Ford Transit vs Ram Promaster: Which is Best for Van Life?

If you’re still in the planning stages of your van life adventure, it’s likely you still haven’t bought the van of your dreams. For many…

ford transit vs ram promaster

If you’re still in the planning stages of your van life adventure, it’s likely you still haven’t bought the van of your dreams. For many people, a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter is the rig of choice. However, the costs involved in buying and converting this darling of Instagram can be jaw-dropping at best.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other fantastic vans out there, which brings us to the Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster debate. We’re long past the point when these vans played second fiddle to the Sprinter. In fact, many people are starting to ignore the Mercedes altogether in favor of picking one of these vehicles.

That said, deciding between a Ford Transit and a ProMaster isn’t easy. Both vans are particularly well-suited to van life, and there are tons of awesome examples of Transit and ProMaster conversions out there.

Still, there are plenty of differences between these two popular vans, and it’s best to take them all into consideration before committing to one or the other. With that in mind, we’ve put together a Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster article. We’ll look at both vans in detail, weighing up the pros and cons of each as well as loads of other factors.

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Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Ford Transit Overview

ford transit vs ram promaster
Ford Transit vs Ram Promaster

Although it feels like the Ford Transit van has been around forever, it was actually in the North American market in 2015. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long to gain a firm foothold and now accounts for 30 percent of all van sales in the United States.

Needless to say, van dwellers quickly began to realize the potential of the Ford Transit for converting to a camper. Although the Mercedes Sprinter and Dodge Ram ProMaster are still the most popular options for van life, the Ford Transit is catching up fast.

The Transit became even more appealing in 2020, when Ford completely overhauled the van. Aside from adding safety and comfort updates like pre-collision assist and adaptive cruise control, the manufacturer also released an AWD Ford Transit.

This particular model had been eagerly anticipated and went a long way to leveling the playing field in the Sprinter vs Transit debate.

Although Ford had planned to launch a 2.0L EcoBlue diesel Transit, plans were sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the manufacturer has since decided that there isn’t enough demand for a diesel van in the United States.

On the bright side, Ford plans to release an all-electric E-Transit van in mid-2022. We can’t wait to see how that turns out!

Price-wise, the Ford Transit is one of the more affordable large panel vans around. You can find an older van for as little as $10,000, while a brand new Transit will set you back as much as $40,000.

Without a doubt, the Ford Transit van is becoming firmly established as a van life favorite. That’s evidenced by the number of van conversion companies now offering Transit builds and Ford Transit DIY conversion kits.

Ford Transit Cargo Van Specs

Exterior lengthExterior heightInterior heightInterior cargo lengthInterior cargo widthCargo volume (cubic feet)
130″ WB Medium Roof235.5″109.6″79.1″132.9″77.0″372.8
148″ WB High Roof235.5″109.6″81.5″143.7″77.0″404.3
148″ WB High Roof Ext.263.9″110.4″81.5″172.277.0″487.3

Ford Transit Pros and Cons

ford transit

Pros:

  • Interior height. With over 81 inches of interior height, the Ford Transit high roof has the most headroom of any large van. Although you’ll lose some height during the conversion process, that’s still fantastic for taller van dwellers!
  • AWD option. While not as impressive as a 4×4 van, the AWD Ford Transit is still pretty cool. Plus, there isn’t currently a Ram ProMaster that can compete in this area.
  • Low maintenance costs. Unlike other vans, a Ford Transit can be worked on just about anywhere by any mechanic. Not only that, spare parts are plentiful and affordable. All in all, the Transit’s low maintenance costs are a huge bonus for van lifers.
  • Large rear windows. Unlike the Ram ProMaster van, a Ford Transit with rear windows already installed is fairly easy to find. Plus, thanks to the Transit’s body shape, its rear windows are much larger than those on other vans.
  • Easy to find. Thanks to the popularity of Sprinters and ProMasters for camper van life, it’s much easier to come by used Ford Transit vans. What’s more, you’re unlikely to pay more than. you should for a Transit.
  • Smooth ride. One of the things people love most about the Ford Transit is the way it drives. You’ll feel more like you’re cruising in a minivan than a large rig.

