice for van conversion enthusiasts, largely due to its blend of performance, comfort, and customization possibilities. Known for its robust build quality and reliability, the Sprinter van offers superior handling and performance, making it an excellent choice for both city driving and more adventurous off-road trips.

    Sprinters are spacious

    One of the standout features of a Sprinter van is its spacious interior with its longer wheelbase options, which can be customized extensively to fit individual needs. This makes it perfect for those planning to live the van life full time, as it can accommodate a range of amenities like a fully equipped kitchen, a comfortable bed, and even a compact bathroom.

    Sprinter vans offer the largest interior cargo space leaving you plenty of room for extra amenities and activities when creating your custom camper vans layout. The 170" wheelbase can comfortably fit a family of 4 and fit most of the amenities you’d need in an adventure vehicle with room to spare. There's plenty of standing height in the Sprinter as well, we break down the dimensions below.

    Mercedes is pricy

    However, popularity comes with a price. The Mercedes Benz Sprinter van is often more expensive upfront compared to other van options. This higher initial cost is something to consider, especially for those on a tight budget. Additionally, maintaining a Sprinter can be more intricate owing to its advanced engineering. Therefore, finding a mechanic well-versed in Mercedes vehicles might be necessary, which could potentially lead to higher maintenance costs.

    Choosing a Mercedes Sprinter van for your custom conversion involves careful consideration of these factors. But for many, the benefits of a spacious, comfortable, and high-performing van outweigh the additional costs, making it a popular choice in the van life community.

    The Sprinter van arguably offers the best-looking exterior for a stock cargo van in addition to the most options for aftermarket parts from companies like Aluminess, which specializes in van conversion accessories.

    Overall, the Sprinter van conversion is the most popular option for most van lifers and for good reason. We've converted them before and continue to do so!

     sprinter van conversion in canada

    Sprinter Van conversion PROS:

    • Until Ford came out with the AWD Transit van in 2020, the Sprinter Van was the only van with a factory 4x4 or AWD option. 
    • Sprinter vans hold their value extremely well for resale value.
    • Diesel gives you the option for a Webasto or Espar heating system.  without building an auxiliary diesel tank.
      • NOTE: There are now Petrol/Gas air heater systems that make this a pro for all van models, regardless of fuel type.
    • Better than average MPG in the 6-cyl diesel.
    • More availability in aftermarket van parts like roof racks, ladders, tire carriers, bumpers and more.
    • Sprinter vans are known for their longevity so you can go further for longer in your van conversion.

    Sprinter Van conversion CONS:

    • A Mercedes vehicle comes with a higher cost upfront and maintenance fees. If anything happens with the electrical systems it is going to cost a lot more than if you owned a vehicle from Dodge or Ford. Even oil changes are more (however they last longer).
    • When it comes to service, there are far fewer Mercedes dealerships than a Fiat Chrysler Dodge or a Ford shops. In saying that, this is not taking into account any specialized import vehicle mechanics. However, from experience, the rates at shops like this are often more expensive.
      • Mercedes dealerships (21 in Canada, 370 in the USA).
      • Ford dealerships (440 in Canada, 2500 in the USA).
      • Dodge dealerships (400+ in Canada, 3000 in the USA).
    • If you opt for a diesel sprinter van conversion, you need to think about where you’ll be travelling. It’s harder to travel to more southern countries where diesel and low-sulphur fuel are less-available. With that, the quality that is available isn't what Mercedes recommends for use in their vehicles.
    • The dreaded DEF debate. You can read more on this here.

    Mercedes sprinter van interior dimensions 

    Upfit Supply - Mercedes Sprinter 144 van interior dimensions


    Upfit Supply - Sprinter 170 cargo van interior dimensions

    Upfit Supply - Sprinter 170 EXT cargo van interior dimensions

    Credit: Upfit supply

    Mercedes sprinter van exterior dimensions 

     Mercedes sprinter van exterior dimensions

    Credit: FVCO

    Sprinter van overview summary

    In conclusion, the Mercedes Sprinter van stands out as one of the top choices for van conversion enthusiasts due to its impressive handling, spacious interior, and multitude of customization options. Despite its higher upfront cost and potentially elevated maintenance fees, the Sprinter's benefits often outweigh these drawbacks for many in the van life community. The Sprinter's ability to maintain its value, its longevity, and the array of aftermarket parts available make it an appealing choice. Still, careful thought should be given to factors like geographical travel plans, availability of service centers, cost of ownership and fuel type before deciding on a Mercedes Sprinter van conversion.

