Sprinter vs Transit vs Promaster
After my last post you may have decided a cargo van is right for you. The Sprinter, Transit and Promaster are three of the most popular van life cargo vans. But which is the best one for you? In this comparison I’ll cover the different van sizes available, and the pros and cons of each. Dimensions stated are for 2019 models. The interior dimensions are the usable build space according to Sportsmobile.
You can find a Sprinter badged as a Mercedes, Dodge or Freightliner, but they are one in the same. Until recently, you could only find diesel Sprinters apart from a rare gas Dodge. But in 2018 they started making gas ones. A common misconception is the dealership must service a Sprinter. However, there are many certified diesel mechanics who can work on them. This is the more affordable maintenance and repair option next to DIY.
Sprinters are available as a cargo, crew, or passenger van. Dimensions listed below are for the cargo van.
- Only cargo van available with 4×4
- Best fuel economy next to the Transit (diesel engine, excluding 4×4)
- Handles well
- Tied for highest alternator output (250A for gas only)
- Highest resale value
- Longest of the vans compared
- Expensive to buy
- More expensive to maintain (diesel mechanics aren’t cheap)
- Curvy interior
- Older models have serious rust issues
- Sprinter Manual – provides Sprinter service information (DIY) and service directory (independent repair facilities)
- Sprinter RV – Sprinter conversion resources
- The Sprinter Source – Sprinter-only forum
|Low (standard body only)||7′ 10″||5′ 4″|
|Super high (hard to find)||9′ 7″||7′ 3″|
• 80”/69” (interior width is widest part of curved wall)
The Ford Transit replaced the Econoline in 2014. They are available in both gas and diesel. However, the diesels are harder to come by. Transits offer three different lengths and three different roof heights. Therefore, they are plenty of options depending on the amount of cargo space you require. Until 2020 all Transits came with rear wheel drive. But in 2020 Ford introduced an all-wheel drive version.
Transits are available as a cargo and passenger van. Dimensions listed below are for the cargo van.
- Repairs are more affordable than a Sprinter
- Tallest available interior
- Highest torque (gas Eco Boost and diesel engines)
- Tied for highest alternator output (250A for both gas engines)
- Interior is squarer than the Sprinter
- Handles well
- Because they are newer to the US market:
- Used ones are harder to find
- Reliability is unknown
- Extended length body has long rear overhang
|Extended length||22′ 2″||154″||148″|
|Low (regular and long body only)||7′||4′ 9″|
|High||9′ 2″||7′ 9.5″|
- 83”/69” (interior width is widest part of curved wall)
Dodge Ram Promaster/Fiat Ducato
These shovel-faced vans aren’t the most attractive. However, their affordability makes them an attractive option. Promasters are available in both gas and diesel. But Dodge dropped the diesel Promaster in 2019. So, you can only buy a used diesel.
Promasters are available as a cargo or passenger van. Dimensions listed below are for the cargo van.
- Most affordable to buy
- More affordable to maintain than a Sprinter
- Widest (can easily fit a bed crosswise)
- Most square interior
- Great fuel economy (diesel)
- Some say it feels like you are forced to almost stand when seated in the cab
- The transmission pauses slightly when changing gears (diesel only)
- Steering and handling aren’t as good as the others
- Front wheel drive – not good when there’s more weight in the rear
- Lowest ground clearance
|Low (standard body only)||7′ 6″||5′ 4″|
|High||8′ 4″||6′ 2″|
- 106”/73” (interior width is widest part of curved wall)
- Why I Picked the Promaster for My Camper Van Conversion – good read and also has links to other Promaster resources
Here are a couple van comparisons not geared towards van life.
- Car and Driver – Diesel Vans Compared: 2015 Ford Transit 150 Power Stroke vs Benz Sprinter 2500 and 2014 Ram ProMaster 1500
- Dealership comparison of 2019s – 2019 Ram ProMaster 1500 vs. Mercedes Sprinter vs. Ford Transit
- 2016 Cargo Van Reviews – Mercedes, Ford, Ram, Nissan
- Top 3 Largest Cargo Vans Ready for Camper Conversion
- High Roof Cargo Vans – 4 Highest of the Bunch
Bonus – Nissan NV
Although the NV isn’t popular compared to the other three vans, I had to throw it in. The NV is one of those “live out of” instead of “live in” kind of vehicles. There’s only one wheelbase length, but they have low and high roof options. Also, the NV is only available in gas.
NVs are available as a cargo or passenger van (3500 only).
- 120V outlets in the cab (also in cargo area depending on trim)
- Can get a V8
- Tall cargo area for its size
- Great fuel economy
- Comfortable seats
- Small cargo area compared to the other vans
- 20’ 7”/120” with 146” wheelbase
|High||8′ 9″||6′ 5″|
- 80”/70” (interior width is widest part of curved wall)
I tried to be as objective as possible with this van life van comparison even though Mark is a Sprinter. After researching these four vans, would I choose a different one next time? Maybe… The Transit is quite appealing. However, I do like the extra length offered by the Sprinter. Also, the wider Promaster body with its straighter walls is enticing. But I can’t get past the poor handling and uncomfortable seating.
Remember, these aren’t the only van options out there. On the vandwellers subreddit I ask folks about their van life vehicles. Find out what they had to say.
Which van do you plan to use for your conversion? What were your deciding factors? Let us know in the comments!
Need more help getting started with van life? Check out our How to Start Van Life guide!
* Featured image is courtesey of Van Specialties