Sprinter vs Transit: Which Is Best For Van Life?

Van life is a lifestyle that’s growing in popularity. It offers the opportunity to live out of your vehicle, travel across the country and explore new places. The downside? You’re stuck with just one vehicle. Which one should you choose?

The sprinter vs transit cost of ownership is a question that has been asked many times. Sprinter vans are more expensive to buy, but they require less maintenance and parts over time. Transits are cheaper initially, but they need more maintenance and parts over time.

Whether you’re new to van life and searching for the ideal adventure vehicle or a seasoned full-timer considering an upgrade, you’ve almost certainly come across the Sprinter versus Transit argument during your research.

For years, van residents have been divided by the Ford Transit versus Mercedes Sprinter debate, which shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

But before we go into this contentious topic, let’s get a few things straight: both of these vans are well-suited to van life, and either van can be modified in almost any manner you can think of.

Nonetheless, there are major distinctions between Mercedes Sprinters and Ford Transits, and deciding which is ideal for your van life requirements is mostly a matter of personal preference.

In this post, we’ll look at each van in detail, evaluating the benefits and drawbacks, as well as factors like cost, fuel efficiency, and appropriateness for van living.

Let’s begin our own Ford Transit versus Mercedes Sprinter discussion by examining each van more closely.

Mercedes Sprinter versus. Transit: A Comparison

Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeOutdoorsy has this 4×4 Sprinter vehicle for rent.

Mercedes Sprinters were the van of choice for DIY conversions until recently. Sprinters have been around for a long time, with the first Freightliner hitting the market in 2001 in North America.

Sprinters had a head start in gaining a devoted fanbase because they were launched long before the Dodge ProMaster and Ford Transit vans.

Sprinters come in three distinct sizes and may be configured as cargo vans or passenger vans.

The majority of Sprinters are powered by diesel engines and come with either 2WD or 4WD drivetrains. Older Sprinters may be found for about $20,000, while a new 444 can set you back over of $60,000.

Sprinters have an alluring allure thanks to their sleek design and smart branding, and they’ve become Instagram’s darlings.

Images of attractive Sprinter conversions abound on social media, helping to push van living into the public awareness.

Specs for the Mercedes Sprinter with a High Roof

  length of the exterior Height from the ground Height of the inside Length of interior freight Dimensions of the cargo area Volume of cargo
Cargo Van with a 144-Inch Wheelbase 233.5″ 107.5″ 79.1″ 132.9″ 70.4″ 372.8 cubic feet
Cargo Van with a 170′′ Wheelbase 274.3″ 107.3″ 79.1″ 173.6″ 70.4″ 488.1 cubic feet
Extended Cargo Van with a 170′′ Wheelbase 290″ 107″ 79.1″ 189.4″ 70.4″ 532.6 cubic feet

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Mercedes Sprinter


  • Fuel efficiency. A Sprinter has excellent gas economy because to its diesel engine, with 2WD versions averaging about 20 mpg on the highway.
  • It was a pleasant trip. Sprinters are very pleasant to drive and behave in the same way that SUVs do. They also have a great turning radius.
  • Long life expectancy. Diesel cars, on average, last twice as long as gasoline ones.
  • Payload is very large. Sprinters can readily manage larger build-outs since they have a greater payload than Transits.
  • Value of resale This argument works in favor of the Mercedes vehicle in the Sprinter vs. Transit debate. Sprinters tend to maintain their value due to their popularity and extended lifetime, making them good investments.


  • Upfront costs are high. Although a Sprinter is a good investment if you intend to sell it in the future, it is a more costly vehicle to buy up front.
  • Costs of upkeep are high. Sprinters are difficult to work on, therefore routine maintenance and repairs must be performed at a dealership, which may be costly.
  • Years of difficulty. The DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) system on Sprinters of a specific vintage – particularly those built between 2007 and 2015 – is notoriously problematic.
  • There will be a wait. Many components must be imported from Germany, so if anything has to be changed, the process may take a lengthy time.

The Best Book on Converting a Van


Sourcebook for DIY Campervan Conversions

This comprehensive van construction guide will teach you how to build your own vehicle. The ideas may be used to any DIY campervan conversion, even though the title refers to Sprinter vans. You’ll learn about design considerations, plumbing your van, solar panel selection, water tank installation, and electrical and wiring systems. This is a fantastic resource!

Purchase the Conversion Sourcebook now! Find Out More

Ford Transit versus. Sprinter: A Comparison

1623704881_737_Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeVanDoIt is the photographer behind this image.

In 2015, Ford launched the Transit van to the North American market, and it soon became a dominating force in the business sector.

Ford now accounts for approximately 30% of cargo van sales in North America, and it seems that this popular workhorse is here to stay.