    Ford Transit Van Conversion Overview

    Ford transit van conversion

    You may be wondering for yourself... I thought Ford produced cargo vans that were shorter and boxier. You'd be right. They manufacture the E series vans also known as the Ford Econoline. They've upgraded those gas-guzzling, turnin' like a tank, short vans that you needed a pop-top campervan or roof cap with these beautiful Ford Transit cargo vans.

    Did you know that Ford has released an all-new 2023 Ford Transit Trail directed right at people like you and me who are looking for a van conversion?

    It's pretty awesome, check out our blog post on it here.

    The Ford Transit van conversion is gaining popularity with van lifers, especially since 2020 after they came out with the AWD cargo van to rival the 4x4 Sprinter van. With the gain in popularity, so grows the popularity of aftermarket parts. Companies like Aluminuss, Flat Line Van Co, Backwoods Adventure Mods, and more, are quickly making amazing aftermarket Ford Transit van conversion parts.

    Ford Transits are affordable luxury

    We love the fact that Ford Transits are much more affordable than the Mercedes Sprinters and still come with an 'intelligent AWD' option for those tougher terrains like we have up here in Canadian winters. Additionally, Fords can be fixed everywhere at any mechanic unlike import cars, especially Sprinters.

    The biggest knock on the Transits, which will be fixed over time, is that there are no used ones because it's so new. They've only been manufactured since 2014. Additionally, there's the never-ending Dodge vs Ford debate in the truck community which, of course, boils into the van conversion community which brings Mercedes into the mix.

    With Ford offering an AWD model and easier-to-obtain service, more and more of our clients have switched their decisions from Sprinter van conversion to Ford Transit conversions.

    Although the AWD option is attractive, the affordability up front, lower maintenance costs, mechanic availability and the eco-boost engine have the Ford Transit throwing a pretty heavy counter punch at the Sprinter Vans for first place.

    Example: Check out our most recent Ford Transit Van Conversion here.

    ford transit trail van conversion

    Smaller but growing aftermarket upgrade segment

    When comparing Transits to Sprinters, one noticeable drawback is the limited options available for upgrading interior and exterior colors and materials. While Sprinters provide an array of customization options, Transits tend to lag behind. However, it's worth noting that there is still a decent market for aftermarket accessories, including Transit roof racks, to personalize your van.

    Used AWD Ford Transits are hard to come by

    Used AWD Transits are also more difficult to come across. Ford only introduced the AWD option in 2020, a feature that Sprinter has boasted for many years. If you're aiming for a used AWD Transit, it may take a bit more searching and patience.

    Sprinter vs Transit considerations

    Another factor to consider is the clearance offered by Transits. Compared to Sprinters, Transits feature less clearance, which may make them unsuitable for rugged terrain. If you plan to take your van off the beaten path, this is a point worth considering.

    Finally, it's important to note that Transits are typically less fuel-efficient than Sprinters. While Sprinters are renowned for their impressive fuel economy, Transits may not fare as well in this regard, even with the Ecoboost. If fuel efficiency is a crucial factor for you, it's worth bearing this in mind if you don't mind going the Diesel route.

    Ford Transit Van Conversion Pros:

    • Ford Transits have the tallest roofs available in a factory van. So if you're tall, this choice may be a no-brainer for your van conversion. Even if you're not tall, that little extra space might make a world of difference to you!
    • The Eco-boost engine is awesome, they have a lot of power and are fantastic on fuel getting similar MPG to that of the 6-cylinder diesel Sprinter.
    • As of 2020, Ford has an AWD option, so you are no longer limited to the Sprinter van for 4x4/AWD van conversion options.
    • Availability of service. Plenty of dealerships and mechanic shops can work on these vans and they are cheap to have work done on.
    • The new Ford Transit Trail is geared towards custom camper van conversions. It has quite a few options geared towards van builders and custom vans in general, saving the consumer money from adding aftermarket suspension, and side steps, for example.

    Ford Transit Van Conversion Cons:

    • With the long body van chassis, they have a long rear end overhang (having the shortest wheelbase in the longer options available between the three competitors) so the rear end can scrape coming out of driveways or be a hindrance when going off the beaten path. It's highly recommended to get a levelling kit or suspension upgrade.
    • The wheel wells are small so it makes adding aftermarket van conversion accessories and wheels a bit more challenging, but doable.
    • Their manufacturing timelines are incredibly slow

    dixie the transit conversion

    Ford Transit wheelbase options:

    The three different wheelbase options for the Ford Transit van are:

    • 148" wheelbase with a Mid Roof
    • 148" wheelbase with a High Roof
    • 148" extended wheelbase with a High Roof

    We stick to the 148 wheelbases, both regular and extended length, for most of our conversions. It offers plenty of room to fit everything you need for 2 full-time adventurers with some space to spare. However, we have also made Ford transit van conversions to seat and sleep 4!

