Reddit discussion: Mercedes Sprinter vs Ford Transit

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

This post is a contribution I made to a discussion. Since I spend a fair amount of time discussing the various aspects of van-building on, 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.


I think this question is made for me! I just sold my 2004 Sprinter build and bought a 2015 Transit. I bought the Sprinter in April of 2015 with 240k miles on it and sold it a month ago with 280k or so. It was working out perfectly fine for me and I have no doubts that I could have gone many thousands more miles in it.

The main reason I sold it, I guess, was the potential maintenance issues you speak of. I never had any breakdowns on the road. I always so all the maintenance myself and am pretty meticulous about replacing things when they show signs of wear and future failure. But it was still a 12 year old van that spent all of its younger years in Minnesota and Connecticut, so it had it’s fair share of rusty bits.

A big portion of our travels take us to pretty remote destinations in Canada (northern BC, etc.) Every time we’d get up that way, I couldn’t get my mind off how far away the nearest Mercedes service shop might be if anything were to happen. On a fleet van of that age, things rattle, bump, pop, etc., that’s just the nature of it. Even though those sounds were normal, it just kept me on my toes knowing that I’d be a multi-thousand dollar tow trip away from service if I needed it.

After returning back to our home base at the end of this past summer, I decided I’d sell it and build out a Transit. I had a few months between jobs, so this was the perfect time for me.

I found a 2015 Transit with 94k miles on it a couple hours outside of Atlanta. I jumped on it, flew out and immediately pointed her west back home to Vegas.

So far I’m probably 70% done with my build give or take. Building the thing out has been awesome! There are mounting holes everywhere, some pre-tapped and some blank requiring a simple plusnut. For example, there are 6 threaded holes on the roof on the Transit, none on the Sprinter. Where on the Sprinter I had to deal with VHB tape, etc. to get my solar panels on, with the Transit I just fabricated an aluminum rack and bolted it on! So dang simple.

Then when it came time to mount batteries under the van, once again, pre-tapped holes galore! With a little careful measuring and planning, I welded together a steel cage, shot it with a coat of the finest black paint, tossed the batteries in and bolted it up.

Then inside the van, not much in the way of pre-tapped holes, but blank holes are everywhere. With a handful of 1/4-20 plusnuts, I’ve got bed, cabinets, kitchen, chairs, tables, everything all bolted up to the wall without adding a single hole!

What do you lose going with the Transit? Well, you lose the ability to find something older and cheaper. They came out in the US in 2015, so you’re stuck spending a little more for something pretty new. You lose a little bit in the way of fuel economy. I’ve got the ecoboost engine in mine which gives me way more power than I’ll ever need (but I’ll happily take it when I find myself on those 10%+ mountain grades!) and I was getting 17-18mpg as I pegged it at 80mph across the country. I suspect once I hit the road again a little more casually, I might get closer to 20-22mpg? I will soon find out. If I were to buy a similar Sprinter now, I think I’d try to get the 4cyl with the 7-speed transmission – I’ve heard really great things about it as long as you don’t need heavy duty towing power.

I’ll leave you with that for now. If you care to dive deeper, I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my website about my Sprinter build and once I slow down a bit on my build, I’ll try to get some written up about the Transit. Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions about the two vans in question!