The Ford Transit has just recently begun to make ripples in the van lifestyle world, but more and more individuals are seeing the Transit’s potential for part-time or full-time van living.

In 2020, Ford overhauled the Transit, introducing the long-awaited AWD powertrain as well as a slew of high-tech features including adaptive cruise control and pre-collision aid.

The majority of Fort Transits are powered by gasoline engines, but a 2.0L EcoBlue diesel alternative was introduced in 2020.

A Transit will almost certainly cost less than a Sprinter.

Prices for an older used Transit vary from about $15,000 to upwards of $40,000 for a new vehicle.

Ford Transits lack the apparent “drool factor” of the Sprinter, and there are less resources for Transit conversions, although that is rapidly evolving.

Many well-known businesses, like as Vandoit, are now offering Transit modifications, which is further increasing the vehicle’s appeal.

Specifications for the Ford Transit Cargo Van

  length of the exterior Height from the ground Height of the inside Length of interior freight Dimensions of the cargo area Volume of cargo
Medium Roof 130′′ Wheelbase 235.5″ 109.6″ 79.1″ 132.9″ 77.0″ 372.8 cubic feet
High Roof 148′′ Wheelbase 235.5″ 109.6″ 81.5″ 143.7″ 77.0″ 404.3 cubic feet
Extended High Roof 148′′ Wheelbase 263.9″ 110.4″ 81.5″ 172.2″ 77.0″ 487.3 cubic feet

Pros and Cons of the Ford Transit


  • It’s simple to drive. It’s a blast to drive a Ford Transit van. The Transit not only rides quieter than a Sprinter, but it also drives like a sedan!
  • Low-cost maintenance. In the Ford Transit versus Mercedes Sprinter argument, this is a huge advantage for Ford. A Transit can be worked on very nearly anyplace, and parts are inexpensive and abundant.
  • The roof with the highest elevation. Because the Transit has the tallest roof of any panel van, it’s excellent for van modifications, particularly if you’re tall.
  • AWD. Despite the fact that 444 Sprinters have been available for years, the addition of an AWD Transit is a significant advancement.
  • The pricing is reasonable. If you purchase a Transit instead of a Sprinter, you’ll save thousands of dollars.


  • Fuel efficiency. On the highway, a Ford Transit will get well under 20 mpg, which is much less than a diesel Sprinter.
  • Less well-liked. Despite the fact that Transits are growing increasingly popular, Sprinter van lifers still have access to much more resources.
  • A shorter life expectancy. Those on the Mercedes side of the Sprinter versus Transit argument argue that this is a major disadvantage. Especially if you want to live in your van full-time and travel.
  • Reduce the clearance height. It’s better not to try a McDonald’s drive-through in either van, although the Sprinter makes it simpler to go under low bridges.

Things to Think About When Choosing Between a Sprinter and a Bus

Finding the perfect car for van life may be a difficult job. There are so many factors to consider when converting a van to live in or having a vehicle professionally converted that it may be daunting.

When comparing the Ford Transit with the Mercedes Sprinter, there are a few things to consider that will help you determine which van is right for you.

  • Budget. You’ll need to figure out how much you’re willing to spend on a van and how much a DIY conversion would likely cost. It’s also a good idea to plan for maintenance and repairs in your budget.
  • Lifespan. It’s a good idea to consider resale value if you intend to sell your car at some time. Diesel vehicles, in particular, will retain their worth for a longer period of time.
  • New/used. Finding a lightly used vehicle with low mileage that is still under warranty may be perfect in this case. Those vehicles may sound like a unicorn, but they exist!
  • Height. When it comes to the Sprinter versus Transit debate, shorter individuals don’t have to worry as much about inside height, but taller ones do. Don’t forget to account for the two inches you’ll lose for flooring and insulation!
  • Usage. The way you want to use your van will have a significant effect on the vehicle you need. If you plan on doing a lot of driving in the winter, for example, a 4×4 van should be on your list.


The Nitty Gritty of Sprinter vs. Transit

Let’s take a deeper look at how these two incredible vans stack up in a few key categories.

Maintenance Costs of a Sprinter vs. a Bus

1623704883_168_Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeMercedes is the photographer for this image.

Let’s face it: every vehicle will need maintenance at some time, and having these problems resolved is much more critical when your vehicle is also your home!

Aside from planning for regular oil and tire changes, it’s a good idea to have some additional cash on hand in case anything unexpected arises.

A Ford Transit is not only less expensive to buy, but it is also less expensive to maintain.

Replacement components are not only inexpensive, but also readily accessible, which is a significant benefit.

Should the worst happen, you’ll have additional piece of mind knowing that Ford dealers and technicians can be located in virtually every town.

When it comes to owning a Sprinter, things are a bit different. There are plenty of horror tales of DEF sensor failure, black death, and the feared limp mode on the internet forums.