      Ford Transit interior dimensions

      Upfit supply - Ford Transit 148 interior dimensions

      Credit: Upfit Supply

      Ford Transit exterior dimensions

       FVCO ford transit exterior dimensions

      Credit: FVCO

      Ford Transit summary

      The Ford Transit van has emerged as an attractive and viable option for camper conversions, providing a budget-friendly alternative to the popular Mercedes Sprinter. Notable for its tall roof, robust Eco-boost engine, and 'intelligent AWD' feature suited for tough terrains, the Transit is increasingly favoured by outdoor enthusiasts and van lifers. Though it may not offer as much customization as the Sprinter and the availability of used AWD models is relatively low, its affordability, accessible maintenance, and efficient fuel consumption make it a strong contender. Worth mentioning is the new Ford Transit Trail edition, designed specifically with camper conversions in mind.

      However, potential challenges include a long rear-end overhang with the long body chassis and smaller wheel wells, which may complicate the addition of aftermarket conversion accessories.

      Dodge Ram Promaster Van Conversion Overview

      dodge promaster van conversion

      Yes, the Dodge Sprinter was a thing. Now it's the Mercedes Sprinter and the Dodge Ram Promaster. Confusing right?

      Well, these vans are not alike. In fact, they have quite a few differences. Like the Ford Transit, Promaster vans are much more affordable than the Sprinter van. The Ram Promaster is the most affordable van you buy for your camper van conversion. So if you're a budget-conscious van DIYer, this should be a no-brainer choice.

      Ram Promasters are the most budget-friendly campervan

      The big attraction to the Ram Promaster, besides being the most affordable, is that it's the widest van chassis, allowing you to sleep sideways without adding flares (depending on your height).

      Our clients love the fact that Dodge, along with Ford, are much more affordable and easily maintained when compared to the Mercedes Sprinters. The width and straight walls are additional bonuses.

      Promasters offer FWD but no 4x4 or AWD

      The biggest problem with the Promaster van conversion, for most, is that there’s no option for 4x4 or AWD. I've talked to a couple 4x4 conversion companies and you cannot even convert these into a 4x4 van conversion, even if you wanted to, because of the way the chassis is built. However, if you are okay with a 2WD campervan, the Promaster offers FWD which is considered better than RWD.

      ram promaster campervan on the water edge

      Dodge Promaster Van Conversion Pros:

      • Promaster vans are the widest available cargo van, which makes side-to-side bedding a breeze - depending on your height you may not even need to add flares from Flarespace.
      • The turning radius on these vans is amazing for a cargo vehicle. Depending on what your intended use is, this may be beneficial for manoeuvring back roads and bushwacking. This is even noticeable in daily driving and super nice to have.
      • Plenty of dealerships and mechanic shops can work on these vans and they are cheap to have work done on.

      Dodge Promaster Van Conversion Cons:

      • There is no way to do an AWD or 4x4 conversion on the current Dodge Promaster models.
      • Less aftermarket accessories.
      • With no diesel option and a lower amount of power overall, these vans are not good for towing.
      • Overall, these vans have the smallest length for a van conversion at 140" in the interior. If you plan on having a lot of accessories or full-time living in this unit with multiple people, this van might not be for you.

      Ram Promaster wheelbase options:

      The Dodge Promaster comes in a few different wheelbase options. The different Promaster options are:

      • Promaster High Roof 136”
      • Promaster High Roof 159”
      • Promaster High Roof 159” Extended

        Dodge Promaster interior dimensions

        Upfit Supply - Ram Promaster 159 WB Interior Dimensions

        Upfit Supply - Ram Promaster 159X WB Interior Dimensions

        Credit: Upfit Supply

        Dodge Promaster exterior dimensions

        FVCO promaster exterior dimensions

        Credit FVCO

        Ram Promaster summary

        In the realm of campervan conversions, the Ram Promaster presents itself as an appealing choice, particularly for budget-conscious DIYers. Its main allure is its status as the most affordable option among its peers, the Ford Transit and the Mercedes Sprinter. Beyond affordability, the Promaster's standout feature is its wide chassis. This unique attribute allows for easy side-to-side bedding arrangements, potentially eliminating the need for additional flares. The vehicle's superior turning radius, wealth of mechanic shops capable of servicing it, and low maintenance costs are advantageous. However, it possesses notable drawbacks.

