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If you’re interested in a camper van conversion, you need to start with a high-quality vehicle. Although several options are available, many van lifersprefer the Mercedes Benz Sprinter van. Not only is this van highly versatile and rugged, but it also works well for conversions. In fact, many camper van companies make parts specifically for this vehicle.
That said, you’ll have to compare different Sprinter models to find the best one to suit your needs. The two primary options are the Sprinter 2500 and Sprinter 3500. While these vans are pretty similar, they have some key differences to pay attention to before deciding.
So, with that in mind, let’s compare the Sprinter 2500 vs 3500 vans.
Table of Contents
Why a Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van?
If you’ve been looking at different camper van conversion options, you know that you can convert the Ram Promaster, Nissan NV, and Ford Transit. However, many people prefer the Sprinter. But why? Here are some of the top reasons to invest in one of these vehicles:
- Compatibility – Because Sprinter models are so popular, it’s easy to find equipment for your conversion. Some companies exclusively make Sprinter-compatible components, including kitchenettes, cabinets, etc.
- Longevity – If you’re going to invest so much time and money in a van conversion, you want something that will last a long time. Sprinters are rugged and dependable, with used models costing as much as some brand-new vans.
- Space – As we’ll get into, Sprinter vans often have tons of interior space, allowing you to outfit your RV with all the amenities you want. In fact, some RV manufacturers use the Sprinter chassis as the framework for their vehicles.
- 4×4 Capability – If you’re planning on doing a lot of off-roading and overlapping in your Sprinter, the 4×4 option is key, which is what we got with the 2500 model
- Hold their Value: Mercedes Sprinter vans hold their value better than other vans. You still see 2007 Sprinter vans on the market that cost tens of thousands of dollars!
Sprinter 2500 vs 3500: Similarities
Before we dive into the differences between Sprinter 2500 vs 3500 models, it helps to know what they have in common. No matter what kind of Sprinter you buy, you can expect it to include:
- Adaptive Cruise Control – If you’re driving for long stretches, it’s nice to have the car take over for a while. Adaptive controls will slow and stop your vehicle based on traffic conditions. So, don’t worry about running into another car that stops suddenly.
- Width – While both vans have different possibilities of roof heights and lengths, they’re both 79.5 inches wide.
- Active Brake Assist – Modern standard safety features help prevent accidents. Brake assist works by slowing and stopping the van if it notices an obstacle in front of you (i.e., a stopped car).
- Load-Adaptive Stability Program – Both models have stabilization features, but the system’s quality depends on the version you choose. This feature ensures you don’t have to worry about rolling the van over. Even if you have a high roof model, the program helps redirect power to prevent tipping.
- 4×4 Option: Both vans have the option to go with a 4×4 6-cylinder diesel engine
All the Differences Between the Sprinter 2500 vs 3500 Vans
To make it easier to compare the Sprinter 2500 vs 3500, we’re breaking down each feature and explaining why it matters for your needs. That said, you have to know what you plan to do with your van once you finish the conversion process.
For example, are you trying to go off-roading, or will you stick to paved campsites? How long will you live in your van? Are you trying to be a weekend warrior or a full-time van lifer? Knowing these details will help you make the right decision.
Dimensions and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The standard length for a 144WB Sprinter van is 233 inches, which translates to about 19 feet. Both models offer a 170WB model, which spans 290 inches (about 24 feet). That’s the longest you can get.
Also, you can buy a standard 3500 model or a 3500 Dually. The latter option has dual rear wheels to increase its payload capacity. We’ll discuss that later on. However, as a rule, you shouldn’t need a dual rear wheel configuration unless you’re planning on towing some heavy trailers or equipment, or if you want extra heavy gear in your conversion.
As far as the vehicle height, the shortest model is 96.3 inches (eight feet). The tallest van is the 2500, reaching 111.3 inches (9 ft, 4 inches). The tallest 3500 model is 109.1 inches.
When it comes to the gross vehicle weight, 2500 models go up to 9,050 pounds, while 3500 models can weigh as much as 9,900.
Why it Matters
If you’ve ever traveled in a campervan before, you know that every inch counts. So, having a few extra inches on the back or the roof can make all the difference. Also, depending on your height, you might need a taller van.
Another point to consider with the length is the van’s maneuverability. The longer it is, the wider the turning radius, and the harder it is to back into a spot. So, if you’re worried about driving a massive vehicle, you might want a shorter wheelbase model.
Engine and Fuel Type
There are three engine types you can find on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter. First, there’s a four-cylinder turbocharged gas engine that produces up to 188 horsepower. Second, you can choose a V4 diesel engine with 161 horsepower. Finally, Sprinter offers a 3-liter V6 turbo diesel engine with 188 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque.
If you prefer gasoline, you have to go with the 2500 model. All 3500 Sprinter models have diesel engines. That said, you can get better fuel economy with diesel, so that might be a benefit.