Cons:

  • Low clearance. The Ford Transit has much lower clearance than other vans, including the Ram ProMaster. That’s the case even with the AWD Transit.
  • Fewer resources. Seeing as the Sprinter and ProMaster are way more popular for van life, there are way more resources available for these vans. On the bright side, that’s starting to change.
  • Height issues. While the Ford Transit’s height is certainly a bonus for many people, it’s worth noting that making it under low bridges could be impossible.
  • Curved shape. Compared to a boxy ProMaster van, the Ford Transit is much more curvy. While that doesn’t mean it’s super difficult to build out, you’ll need to compensate for all those curves during your conversion.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Ram ProMaster Overview

The Fiat Ducato has been one of the most popular cargo vans in Europe for decades, and was launched as the Dodge Ram ProMaster in North America in 2013. Since then, the ProMaster van has become a familiar sight across the country and is known as a solid and dependable work vehicle.

The Ram ProMaster is second only to the Mercedes Sprinter in terms of van life popularity. This affordable and reliable van is an excellent choice for van dwellers, which is why van conversion companies like Glampervan work only on the ProMaster.

Plus, you’ll see a lot of popular Class B camper vans such as the Roadtrek Zion and Winnebago Travato built on a ProMaster chassis.

The Ram ProMaster is definitely more “bare bones” than a Sprinter van or Ford Transit. There are fewer tech and safety features involved, but the ProMaster still delivers good fuel economy and a fairly smooth ride.

Although all new ProMasters have gasoline engines, you can find plenty of pre-2020 diesel powered models on the used market.

In terms of what you’ll pay for a Ram ProMaster, prices are comparable to those of the Ford Transit. The most you’ll end up paying for a brand new van will be around the $40,000 mark, while used ProMasters can be had for as little as $10,000.

Ram ProMaster High Roof Specs

Exterior lengthExterior heightInterior heightInterior cargo lengthInterior cargo widthCargo volume (cubic feet)
136″ WB213.0″99.0″76.0″122.0″55.0″304.0
159″ WB236.0″99.0″76.0″146.0″55.0″420.0
159″ WB Ext.250.0″99.0″76.0″160.0″55.0″463.0

Ram ProMaster Pros and Cons

ram promaster

Pros:

  • Affordable and plentiful. Ram ProMasters are definitely among the most affordable large panel vans to buy. Plus, the ProMaster’s popularity means there are plenty of vans in circulation.
  • Fuel efficient. Although not as fuel efficient as a diesel Sprinter van, the Ram ProMaster will get around 18-20 mpg on the highway. That’s not bad at all!
  • Boxy shape. This is one of the ProMaster’s biggest selling points. The van’s boxy shape and straight lines make it ideal for a DIY Van build.
  • Width. Again, the Ram ProMaster’s width is a huge bonus when it comes to converting your van. Those extra few inches mean your campervan bed can be positioned across the width of the vehicle, helping to maximize additional living space.
  • Roof space. Seeing as the Ram ProMaster is so wide, it offers more roof space than you’ll find on other vans. There’s plenty of room for solar panels, vent fans, and a rooftop deck.
  • Low maintenance costs. As with the Ford Transit, the ProMaster is easy to work on and parts are inexpensive.

Cons:

  • Length. While you can sleep across the Ram ProMaster, there’s no escaping the fact that the longest model is substantially shorter than the equivalent Ford Transit.
  • Front wheel drive. Although some see this as a plus, a converted van functions better with rear wheel drive. Plus, there’s no AWD ProMaster option available.
  • Interior height. This might not be an issue for shorter folks, but those over six feet might struggle with the Ram ProMaster’s limited headroom.
  • Substandard doors/locks. This is a common complaint from ProMaster owners. Door handles are known to be quite flimsy, and when one lock fails, you aren’t able to lock any of the van doors.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Considerations

Before we venture any further into the Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster debate, let’s take a look a a few things you should consider before buying any van.

  • Budget. Unless money’s no object, this will likely be your biggest consideration. You’ll to only have to think about how much you can afford to spend on a van, but also the cost of a conversion. Oh, and don’t forget to budget for regular maintenance and repairs too!
  • Gasoline vs diesel. One of the biggest draws of a Sprinter van is its fuel efficient, long-lasting diesel engine. While both Ford Transit and ProMaster vans are now only available with gasoline engines, you may want to consider an older diesel ProMaster.
  • Resale value. Although you might be looking for a van to live in, it’s good to know how much you’ll be able to sell it for down the road. Again, diesel vans tend to hold more of their original value as opposed to gasoline powered vans.
  • Height considerations. Although high roof Ford Transits and Ram ProMasters both have plenty of interior height, tall folks might have a hard time standing up in a ProMaster once it’s been converted. After all, you’ll lose at least a couple of inches after flooring, roofing, and insulation have been added.
  • AWD vs 2WD. Choosing the right drive train is especially important if you’re going to be driving sketchy back roads in the winter. Ideally, you’ll have a 4×4 van if you’re heading deep into the wilderness, but AWD is the next best option.
  • Conversion design. You’ll need to think about your ideal conversion design before choosing a vehicle for van life. Think about things like the type of bed you’ll want and where you want it, how many people will be sleeping in the van, and how much storage space you’re going to need.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Head to Head Comparison

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at how these fantastic vans measure up when we look at a few important areas.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Maintenance Costs

As you head out on the road in your camper van, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is something going wrong with your vehicle.