        The absence of AWD or 4x4 conversion options, a lesser range of aftermarket accessories, lower power for towing, and the smallest interior length among the three make it less versatile than the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter. Hence, while the Promaster shines in affordability and width, potential van-lifers must consider the trade-offs in power, customization, and interior space.

        Example: Check out our most recent Promaster van conversion here.

        Want more great advice & content delivered to you weekly?

        Join our free weekly newsletter! You'll receive weekly video blogs with more actionable advice, tricks, and behind the scenes work that happens in our custom van conversion shop!


        Sprinter vs. Transit vs. Promaster - Campervan cost comparison

        Price is indeed a crucial factor for most people considering a van conversion. While each van - Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster - has its unique advantages and disadvantages, their cost differences are significant and worth considering.

        Additionally, more often than not, camper van conversion companies will only work with Sprinter vans. So, before you purchase anything, talk to the van conversion company you plan to work with and see what Chassis the work on!

        Sprinter in the woods

        Sprinter Van Conversion Pricing - Most Expensive

        Mercedes Sprinter is undeniably the most expensive among the three options. The base price for a 2WD 2500 144" Wheelbase Sprinter Van is $62,000 Canadian dollars or $53,400 USD. As soon as you add AWD to your Sprinter (2023 and newer), the price increases by roughly $13,000 Canadian, or $10,000 USD. The high cost, easily crossing $75,000 USD or $100,000 Canadian with additional chassis features, is justified by its robust build, excellent driving experience, and premium brand name. However, the maintenance and repair costs can also be considerably higher than the other two options.

        transit in the trees

        Ford Transit Van Conversion Pricing - Mid-Range

        Ford Transit vans present a more affordable option when you consider the AWD or Trail packages. The base price for an entry level van with no ac The base price for a High Roof 2WD T250 148" Regular Length Transit Van is $62,000 Canadian or $52,000 USD. Its affordability doesn't compromise on quality, with many features geared towards van builders, like the Sprinter.

        The Ford Transit Trail, a new addition to the Transit lineup and only available in the United States as of updating this article, is specifically designed with completely custom van builds in mind. It offers numerous features that make it an ideal base for a camper van conversion, like a 3.5" lift kit, wider track width, black alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, skid plates, side nerf bars, and much more. With a solid start to exterior accessories, they leave you to finish the custom interior. A T250 148" Regular Length Ford Transit Trail starts at $68,000 USD.

        The maintenance costs are also relatively lower, making it a cost-effective choice for many.

        promaster in the pines

        Ram Promaster Van Conversion Pricing - Budget-Friendly

        Ram Promaster offers the lowest initial investment, with base price for a High Roof 2500 159" Wheelbase Regular Length Ram Promaster vargo van is $58,000 Canadian or $50,000 USD. It is the most budget-friendly option, toted by some to be the perfect van for DIYers. However, keep in mind that there might be fewer customization options, and it doesn't offer a 4x4 or AWD option.

        Price Recap

        In terms of a cost comparison, the three conversion vans - Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster - present a range of options catering to varied budget brackets. At the high end, the Mercedes Sprinter, with a base price of $53,400 USD, offers premier features and performance, but it comes with a higher purchase and maintenance cost. The Ford Transit, priced at $52,000 USD, provides a balance of affordability and quality features, making it an attractive mid-range option. Lastly, for those operating on a tighter budget or seeking a base for DIY projects, the Ram Promaster, priced at $50,000 USD, offers the lowest initial investment, despite having fewer customization options and lacking a 4x4 or AWD option.

        Additionally, it is essential to consider the specific needs, requirements, and budget constraints before making a decision. Each of these vans has a distinct set of features that cater to different needs, and finding the right balance between cost and functionality is key.

        Lastly, remember these prices are only for the base van and do not include the cost of custom builds or additional options on the vehicle itself, like the Trail package, or RV prep package, which will make life easier on you and your camper van conversion company. Each custom build will depend on what the van conversion company offers for custom designs. The build process and van specialties are different with each custom upfitter. It's critical to chat with several builders and know what you're looking for in your builder and you send a deposit to a camper van conversion company.

        Read our blog on what to look for in a camper van conversion company for some tips.

        Sprinter vs. Transit vs. Promaster - Fuel & Mechanical Comparison








        6 Cyl 3.0L Diesel


        7 Speed Auto




          4 Cyl 2.0L Gas


        9 Speed Auto




        Gas 3.5L V6 Eco Boost


        10 Speed Auto




        3.5L V6 Gas


        10 Speed Auto




        2.0L Turbo Diesel


        10 Speed Auto




        3.6L V6 Gas


        7 Speed Auto



        Why does this mechanical information matter?

