It’s easy to dream about a gorgeous Sprinter van conversion, ripe with all the bells and whistles you need to live the van life. These vans are good-looking, hardy and roomy – and get great fuel mileage – the perfect shell for a camper van conversion.
But are Sprinter camper vans really worth the cost? A brand new Mercedes Sprinter van costs anywhere between $38,000 and $56,000, and that’s without a conversion.
What’s all the fuss about anyway?
In this article, we hope to give you as much information as possible about these Mercedes vans so you can make an educated choice about your camper van conversion.
Dodge vs. Freightliner vs. Mercedes Sprinter van – what gives?
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You may have noticed a variety of Sprinter vans when you’re driving down the street, eyeing up what could be your next DIY camper van.
There’s Dodge, Mercedes and Freightliner Sprinters – so, what’s the difference?
There isn’t any. These are all Mercedes vans.
That factory put the vans back together as “American made” vans. The Sprinters were branded as Dodge between 2001 and 2007.
Then in 2007, Chrysler Split off from Damier and Dodge Sprinters went away. From there on out, they’re either branded Freightliner Sprinters or Mercedes Sprinters.
Most recently, Mercedes-Benz announced it will finally start manufacturing Mercedes Sprinter vans in the United States. In 2016, the company broke ground on a new $500 facility in South Carolina to build its commercial vans.
All 2019 Sprinter vans will be made in the U.S.A.
Need help picking a Sprinter van? Click the button below to get Sprinter van specs in an easy-to-read chart!
How to pick the right Sprinter van for a camper van conversion
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Sprinter vans come in a wide variety of lengths and heights. You have to decide just how much room you want inside the van for your camper van conversion.
Go to dealerships and spend some time walking around and exploring the various Sprinter cargo vans. Maybe you’d be happier with the smallest, cheaper version (144” wheelbase with a living space that’s 11’ long by 6” wide), or maybe you want to really go for it and get the longest wheelbase, high-roof van (170” wheelbase, with 15’ long and 6’ wide living space).
Once you have an idea of what you want, you can consider buying new vs. used. There are tons of used vans out there, and some people rave about the Dodge Sprinter vans being some of the most reliable.
Sydney Ferbrache of Divine on the Road was on a mission to find a good deal on a Sprinter van. She searched the internet, used Gar Gurus, Carfax and Autotrader to find just the right Mercedes van.
“I was honestly just on a mission to find a Sprinter van with less than 100,000 miles that was also under $20,000,” said Sydney. “We just happened to find the Mercedes van that fit the criteria and had it shipped from Virginia. We weren’t able to find one near us in the Midwest so we just worked over the phone with the dealership and had it shipped to us.”
Sydney ended up with a 2011 Mercedes Sprinter with a 144” wheelbase. She didn’t want the longer Sprinter (170” wheelbase), because she wanted to easily fit into a parking spot.
Sometimes, you just have to look around until you find the right van. Click here to check out the various Sprinter van options on the market now.
The positives and negatives of a Sprinter van conversion
There’s a lot to think about when deciding if you should go with a Mercedes Sprinter for your camper van conversion.
Here’s a list of positives:
- Great M.P.G. The diesel engine on a Mercedes Sprinter van means it gets better MPG than similar-sized vans. Some report MPG in the high 20s, which is amazing for a large van.
- Reliability. The Mercedes Sprinter is known to be a reliable, hardy van
- Loads of interior space. A good amount of interior space is critical to a comfortable camper van conversion, and the Mercedes van fits the bill perfectly.
- They’re an asset. The value of Sprinter vans doesn’t go down all that much, so if you need to sell, it won’t be as big of a hit to your wallet.
- Easy to maneuver. The Sprinter van is surprisingly easy to maneuver given it’s size, and can easily navigate city streets.
Here are the main negatives:
- Cost. Many think Sprinter vans are cost prohibitive. New ones are in the $40,000-range, and used ones are also high-priced for a used vehicle.
- Maintenance. The Mercedes Sprinter van has a lot of proprietary technology that can only be worked on at a Mercedes dealership. Some Freightliner mechanics will work on a Sprinter van, but the cost of maitenence will be higher than other vans
DIY Sprinter camper van conversion vs. a custom van build
Building out your own Sprinter camper van is going to be far cheaper than hiring someone to build it out. Many interiors can cost upwards of $50,000, which will make your entire camper van conversion upwards of $100,000.
For people who can’t afford that type of price tag, there are other options.
Sydney Ferbrache of Divine on the Road built out her 2011 Sprinter van for just $6,000, and it looks absolutely gorgeous inside. The single biggest component of her build was the electrical system, which rings in at over $1,300.
“We prioritized electrical first because it’s what makes you the most comfortable in the van,” says Sydney. “We have a 1500 watt inverter, two 96 amp hour batteries and 400 watts of solar”.
Here are a couple of Sydney’s budget tips for a diy Sprinter camper van.
- Use shiplap for a cheap interior finishing product that looks like “wood”
- Try finding recycled goods – Sydney’s kitchen counter and dining room table are both made from recycled doors that cost only $30
“There are always things you can work around and make less expensive if you get creative with it,” says Sydney. “You can always find alternatives to the expensive stuff for your Sprinter van conversion.
You can also buy a Sprinter camper van conversion kit to get started with a diy project.
The best resource for a DIY sprinter van camper conversion
If you’re ready to start building your own DIY camper van conversion right now, there’s an amazing book that will help you convert your van.
The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook is 378-pages of pure conversion gold, written by Greg Keith, who is currently on his THIRD Sprinter van conversion. I’d say this guy knows what he’s talking about.
Here’s some of what you’ll get from the book:
- Learn how to choose a Sprinter van and get guidelines for purchasing a used one
- Learn about the six major interior design considerations that lead to 13 secondary features in your design
- Get nine pages of detailed photos of Sprinter conversion layouts – many people say these pages alone are worth the price of the book
- An RV plumbing chapter on pipes, fittings, tanks, pumps, water heaters, toilets, you name it
- Advice on choosing solar panels
- How to install blackwater, greywater and freshwater tanks in a Sprinter
- Fifty pages of information on designing an electrical system and wiring your campervan conversion
- And soooo much more!
Check out the Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook and start working on your van right now.
Still not sure? How to test drive a Sprinter van conversion
If you’re not quite ready to make that big move to van life, you might want to consider taking a Sprinter van conversion out for a weekend camping trip.
The new peer-to-peer rental company Outdoorsy makes it really easy to do this. For $40 off your rental, just enter the coupon code WAYWARD40 when you check out!
Outdoorsy is like the Airbnb of camper van and RV rentals, with owners listing their own private rigs. Check out these awesome Sprinter vans you can rent for the night:
San Francisco-based Outdoorsy is awesome because you’ll be fully insured driving around, and you get access to 24/7 customer service.
Remember to enter the coupon code WAYWARD40 when you check out.
Conclusion about Sprinter vans
If you’re serious about living in a van and want a hardy vehicle to do it in, a Sprinter van might be your best choice.
Sprinter vans get great miles per gallon due to their diesel engines, are reliable and have the right amount of interior space for a camper van conversion.
However, they are more expensive than other vans, and also more expensive to maintain as work needs to be done at a Mercedes dealership.
If you like high-roofed vans but think a Mercedes is a little out of your price range, check out similar-sized vans like the high-top Ford Transit, the Dodge Ram Promaster or any van with a pop-type camper van option, like the VW Vanagon.
OTHER CONTENT YOU’LL LOVE:
- How to do an awesome camper van conversion
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- Going solo: The amazing women of van life
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