However, things do break and it’s a good idea to budget for any repairs you may have to make. Plus, you’ll need to budget for regular maintenance so your home-on-wheels stays in tip-top condition.

If the Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster debate was based solely on maintenance costs, there wouldn’t be clear winner.

There’s a good network of Ford and Dodge dealerships across the country, and replacement parts are affordable and easy to come by. Anyway, if the worst happens and you have to visit a small-town mechanic, you can be safe in the knowledge that either van is easy to work on.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Drivetrain

The Ford Transit is available as a rear wheel drive or AWD van. Obviously, the AWD option is most attractive to those who want to get off the beaten path and explore the backwoods.

However, the Transit van’s low clearance means you’ll likely need to pay extra for a lifted suspension.

On the other hand, the Ram ProMaster is only available as a front wheel drive van. Interestingly, ProMaster owners see this as either a blessing or a curse. Some folks will tell you that, when equipped with the right tires, the ProMaster will get you anywhere you want to go. Others will advise against driving up steep and rough roads, as the ProMaster is likely to get stuck.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Clearance

We’ve already mentioned the fact that the Ford Transit suffers from relatively low clearance. That can definitely be a problem if you’r thinking of tackling unmaintained back roads. Anyway, the last thing you want is to bottom out your van while on a boondocking trip.

Fortunately, an after-market suspension lift and bigger tires should solve the problem, although that could make your van feel a little wobbly.

As for the Ram ProMaster, it definitely seems like a better option for those who want a van with good clearance. Not only that, the ProMaster’s interior floor sits low to the ground, meaning the van has a better center of gravity than other vans.

Drivability and Safety

If you’re looking for a comfortable, safe van that’s a joy to drive, the Ford Transit might be the better option. Known for its great handling and super smooth ride, the Transit benefitted greatly from Ford’s 2020 updates. There’s now adaptive cruise control and a power assisted steering system, which really helps when tackling steep, uneven roads.

On the other hand, the Ram ProMaster feels more stripped down and utilitarian. ProMaster owners complain of uncomfortable seats, and there certainly aren’t as many high-tech safety features on board.

One of the biggest ProMaster issues is an extra rear leaf spring, which makes the suspension overly stiff and the rear end stick up. Fortunately, removing the leaf spring is fairly easy and solves the issues nicely.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Suitability for Conversions

There can be little doubt that both the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster make excellent choices for van life. Each van is well-suited to a DIY conversion, and which one you choose really comes down to personal preferences and specific needs.

The Ford Transit is probably a better option for those who need a lot of interior headroom. Plus, the 12 inches of extra cargo length you’ll get with the largest model will be invaluable to those traveling with kids or pets.

As for the ProMaster, one of the biggest advantages to converting this van is its boxy shape. You’ll have a much easier time with a DIY conversion, seeing as there are fewer curved lines to deal with.

That square shape also means you’ll have a ton of roof space to play with. There’s room for solar panels and a sweet deck up there! Furthermore, ProMaster owners just love the fact they can sleep width-ways in their van.

Ford Transit vs Ram ProMaster: Resources

Until fairly recently, both the Transit and ProMaster were rather overlooked in favor of the Mercedes Sprinter van. That meant Sprinter owners had plenty of choices when it came to finding add-ons, gear, and conversion support, whereas Transit and ProMaster owners were on their own.

That’s all changed, as Transits and ProMasters have become more popular for van life. These days, you’ll find conversion companies dedicated to both vans, as well as online forums for advice and support. That said, the ProMaster has proven to be more popular than the Transit, so you’ll find more options as a ProMaster owner.

Check out these articles for more info:

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, both the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster vans can be ideal for van life. There are pros and cons to each vehicle, but in the end, you really can’t go wrong.

You may have been expecting a definitive answer on which makes the better camper van, but we know better than to take sides!

At the end if the day, we just hope you’ve found this article interesting and informative. If it’s helped sway you in one direction or the other, then all the better. Feel free to leave any thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

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One Comment

  1. The 55.0″ interior width for the RAM Promaster doesn’t look right. That’s only 4.5 feet.

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