        • It's nice to look at this chart to compare the vans for your conversion for a few reasons. If you are going to be towing gear or doing a lot of mountain driving, a transmission with more gears and a van with more torque is going to be beneficial.
        • An easy way to remember how this works is a quote from Tims Capital Trucking. "Torque does the work, but horsepower makes the work go fast".
        • A higher torque will allow you to tow more weight with lower RPMs which in turn results in greater fuel economy.


        Towing comparison

        It's nice to look at this chart to compare the vans for your conversion for a few reasons. If you are going to be towing gear or doing a lot of mountain driving, a transmission with more gears and a van with more torque is going to be beneficial.

        An easy way to remember how this works is a quote from Tims Capital Trucking. "Torque does the work, but horsepower makes the work go fast".

        A higher torque will allow you to tow more weight with lower RPMs which in turn results in greater fuel economy.

        When we delve into the towing capabilities of the Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster vans, we uncover another layer of their utility.

        The Mercedes Sprinter boasts a substantial towing capacity. The 2WD version can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is certainly considerable. When configured correctly, the Sprinter offers impressive towing performance despite its luxury status and higher cost.

        The Ford Transit, on the other hand, also offers a solid towing capacity. Depending on the model and configuration, it can tow between 4,600 and 7,500 pounds. This makes it a versatile choice for those who anticipate needing to tow heavier loads.

        Lastly, the Ram Promaster, despite its budget-friendly price tag, doesn't compromise on towing power. It has a towing capacity of 5,100 pounds, which is slightly more than the Mercedes Sprinter. This makes the Promaster a viable option for those planning DIY conversions who also need stout towing capabilities.

        In summary, all three vans - Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster - offer substantial towing capabilities, adding to their appeal as base vehicles for camper van conversions. However, the exact towing capacity can vary depending on the specific model and configuration, so it's important to consider your specific needs when choosing your van.

        Fuel Mileage

        Sprinter Fuel Mileage

        Prior to 2024, the Sprinter came in Diesel and Gas options. Gas offered a 4-cylinder model, and the diesel came in a 4 or 6-cylinder. As of 2024, Mercedes has eliminate the offering of Gas Sprinter vans altogether and only offers the 4-cylinder turbo-diesel.

        These vehicles are known for their impressive fuel economy, offering an average of around 16-18 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and up to 22 mpg on the highway. The Average is around 20 mpg. This makes them a highly efficient option for those planning long road trips or off-grid living. The added All-Wheel Drive (AWD) capabilities do not significantly impact the van's fuel efficiency, making the AWD Sprinter a solid choice for those planning to tackle challenging terrains without compromising on fuel economy.

        Transit Fuel Mileage

        The Ford Transits are available in both Gas and Diesel in their current offerings. Their 3.5L V6 Ecoboost is by far the most popular offering but they do offer a 2.0L turbo-diesel.

        Ford Transit's fuel economy varies with the choice of its engines. The popular 3.5L V6 Ecoboost engine, known for its robust performance, delivers an average of 15 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and about 19 mpg on the highway.

        On the other hand, the 2.0L Turbo-Diesel engine has similar fuel economy as the Sprinter. In conclusion, the choice between the two engines largely depends on the user's specific needs and preferences, be it power and performance or fuel efficiency.

        Promaster Fuel Mileage

        As you can see above, the Ram Promaster, powered by the 3.6L V6 engine, has a fuel economy that can be considered decent, considering its size and cargo capacity. It's noted to offer an average of 14-16 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving, and around 19-21 mpg on the highway for an average of 17 mpg. However, operators should be aware that towing heavy loads can significantly reduce the vehicle's mileage as it is underpowered compared to the other two van options.

        Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that actual fuel consumption will depend on specific driving conditions and habits, as well as the weight of the van’s build-out.

        Gas vs Diesel camper van

        Choosing between a gas or diesel camper van will significantly impact your travel experience and comfort. The type of fuel your vehicle uses can affect your van's heating options, where you can travel and the overall performance of your van.

        Espar, a popular heating system provider, offers both gas and diesel hydronic furnaces, providing flexibility for van owners. These furnaces are designed to provide consistent, efficient heating, making your camper van comfortable even in colder climates. The choice between a gas and diesel furnace will depend on the fuel type of your van, as it is more efficient to have a furnace that runs on the same fuel.

        When considering where you plan to travel, it's worth noting that quality diesel can be challenging to find below the American border. Therefore, if your travels will take you to Central or South America, a gas-powered van may be the more convenient option.

        As for performance, we've discussed towing and fuel economy above.