A dealership is frequently the only location that can assist when a major issue occurs, so you’ll have to go to the closest large city.

When you consider that maintenance prices may be high and that parts might take weeks to arrive, it’s no surprise that this is a significant bone of contention for many individuals in the Ford Transit versus Mercedes Sprinter discussion.

Sprinter vs. Transit: All-Wheel-Drive/Four-Wheel-Drive/Four-Whee

1623704884_893_Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeSportsmobile is the source of this image.

A 4×4 Sprinter is unquestionably the most appealing choice for people who want to explore the rural roads, particularly in the winter.

A 4WD Sprinter has much more ground clearance than a regular 2WD vehicle and can drive almost anywhere, making it perfect for off-grid adventures.

Despite the fact that one of these excellent vehicles will cost a lot up front, it will retain its worth if you ever choose to sell it.

The AWD Transit is growing in popularity, despite the fact that it is only available with a gasoline engine.

Although it’s a significant step up from the 2WD Transit, if you want additional clearance, you’ll have to pay for a raised suspension.

Another alternative is to pay for a 44 conversion aftermarket.

Although a Quigley’s conversion from Sportsmobile will cost about $13,000, the total cost may be cheaper than a 4x Sprinter, leveling the playing field in the Sprinter versus Transit game!

Conversion Suitability of Sprinter vs. Transit

1623704885_288_Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeTourig is the photographer behind this image.

As we’ve seen, a High Roof Transit has a lot more internal standing room, which may be the deciding factor for taller passengers.

Although there is less room in a Transit, the square form makes a fast and inexpensive conversion possible.

The internal width of the Transit is also a major advantage, as it allows you to place a bed width-ways, freeing up additional living and storage space within the van.

The most significant benefit of converting a Sprinter is the amount of inside room, particularly in the 170′′ wheelbase extended variant.

If you intend on living in your van full-time or with children, the Sprinter’s large interior capacity will come in handy.

Although you’ll most likely have to sleep lengthwise in your vehicle, there are a variety of methods to include storage into your design.

Diesel vs. Gasoline: Sprinter vs. Transit

1623704886_880_Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeCoachmen (photo credit)

One of the most significant distinctions between the Sprinter and the Transit is the kind of gasoline each van utilizes.

Diesel engines are used in the majority of Sprinters, which not only provide greater fuel efficiency but also a longer lifetime.

Diesel, on the other hand, is more costly at the pump, and finding the Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) that Sprinters need may be difficult if going to Central or South America.

Despite the Ford Transit’s worse fuel efficiency, if you intend on doing long international trips with your camper van, you’re definitely better off opting with a Ford Transit.

Sprinter vs. Public Transportation: What’s the Difference?

1623704887_155_Sprinter-vs-Transit-Which-Is-Best-For-Van-LifeOutdoorsy has this Sprinter van camper for rent.

Because Sprinters have been around for so long, there is a lot of knowledge accessible on conversion ideas, layout designs, and issue solutions.

Not only that, but due to the Sprinter’s appeal as a conversion van, a slew of businesses have sprung up to sell Sprinter-themed toys, gadgets, add-ons, and extras.

Because the Ford Transit is a newer vehicle, there is less information and conversion assistance available.

This is changing, though, as more individuals choose to support Ford in the Sprinter versus Transit argument.

Several businesses currently provide Transit conversions, with some, such as Vandoit and Modvans, focusing only on the conversion of Transits.

Final Thoughts on Sprinter vs. Transit

You’re out of luck if you’re looking for a decision on which car is best for van life.

Both of these vans are great van living options, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

The Sprinter vs. Transit argument continues; all you have to do now is determine which vehicle best suits your requirements and choose a side!

We hope you found this article to be informative and useful in your search for your ideal vehicle. Please leave any questions or comments in the box below!


Nicholas Marshall is a writer, photographer, and musician who lives with his wife and six-year-old daughter in a 1997 VW Eurovan. Nicholas and his family have been traveling across the Western States since selling their home and taking the road. Van life has fulfilled all of their expectations: it has been hard, gratifying, peaceful, and thrilling.

Nicholas and his family may be found on Instagram at @wonderfulvanlife and on their website, itsawonderfulvanlife.com.

The ford transit van is a vehicle that has been in production for over 50 years. It is still in use today, but it’s not the most popular option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is transit better than Sprinter?

Transit is a bus service that transports people from place to place. Sprinter is a transport service that moves goods and people around the world.

What is the best van for van life?

That is a hard question to answer. There are many different types of vans that would suit your needs, but it depends on what you want out of your van life experience.

Is a Ford Transit good for van life?

I am not qualified to answer this question, but I can provide you with some links that may help you find the answer.

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