Paved To Pines Blog

Best van for conversion - sprinter vs transit vs promaster

Posted by Paved To Pines on Oct 9, 2019 3:23:19 PM

So you're looking to convert a van into a camper van?

We’ve compiled information about the most common van chassis for van conversions into one area so you don’t need to sift through 5 different sites to find which is perfect for your van life. I’m sure by now you’ve realized that the digital world of van conversions is a black hole of amazing content, you may have even lost track of time (again) and it’s 3 am while you're read this.


This list will go through the main vans that are used for camper van conversions and what we like about each from our past van builds and from other people's experiences in the industry.

Each 3 of the main high roof vans have 3 wheelbase conversions, each van different having pros, cons, and van interior dimensions. So it’s important to have an idea of what you’re looking for in a van conversion in terms of layout, sleeping arrangements, power systems, water systems, appliances, will you be hauling mountain bikes or other gear and more.

Are you a weekend warrior? A full-time van lifer? Summer trips with the family?

All of these will present different layout needs that may dictate the minimum WB (wheelbase) size you’ll need for your van conversion.

A few quick key points before we dive a little deeper.:

Sprinter:Longest van conversion space & 4x4 

Promaster: Widest van interior

Transit: Highest van interior (came out with an AWD van option for 2020)

So what is the best van for conversion?

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Van Basic Mechanical Comparison


 

Van Engine MPG Transmission HP Torque
Sprinter  6 Cyl 3.0L Diesel 20 7 Speed Auto 188 325
    4 Cyl 2.0L Gas 17 9 Speed Auto 188 258
Transit Gas 3.5L V6 Eco Boost 17 10 Speed Auto 306 400
  3.5L V6 Gas 17 10 Speed Auto 271 260
  2.0L Turbo Diesel 20 10 Speed Auto 210 369
Promaster 3.6L V6 Gas 17 7 Speed Auto 280 258

Why does this 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.

 

Mercedes Sprinter Van Conversion Dimensions



Body Height Interior Width Wheelbase Conversion Length Exterior Length

Regular Body

Low Roof - 5' 4"

69"

144"

123"

19' 4"

 

High Roof - 6' 3"

"

"

"

"

Extended Body

High Roof- 6' 3"

"

170"

165"

22' 9"

Long Body

High Roof- 6' 3"

"

170"

180"

24"

 

Sprinter Van Conversion Pros: 

  • Until the new 2020 models of Ford Transit AWD come out, the Sprinter Van is the only van with a factory 4x4 option. This will be super beneficial if you are looking to buy a used van for your conversion to save some money.
  • Mercedes vehicles 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.
  • Better than average MPG in the 6-cyl diesel.

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 Dodge or Ford. Even oil changes are more (however they last longer).
  • It's a lot harder to find a Mercedes dealership (21 in Canada, 370 in USA) than it is to find a Fiat Chrysler Dodge (440 in Canada, 2500 in USA) or Ford shop (400+ in Canada, 3000 in USA). In saying that, not all mechanics are qualified to work on all vehicles.
  • With diesel options for your Sprinter Van, it can be a bit harder to travel to more southern countries where diesel and low-sulfur fuel is as less-available and sometimes the quality that is available isn't what Mercedes recommends for use in their vehicles.

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Ford Transit Van Conversion Dimensions


 

Body Height Interior Width Wheelbase Conversion Length Exterior Length

Regular Body

Medium Roof - 5' 10"

69"

130"

106"

18' 4"

 

High Roof - 6' 5"

"

"

"

"

Extended Body

High Roof- 6' 5"

"

148"

124"

19' 8"

Long Body

High Roof- 6' 5"

"

148"

154"

22' 2"

 

Ford Transit Van Conversion Pros: 

  • Ford Transits have the tallest roofs available for a van conversion. So if you're tall, this choice may be a no brainer. Even if you're not 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.
  • Ford will have the AWD option starting in 2020 so you are no longer limited to the Sprinter van for 4x4/AWD van conversion options.
  • Plenty of dealerships and mechanic shops can work on these vans and they are cheap to have work done on.

Ford Transit Van Conversion Cons: 

  • With the long body van chassis, they have a long rear end overhang (having the shortest wheelbase) so the rear end can scrape coming out of driveways or other things of that nature.
  • The wheel wells are small so it makes adding aftermarket wheels and accessories a bit more challenging, but doable.


Dodge Promaster Van Conversion Dimensions


 

Body Height Interior Width Wheelbase Conversion Length Exterior Length

Regular Body

Low Roof - 5' 4"

73"

136"

106"

17' 9"

 

High Roof - 6' 2"

"

"

"

"

Extended Body

High Roof- 6' 2"

"

159"

126"

19' 8"

Long Body

High Roof- 6' 2"

"

159"

140"

20" 10'

 

 

 

Dodge Promaster Van Conversion Pros:

  • Promaster van conversions are the widest available which makes side to side bedding a breeze - depending on your height you may not even need to add flares.
  • 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 bush-wacking. 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 a 4x4 conversion on the current Dodge Promaster models.
  • 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". 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.
  • The hardest van to cover internally with panels (if you plan on a DIY conversion)

Paved to Pines Photo-7

Recap:


Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What will your average length of trip be? Will you be near civilization and amenities?
    • Will you need a bathroom and shower in your van? 
  • Do I prefer gas or diesel? How will this affect my heat sources
    • If you have a diesel van, you can tap right into the diesel tank for hot water and cabin heat and even your cooktop.
    • If you run on gas, you need to run on propane or create an auxiliary diesel tank that is mounted underneath your van to run the same diesel systems.
  • How many people will be travelling with me? Do I need to add extra seating and bed options?
    • If you answered yes, you need to take the convertible van interior space into consideration as every inch counts in these small spaces. A longer wheelbase might be a better option for you.
  • Am I planning on going off-roading and taking my van conversion to paths less travelled?
    • If you answered yes, you need to consider a 4x4 or AWD option.
  • Is there height restrictions where I live that I need to take van height into consideration?
    • If so, a shorter van or a Metris/Transit Connect might be a smarter option. Keep in mind these options also greatly limit your van conversion space on the interior.
  • Where will I be travelling?
    • If you plan on going south of the US border where diesel options are limited, you may want to steer towards a gas option.
    • Dealerships and service stations, this is also something you want to consider for maintenance of your van. Breakdowns and maintenance is a part of any vehicle, mitigate risk before you make your investment.

 

This info should give you a good base to start thinking more proactively in your search for the optimal van for conversion. 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. 

If you have any further questions or are interested in doing a custom van conversion for yourself (we can help you find a van), contact us below! We would be more than happy to help get you on the road.

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Topics: Van Conversion

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