        In conclusion, the choice between a gas or diesel camper van will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and travel plans. It's essential to consider all these factors to make an informed decision that will serve you well on your adventures.

        Sprinter vs. Transit vs. Promaster - Warranty, Service & Cost of Ownership

        When it comes to warranties and service coverage, each van comes with its own set of offerings.

        The Mercedes Sprinter comes with a limited warranty that covers the vehicle for 3 years or up to 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Additionally, they offer a drivetrain warranty for up to 5 years or 100,000 miles. In terms of maintenance costs, Mercedes vehicles typically have higher costs associated with upkeep. It's estimated that over a period of 5 years, the average cost of maintaining a Sprinter van could range between $3,000 - $5,000 USD. In saying this, Mercedes does hold its value for longer periods of time than the competitive brands.

        The Ford Transit also offers a basic warranty for three years or 36,000 miles a 5-year or 100,000-mile warranty for its diesel engine. When it comes to maintenance, the Transit is generally less expensive than the Sprinter. Over the course of 5 years, the average cost of maintaining a Transit could be around $2,500 - $4,000 USD.

        Lastly, the Ram Promaster, like its competitors, offers a basic warranty of 3 years or 36,000 miles with . The Promaster's maintenance costs are relatively low, similar to the Transit, with an estimated 5-year cost ranging from $2,000 - $3,500 USD.

        In conclusion, while each van offers competitive warranties, the overall maintenance costs may play a significant role in long-term ownership. With a robust network of dealerships for each brand across the US and Canada, accessibility to service centers should not be an issue for any of the three vans.

        • Mercedes dealerships (21 in Canada, 370 in the USA).
        • Ford dealerships (440 in Canada, 2500 in the USA).
        • Dodge dealerships (400+ in Canada, 3000 in the USA).

        Recap of the best van to for van conversions:

        Mercedes Sprinter van conversions:

        • The Sprinter van has the longest available wheelbase and interior length available. This makes it a great starting point for you if you need the extra space.
        • Option for AWD
        • Lots of aftermarket accessories.
        • All camper van conversion companies work on Sprinters.
        • The most expensive van from the factory but holds its value.
        • More expensive maintenance and fewer dealerships for servicing.

        Ford Transit van conversions:

        • Highest van interior.
        • The option for AWD after 2020.
        • Mid-range price.
        • Lots of camper van conversion companies work on Transits.
        • Lots of aftermarket accessories
        • Some people don’t like their eco-boost engines.

        Dodge Ram Promaster van conversions:

        • Widest van interior.
        • The most affordable van conversion chassis.
        • Easiest DIY camper van
        • Does not come with a factory 4x4 or AWD option and at the moment, it is not possible to do an aftermarket 4x4 conversion.
        • FWD which actually isn't as beneficial as it sounds - most of your weight will be in the back in your campervan.
        • Not the most aesthetically pleasing cargo van until you put aftermarket accessories on it.
        • Fewer camper van conversion companies work on Promasters.

        Additional considerations before buying a camper van.

        What's my van conversion budget?

        Considering your budget is a crucial factor when building a campervan conversion. Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ram Promaster each fall into different price categories, thus offering various options for prospective buyers.

        Mercedes Sprinter conversions are on the higher end of the spectrum. Its price reflects its premium build quality, extended customization options, superior performance, longest van for conversions, and strong resale value. However, it does come with a high initial cost and potentially more complex maintenance.

        Ford Transit represents the middle ground in terms of price. It's a more affordable alternative to the Sprinter, yet provides excellent fuel efficiency, is easier to drive and park, and offers a decent amount of customization. However, it may have limited storage space compared to other options.

        Ram Promaster is the most affordable of the three, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious van converters. It boasts a fantastic cargo capacity, lower maintenance costs, and better handling due to its front-wheel drive. However, it has limited customization options, most importantly, no AWD, and may not provide as comfortable a ride as the other options.

        In conclusion, each of these vans has its strengths and weaknesses. Your budget can play a significant role in determining which of these is the best option for you. Therefore, it is essential to consider not just the initial cost, but also the potential long-term costs and benefits associated with each van.

        How much does a van conversion cost? What is your plan?

        When considering your budget for your van conversion, it's vital to factor in not only the initial purchase of the vehicle but also the subsequent costs associated with the actual conversion.

        If you're partnering with a custom conversion company, be sure to inquire about their pricing structure and what the quoted price includes for the full conversion. Does it cover all necessary labor and materials? Are there potential additional costs for custom features or specific design requirements? Custom conversions start at roughly $50,000 USD for a reputable high-quality van conversion company.

