Reddit discussion: Newer van options - Front vs Rear wheel drive opinions

Posted on Thursday, Jul. 20, 2017 in Van Building

This post is a contribution I made to a reddit.com discussion. Since I spend a fair amount of time discussing the various aspects of van-building on reddit.com, I’ve decided to copy those discussions here for posterity. Please note, however, through these discussions I tend to learn new ideas and change my own perspectives. The snippets I’ve memorialized here are merely a snapshot in time.

From: https://www.reddit.com/r/VanLife/comments/5t7fld/newer_van_options_front_vs_rear_wheel_drive/

I’ve owned both a 2004 Sprinter and now a 2015 Transit high top, just so you know I do have some perspective. =)

You can look back through my history as I’ve talked quite a bit about the virtues of each vehicle as I know them.

If I did a lot more snow travels and never got off the pavement in the summer, I would have started to consider a ProMaster for my second van. But front wheel drive just doesn’t cut it when you need to grunt over anything hilly and dirty. Couple that with the rear axle hanging down so low, it just never was on my radar.

I decided to sell my first van because it was older and higher mileage. I spend a fair amount of time in the backwoods of BC and beyond and the fear of the van breaking down in some fashion was always looming over me.

When shopping for a new van, I went into it knowing that you could pick up a newer sprinter with 100k miles on it for $20k. That was my benchmark. I decided to look at the Transits as well since I’d heard such great things about them. My girlfriend’s brother in law runs a FedEx distribution center and talked about how all his drivers are ditching their Sprinters for Transits. So I started shopping.

Finding a used Transit is much tougher than a Sprinter simply due to the fact that you have three year models to choose from (2015+). After months of shopping, I was about to bail on the idea and find a 2010ish Sprinter, I finally found a Transit that fit the bill. It was 2015, EcoBoost, High Roof. The only feature I wanted that it was missing was LSD. Oh well. It had 90k highway miles on it and appeared to be in amazing shape, and was right around my price benchmark, to boot.

So I don’t know that that answers much that you asked, but when I was shopping, I always found it helpful to see what others had gone through.

I bought the Transit in Sept and have nearly completed my build and so far, I’m so very happy. It has been so easy to build out compared to the T1N Sprinter (and I think the NCV3 Sprinters are similar to the T1Ns in these regards). The interior walls are much straighter, the roof has pre-tapped holes to mount racks or rails for solar panels. The frame underneath is riddled with pre-tapped holes and 1/4” holes that will accept 1/4-20 plusnuts. It’s been so easy to fabricate various racks and mounts, then bolt them on.

The Ecoboost is freaking awesome for steep mountain passes as well. It’s nice to not have to sit and watch my temperature needle ping off of the red zone when going over long 10% grades anymore. The gas engine in the Transit stays the exact same temp, no matter whether I’m climbing a pass out of Death Valley or coasting flat highways in -20F.

Oh speaking of, I spent a month up around Spokane this winter and the Transit did just fine in the snow with careful driving. I could easily push around in over a foot of snow without issue (with AT tires on, of course). I had to put chains on a couple times when the roads got glassy.

Okay, I’ll leave you with that. Hit me up with any other questions you have.

Sprinter build: http://imgur.com/a/IZTa7

Unfinished transit build: http://imgur.com/a/FgF5a (I haven’t taken many photos, sorry)