Why it Matters
Not all gas stations offer diesel fuel, and you’ll often wind up paying more at the pump. However, since diesel has much better fuel economy, you’ll save more in the long run. As a rule, if you’re just traveling a few times a year, a gasoline engine should be okay. However, if you’re trying to be out for months at a time, we recommend something that burns regular diesel.
This figure represents the amount of weight the van can carry at all times. Realistically, you shouldn’t max out your van’s payload limit since that can put extra stress on the tires and suspension.
With the 2500 models, you can choose between 3,318 and 4,442 pounds. With the 3500 van, you can get between 4,058 and 4,620. As you might imagine, the 3500 Dually can hold more weight than the standard version.
Why it Matters
When doing a campervan conversion, you have to add up all the various equipment and interior components. However, remember that you also have to consider the weight of yourself, any passengers, and all of your equipment.
If you’re worried that you might overload your van, it’s best to get a model with the highest weight capacity. In this case, the 3500 Dually is the best option. Realistically, though, you shouldn’t have to worry too much unless you’re packing tons of amenities inside your van.
In most cases, you should be able to carry everything you need for your trip inside the van. Also, you can install roof racks to store even more equipment up top. However, if you need to tow something, you must know the towing capacity of your rig.
Sprinter 2500 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds, while 3500 models can tow up to 7,500. As with the payload, it’s best to avoid maxing out the limit. There’s always the risk of breaking your trailer jack and sending your load flying.
Why it Matters
Realistically, you won’t be towing something massive like a travel trailer behind your camper van. However, a higher towing capacity offers more flexibility to bring outdoor equipment (i.e., ATVs or dirt bikes) and other materials. Again, knowing how you want to use your van will help you make the best decision.
Sprinter 2500 vs 3500: Off-Roading Capabilities
The Mercedes Benz Sprinter van is not really built for off-roading. However, if you choose a 2500 or 3500XD model, you can get a 4×4 engine. While you won’t be as agile as something like a Jeep or Range Rover, you can handle dirt roads and uneven terrain more easily. We chose a 4×4 and have already noticed it making a difference in sand and on gravel roads.
Why it Matters
Part of the appeal of van life is the ability to explore nature and go on the road less traveled. Having a 4×4 vehicle enables you to venture beyond the road or paved campsites. However, given your van’s size and weight dimensions, you might have to limit your off-roading no matter what.
Sprinter offers two types of stabilization programs. The 2500 series has Level II stabilization features, while the 3500 series has Level III stabilization. As you can imagine, level III is slightly better and helps keep the van from tipping over. That said, unless you’re hauling some heavy equipment, Level II should be more than capable of keeping your rig on all four wheels.
Why it Matters
Realistically, unless you’re heading off-road or making tight turns at 45 miles per hour, you shouldn’t have to worry as much about stability. So, you should be okay no matter which van model you choose.
Sprinter 2500 vs 3500 Comparison Guide
Dimensions and Weight
- Sprinter 2500 – 233 to 290 inches long, 96.3 to 111.3 inches high, max GVWR 9,050 lbs
- Sprinter 3500 – 233.5 to 290 inches long, 96.4 to 109.4 inches tall, max GVWR 9,900 lbs
Engine and Fuel Type
- Sprinter 2500 – Gasoline or diesel engines available
- Sprinter 3500 – Diesel only
- Sprinter 2500 – 3,318 to 4,442 lbs
- Sprinter 3500 – 4,058 to 4,620 lbs
- Sprinter 2500 – Max 5,000 lb
- Sprinter 3500 – Max 7,500 lb
- Sprinter 2500 – 4×4 models available
- Sprinter 3500 – No 4×4 models available
- Sprinter 2500 – Level II Stabilization
- Sprinter 3500 – Level III Stabilization
Overall, the Mercedes Benz Sprinter 3500 works best if you want fuel efficiency and a bigger payload. However, if you want something a bit more nimble and easier to drive, the 2500 works better.
DIY vs. Professional Sprinter Van Conversion
Once you pick your Sprinter model, the next step is to start your van conversion. However, the main question is: do-it-yourself or hire a company to handle everything for you? Here are some points to consider before converting your Sprinter van.
- Costs – If you source everything yourself, you can save lots of money in the long run. Not only can you save on labor costs, but you can buy second-hand equipment to save a few hundred bucks here and there.
- Time – Unless you’re a pro at converting camper vans, you’ll likely take longer than a professional company. However, because demand is so high right now, conversions are taking longer than usual. So, you might have to wait a few months no matter what.
- Customization – Some companies have limited options when it comes to specific installations. Doing it yourself means you can put anything you want inside the van.
- Quality – Again, unless you’re experienced at van conversions, your work won’t be as high quality as a professional installer. Also, if something breaks or goes wrong, you’re on the hook to fix or replace it.