        For DIY enthusiasts, the costs can vary dramatically based on the complexity of your chosen design, the materials you plan to use, and whether you opt for a modular interior systems kit like those offered by Adventure Wagon or similar brands that offer a base camp package. These kits can simplify the build process, but it's important to check if these kits are compatible with the van model you plan to purchase.

        Remember, a DIY build might seem economically advantageous initially, but without proper planning and a realistic budget, costs can quickly escalate. Thus, it's important to plan meticulously, anticipate possible hidden costs, and always have a contingency fund for unexpected expenses.

        In either case, considering these aspects from the outset can help you avoid unpleasant financial surprises down the road. Your van conversion journey should be an exciting adventure, not a stress-inducing financial burden. Plan wisely, budget realistically, and enjoy the process!

        Am I interested in a new or used conversion van?

        Purchasing a new or used van for conversion into a camper van presents its own set of advantages and challenges.

        When purchasing a new van, one of the primary benefits is that you're starting with a fresh slate. The vehicle is in pristine condition, and there's no history of wear and tear or potential hidden issues that could surface later on. Additionally, new vans come with comprehensive manufacturer warranties, providing a safety net against unforeseen mechanical issues.

        However, a new van will undoubtedly cost more upfront, and let’s not forget the current situation of significant backlogs for new Ford Transits across North America, resulting in long waiting periods. Another point to consider is the depreciation hit. A new vehicle depreciates significantly as soon as it is driven off the lot, which is a factor to consider if resale value is important to you.

        Opting for a used van can be a more affordable route, and you might find some already converted vans on the market, which could save you time and effort. A used van might also have lower insurance rates, contributing to some minimal long-term savings.

        However, at the time of updating this article, the used vehicle market is currently experiencing a surge in prices due to a global shortage of semiconductors affecting new car production, making used cars more expensive than they've been in recent years. Another downside of a used van is the risk of pre-existing issues or damage that might not be immediately apparent. A used van may also require more maintenance and repairs than a new one.

        In conclusion, your decision to buy a new or used van for conversion will depend on your budget, timeline, and comfort level with potential maintenance issues. It can be beneficial to consult with a conversion specialist or mechanic, and always get any used vehicle thoroughly checked before purchasing.

        Do I need an all-wheel-drive campervan?

        Choosing whether to invest in an all-wheel-drive (AWD) in your campervan is a critical decision and largely depends on where and how you plan to use your van. Ram Promaster, while not offering AWD, has a front-wheel-drive (FWD) system which can handle regular road conditions well and offers better handling.

        However, for more challenging terrains or harsh weather conditions, AWD would be more advantageous. Recently, Mercedes transitioned their Sprinter van from a 4x4 setup to an AWD system that enhances its off-road capabilities while maintaining fuel efficiency. Ford Transit also offers an AWD option, providing an excellent balance between on-road comfort and off-road performance. In essence, your choice should align with your travel lifestyle, budget, and the environments you'll be traversing.

        Is van life full-time or part-time?

        Determining whether your van life will be full time or part time can significantly impact your space requirements in a campervan. Full-time van living demands more space, as the van becomes your primary residence and needs to store all your possessions, from clothing and kitchenware to possibly a workspace. You’ll also need to consider room for essential facilities like a bed, a toilet, and potentially a shower. Prioritizing space-efficient designs and storage solutions can help maximize the use of limited space.

        On the other hand, part-time van living often requires less space, as it is typically used for shorter trips or weekend getaways. You may not need as many amenities, and your packing will likely be more compact and temporary. Regardless, efficient utilization of space remains crucial to maintaining a comfortable and functional living environment inside the van.

        Ultimately, your space requirements will be a balancing act between comfort, functionality, and the duration of your van life journey.

        What will your average length of trip be? Will you be near civilization and amenities?

        Will you need a toilet or shower in your van? If so, you might need a longer wheelbase for your van conversion as it'll provide more layout space.

        Additionally, think of your lifestyle, as we talk about in our 'What bus is the best for skoolie conversion?' guide. Are you going to the gym daily and can use their facilities to save space and money on your van conversion?

        How many people will be travelling with you? Do you need to add extra seating and bed options?

        If you answered yes, you need to take the convertible interior space into consideration as every inch counts in these small spaces. A longer-wheelbase conversion van might be a better option for you especially if you need to sleep up to four people.

        Are you planning on going off-roading and taking my van conversion to paths less travelled?

        If you answered yes, you might need to consider a 4x4 or AWD option. These are only available with Sprinter van conversions and the Ford Transit van conversions newer than 2020. However, a 2WD van with the weight of the conversion in the cargo bay, and some aftermarket upgrades, will take you most places. Regardless of your chassis choice, if you plan on getting off of the pavement, you’ll want to consider some suspension and wheel/tire upgrades!

