Travelers are noting an influx of camper vans on the road today. And they certainly aren’t the typical, broken-down vans that young adults of the 80s longed to live in “down by the river.”
No, today’s vans are shiny and new, tricked-out Mercedes diesel engine vans that come with all the bells and whistles.
These Sprinter vans are loaded with amenities and designed to utilize every inch wisely. Over the last several years, they have become known as the king of cargo and passenger vans. It was only a matter of time before manufacturers realized sprinter vans make great camper vans.
What Exactly Is a Sprinter Van?
A Sprinter van is a model of a cargo van made by German automotive giant, Mercedes-Benz. Its initial design included rear-wheel drive and independent front wheel suspension. Like its cars, Mercedes put a diesel engine in the van, providing a dependable and long-lasting vehicle that typically gets 15 mpg to 20 mpg.
The company was the first to make cargo vans more comfortable with a longer cab. Over the years, the luxury manufacturer added two ceiling heights, as well as three lengths and two weight classes. Now, customers can choose between front-wheel drive and 4-wheel-drive for better performance off-road.
There are currently four Mercedes-Benz Sprinter models on the market: a cargo version, a passenger van, a crew, and a cab chassis. The company even offers some gasoline-fueled engines now.
The History of the Sprinter Van
The first Sprinter van was built in 1995 by Mercedes-Benz, and it took the industry by storm. With better gas mileage and a more dependable chassis and engine, a cargo van never looked so good. The vehicle wooed drivers with its superb suspension and easy maneuverability, and it wasn’t long before the Sprinter van became immensely popular.
Within 10 years, Mercedez created a second generation of the Sprinter, giving customers the option for modifications and providing medium and high roof models. By this time, campers had discovered its charms and wanted to convert its shell into a defined RV. In 2006, they were given three lengths in available models. As a result, #vanlifers could design their own unique living spaces.
In 2018 a front-wheel drive version of the Sprinter van hit the market, exciting drivers with its control. And most recently, Mercedes has introduced four-wheel drive vehicles and gasoline-powered engines in their line-up.
Pro Tip: Are you interested in joining #vanlife? Find out more about Why You Should Choose a Class B RV?
What Types of Sprinter Vans Are on the Market?
Currently, Mercedes has four Sprinter van models available for purchase. Each has unique capabilities, designed for specific jobs.
The cargo van is most frequently converted into a camper van. The coach behind the cab is an empty shell, just waiting for renovation, and there are windows only in the cab. Wheelbase selections include 144 inches and 170 inches. This is truly a blank canvas to design the perfect Class B van.
The crew van is a step up from the cargo option, with windows in the doors and several choices between four and six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. Wheelbase options are 144 inches and 170 inches.
The passenger version of a Sprinter Van can carry up to 15 passengers, depending on length. It comes standard with windows all around, upgraded seating for all, and extra safety measures built in.
This is truly the stripped-down rendition of the Sprinter. It includes an enclosed van cabin with a flatbed trailer behind it. You can purchase it in a 144-inch wheelbase or the 170-inch option.
Why Are Sprinter Vans Popular for Van Life Builds?
Sprinter vans are perfectly manufactured with a relatively square cargo shell, providing a good foundation for a camper van build. Many van conversions utilize the wall space with wall-hung cabinetry and a high-rise bed with storage underneath. In the longer vans, include a complete wet bath if you desire.
There is usually space for a table and bench, and most amenities in a conversion get used in various ways.
Van dwellers like Sprinter vans because they usually get better mileage than those built on a truck chassis. With the addition of front-wheel and four-wheel drive, these RVers can get to locations they had only dreamed of before.
Many recreational vehicle manufacturers have been using the Sprinter van chassis to build luxurious Class B RVs with great success. The builders like the dependability of a Mercedes engine. Meanwhile, the customers love the high-end finishes, plush furniture, and easy drivability of the vans, which are flying out of dealership parking lots like hotcakes.
Pro Tip: Learn more about what Mercedes Benz has to offer with this closer look at the 5 Best Mercedes Benz Motorhome RVs.
The Costs of Building Out a Sprinter Van
The investment in converting a Sprinter van can vary widely. That depends on the year and condition of the van, the intricacy of the remodel, and the quality of the materials used. If you add a solar system to the conversion, that can increase costs by several thousand dollars.
Still, many van lifers have found that using an all-in-one solar generator like a Jackery system can produce enough power for them to live comfortably in their vans.
Some custom van builds will include extra insulation, tongue-and-groove ceilings and walls, special flooring, tiled backsplashes, composting toilets, and special lighting. These items will drive the remodel’s price up, but building a bed, benches, and cabinets shouldn’t be a budget buster.
The cost of the van build might cost $5,000 on the lower end (not including the cost of the van). Or it could range up to $40,000 when professionally done. If you can do the work yourself, the money saved can be quite significant.
Should You Consider a Sprinter Van for Your Next Camping Vehicle?
If you travel solo or as a couple, a Sprinter van may just be the perfect vehicle for exploring the country, stealth camping, or meandering in places where a larger RV could not go. With better gas mileage, you may find more money in your fuel fund to extend your trips. And the ability to design your own camper van to your specific needs will be icing on the cake!
Camper vans have come a long way from the 1980s, but if you still want to live in a van down by the river, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is definitely the way to go. If indulgent RV resort life is more your style, you will feel right at home in a Sprinter, too.
You will enjoy moving from one national forest campsite to another in the same van. The Sprinter van can make van life your life, no matter what the backdrop!
Will you consider buying a Sprinter van? Drop a comment below!
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