        Are there height restrictions where you live that you'll need to take van height into consideration?

        If so, a shorter van like a low/medium roof Ford Transit or Mercedes Metris and Ford Transit Connect might be a smarter option for your van conversion. Keep in mind these options also greatly limit your van conversions interior space.

        A great option with these vans is adding a pop-top! But these can increase the work and cost of your conversion significantly. However, this along with the interior conversion of one of these micro van conversions can come in at a more affordable price than the cost of a high-roof cargo van.

        Where will you be travelling in your van conversion?

        If you plan on adventuring south of the US border where diesel options are limited, you may want to steer towards a gas option for your van conversion.

        Dealerships and service stations, this is also something you want to consider for the maintenance of your van conversion. Breakdowns and maintenance are a part of any vehicle, mitigate risk before you make your investment. Ford and Dodge can be fixed at virtually all mechanic shops whereas a Sprinter Van conversion requires a dealership or a specialty mechanic that charges premium rates.

        What brings the comforts of home to your campervan?

        Think of the belongings you can't currently live without. What do you use every day?

        Do you want a big stainless steel sink to wash dishes and a bigger shower so you feel at home? You're going to need a bigger kitchen galley to fit that sink and you'll wanna think about adding a bigger fresh water tank for those showers!

        We had a client that was compelled to bring her sewing machine! So naturally, we built a custom cabinet for her.

        There's only so much storage space in campervans so pick and choose accordingly.There are so many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right van for your van conversion. Additionally, the vans listed above aren't your only options. You'll find that people are converting older vans like a Chevy express, or Ford E Series, and some smaller vans like the Nissan NV, Mercedes Metris, and Ford Transit Connect. If you'd like some information on one of these vans and want me to add it to the article, let me know in the comments!

        Choosing the right van to convert for your #Vanlife isn't for the faint of heart, especially if you're living in your campervan full-time. It takes a dedicated individual to live in a small space. Downsizing and living minimal is an attractive task for a lot of people but considering what you really need is a crucial part of your van conversion process because it determines your entire van conversion layout.

        To wrap it up…

        Overall, there is no bad choice for your van conversion, only personal ones. Each van has it's pros and cons and your choice is dependant on your use.

        After digesting all the information above, you might still find yourself on the fence about which van to choose for your conversion. In such a scenario, one practical step you can take is to test drive each one. This hands-on experience can provide you invaluable insights that go beyond the scope of purely written considerations.

        When you test drive each van, you get a feel for its driving dynamics, handling, comfort, and overall usability. Some vans might be more comfortable to drive, others might offer better visibility, and yet others might have a more intuitive layout of the controls. All these factors are equally important to consider, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time on the road, which is the entire goal of van life.

        Remember, choosing the right van for your conversion is not just about selecting a model with the best specifications on paper. It's about choosing a van that feels right for you, that suits your driving style and meets your needs in the best way possible. Doing a test drive can help you make this decision with a higher degree of confidence.

        We go even more in-depth on what options to look for when buying a van from the factory here.

        Looking for a van conversion company?

        If you have any further questions or are interested in custom van conversions, contact us!

        Paved To Pines is a full-scale custom van conversion company based in the prairies of Canada.

        We work with clients all over North America from Austin Texas to Anchorage Alaska and everywhere in between. We offer full conversions and base camp packages to get you on the road.

        If you need some inspiration for your own build, check out our van conversion gallery to see our latest builds.


        • Danielle A

          This is a great article. I would love more information on which older vans would be best to choose. My budget is tight, and I need a van that’s easy to drive and park, will keep me safe on and off the road, and not cost $50,000. Thank you.

        • Lisa Strange

          This is the absolute best article covering everything about the van options and comparisons. Thank you!

        • Klay

          Thanks for these great tips, I will be sure to check some more details to do this great project. Actually, I began showing interest in buying a van and turning it into a campervan when we have a family vacation in vegas last summer. We rent on the best las vegas van rentals and our family trip is so easy, the van was so spacious and clean so I can’t help imagining owning one and turning it into a campervan and touring around different states. This is so great, thanks again!

        • Billy E Mabry

          I would like to convert a long wheel base Chevy or GMC and ad a fiberglass raised roof. Do you have any articles on either of these conversations. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.
          Aloha Billy
          Big Island Hawaii

        • Henricus Terpstra

          Just what I was looking for. Started my project. Will get serious and decide in late quarter of 2023. Thank you.

        Leave a comment

        Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

        This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.